Dec 092013

Everton for the latter half of the David Moyes era were the perennial ‘Will they, won’t they?’ team in the Premier League with regards to qualification for the UEFA Champions League. Many times Everton were discounted by people courtesy of their regular poor starts to campaigns only for performances to pick up to a consistent level after the Christmas period or because of the perceived lack of star quality in their squad in comparison to the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and more recently Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

One of the most impressive characteristics the David Moyes Everton sides had was work ethic, Leighton Baines when he was prised away from Wigan Athletic was not the outstanding defensive and offensive full-back he is today, nor was Seamus Coleman when David Moyes took a chance on the young Irishman. They both worked ferociously hard to get to the level they are at today and much of that sat comfortably with the David Moyes ethos.

This work ethic often led to fans and media alike genuinely believing that Everton would go and get a point at Stamford Bridge through gritted determination, or even recently go and win at Eastlands and usually the team did not disappoint in that regard however when you would ask the same people if Everton had a realistic chance of Champions League qualification the answer would nine times out of ten begin with a scoff and a resounding no to boot.

One of the things Everton were guilty of under David Moyes was not going out and winning games, Moyes wasn’t cautious but he was reactionary, as pointed out by Michael Cox in his excellent piece on Moyes’ perceived lack of identity published yesterday, there was and still is no set David Moyes philosophy like say for example a Pochettino or a Laudrup. This in turn meant Everton often reacted to match situations rather than having a preset plan on how to dominate a match and make the result their own so to speak.

What we are seeing this season however is completely different. There is an identity within Roberto Martinez’s Everton team, the ball retention and ability to make clever decisions when on the ball as individual players is very reminiscent of the football you so often see in the Champions League. Many will say Martinez has merely carried over the principles by which he worked both at Swansea and then Wigan Athletic but for Everton it is something completely new.

You still have the incredible work ethic instilled by David Moyes within certain players and positions, for example Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and the central defensive partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin however now with Everton you have a preset identity, you know they are going to retain possession when possible, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley will be able to split opposition teams with a pass and then you have the individual brilliance of players like Mirallas, Deulofeu and Pienaar who can feed off the physical presence of Lukaku up front.

We saw the perfect illustration of just why it might be time to consider Everton as possible top four contenders last night at Old Trafford. It is all too easy to forget but this is an Everton side that has lost the least amount of matches in the league this term, with their solitary defeat coming at Eastlands. They have conceded fewer goals than Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United yet they are not a defensive team, they look to control matches through possession.

Manchester United were out-passed, out-thought and ultimately out-worked by an Everton side that deserved nothing less than the three points they took back to Merseyside. Yes, United did have chances to go one, two or maybe even three goals to the good but that has been a recurring theme throughout the season. At no point could you have really said United were in complete control of the match, Everton on the other hand were.

The visitors kept the ball in midfield through the trio of Barkley, McCarthy and the unassumingly impressive Gareth Barry, they were allowed to keep possession in midfield due to United’s lack of urgency with regards to a pressing game and the Everton team looked more likely to make something of their possession than United did, Martinez’s side were never short of ideas. There were numerous options on every time they broke forward, whereas for United if the initial idea of passing the ball to Rooney, who it must be said had a poor game, failed then the attacking move invariably broke down.

Everton have kept everything that was so impressive about themselves during the Moyes era and have adapted it within a preset playing style, Everton are no long waiting for things to happen in matches anymore, they are outwardly looking to control proceedings from the outset and Everton’s approach is characterised no better than through the image of their lone forward Lukaku.

For an on-loan striker Lukaku’s work rate is and has been throughout the campaign, astounding, he chases every loose ball and puts opposition defenders under pressure through his physical presence, a prime example coming last night when the Belgian brushed off the imposing figure of Nemanja Vidic with relative ease albeit Martin Atkinson deemed it to be a foul. Whereas a forward normally polishes and refines the look of a team, Lukaku is the burly presence, who can score goals yet bring Everton’s technically gifted players into play and that is why the system works so well, the team are adaptable to most situations yet still the main principle of retaining possession remains.

With this preset idea in place at Everton on most occasions it won’t take the team long to get into the tempo of a match as happened so frequently in recent years and whilst there will still be shock results there probably won’t be as many draws, particularly at Goodison Park. This is why Everton have to be taken seriously as top four candidates this season, if you were to match them up with a Tottenham or a Liverpool for example in years gone by you would probably suggest Everton just didn’t have enough to overcome those teams in particular but now you look at it and think well they are going to have a lot of the ball, that’s half the battle, and with Lukaku and a couple of the creative players in tow then Everton are in with a chance.

Of course Martinez has delved into the transfer market and pulled off some excellent deals but there hasn’t been too much wholesale charge in terms of personnel from the squad last season yet you would be far more eager to suggest this is Everton’s best chance of sustaining a charge to the Champions League places merely because of the type of football that the club are playing.

There is still a long way to go in the season and there will be times when Everton’s squad size is called into question particularly as the fixtures pile up throughout the festive period but Everton head to the Emirates on Sunday with every chance of claiming a draw or even three points as they have in years gone however this season when Everton host Fulham the week after it is fully expected they will dominate possession and ensure they win that match whereas last year, would the same have been said? These are the key differences which make a side capable of a top four finish and this year Everton certainly fit into that category.


Aug 302013

Cardiff vs Everton, 15:00

– On a sunny afternoon Cardiff fans were treated to a performance by their team that they would have scarcely believed possible at the start of the day. Frazier Campbell stole the show with a late brace to send Malkay Mackay’s side on to an historic 3-1 victory over the former Premier League champions.

– Campbell’s goals will perhaps have come as a surprise to some of the Cardiff fans in attendance on Sunday. Although there is no doubting the striker’s quality, Campbell had yet to register an attempt on goal before his heroic exploits. However his 80% accuracy rate from 5 attempts last weekend means he’ll be chomping at the bit to kick on against Everton.

