With Everton meeting Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening in their 20th Premier League game of the campaign, a fixture rearranged from the opening day of the season, it is an opportune time to evaluate the first half of the season for David Moyes’ side.
Sitting in 11th, eight points clear of the bottom three but 12 points adrift of a Europa League place, Everton are currently almost the very definition of mid-table. Results have been inconsistent but largely disappointing, not least the five home defeats, two more than in the whole of last season. There has been the occasional moment of relative triumph – a strong away win at Fulham perhaps the best of a pretty meagre lot, but by and large, Everton’s season from August to mid-January has been one of frustration and disappointment.
The season began with a home defeat to Queens Park Rangers, in which a pattern that has persisted through today was first established. At half-time in the match with the Londoners, Everton registered 60% of possession but could not turn their dominance into goals or even real chances. A 1-0 defeat duly followed. With only 20 goals from 19 league games since, it is a problem Moyes has been unable to solve with the players already at his disposal, and the club’s parlous financial state means he may struggle to do so in January as well.
There has been more than one occasion this season when it seemed Everton had reached their nadir. December’s home defeat to Stoke City was the first contender, a 1-0 loss that, ironically considering the dire performance, left Everton a place higher than their current position. But even that was usurped by the 2-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers in January, where Owen Coyle’s side, bottom of the league at kick-off, looked far the more comfortable side on the ball and a distinctly more dangerous proposition through midfield and going forward. It took a freak Tim Howard goal for Everton to even register on the score sheet.
From losing at home to the lowest-ranked team in the division the only way is surely up. A routine victory over Tamworth in the FA Cup saw Moyes experiment a little with his line-up, although the squad’s injury-ravaged state meant it was always likely to be a much-changed XI regardless. There has been little tangible transfer news from Goodison Park bar the short-term return of Landon Donovan, although rumours are manifold that Steven Pienaar will return on loan, a year after leaving Merseyside for Wednesday’s opponents. The popular Pienaar would bolster Everton’s midfield, which has suffered for being more graft than craft all season.
The second half to Everton’s 2011-12 season could not get off to a much more difficult start than Tottenham. Spurs are flying through the Premier League and three points will put them level with second-placed Manchester United, while a victory for Everton would return the Toffees to the top half, overtaking Sunderland and Norwich City to nestle in ninth. But a final 19 games of more positives than the first 19 is vital if Everton hope to achieve anything of note this season.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Tottenham