One of the common themes coming out from my post-football weekend discussions with my non-Everton supporting mates was their surprise that, despite our dreadful season, we were all-of-a-sudden in 7th place.
For me it is a position we have been threatening to get to for some time. We have been ‘one or two’ wins away from breaching the top eight virtually all season, which is what has made this up-and-down campaign so frustrating.
So to finally go on our usual end-of-season surge is a huge relief as it drags us away from a relegation fight enveloping pretty much the whole bottom half of the league.
Our opponents on Saturday Aston Villa are one of those teams down there, despite being able to play three full England internationals upfront.
Everton in contrast were down to the bare bones – again. Moyes sent out his strongest team possible based on what he had available and a bench that between them managed a grand total of zero Premier League appearances.
But the extra steel we find in post-Christmas Everton teams was there for all to see (finally!) as they contributed to an entertaining game full of drama and controversy.
That controversy hinges on two obvious incidents – Beckford’s ‘goal’ and the penalty decision.
Beckford's effort clearly bounced over the line after thumping the crossbar but such as the speed of the shot and the position of the assistant I can understand why he didn’t give it. I attach no blame to him really as it is has a hard one to see with the naked eye.
But in this case I don’t see why cameras cannot be utilised to make sure these decisions are correctly given. We could have found out within seconds whether shot was over the line with no real break in play. As it was we fell asleep at the back and Friedel’s long ball found Darren Bent to put Villa ahead.
Whether the referee was aware of the earlier error I don’t know but I wasn’t surprised things were evened up when we were awarded a penalty late in the game. To be fair to the ref on first look I thought it was a blatant foul. It was only on replay that I picked up Phil Jagielka’s dive (is that the assistant’s call again?). Baines didn't care though as he dispatched the penalty with his usual aplomb.
A draw was perhaps the fair result over the course of the game, though Villa will be rueing the dropped points more than Everton given their precarious league position.
A plus for me was seeing Magaye Gueye and Velios make their Premier League debuts. Both have impressed in the reserves and although still considered ones for the future our injury list means they may get their chance in the coming weeks. Gueye in particular looked bright on the wing and could give us a different option considering our current lack of pacy wingers.
In previous seasons sixth and even seventh place could have got you a European spot but this year it is only fifth, meaning our aim for the rest of the season is to just finish as high as we can. If we finish above Liverpool then great be I don’t think it should be the be all and end all as many papers are suggesting. I, like many Blues, a far more concerned about our long-term future than finishing above Liverpool this season.
Whether that future contains Marouane Fellaini is open to debate. The Belgian has been linked with a move to Chelsea (mainly by his annoyingly vocal father) and with two years left on his deal this summer is the time where he can push for a move.
Everton have reacted by opening contract talks with Fellaini, presumably armed with an emotional speech designed to convince him to stay. I think it is a good sign that we have opened dialogue because if he does decide to force through a move, then we can sell him early in the summer and allow Moyes to pursue other targets.The Scot has done well to keep hold of his best players in the past but after a season of under-achievement it my be harder to convince them this time around.
In other news it was great to see Seamus Coleman nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award. The young Irishman has been outstanding this season and it is an honour both for him and the club to be recognised by his fellow professionals.
He is up against some tough competition though with Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Joe Hart, and Nani also in the running. Bale and Nasri are also in the contention for the senior award alongside Scott Parker, Carlos Tevez, Charlie Adam and Nemanja Vidic. It is a shame Leighton Baines wasn’t considered for the senior award as he has been in he form of his life this season, though I can’t really argue with the players nominated.
My prediction is for Gareth Bale to take the senior award and Wilshire to take the young player gong – any thoughts on that guys n gals?