– Despite the euphoric scenes come the end of the match Cardiff did not find their victory easy to come by. Ben Turner’s 15 clearances against City was the highest of any player on the winning side last weekend according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

– Steven Caulker’s move to Cardiff came as a surprise to many who had expected him to be a mainstay in the Tottenham defence in seasons to come. Cardiff has acquired an imposing and technical centre-half though, one who so far maintained a 100% tackle success rate from his 3 challenges this season and closely follows the impressive Turner in total defensive contributions with 19.

– Expect Gary Medel to be central to Cardiff’s season in the coming months, the tough midfielder putting in an excellent showing against City. He leads the Cardiff squad for passes completed in the opponent’s half with 39, with a squad-best average rate of one every 4.6 minutes.

– Only a stunning display from Ben Foster managed to keep Everton at bay as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park. A dominant display by Roberto Martinez’s side in the end failed to bear fruit as Foster repeatedly shut out a host of Everton attempts on his goal.

– Ross Barkley’s growing confidence is great news for Toffee’s and England fans alike, the gifted midfielder being widely touted as a future star of the game. At present the fearlessness of youth is enabling the 19 year old to take the game to opposition defences seemingly at will, the 19 year old currently sitting 4th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for dribbles with 8.

– It’s no surprise that Manchester Utd are continuing in their pursuit of Leighton Baines given the versatile left-backs ability to adapt to both defend and attack. As well as a tackle success rate of 83.3% from 6 attempted challenges, Baines has also completed a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 2.5 minutes this season.

– Seamus Coleman is another who’s stock continues to rise at both ends of the field. Toffees fans are already well aware of his tackling ability but it is his eye for a shot that has impressed so far in this campaign. Coleman’s on-target accuracy rate of 75% in front of goal represents the highest of any defender in the league to have had more than 1 attempt.

– Fellow defensive stalwart Phil Jagielka is another who has picked up exactly where he left off last season. Once again the England centre-back has proved his sense of timing will be crucial when it comes to stifling Everton’s opposition given that he has already quickly racked up a squad-high 20 clearances.

Aug 232013

Everton vs West Brom, Saturday 15:00

– Only a stunning header from Norwich new boy Ricky van Wolfswinkel denied Everton all three points at Carrow Road last weekend. Roberto Martinez will be expecting more ruthlessness at the back this week but must have been impressed by the all-round performance of the effervescent Ross Barkley, who capped a top draw display with an expertly taken long-range finish.

– Midfield enforcer Marouane Fellaini turned in yet another impressive all-round display against Norwich. The Belgian recorded the highest number of passes in the opponent’s half of any away player last weekend with 49.

– Sylvain Distin is clearly looking to make an immediate impact this year, the oldest defender in the league already ranking joint third for interceptions last weekend with 4.

– Indeed, only Jose Fonte of Southampton made more total defensive contributions than Distin. The Frenchman made 19 interventions against Norwich.

– Leighton Baines picked up where he left off last season against Norwich, his trademark runs up the left flank still terrifying defenders. Baines is already dominating the EA SPORT Player Performance Index for crosses delivered with 5, tying for first with the Saints’ James Ward-Powse.

– A last-minute Ricky Lambert penalty broke West Brom hearts as they fell to a 0-1 defeat after Youssouf Mulumbu brought down Luke Shaw in the area at the death.

– Jonas Olsson’s defensive awareness and positional instincts were once again crucial to West Brom as they looked to repel a vibrant Southampton side last weekend. The Swede is tied for the most clearances recorded with 14 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

– Much of the defensive responsibilities through the middle of the field will also clearly be falling on the shoulders of Claudio Yacob. The Argentinian was West Brom’s most enthusiastic tackler last weekend, committing to 8 tackles and winning 62.5%.

– Baggies fans will be expecting more from Nicolas Anelka this weekend, the French striker having been hailed as a strong replacement for Romelu Lukaku who returned to Chelsea in the summer. Against Southampton however, Anelka failed to register a single attempt on goal during his 83 minutes. Anelka is 10/3 to score at any time this weekend with

– Ben Foster achieved the rare EA SPORTS Player Performance Index distinction for a goalkeeper of being credited with a dribble against Southampton, the England keeper showing his skills aren’t confine to just those between the sticks!

Aug 162013

The inevitable media hype machine surrounding any new Premier League campaign has been suitably fuelled, revved up and is well and truly in motion. As the big kick off imches ever closer, there isn’t a paper you will open, a TV or Radio broadcast you will hear or… um, a blog you will read that isn’t vying for your attention and demanding that you get excited for the forthcoming season. It’s been the same every summer. It will be the same next summer and for every summer thereafter.

However, at the risk of getting caught up in the hyperbole, there does actually seem to be a unique sense of intrigue about this campaign in particular; intrigue bought about primarily by the fact that the three leading sides in the country have all changed their respective managers. Everybody wants to see how David Moyes will cope having to step into shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson, and whether Manuel Pellegrini will be able to justify the hype. The new men in Manchester will not only have to contend with one another as they duke it out at the top of the table, but also a certain Portuguese making his dramatic return to Stamford Bridge.

Yes, Jose Mourinho is back at Chelsea much to the joy of Blues fans the world over. Having delivered and retained the club’s first league championship for 50 years in 2005, as well as supplementing these titles with two league cups and an FA Cup, there is very little wrong he could do in their eyes. As far as they are concerned, his unexpected departure after just three years following disputes with Roman Abramovich was far too abrupt.

After a spell in Italy and a sojourn in Spain, the self-anointed Special One has gone back to the club where he says he feels ‘loved’. Although the narrative of the Prodigal Son may not have been quite so fondly trotted out had Mourinho not been overlooked for the Manchester United role in favour of Moyes.

