BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Tim Cahill of Everton looks on during the pre season friendly between Birmingham City and Everton at St Andrews (stadium) on July 30, 2011 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Thus far I have discussed the Midfield, Attack and Defence in parts 1 to 3. In the final part of the series looking at the Everton squad I review the Wild Cards - those versatile players who are often called upon to play in various positions in the side. To conclude I will estimate the preferred line-up that Everton will start the season.
Everton are blessed with a number of players who have managed to be highly competent in many roles in the side
I have touched upon this in the previous article when discussing the likes of Leon Osman (various roles in midfield and an occasional striker) as well as Johnny Heitinga and Phil Neville, seasoned pros who have filled many back row and midfield roles. But there are four remaining members of the side who fill multiple roles readily for the betterment of the side. The most obvious candidate is Seamus Coleman. Snatched from the Irish League for just £60,000 he has fast adapted himself to the rigours of the Premier League and become a highly versatile defender-wide midfielder. Perhaps the lack of Premier League experience and the failure to conform to the stifling chess-game mentality that pervades the top leagues has given him an advantage which other players lack. His refreshing no-nonsense attitude - manifesting itself in mazy runs into the opposition half - seems to throw opponents off their stride and often leads to Everton gaining the upper hand with the chances that come from that. He has yet to convince on the defensive side of his game but shows the aptitude that suggests he will be an extremely tough defender as well. The only downsides to his game are a tendency to fail to find that final ball and a suggestion that his fitness is marginally behind the rest of the side (as he tends to fade in the latter part of games). In time I think both these missing parts will be rectified and Everton will gain the full benefit of his spirited contributions.
On the other hand Everton possess a footballer in Jack Rodwell who appears to hold all the aces but yet that ability has been stifled for the past couple of seasons for reasons which remain an open question. My take on Jack is that he has suffered from his versatility, as well as an inability to remain 100% fit. This has lead to not having a defined role in the side. For one schooled in the Youth Academy he surely knows what is now required of him in the high octane atmosphere of the Premier League. Some say he could be a great centre-half. Others suggest he can lead the side from the key midfield positions. Many believe he has all the attributes of a top player. From my earliest recollections of seeing him - in pre-season where the opposition was limited and the pressure non-existent - I have seen him display the full range of his ability in finding a long range pass with complete accuracy to defending competently and shooting - from distance - at will with accuracy. Whether this capacity is suppressed deliberately or not - shall we say the urge to retain possession - is open to debate. Nevertheless there is a tremendous football brain - capable of being Steve Gerrard (without the attendant nasty streak but with the will to run for the entire match instead of expecting others to do it) and Frank Lampard all in one. Jack, please, now show us the real Jack!!
The final two components in the Everton side with versatility writ large in their footballing CV are Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill. The former, a young Belgian international with a highly promising future, has only fleetingly shown the very best of his game. In fairness to him he has suffered from the initial transformation to the Premier League - his first season was punctuated with multiple disciplinary issues and latterly with injury troubles. However it is clear that he has the capacity to play a very good game as a deep-lying midfielder or a more forward playing contributor - even able to fill in as an emergency striker. If he can overcome his injury troubles we may yet see a more rounded contribution from him.
Tim Cahill is another most versatile footballer - perhaps the most hated of opponent, renowned for his commitment and his never-say-die attitude. He is a most prodigious header of the ball, almost unmarkable at free-kicks and corners. Whilst many would agree his contribution as a midfielder in terms of passing and tackling is limited (and I wish he might shoot from further than 6 yards for us) he more than makes up for that with his combative nature and his willingness to give 100% for the team. Together with Fellaini he forged a memorable emergency partnership in front of the back line one rainy night in Athens which ensured that Everton qualified for the knock out stages of the Europa League.
So in conclusion I hope you have enjoyed this preview of the Everton squad and I shall now try to estimate the side that Everton are likely to put out this coming season. Assuming no additions or departures from the current squad - and a fit squad to choose from - I expect David Moyes to prefer the following line-up:
Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Arteta, Rodwell, Fellaini, Osman, Cahill, Saha
Subs: Mucha, Coleman, Heitinga, Barkley, Yakubu, Beckford, Bilyaletdinov,
Alternates: Hibbert, Yobo, Gueye, Vellios, Anichebe, and others.
Injuries to Arteta and Fellaini suggest to me that, for the opener at Spurs, we may see Heitinga and Coleman play or perhaps Barkley given an early chance to shine.