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Everton surge into European contention

By | 22nd February 2010

It has been a strange old year for Everton. There was the excitement and ultimate disappointment at Wembley last May in the FA Cup Final, but fans were optimistic the club would be able to build on last season.

That optimism slowly evaporated over the summer as injuries mounted and the Joleon Lescott transfer saga wrecked the club’s pre-season preparations – the opening day hammering by Arsenal was a direct result of that.

The club struggled to recover and following a disastrous 3-2 defeat by Hull in November were left floundering in 16th place.

But with the coming of 2010 the Toffees wiped the slate clean and began to rebuild their shattered campaign, aware that a tough February was looming.

Fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Spurs as well as a two-legged tie with Sporting Lisbon would be tricky for any team, and could have been too much for David Moyes’ men had they occurred two months earlier. Indeed, the football betting odds suggested they would struggle in all the games.

But such is the resurgence at Goodison Park that United, Chelsea, and Sporting have all been brushed aside in the space of a week – and the players think there’s more to come.

The key has been the return of players from injury. The likes of Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar, and Phil Neville have all had spells on the sidelines as the club buckled under the weight of so many casualties.

But Moyes never wavered in his belief that his side could compete with the best should his full complement of players be available – and so it has proved. The result on Saturday was all the proof that was needed needed.

At the back Johnny Heitinga has proved an able replacement for Lescott and he has formed a solid pairing with Sylvain Distin, while England full-backs past and future – Phil Neville and Leighton Baines – complete a solid looking defense.

In the past Everton have been accused of having tough, uncompromising midfielders who are high in energy but limited in ability. That ethos of 100 per cent commitment and hard tackling remains but the quintet of Pienaar, Arteta, Osman, Donovan, and Bilyaletdinov is as creative as you will see in the division. And up front, Moyes’ man-management skills are there for all to see as a rejuvenated Louis Saha enjoys his best season in five years.

All this means the club’s younger players, such as Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell, can be introduced at the right moments – too often this season they have been thrown in when they perhaps weren’t ready.

But as substitutes they helped Everton to victory on Saturday and showed hints of a bright future.

The side’s poor start has handicapped them as they look to make it three fifth place finishes in a row. But with fixtures against the big four out of the way and the form of teams immediately above them patchy at best, there is real belief that Everton can sneak into the last Champions League spot.

With seven points to make up it’s a long shot, but if they keep playing like they did on Saturday they have every chance of doing it.

However, the UEFA Europa League betting suggests that a more realistic target for Everton could be cup glory.

Where do you think Everton will end up? Have your say below!

Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. j6pini says:

    I'm loving Everton right now. The Everton-Man Utd game was well-worth waking up for at 7:45 here on the East Coast USA. There are just so many teams competing for the European spots now that it's hard to rule out any of them with so many games left. I'm neutral overall so I'm going to sit back and enjoy it.

  2. After digesting Raffa,s comments and looking at all the contenders for the 4th

    place finish i do beleive they have the easiest run in of fixtures compared to the rest ,But if Torres or Gerrard pick up an injury then ourselves Everton or Villa have the best credentials and fixtures to capitalise on the run in.

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