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Everton Season Review Part 3

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After Daniel's, Brian's and Taylor's review of Everton's 2010/11 Premier League season it is my turn to express my thoughts and feelings on a campaign that promised so much, threatened to deliver so little, but in the end left us bemused as to how the team can play so poorly in the autumn but so efficiently in the spring.

Anyway, proceed past the jump to read my take on another eventful nine months for Everton Football Club.....

Heading into the season I have to admit I didn't share David Moyes' optimism about our chances to qualify for the Champions League. In fact I was surprised Moyes even made such a comment, given his tendency to underplay our chances.

But maybe this reflected the manager's attempts to try and change our mentality from plucky underdogs to genuine contenders.

Much of the success under Moyes has been achieved with our backs against the wall, fighting against the odds and defying the expert's expectations. But the Scot knew that could only take you so far and it was about time the team acted like winners.

But the problem was opposition teams also began to sit up and take notice of Moyes' achievements.  All of a sudden Everton – from an outsider's point of  view – was a tough team to play against.

So clubs turned the tables on us and began to play the sort of formations our recent success had been built on. Teams came to Goodison to sit back and pack the midfield, hoping to hit on the break. Our generally workmanlike team with sprinklings of quality just couldn't break them down.

This only emphasised our greatest weakness – strikers.

To be fair to Moyes I have a bit of sympathy for him on this one. In 2007 he splashed out £11.75million on Yakubu and after 21 goals in his first season that looked like a bargain. He has never been the same though since that nasty achilles injury back in November 2008.

However, with money tight Moyes obviously hoped he could conjure up brief flashes of genius from his attacking quartet of Yakubu, Saha, Beckford and Anichebe. Both Yakubu and Anichebe proved massive disappointments, while Saha and Beckford took six months to really get going. But goalscorers are what costs big money, money we haven't got. So it was a gamble by Moyes that had to take, but it's failure proved costly.

I lost count the number of times we dominated possession but failed to carve out clear cut chances,. There was no spark, no invention, no quick thinking, it was all too laboured and predictable.Home games against Wolves, Wigan, Newcastle, Bolton and West Brom yielded just four points, not good enough.

The only real highlight of the autumn was the 2-0 win over Liverpool in one of the worst derby displays I have seen from the Reds in a long, long time. In fact their woes under hapless Hodgson kept me going through the winter!

I know this review is taking a rather negative path but it is merely reflecting how we all felt at the mid point of the season, something just wasn't clicking. We weren’t' far away – it wasn't as If we were losing 4-0 every week – but that lack of quality upfront was costing us dear.

It is a pattern that has occurred over the past three seasons now and on each occasion there was one result where we hit rock bottom. In 2008 it was a miserable 1-0 defeat at Wigan on a chilly Monday night. A year later it was  3-2 reverse at Hull – going 3-0 down after 25 minutes don't forget.

This season we had to wait a bit longer for our nadir, and what a nadir it was. A cold, wet miserable Reebok Stadium in February – never the most atmospheric stadium at the best of times – bore witness to one of the most limp displays I have seen from an Everton team in years. After that game I wrote a pretty glum match report, the gist of which I have copied below:

It isn’t the first time Everton have put in a poor performance this season but their display at the Reebok was especially spineless, gutless and one totally at odds with the exorbitant wages the players take home every week.

Moyes now looks like he carries the World’s burdens on his shoulders and his side looks increasingly stale. I only hope this result makes the players realised what a predicament they find themselves in while they still have time to dig themselves out of it. Otherwise we will continue stumble blindly on, heading dangerously close to the edge of the Premier League precipice.

Crikey, I really must have been in a bad mood. But not as bad as Moyes, who for the first time looked a beaten man.

By this point Steven Pienaar had left and with no incomings in January the fury among the fans was firing off in all directions. Some blamed Moyes, others blamed under-performing players such as Mikel Arteta and Louis Saha, but it was the anger towards the board that was reaching boiling point.

We demanded answers as to why the club was so skint and expressed genuine concern that the current inertia from the board and failure to back Moyes with cash would only see the club go one way. It was around now several protest groups formed, including Evertonians for Change, who have appealed for reform at boardroom level in order to steer the club back in the right direction.

At this point I genuinely feared a relegation battle, so if you told me that less than three months later we would be beating Chelsea to finish seventh I would have snapped your hand off. We finally discovered that winning knack again, with home wins over Man City, Blackpool and Spurs the highlight.

Quite what it is that spurs the team on in the second half of the season I don't know but  that magic formula was found again as we steered ourselves away comfortably from the relegation zone and at one point threatened Europe, though our poor start had handicapped us too much in the end we had to settle with a one place improvement on last season.

Looking forward I can actually see reasons to be positive. The fact we can play so badly yet finish in the top seven shows how weak the league actually is, and how just a few improved performances could make the world of difference. If we had beaten Wolves, Wigan, West Ham and Birmingham at home (four of the bottom five) we would have finished level with Spurs in sixth. Beaten lower mid-table sides Newcastle and West Brom at Goodison? We would have been level with Arsenal in fourth. We only lost 10 games, which is one less than Man City and Chelsea. But in order to convert those draws to wins we need a goalscorer, which unfortunately costs money.

Money is again going to be tight this summer but significant cash can be raised through the departures of Yakubu, Joseph Yobo and James Vaughan – three players who made a minimal impact on our season. The £2.5million raised from the sale of Vaughan is a start and if we can raise a further 6-8 million from the sales of Yobo and the Yak Moyes, with his track record of unearthing bargains, could find that striker we need to complete what I think is a solid looking Premier League side capable of challenging for Europe once again.