Ex-partners. Holidays. Jobs. The temptation is always there to go back and try to relive and recreate the great experiences we once had. Unfortunately, we often find that these experiences are never quite as good the second time around. ‘Going back’ isn’t always the best idea. In English football, two stand-out examples that Mourinho will be hoping not to emulate curiously concern both the Premier League’s Merseyside clubs.

Kendall in the wind

Howard Kendall’s three spells at Everton could not have been more different. It’s safe to say that the six years between 1981 and 1987, when Kendall first took the reins at Goodison Park, is the most successful period in the club’s long history. After an initial slow start, the 1983/84 season saw Kendall lead the Toffees to a respectable 7th place finish. In league terms, no improvement on the previous season but performances in the two domestic cups set the tone for what was to follow. The Blues were narrowly defeated by rivals Liverpool in the League Cup final but bounced back to defeat Watford 2-0 In the FA Cup. Graeme Sharp and a controversial Andy Grey header gifted Kendall his first trophy as a manager as well as ending a 14 year trophy drought for the club.

12 Months later, following an 18 game unbeaten run from December to May which saw only four points dropped, Everton were crowned champions of England finishing a massive 13 points clear of Liverpool in second. An extra time defeat to Manchester United at Wembley meant they were unable to defend the FA Cup but that mattered little a few days later when a 3-1 win over Rapid Vienna in Rotterdam saw Kendall’s side secure their first ever European trophy in the form of the Cup Winner’s Cup. A year on, the Blues narrowly finished second to Liverpool in the league as well as losing 3-1 to their city rivals in the FA Cup final. Kendall and Everton bounced back the following campaign to become champions once more beating Liverpool to the title by 9 points.

Significantly, Everton were never afforded the opportunity to compete in the European Cup thanks to the ban on English clubs following the Heysel tragedy in 1985. It has been said that this played a major part in Kendall’s decision to leave to manage Athletic Bilbao following that second title success in 1987.

In 1990, however, he returned to these shores and after a short spell at Manchester City he inevitably found himself back at Goodison. By Now though, Everton were no longer regular title challengers and found themselves falling further and further away from the summit. If Kendall was expected to reignite the flame of success and bring back the glory days, fans were to be left disappointed. Perhaps it was the club, perhaps it was the manager, perhaps it was both, but Everton seemed to stand still while the vast changes in English football were taking place around them and after three unremarkable mid-table finishes, Kendall resigned for a second time in December 1993 with the club slipping down the table.

Under his replacement Mike Walker, the Toffees survived relegation on the final day that season – something that was to be repeated during Kendall’s unprecedented third spell in charge just three years later. The first half of the 1997-98 season was nothing short of a disaster as Kendall oversaw just four wins and eleven defeats in 20 matches. Going into the final game at home to mid-table Coventry City, Everton occupied the third relegation spot and started the day one point behind Bolton. Despite the fact a win might not even be enough, the Blues laboured to 1-1 draw. Fortunately, they found themselves still in the division only by virtue of goal difference thanks to a 2-0 defeat for Bolton at Chelsea. For a third time, Kendall resigned.

A Dalg-eat-Dalg world

Overlapping and almost intertwined with Kendall’s first spell at Everton was Kenny Dalglish’s first tenure as Liverpool manager. Approaching the tail end of a fantastic playing career, Dalglish was appointed player-manager not long after his 34th birthday in 1985. Joe Fagan’s retirement, the emergence of Everton and the dark clouds of the Heysel aftermath hanging over head suggested the inexperienced Dalglish would have a major job on his hands taking charge of what was widely believed to be the best club in world football at the time. Any doubts soon evaporated as Liverpool immediately won the league – Dalglish scoring the winner against Chelsea in the title clincher – and FA Cup double in 1986.

After surrendering the league title to Everton the following year, 1987-88 saw the reds go on a 29 game unbeaten run from the start of the season, losing just twice overall, as they strolled to the title, finishing 9 points clear of Manchester United in second. A second double was only prevented thanks to a shock defeat by Wimbledon in the FA Cup final.

Kenny’s team were edged out by Arsenal in dramatic circumstances in the league the following season but picked up another FA Cup after defeating Everton 3-2 at Wembley.

Another league title followed in 1990 – the club’s 18th and their last to date – but while in pole position to defend their crown the following year, Dalglish shocked the world by unexpectedly resigning in February 1991. After 6 years, three titles and 2 FA Cups, Dalglish felt that the stress of the job and pressure he was putting on himself to succeed was too much. It may not have been a popular decision, it was one reluctantly accepted by the red half of Merseyside. He may have walked away prematurely, but he walked away a legend.

It is with this in mind that almost exactly 20 years on, following the somewhat calamitous six month tenure of Roy Hodgson, Dalglish was once more put in temporary charge of his beloved reds. This provided the shot in the arm the club needed. A strong initial six month showing saw wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, leading to Dalglish being reappointed on a permanent basis. A decision welcomed with open arms by fans despite the fact he hadn’t been in management since an unsuccessful spell at Newcastle at the end of the 1990s. For the fans at Anfield, Dalglish was back to complete some unfinished business following his hasty departure years earlier.

Unfortunately, the football landscape had shifted monumentally and sadly for Dalglish, he had very much been left behind. Those initial good results masked failings to his management style; failings that would manifest themselves in different ways. There was, of course, the reckless spending on the likes of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll, whose combined £70million+ transfer fees are still the source of great amusement to all non-scousers to this day.

Dalglish did bring Luis Suarez to the club but as has been well documented, this signing brought its own problems. Not least when the Uruguayan was accused and subsequently found guilty of using racist language in a match against Manchester United. Dalglish’s vehement defence of the player was seen as both misguided and out of touch.

