Day two of TheChelseaBlog pre-season interviews kicks off with a chat with Brian from Everton’s Royal Blue Mersey.
TheChelseaBlog: So, a new season awaits – what are you hoping to get from it?
Royal Blue Mersey: I’m hoping for a run at a Champions League berth. There is no denying the squad has the talent to make another run for 4th, the problem has always been keeping players fit and playing well. Too often key players get injured at the same time, and we rarely start getting enough results until the new year. This past season I believe we were 2nd in points earned after January 1st behind Arsenal, but in the first half of the season we were somewhat closer to the bottom of the table in points earned.
TCB: So what do you realistically expect then?
RBM: The squad should definitely compete for some sort of European spot, so 7th or better. Even with some squads spending more money on players, there is no reason to think we can’t spend Thursday evenings a year from now in some random and hard to pronounce European cities. In addition it would be nice to see a decent cup run. Last year’s early departure in the F.A. Cup was downright embarrassing, and although full credit should go to the Reading side that knocked us out of the F.A. Cup in the 5th round, the team should have done better to advance.
TCB: Do you think the transfer window has been kind to you?
RBM: It has been kind in the sense that we haven’t lost any of our big name players to the larger clubs. Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, and Jack Rodwell have all been linked to various clubs, but thankfully all three seem to be staying at Goodison Park for the upcoming season. As usual no new names have arrived at Goodison, but it has also been depressing to see us lose out on players because of wage demands. Former West Ham striker Demba Ba appeared to be set to arrive at Everton, but the team could not afford his wage demands given the injury risk he poses. The team has also had problems offloading some of the dead weight in the team. Joseph Yobo and Yakubu have both been showed the door, but Yakubu’s wage demands have appeared to scuttle his move to Leicester City while Everton refused to lower their asking price of Feberhance for Yobo. The best way in the end may be to describe the transfer window as typical Everton, but without losing the big names.
TCB: Is there anyone you’d give your right arm to bring in?
RBM: A true striker who can play as the lone striker up top would be fantastic. I’m not really picky about who the layer would be, but our problem has always been scoring, we have had one player score 20 goals since the Premier League began. The problem as always is our lack of transfer funds. David Moyes has to sell in order to buy players, but anyone he sells will also have to be replaced because none of the youngsters are quite ready it seems. Maybe next summer Moyes will feel comfortable spending some money on a forward if he sells anyone.
TCB: Who are your most important players?
RBM: Leighton Baines is probably at the top of the list. His 11 assists last season plus several important set-piece goals made him the player of the year. A lot of the teams attacking power came from his left foot, and with an aerial threat like Tim Cahill, Baines crosses are always going to be vital. Sylvian Distin is also big to the squad. Although he is 32, the Frenchman has been a rock at the back and played in every league game for the team this past season. With Baines tendency to move forward in attack, the onus to cover the left side falls on Distin, and although he is not perfect he has done a fantastic job plugging the hole until reinforcements arrive. Moving up top the single most important player on the team may be Jermain Beckford. Before your jaw drops on the floor let me explain that Beckford’s improvement may well determine how far this team goes. With Louis Saha everyone knows he is going to get the team at least 10-15 goals, but also miss some significant time due to injury. Beckford scored 10 goals in his first season with the club after jumping 2 divisions from Leeds. If he can improve his play with his back to goal, as well as display some more clinical finishing, Everton may not need to worry about purchasing a top-class striker.
TCB: What about opposition players? Which PL player worries you most?
RBM: Any forward with speed really scares me, specifically Chicarito. The biggest weakness of the Everton defense is speed up top. The team can deal with quick midfielders, see what Phil Neville did against Gareth Bale as an example, but they do not have the pace to keep up with extremely quick forwards. Chicarito played a fantastic game against us in April, and he probably should have had 2-3 goals if not for a combination of luck, Tim Howard, and the officials.
TCB: How do you think your manager stands up against the rest?
RBM: In Moyes We Trust is one of the biggest sayings around Goodison these days for good reason. With the exception of Sir Alex Ferguson there isn’t a single manager working in the Premier League that I would want to hire. It has been almost 2 years since the club has paid a transfer fee for a player, and in that time Moyes has finished 8th and 7th in the table, and has done with a smaller and cheaper squad than his compatriots. Ironically enough Moyes biggest weakness is when he buys players for higher sums of money. Players like Yakubu and Bilyaletdinov have been some of the more expensive players purchased by Moyes, about 10 million pounds per player, and they have not exactly performed as expected. That said there is a reason Moyes is the third longest serving manager in the Premier League, and it will be a sad day for Everton when he leaves.
TCB: And your supporters – can they give the opposition a run for their money?
RBM: In today’s day of corporate sponsorship, Arab oil sheiks, and fancy new stadiums, nothing beats a night game at Goodison with a packed crowd. Although the fans can be a bit melodramatic, especially on the internet, everyone truly loves the club and wants it to succeed without a billionaire coming in and saddling the club with mountains of debt. During the club’s U.S. tour in July, multiple fans from England traveled across the Atlantic to watch the Toffees in action, showing just how deep their dedication runs
TCB: Where do you think you’ll finish this season?
RBM: I think we finish 6th this season. I think enough players remaining healthy along with the squad actually getting some more results earlier in the season will get us into Europa League, although it will take a big push at the end of the season like old times. I also think this squad has a good cup run in it, but I’m going to say it will come in the League Cup rather than the F.A. Cup. Moyes is likely to go with a squad that includes some of the bench and youth players for the League Cup, and after seeing some glimpses of them over the past year the League Cup is the perfect place to blood them, and I believe it will go well for the Toffees.
TCB: Any predictions for the top four?
RBM: I think Manchester United retains their spot at the top of the table, They brought in just enough new blood to make the midfield younger, and a full season of Rooney and Chicarito is scary for any defense. I think second is going to be a competition between Manchester City and Chelsea, but I feel City edges out Chelsea for 2nd. The Chelsea squad needs more revamping than a managerial change, and that will become evident over the long season. I also think Liverpool edges out Arsenal for the final Champions League berth. Kenny Daglish has been doing some great work across Stanley Park unfortunately, and Liverpool will see some immediate returns on their new players.
TCB: Cheers Brian…..sick of being placed third though!