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Everton v Arsenal: LINEUPS and Preview

GW16 Preview: Everton’s Romelu Lukaku to fire against Fulham

Off the Mark: Pienaar’s return gives Everton competition and confidence

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Substitutes were responsible for four Premier League goals last Saturday, with Everton’s Steven Pienaar beating Paul Dummett, Aaron Ramsey and Oscar to make the biggest impact of the lot.

It took the South African just 10 seconds to find the net after he replaced Leon Osman in the Blues’ home game against Hull City, a match in which the hosts weren’t at their best and were somewhat fortunate to keep 11 men on the field due to a couple of rash challenges from midfielder Gareth Barry.

Yet Roberto Martinez’s men still picked up the three points, something that was made possible thanks to their ability to introduce a player of the quality of Pienaar at such a crucial moment of the game.

Not even Martinez would have expected such instant validity of his decision of course, but it highlighted the importance of having a strong squad in the Premier League, something that is more important now than ever.

Take Chelsea’s recent 3-1 win at Norwich, a match in which Jose Mourinho’s side had been pegged back and were facing the possibility of dropping points until the Portuguese turned to his bench.

Sitting there, along with the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Gary Cahill and Michael Essien, were over £60million worth of footballers in Eden Hazard and Willian. The pair both came on, both scored and both played a huge part in Chelsea earning their win.

Their presence on the bench underlined the strength of Chelsea’s squad, a squad which is so strong that players of the quality of Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses have been allowed out on loan this season, whilst Daniel Sturridge left the club permanently in January.

You can debate the whys and wherefores of those decisions of course, but ultimately they underline the competition for places at Stamford Bridge, a competition that all other teams must aspire to.

Of course the likes of Everton don’t have the funds to match Chelsea’s vast riches, but Pienaar’s goalscoring return at the weekend showed that the Blues from Merseyside have surely got their best squad of the Premier League era right now.

Across midfield alone they can boast Pienaar, Barry, Osman, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley, with their presences ensuring that the blow of losing Darron Gibson to a long-term knee injury has been softened somewhat.

On the flanks, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Gerard Deulofeu compete for places, and whilst Lukaku will be the undisputed star man up top, Arouna Kone and Nikica Jelavic represent pretty decent backup.

Pienaar played the full 90 minutes in the three league games before he was struck down with injury, and so the South African will expect to come straight back into the starting XI now that he has returned to action so spectacularly, but with all of those other options available he might have to be a little more patient.

Martinez now has to juggle his resources and keep all the members of his strong squad happy, a tough job and perhaps the first such test he’s encountered in his managerial career.

His side’s trip to Aston Villa this weekend represents a good test of that squad, particularly as Liverpool and Tottenham – two teams who Everton want to keep up with – have already won there this season.

Manchester City lost at Villa Park though, proof that a strong squad doesn’t always guarantee success, but at least Everton have now become part of a group of Premier League clubs who can legitimately claim to have one.

COMPETITION Wednesday 23rd October

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champions league competition

Townsend proves that confidence is key

What’s better, a confident footballer or a good footballer?

The two are usually one at the same, and no-one else in the Premier League is demonstrating that better than Tottenham’s Andros Townsend right now.

Perhaps feeling freer to express himself following the sale of Gareth Bale, the winger is rewarding Andre Villas-Boas and Roy Hodgson for consistently picking him, and when you’re at the peak of your confidence then freakish goals such as the one he scored at Villa Park on Sunday tend to just happen for you.

Maintain that confidence, and Townsend can become a special player for club and country.

***

Hammers need Andy Carroll back

West Ham’s strikerless formation was rightly lauded at Tottenham, but against Manchester City the deficiencies within it were shown up.

Playing up against makeshift centre-back Javi Garcia the Hammers didn’t have a forward to trouble the Spaniard, with the recently re-signed Carlton Cole not quite up to scratch just yet.

If only Sam Allardyce had another forward to call, maybe a Geordie one with a ponytail and few England caps to his name?   

@Mark_Jones86

Everton: More fuel required (@Mark_Jones86)

Arsenal v Everton

It was there again on Tuesday night, that famous battling spirit that David Moyes has instilled in Everton and watched grow for the past 11 years.

The Blues battled to a goalless draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in a match that was very much a contrast of styles but one played out with all the passion and intensity of the best Premier League contests.

It was the second of back-to-back draws that Everton have played out at the home of the two North London clubs who they have been battling with to secure a top four place all season, and whilst such results would no doubt be looked upon favourably earlier in the campaign there was a sense that they simply weren’t enough now.

With five matches left, Everton sit four points off third-placed Arsenal and two behind Chelsea and Tottenham sides who at the time of writing have two and one games in hand on Moyes’ men respectively.