On the pitch, after a promising start, 2011-12 saw Liverpool lose 11 of their 19 league games between January and May to end the season in 8th place – their lowest finish since 1994. Dalglish did win the League Cup and reach the FA Cup final but the dismal league form provided little indication that the glory days of the past would return and he was unceremoniously sacked.

Outside of Merseyside, there are other examples of ill-advised decisions by managers to go back to scenes of past glories. With the greatest of respect to Kevin Keegan, he’s unlikely to make it into anybody’s list of top English managers down the years but having propelled Newcastle from the brink of relegation to the third tier all the way up to touching distance of the Premier League crown during the 90s, he will always be a hero on Tyneside. The less said about his short lived return in 2008, the better. The likes of Mike Walker (Norwich), Gerry Francis (QPR) and Ron Atkinson (Sheff Weds) all also found that things were never quite as rosy second time around.

There are a number of reasons why initial triumphs cannot be repeated. Circumstances at clubs quite often change and nowadays, without a hefty pot of cash, success is remarkably difficult to attain. Then there is the paradox of increased the pressure and expectation to emulate earlier achievements while seemingly being given more slack or leeway due to the good work done previously. Call it complacency or simple blind loyalty, any failings are easily forgiven and, as seen in the examples above, the risk of sleepwalking into mediocrity becomes far greater.

For the manager himself, the fear of failure may well diminish when he has succeeded previously. A feeling of ‘been there, done that’ could well creep in. In Mourinho’s case, last season at Madrid saw him fail to land any silverware for the first time in charge of any club for a full season. Perhaps his powers are waning and he knows that being back at the Bridge where he is ‘loved’ means the fans wont bay for his blood after any perceived failure in the same way the Madridistas did.

It remains to be seen if Jose can buck this trend of managers failing to hit the same heights second time around. Given his resources, and the strength of the team he is taking over, it is difficult to see him ending up like Kendall or Dalglish. Mourinho is still relatively young, smart and talented enough for it not to be an issue, however, examples of the past mean that absolutely nothing should be taken for granted.

Jul 122013

Tonight England’s women’s football team kick off their Euro 2013 campaign against Spain. As part of PUMA’s commitment to supporting women’s football five of the England team will step onto the pitch in PUMA boots – Jill Scott, Alex Scott, Fara Williams, Karen Carney and Rachel Brown-Finnis.

Before the team travelled to Sweden we caught up with Everton midfielder Jill Scott to find out “What’s in Her Nature?”, as part of our ongoing series of interviews with PUMA athletes. Find out what makes the England star tick.

Jul 092013

– Joel Robles started his football career at the Getafe, the city he was born in, before joining Atlético Madrid’s youth team when he was 15.

– When he was 18-years-old he got his first chance for Atlético, playing in their C team, before making 28 appearances for the B team the following season.

– In December 2009 he signed his first professional contract with the club which was set to expire in June 2014.

– In May 2010 Joel won a Europa League medal after Atlético Madrid beat Fulham 2-1 in the final. Joel was on the bench and David de Gea started in goal.

– In August 2010 Joel won a UEFA Super Cup medal after Atlético beat Inter 2-0. Joel was again on the bench behind first choice De Gea.

– After Manchester United boughy De Gea, Joel became Atlético’s first choice keeper… for three games. He was then replaced by Thibaut Courtois who was on loan from Chelsea.

– In February 2012 it was reported that Roberto Mancini was keen to bring him in as an understudy for Joe Hart. City scouts went to watch him when he was on loan at Rayo Vallecano. He had two years remaining on his deal then and was valued at €7m.

– In January 2013 he was loaned out to Wigan Athletic. “Atletico Madrid and Wigan Athletic have reached an agreement so that Joel Robles, after a trial period with the English club, will play on loan until June 30 with the Premier League team. The goalkeeper will return to the ‘rojiblanco’ at the end of this loan period.”

– After making his first appearance in the Cup against non-league Macclesfield, Joel went on to become Wigan’s first choice at the expense of Ali Al-Habsi.

– Joel played in goal and kept a clean sheet against Manchester City in Wigan’s 1-0 FA Cup Final win in May 2013.

– In June 2013 Joel won a UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship medal after Spain beat Italy 4-2 in the final, although was behind De Gea and Diego Mariño in pecking order.

Jun 282013

Leighton Baines to Manchester United

30/5/12 – Baines: “The United link is flattering. There is no harm in people talking about it because it is a great club. But I’m at a great club as well, a club that I love. The focus now is all on the tournament. There’s not much time to let other things seep in. It’s about getting your head on this job for the next six weeks and trying to do the best you can. Would it be hard to turn United down? I’m not letting my focus shift to that while I am in camp. I’m focused on what I’m doing at the moment. Would it be hard to leave Everton? Yes, obviously. You know what it means. I’ve been there for five years myself but also know first-hand what it means to a lot of people so, yes it would be.”

1/6/12 – Baines on United rumours: “I’ve been aware of what’s been said in the press but I don’t know much beyond that. It doesn’t do any harm [to be linked] but it doesn’t do any good either. It’s just one of those things that tends to swing around this time of year. People put two and two together sometimes they get four and sometimes they get three or five. It gets other people more excited than those involved.”

6/9/12 – Baines on United rumours: “People were asking me and yet I didn’t know anything. It was getting mentioned that often that I was getting puzzled by it and yet I’d heard nothing. As far as I knew, there was not a great deal in it. I’ve never been one to rock the boat. I appreciate the position I’m in in life and I love what I do. At the same time you do have to have that ambition because it doesn’t last long and before you know it it’ll be over. The ambition for Everton is to finish as high as we can and if we can build on what we’ve done so far we have a chance of getting back towards European football.”

4/12/12 – Baines on United rumours: “I’m not that into Twitter but I would say not to be worried. There have been a few windows and a few rumours and there’s nothing to worry about. There are a lot of lads here who have been at the club for a long time now and we want to bring it not just for ourselves and our own ambitions but for the other people at the club, the manager, the chairman, the fans.”

