This English Premier League season has been an odd one. Liverpool currently sit sixth in the table after Roy Hodgson pressed the self-destruct button before being sacked, leading many to believe that The Reds, now managed by Kop legend Kenny Dalglish, wouldn’t even finish in the top half.
They may be seven points away from fifth-placed Tottenham, maybe making qualification for the Europa League just out of reach, but the turnaround has been staggering.
The same, to an extent, can be said for Everton. David Moyes’ side has struggled with injuries and various other misgivings and, as the turn of the year loomed, some were touting the Merseyside club for relegation.
There were murmurs of Moyes leaving the club. That old line of “he can’t take them any further” was brought out time and time again, but Moyes never gave in.
Everton are now 8th in the table and, although they are only effectively eight points above the relegation zone on forty points, one should think that they are safe this season, given the form of the clubs nearer the drop zone.
Yesterday’s 2-1 win over Fulham marked Moyes’ ninth anniversary as Everton manager, quite an impressive feat for a mid-table side at a time where managers rarely stay longer than two years if they don’t hit the targets set by ambitious owners.
The performance was one of pure confidence. There was a period, before and after Seamus Coleman’s goal, where Everton simply dominated. Wave after wave of attack came Fulham’s way, with the attacking full-backs Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert providing great width as Leon Osman and Coleman like to cut inside and roam across the park.
The opening goal yesterday came when Baines and Osman combined, the wide midfielder putting a deft ball over a stranded Fulham defence to find an unmarked Coleman, who headed home with exquisite ease.
Coleman is one of many young exciting talents at Goodison Park. In the middle of midfield yesterday was Jack Rodwell, apparently a target for Manchester United, who had a relatively quiet game but got forward well and put in some strong challenges. Next to him was Everton captain Phil Neville, who excels in linking the defence and midfield.
At the back Everton look strong and at times seem to be unbeatable, as Fulham’s front line found yesterday for the majority of the match. Sylvain Distin is a contender for Player of the Season while his defensive partner, Phil Jagielka, is surely going to be given more of a chance in an England shirt soon. The pair are resolute, brilliant in the air and just as good on the floor, distributing the ball to those in front of them to start attacks.
In goal they have the ever-present Tim Howard who has been superb year-in, year-out. Since his move from Manchester United (who are now, incidentally, looking for a ‘keeper as Edwin Van der Sar will retire at the end of this season) he has been a strong figure at the back for Everton.
Everton’s second goal yesterday came from the injury-plagued Louis Saha. The Frenchman smashed home a free kick after a Fulham wall crumbled but an injury was sustained by the striker late on. His fitness has caused problems for Everton this season as they have left Moyes with one, main striker – Jermaine Beckford, a clearly talented but inconsistent and sometimes ineffective forward.
Victor Anichebe has failed to impress this season and, while Jose Baxter continues to be highly rated, Moyes would do well to sign a striker in the summer, someone to play in front of the mercurial Tim Cahill, who missed a large chunk of the season because of the Asian Cup. Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko would be the name that immediately springs to mind.
Everton is a football club that strives for success and, given that they were challenging for Europe a few years ago, this season has certainly been a disappointment. But Moyes has steered them to safety. Safety won’t be good enough next season but, if Moyes were sign a striker and perhaps an extra creative midfielder to cover for Mikel Arteta, who has also struggled with injuries this season, then Everton can look forward to a high-flying 2011/12.
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.