Everton face a tricky trip to a revitalised Sunderland, a Merseyside derby at Anfield – where they’ve not won this century – and a final day visit to Chelsea before the season is out, leaving their hopes of reaching European football’s elite competition for the second time under Moyes somewhat hanging by a thread.

Despite using the least amount of players in the Premier League, undoubtedly this has been the most consistent season that the Blues have enjoyed under the Scot, and that probably makes it the best.

Their uncharacteristically lightning quick start all sparked from an opening weekend win over Manchester United, and from there they only seemed to grow stronger and stronger.

The likes of Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and recently Kevin Mirallas have turned in performances that indicate they’d look at home in any team in the division, and there is a real sense that Everton are performing as best they can right now. That though, could present a problem.

Although not widely covered in the mainstream media, Everton’s fans are desperate for investment in a club which needs a financial injection to move forward.

Current chairman Bill Kenwright is undoubtedly a fine man judging by the speech he gave at this week’s Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield, but in this age of billionaires and with the money swirling around the Premier League an old fashioned, homegrown owner such as him simply can’t compete. He and his team have been punching above their weight.

Investment in that team is what is needed now, especially as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are all likely to strengthen over the summer, whilst Liverpool continue to gain in momentum and confidence following their rocky few years.

At the moment, Everton are going flat out to keep up with them all. There has to be a question over whether or not they can sustain that going into a new season.

As well as facing the battle to keep hold of his key men, Moyes – if of course he stays at the club –  must also come up with a couple of squad additions that will both freshen the Blues up and keep them at the level they’ve shown this season. Anything less and there is a danger that there won’t be an awful lot left in the tank.

Young talents like Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman, as well as the improvement of Victor Anichebe mean that the club is certainly showing promise, but what use is that when you’ve run out of gas?

If Everton thought it was tough to keep up with the big boys this season then that is only likely to get even tougher next time around, and they’ll need reinforcements to do that.

That tank deserves to be filled based on this season’s efforts alone.

@Mark_Jones86

Everton: Whatever you do, don’t look down

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There’s a curious phenomenon which involves not thinking about something, because if you do then you automatically lose.

I won’t go any further into it for fear that you’ll all join me amongst the ranks of the defeated, but the frankly quite annoying craze does raise the question of just how far you could go if you managed to keep the negatives and their consequences out of sight and out of mind.

Death, taxes and the continued popularity of Justin Bieber can’t be avoided whatever you do of course, but sometimes it is better just to not think about where your actions are taking you because of the added pressure that they create. Success breeds success, but it also breeds expectation.

Everton’s fine start to the season has got some of their supporters thinking about a Champions League place already, just weeks after those same fans were facing the prospect of potentially losing manager David Moyes to Tottenham – one of at least half of the clubs in the Premier League who are better financially equipped for a top four place than the Blues.

That’s not to say that there are at least 10 better teams than Everton in the league at the moment, because clearly there are a lot less.

Second at the start of October is a superb and deserved position for Moyes’ side to be in, with the club’s success a testament to the fine signings made by the manager in the last two transfer windows and his ability to keep hold of his key players.

Outsiders may have seen the summer sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City as a severe weakening of Everton’s playing resources, but offer any Goodison Park regular the choice of selling him, Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines or Nikica Jelavic and they’d have driven Rodwell down the East Lancs Road to Manchester themselves.

That one of those players probably needed to be sold is due to the still curiously unreported financial situation at a club which, despite the progress on the pitch, is standing still off it under the ownership of Bill Kenwright.

The theatre impresario made a cameo appearance on Coronation Street earlier this year, and the majority of Everton supporters have long since come to view his insistence that there isn’t a suitable party out there to buy the club and invest in it as a tired old act.

It is for this reason and not for anything that they are doing on the pitch that Everton should just try to keep things ticking over at the moment. Getting up to the higher reaches of the table has been one thing, but staying there will be another once the might of the usual suspects kicks in.

Of course this would be the perfect time for investment to arrive at a club with a talented playing squad, passionate fans and a committed manager determined to succeed for both, but those supporters have long since grown tired of Kenwright’s caution and aren’t expecting radical changes any time soon. In the meantime they can just enjoy the fine football their team are playing.

And they could well go on playing it.

Visits to Wigan and QPR in their next two matches either side of the international break are unlikely to faze this Everton side, and neither will the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park at the end of the month – although the Blues do seem to have a knack of coming up short against Liverpool when many consider them favourites.

That is a negative thought though, and such things should be banned from entering Everton heads. Right now they are one of the big boys of the Premier League and they should go on thinking like that.

‘Taking each game as it comes’ is one of the oldest and most useless phrases in the football handbook, but as long as those games are approached positively then there’s no reason why good runs can’t be extended to be become good seasons.

Just try not to think about what’ll happen to Moyes, the players and the club if it doesn’t though.

@Mark_Jones86

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