Premier League Team Preview: Everton

Everton had an up-and-down season last year, ultimately finishing 7th in the Premier League. Will they challenge for a spot in Europe last year, or has David Moyes done all he can with the Toffees? Here to answer your question is Tom Mallows, from SB Nation Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey.

Despite having a three month long break from football Everton fans aren't heading into the new season with the freshness and enthusiasm such a holiday brings. Instead they are weary with the club's plight and look towards the future with frustration and trepidation.

It has been a difficult summer, mainly due to the club's much publicised financial problems meaning for the sixth transfer window in succession manager David Moyes has had no cash to spend unless players were sold.

Squad members who were earmarked for departure - Yakubu and Joseph Yobo - remain on the wage bill and thus far Moyes has resisted offers for his best players, including a £12million bid from Arsenal for Phil Jagielka. The only new face in the squad is 18-year-old defender Eric Dier, who joined the club on-loan from Sporting Lisbon. Therefore the fans know exactly what to expect from their side this season and are casting envious glances across to rival teams who have strengthened their squads in the summer.

Chairman Bill Kenwright is open about his inability to give Moyes funds as well as his desire to sell the club to the right buyer. Meanwhile the club's atmospheric but ageing stadium fails to provide them with the income streams required to compete at the top end of the division.

In response to the club's apparent inertia several protest groups have been formed with the aim of lobbying the board and forcing through change. They remain in the domain of internet forums and the odd angry flag for now, but if the side gets off to a poor start frustrations could boil over and things could get ugly.

There are though reasons to be positive. They have World class stars such as Tim Cahill, Tim Howard and Mikel Arteta; a useful blend of youth and experience and in Moyes have one of the most talented and committed managers in the country. Their main problem in the past few years has been starting slowly. Their 2009/10 and 2010/11 campaigns both began poorly, with the club languishing near the relegation zone come Christmas. But two late surges - that included wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City - secured them 8th and 7th finishes respectively. If Moyes can get his players going from the off and match that with their traditional strong finish, things may not be so gloomy at Goodison park after all.

Strengths

David Moyes is a master at extracting the very best out of the players available to him. His teams are well drilled, extremely fit and possess and strong team spirit that makes up for some of their limitations. Everton's full strength starting XI on their day can beat anyone in the division. They have a consistent goalkeeper in Tim Howard and a well organised defence, led by captain Phil Neville and held together by England international Phil Jagielka. Left back Leighton Baines is not only a good defender but also a dangerous player going forward - Baines set-up more goals than any other defender in the league last season.

Despite lacking and out-and-out winger Everton's midfield remains their strong point. Marouane Fellaini is a player who can dominate the opposition and provide an almost impenetrable wall in front of the back four, giving creative players such as Mikel Arteta the platform to launch attacks. Tim Cahill is a master at arriving in the box late and beating defenders to the ball in the air. Jack Rodwell struggled with injury last year but remains one of the club's brightest prospects. Supporters are also getting excited by 17-year-old Ross Barkley, the latest player to roll off the Toffees' prolific youth production line.

Weaknesses

They seriously lack a cutting edge up front. Louis Saha is the most natural finisher in the side but spends too much time in the treatment room to be considered reliable. Jermaine Beckford is full of running but is the sort of striker who needs three chances before he will score. Victor Anichebe often found himself pushed out wide and hasn't found the back of the net in 18 months while Yakubu spent the second half of last season on loan at Championship side Leicester. The squad as a whole is also desperately thin, even the most minor of injury crisis will leave Moyes with only youth team players to choose from.

Hopes for the season

Most of the fears from Everton fans are about the long term future of the club than the short term because the current squad can more than hold its own in the Premier League. But with the top six getting richer and richer it will take a superhuman effort for the club to beat last season's seventh place finish. Instead I think they will be battling with the likes of Aston Villa and Sunderland simply for a place in the top ten.

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