LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Steven Pienaar of Everton in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on May 13, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
It seems like ages since Everonians were celebrating a fantastic end to yet another Premier League season, but tomorrow Everton kick off their preseason preparations by heading off to League 2 outfit Morecambe. The Shrimps are hosting the Toffees in honor of player-manager Jim Bentley, and the sold-out stadium will no doubt provide a nice atmosphere to kick things off.
Despite the return to somewhat regular football, questions are still being asked around the Merseyside club as fans continue to hold out hope that their beloved team will remain whole before the end of the transfer deadline in two months.
Rumors of Leighton Baines departure continue to swirl, and many fans have already begun the handwringing that would accompany the departure of another Everton star. The clearout of some of the lower level players such as James Wallace, Adam Forshaw, and Joao Silva will have done nothing to ease fears. This leads us to some of the biggest questions surrounding Everton as matches begin to get underway.
1. Can Everton get consistent production from up top?
Nikica Jelavic’s arrival from Rangers in Janaury provided a spark up top that led to Everton’s run to seventh, but for too long the club has had goal scoring problems in the first half of the season. With Rangers partner Steven Naismith joining the club, Jelavic seems primed to continue his fantastic run of form which could propel Everton into the conversation for Champions League football.
2. Where will the creativity come from?
Now that Moyes has apparently addressed his problems at the forward position, the question is who will provide the brilliant passes to his forwards. Without a doubt the best central midfield pairing for the club is Belgian Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson, but do the two midfielders have enough creativity to break down a Stoke City defense on a wet miserable night? If these two struggle to create chances, Everton could face the same problems they always see when Christmas comes around.
3. Will Moyes stick with the 4-5-1?
With the slowing of Tim Cahill (more on him below), is it possible Moyes may feel inclined to switch to a 4-4-2 for most matches? If Naismith and Jelavic partner up as well as they did at Rangers, it could make sense to play both men up top and stick with a much more traditional formation.
4. Anyone got some Peanuts?
Despite the animosity at his departure from Goodison, Pienaar’s return to Everton was greeted with cheers, especially when he showed off his talent and skill that he was never able to bring to White Hart Lane. With rumors indicating Moyes is close to finalizing a 5 million pound move for the South African, the left side of the midfield will be secure for the upcoming season. If the deal does fall through, expect things to be a little rougher for the club.
5. Has Tim Cahill’s time come and gone?
The Australian international has reached the age of 32, and after last season it seems like his abilities would be much more suited to being a super sub rather than an automatic starter. While he certainly came up with a few timely goals, there is no denying is aerial presence has been diminished with age, and with some talent waiting in the wings it is fair to ask David Moyes it the slow end to the Tim Cahill era has begun at Everton.
It seems like Jack Rodwell has been on the verge of becoming a star at Everton for years now, and Seamus Coleman did a nice disappearing act last season. While both players did have their injuries to cope with, they will need to step up their play this season or their futures at Everton could be in doubt. For Coleman, his gallivanting down the right side would help provide balance to a left side that features a defender and midfielder who enjoy getting forward. With both Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville unlikely to provide much in the way of attacking prowess, the burden falls to the young midfielder to provide right-side service. As for Jack Rodwell, it is time for him to break out and become a star. Moyes has shown he believes in Rodwell’s talent, but that needs to turn into more consistent performance. Competition in the midfield will be fierce this year, and if Rodwell can break through it is going to help the club.
7. The arrival of Ross Barkley?
Next month will be 10 years since a young striker took the field in an Everton kit and turned English football on its head. Ross Barkley has been compared to Wayne Rooney as the next savior of English football, and based on his early appearances last season, the talent is certainly there. After Moyes made the decision to let his potential star work on his defensive approach and refine his game in the reserves, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Barkley will be making a significant contribution to Everton this season. If he is able to work hard defensively it is possible Everton’s problem with creating scoring chances will be gone.
What are your biggest questions heading into the season, and while we are still a month away from the important matches is this one of the best squads David Moyes has ever assembled? Leave your thoughts below and COYB!