27/6/13 – Everton reject Manchester United’s offer of £12m for Baines.

Jun 192013

Ibrahim Afellay to Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur

14/10/10 – Afellay: “Playing in the Premier League would be the best for my prestige. I’d like to play for Liverpool or Manchester United – the top level prospect for any player.”

24/10/12 – Afellay: “Arsenal were interested in me in the last few years at PSV and Barcelona. But, finally, it was not possible to close the subject. I believe that money was the difference between the clubs. This match is not personal revenge for me. I do not need to demonstrate anything against Arsenal. But our objective is to leave London without defeat. The scouts of Wenger have always liked my work but have never made the decisive move. But this is not a trauma for me.”

12/11/12 – Afellay: “My aim is to return to Barca. Now when I look back at my time at Barcelona I only have good memories. Training was always great fun. Incredible really. But I also want to enjoy my football at the moment. That is something that I really feel despite what has happened before. Since I arrived at Barcelona I have been growing both in a football sense as well as a mental sense. I think that I have shown that I can battle through despite the adversity.”

7/12/12 – Afellay: “I have two years left on my Barcelona deal next summer. I am actually enjoying my loan spell in the Bundesliga, I like very much being at Schalke. We will see what might happen in the summer. I am sure we will have a few chats come the end of the campaign. I don’t think anyone is able to know what will happen in the future.”

18/6/13 – Rob Jansen, agent: “The Premier League is a very tempting possibility.”

19/6/13 – Reports claim that both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are interested in signing Afellay.

Leroy Fer to Everton

30/1/13 – Everton pull out of an £8.6m deal to buy Fer after a medical reveals a problem with his knee.

30/1/13 – David Moyes, Everton manager: “He’s a really good player, but it was a situation out of our control. We couldn’t make it work. It was frustrating because we are trying to add, we are trying to progress. Unfortunately this one doesn’t look like it’s going to move on – we’ll look to see if there’s anything else we can do.”

11/3/13 – Fer: “It [Everton] is still a fantastic club. But at the moment I am not thinking about it. Only one thing counts right now: ending the season at FC Twente in a good way.”

17/6/13 – Fer: “I haven’t heard about anything but I think my manager did. I think Everton are still interested in me. I would like to go to the Premier League this summer, it’s a very nice competition – but my focus has been the European Championships, afterwards we will see.”

May 192013

Chelsea v Everton 16:00


Frank Lampard scored twice against Aston Villa at the weekend to become Chelsea’s all time leading goalscorer. He has scored 13 times against Aston Villa in his career, more than any other opponent.


Lampard has 15 goals this season from 71 shots at goal. He’s hit 67.8% of those on target and needed just 4.7 shots and 131 minutes per goal. Only Chicarito, Daniel Sturridge and Robin van Persie have scored more frequently while on the pitch this season, while of the 25 players to have hit ten or more goals this season Lampard has the 6th best shooting accuracy.


Eden Hazard contributed both assists for Chelsea against Aston Villa, the second time he has provided more than one assist in a game this season. He also now leads the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for dribbles completed with 56.


– He’s formed an impressive partnership this season with Juan Mata, with Mata having made 1114 passes this season, the fifth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and the most by a player outside of Manchester City or Arsenal.


– While much of the talk around the Chelsea squad this season will be around the midfield creativity of Mata and Hazard, Petr Cech has again proved the difference that a top class keeper can make. Cech has made an incredible 191 saves this season, the 4th highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Compare that to Manchester City’s Joe Hart, who has made just 123 saves, and De Gea and Lindegaard’s combined saves for United of 158.


Everton will have a new manager at the helm next season after David Moyes confirmed he will take over as Manchester United manager next season. He can instantly endear himself to the Manchester United faithful by beating Chelsea in his final game at Everton.


– His penultimate game in charge saw Everton beat West Ham 2-0 thanks to goals from Kevin Mirallas.


Mirallas scored twice and set up an incredible six goal scoring chances in the game – no other player has scored two plus goals and created so many goal scoring chances in a game this season.


– Everton’s dominance of attacking possession was such that they had three times as many touches in the box as West Ham in the game, and 28 shots at goal, the most they have had at Goodison Park this season. Steven Pienaar was at the heart of that, completing 48 passes in the opposition half, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for last weekend.


– While Pienaar’s attacking play is rightly praised, one part of his game that may surprise some is his tough tackling. Pienaar is one of 25 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have attempted over 100 tackles.


– Most impressive defensively this season, however, has been Phil Jagielka, who has contributed 335 times defensively this season across tackles won, interceptions, blocks and clearances – the 6th highest by a defender in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

May 122013

Everton v West Ham, 15:00

– Everton competed in a toughly fought Merseyside derby on Sunday which ended 0-0. They now face West Ham after a tumultuous week which saw manager David Moyes confirmed as the new Manchester United manager.

– As well as having a goal disallowed against Liverpool, Sylvain Distin made five clearances, the joint highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for the last round of games.

– Distin is not the only Everton player who can feel aggrieved at not having a healthier goal tally this season. Kevin Mirallas has the best shots on target percentage of the players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index who have had 50 or more shots at goal in total. He’s had 61 shots at goal with 73.7% on target, but has had a return of just four goals.

– Phil Jagielka has been a key component in Everton’s back line this season, attempting 72 tackles and winning 84.7% of them, while averaging 6.54 tackles per foul.

– Leighton Baines has been one of Everton, and the Premier League’s star performers this season and has been linked with following his manager to Manchester United. Baines has delivered 137 crosses this season, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, and completed 821 passes in the opposition half, the most by a defender.

– West Ham are also coming into the game on the back of a goalless draw, theirs against Newcastle.

– Winston Reid has emerged as a key player for West Ham this season, and against Newcastle he made 20 interceptions, the second highest by a West Ham player in a single game this season. The only West Ham player to rate higher in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index is James Tomkins for making 22 interceptions, again against Newcastle, in November.

– Joey O’Brien is West Ham’s top ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index this season, in 57th place overall. The Republic of Ireland defender has won 61.8% of 76 tackles attempted this season and also made 78 interceptions.

– O’Brien’s just ahead of Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Index, who is West Ham’s next ranked player and has been the 6th busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League making 184 saves.

May 052013

Liverpool v Everton, 13:30 


– A fabulous display of attacking football saw Liverpool rout Newcastle 0-6 at St James’ Park last weekend, with Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge both grabbing braces. 


– As always this derby will be full to the brim of emotion as the two sides of the Mersey battle for supremacy in a fixture with genuine European implications. Count on Steven Gerrard being as determined as any to leave his mark on this game. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Gerrard has all the tools for the job, having joined the select group of players to have completed more than 1,000 passes in the opponent’s half this season (1,032). He’s also been one of Liverpool’s top tacklers with a success rate of 62.7% from 83 attempted challenges. 


– Many Liverpool fans may have wondered exactly were their goals were going to come from following Luis Suarez’s lengthy ban but Daniel Sturridge showcased his value to the Reds’ attacking line last weekend. Sturridge is in fact almost Suarez’s equal in his ability to create chances for himself this season, having average a shot on target on average once every 34.1 minutes this season. 


Phillippe Coutinho was Newcastle’s tormenter in chief last weekend, the diminutive midfielder using his slick passing to carve the Magpies open. Coutinho is thriving in the Premier League despite concerns over his size and has on average completed a pass in the opponent’s half once every 4.9 minutes following his arrival on Merseyside. 


– A Steven Pienaar goal kept Everton in the hunt for a European spot next season as they beat Fulham 1-0 at Goodison Park. 


– Utilising the strengths of Marouane Fellaini will be crucial to Everton’s chances of success against a buoyant Liverpool side, but the Belgian must be careful not to let his tendency for ill-discipline catch up with him. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Fellaini has only been successful in 36.3% of his 135 attempted tackles this season. 


– Look for Kevin Mirallas to test out the Liverpool defence this weekend as he has been doing to back fours all season. The elusive Belgian has established an excellent shot accuracy rate of 74.6% from 59 attempts this season so there is a strong likelihood of him being amongst the goals on Sunday. 


– At the other end of the park, Phil Jagielka will be crucial in helping to keep out a Liverpool attack full of confidence after their dismantling of Newcastle. The England centre-half has one of the best defensive records in the league this season, making a defensive contribution on average once every 9.7 minutes he’s been on the pitch this season.

Apr 272013

Everton v Fulham, 15:00


Everton’s European ambitions took a major dent last weekend as they fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.


– Much of the goal-scoring pressure for the remainder of this season will continue to fall on the shoulders of Victor Anichebe. Whilst his strength often helps him to carve out chances for others, he has been equally as effective when fashioning shooting attempts for himself as well. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index Anichebe has the best minute to shot ratio in the Toffees’ squad, taking on average just 32.5 minutes to have an attempt of goal when he’s been on the field of play.


Kevin Mirallas is another who has been in inspired form in recent weeks, proving to be yet another bargain find who has the quality to shine in the Premier League by David Moyes. The Belgian forward has the best shot accuracy rate in the entire Everton squad, at 73.7% from 57 attempts.


– However such attacking talents would not be able to flourish without consistency at the back and that is exactly what Phil Jagielka has brought to the table this season. The centre-back has had a towering season from a defensive perspective, establishing the best tackle success rate (83.6% from 67 challenges) for any player in the league who has made more than 65 tackles.


– Marint Jol’s Fulham suffered a 0-1 defeat at home to Arsenal last time out, a result that will have frustrated fans and players alike given that the Cottagers were the better side for large parts of the game.


Steve Sidwell’s dismissal last weekend was an unfortunate summary of his defensive track record for his season so far. His defensive ill-discipline has been letting him down this season, demonstrated by the fact that he currently sits 7th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for midfielders to have committed the most fouls this season with 51.


– Despite finding game time somewhat limited this season, Mladen Petric has excelled when he has found himself involved. He has the best minutes to on-target ratio of any player in the Fulham squad, mustering up an effort to test the keeper on average once every 46 minutes, proving that there is life beyond Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodellaga.


Brede Hangeland remains Fulham’s defensive titan this season and will need to be at the peak of his powers against an Everton side pushing for European qualification. The giant centre-half has taken on average just 8.9 minutes to make a defensive contribution this season.


Apr 222013

We’ve all seen false dawns but no one can seriously doubt the impact Paolo Di Canio has had or where we would be, for all his feelings of being hard done by, had Martin O’Neill stayed. Pete Sixsmith wonders whether the same commitment from players and fans seen on Saturday can propel SAFC to safety at Villa Park next Monday night. He also detects the essential changes evident from two marvellous wins against NUFC and Everton. MoN, if he were an avid reader of Salut! Sunderland, might say Sixer identified similar improvements when he first took over and he’d be right. But can PDC sustain this progress where the Ulsterman, sadly, could not?

It seems that the last time we beat Everton, Roker Park and Goodison Park vied for the title of finest Archibald Leitch lattice work, Harry Catterick was managing the Blues and Dixie Dean was banging them in with gay abandon.

In fact, it was 2001 and Claudio Reyna scored at the Stadium, Walter Smith was the manager and the Everton No 9 was Kevin Campbell. But, it is a long time ago in the days when most of us were still debating the values of mobile phones, the Football Echo still appeared on a Saturday night and Des Lynam was hosting The Premiership on ITV. Ah, happy days!!

This was the first time we have beaten a David Moyes side and the first home win for Paolo Di Canio. It was a vital one as well and means that we have not been dragged back into the very serious stuff at the bottom of the league. There is now only one relegation place to fill and should Villa lose at Old Trafford on Monday night, we will have a decent cushion. We should be more than capable of taking four points from the final four games to ensure survival.

As happened 15 months age, we are benefiting from new manager syndrome.

Di Canio has come in and revitalised a group of players who were sleepwalking to the Championship. The organisation looks better, the players seem switched on and we are having those little bits of good fortune that had deserted O’Neill in his final months.

Make no mistake, we played well against Everton. We took advantage of a slip by Leighton Baines (that’ll teach him to refuse to sign for us!) and scored a good goal. Seb Larsson hit three very good free kicks, each of which was inches away from being brilliant and we defended as if lives depended on it – which, looking at the macho postures adopted by our head coach, they probably did.

The main difference looks to be that players have been given specific instructions as to what to do.

Take Alfred N’Diaye. Three or four weeks ago, some were hoping that Hartlepool or Red Star Paris would do as he looked anything but a Premier League player. He was seen as symptomatic of the decline under O’Neill and comparisons were being made between the large amount of cash forked out on him, compared to the few sous that Sissoko had cost for our Tyneside rivals.

He had a good game last week and had a gigantic game this. He thundered into tackles, won the ball in tight situations and annoyed Fellaini so much that I expected a hissy fit from the hirsute Belgian. It really was an excellent performance that showed us that, whatever O’Neill’s failings, he could spot a decent player.

Same with Danny Graham. He was foiled in the opening few minutes, when he took advantage of the lack of pace in the middle of the Everton back four. His first goal in a red and white shirt was prevented only by an excellent save from Tim Howard.

But after that, he ran his legs off, went looking for the ball and never once allowed the ponderous Distain and accident-prone Heitinga to settle. All he needs is a goal and the transformation will be complete. But Di Canio and his coaching staff will know the benefits of a centre forward who never allows the opposition breathing space.

It is clear that the players have bought into the different style that the Italians have brought to the club. The tempo is quicker, the tackling fiercer and the attacking play more direct than it was under the previous regime.

Add to that the fact that the head coach has good ideas and you get true professionals (and that’s what we have as opposed to the mercenaries at Loftus Road) wanting to listen to him and buy into his short term philosophy. Men like O’Shea, Cuellar, Johnson and Mignolet do not want a relegation on their cv.

O’Shea and Cuellar were immense on Saturday. The Irishman never missed a header and won the battle with Anichebe early on. The Spaniard was equally impressive, with timely interceptions and good tackles with his, apparently, telescopic legs.

Backed up by strong performances from Colback and Rose, we rarely looked under threat and, as Everton revealed that they lack goalscorers, an equaliser looked less and less likely. That they resorted to lumping the ball into the box for the last 20 minutes and to falling over in the penalty area tells you how strong our defenders were.

Dipping into the metaphor bag, the green shoots of recovery can be seen and we look a far, far better bet to stay up than we did three weeks ago after Manchester United contemptuously brushed us aside.

Certainly, the arrival of Di Canio has galvanised the whole club. The atmosphere in the Stadium was brilliant and the crowd roared the team home in the last 20 minutes. That’s what crowds are there to do. Singing is ok, but the Roar is the best. When the now execrable Michael Chopra notched the winner at Villa Park in Keane’s second season, the 3,000 Sunderland fans there knew that if we hung on, we would be safe. They outroared the Villa fans and showed them what a real football club is all about.

Next Monday could be the game that cements our place in the top flight for a record breaking seventh season since our first relegation in 1958. A Graham winner would be a lovely way to do it. There may not be 3,000 there for a Monday night, but the roar will be just as loud if we can win and heap the pressure on Villa and Darren Bent – whoever he was.

Apr 202013

Sunderland v Everton, 15:00


Sunderland host Everton on a high after new manager Paolo di Canio masterminded a famous 3-0 win over Newcastle in their last league game, the first victory for the Black Cats at St James’ Park in 13 years.


Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan were all on target to help ease Sunderland fans’ concerns over top scorer Steven Fletcher’s ankle injury.


Fletcher has some of the most impressive striking statistics in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, getting 75.5% of his shots on target (compared to van Persie’s 57.8%) and averaging 4.54 shots per goal (compared to van Persie’s 5.52). However, Fletcher has struggled for chances so far this season, having just 49 efforts at goal compared to van Persie’s 116.


– While the goalscorers naturally took the headlines for Sunderland, John O’Shea also made a telling contribution making six clearances against Newcastle, the second highest from the last week of games.


Carlos Cuellar has also excelled in defence this season winning an incredible 87.9% of tackles he has attempted while only conceding one foul for every 7.25 tackles this season. Both stats are the best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for players who have attempted 50 or more tackles this season.


Everton were in action against Arsenal in mid-week in a tough game which ended 0-0.


– The pace and physicality of the game are clear when you see that Marouane Fellaini, never shy of going in for a tackle, attempted 11 tackles against Arsenal. That’s the second highest from the Premier League fixtures taking place last weekend or in midweek. It’s also the second time this season Fellaini has attempted so many tackles in a game, the other occasion coming against Villa back in August.


Kevin Mirallas got the headlines for off the pitch reasons after the game against Arsenal, but his performances on the pitch this season suggest that he may be good for more than his current tally of five goals next season. Depsite averaging 13.5 shots at goal for each of his four goals, Mirallas has the most accurate shooting percentage of any player to have had 50 shots or more in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Mirallas has got 74% of his 54 shots at goal on target this season. However, of the players to have had 50 of more shots on goal he has got the fewest goals, a statistical anomaly that suggests the goals may start flowing for Mirallas soon.


– In defence Phil Jagielka also continues to shine, having attempted 67 tackles but given away just 11 fouls, a rate of a foul every 6.1 tackles, one of the best in the Premier League. He has also come away with the ball from 83% of those tackles, second only to Sunderland’s Carlos Cuellar in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Apr 162013

Arsenal v Everton, 19:45

– Arsenal battled back from adversity to claim a 3-1 win over Norwich at The Emirates on Saturday. The result was shrouded in controversy however after the decision to give a dubious corner led to a penalty which swung the match in the Gunners’ favour and sparked a late fightback from the home side.

– Lukas Podolski made an immediate impact after coming on in the second half, rattling the crossbar as Arsenal pushed for an equalizer. However it’s not surpising that the German international came so close to equalizing according to the EA SPORTS Player Index. He has the best shot accuracy rate in the Arsenal squad, with 70.7% of his 41 attempts on goal finding the target.

– Arsenal fans had their hearts in their mouths again after Jack Wilshere limped off just after the break. The talented midfielder had been one of Arsenal’s brightest performers up until that point, making it easy to see how he’s completed a pass in the opponent’s half once every 2.48 minutes he’s been on the pitch this season.

– The reputation of Kieran Gibbs continues to be enhanced with every game the left-back plays, the youngster having managed to string a run of games together following persistent injury woes. Dynamic in attack yet composed in defence, Gibbs has one of the best tackle success rates in the Arsenal squad, coming out on top in 70% of his 60 attempted challenges this season.

– Everton secured a 2-0 win over QPR at Goodison Park on Saturday. Goals from Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe helped move David Moyes’ side ever closer to their goal of securing European football next season.

– Victor Anichebe has taken his chances well this season following the drop in form of Nikica Jelavic, last weekend’s goal another example of his continued return to form. The powerful frontman has one of the best shot accuract rates in the Toffees’ squad at 65.8% and has also used his imposing frame to chip in with 5 assists for his teammates. He will likely relish this Tuesday’s battle against a sometimes shaky Arsenal defence.

– David Moyes this week announced that Phil Jagielka will take over the Everton captaincy following Phil Neville’s departure and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows it’s not difficult to see why. Jagielka has a superb tackle success rate (84.6% from 65 challenges) as well as a massive 295 defensive contributions for the season, easily the highest in the Everton squad.

– Whilst the Arsenal midfield is always brimming with players who will seek to dominate possession through accurate and technical passing, in Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar they may well have found their equals. Between them they have amassed an enormous 1,570 successful passes in the opponent’s half this season, meaning the likes of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey will have to bring their tackling boots should they wish to see much of the ball.

Apr 132013

Everton v QPR, 15:00


– A late Tottenham goal forced a 2-2 draw and denied Everton all three points in a pulsating encounter at White Hart Lane last weekend.


Phil Jagielka’s goal last weekend was a deserved reward for the consistent level of performances he’s been turning in as the season approaches its end. No Everton player has made more defensive contributions than him, his total of 287 complementing his superb 85.9% tackle success rate from 64 challenges.


– David Moyes will need Leon Osman involved as much as possible this weekend to try and dictate the terms of possession to what will be a highly motivated and aggressive QPR side. Osman has one of the best passes per minute ratios in the Everton squad, finding a team mates in the opponent’s half on average once every 4.08 minutes.


– Everton captain Phil Neville announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, with many speculating that he might possibly move on to another club rather than retire. His performances have certainly been solid enough to suggest that the 36 year old has a couple more years left in him, his tackle success rate of 47.6% from 42 attempts a solid return at this level.


– A free kick in the dying embers of stoppage time saw things end in a 1-1 draw and QPR denied a vital win at home to Wigan last weekend. The cruelty was magnified given after Loic Remy’s goal looked to have secured the win in the 86th minute.


– Harry Redknapp knows that QPR must take the game to Everton, not just because this is a game they have to win but should they fall behind early away from home they may struggle to ever get back in the game. Bobby Zamora could cause the Everton defence problems with his strength and experience, the striker also being in solid form in front of goal with 71.4% shot accuracy rate from 21 attempts according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Andros Townsend was brought in on loan from Spurs to provide a much-needed attacking option for QPR, yet his performances have suggested he is truly invested in the cause and not seeing the Rs as a mere stopover. He already has the joint best tackle success rate in the QPR squad, coming out on top in 85.7% of his 21 challenges this season.


– French striker Loic Remy was bought by Tony Fernandes to do one thing, find the back of the net. Remy has not disappointed and has adapted quickly to the physicality of the Premier League, his five goals a return from his ability to get behind opposition defences and get his shots away. Indeed he’s had an attempt on goal on average once every 31.4 minutes he’s been on the pitch.

Mar 302013

Everton v Stoke 17:30


– A brilliant all-round Everton performance saw them record a 2-0 victory over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at Goodison Park.


– Left-back Leighton Baines has remained superb this season for David Moyes’ side in both defence and attack. Not only has he managed to rack up 156 defensive contributions, he’s also now whipped in 106 crosses.


– Eeverton will miss the guile and technique of Steven Pienaar following his sending off against Man City. The South African has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any of his team mates with 801, averaging out at a pass every 3.2 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Moyes will be looking for more of his players to help Marouane Fellaini’s efforts in front of goal, given that the Belgian still leads the Everton squad for shot accuracy, with 66.6% testing the goalkeeper so far this season.


Stoke battled to a somewhat lackluster 0-0 draw with West Brom at the Britannia, a result which saw them move into the top half of the Premier League.


– No Stoke player has been more willing to throw their body on the line than Ryan Shawcross this season, the centre-half racking up 35 blocks according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, a squad-high.


– Imposing French midfielder Steven Nzonzi has let his temper get the better of him at times this season but his ability to influence a game from the centre of the park cannot be questioned. He’s completed a pass in the opposition half on average once every 5.2 minutes he’s been on the field, the lowest in the Potters’ squad.


– Look for Matthew Etherington to test out the Everton defence this weekend, he leads the Stoke squad for dribbles with 15.