Posts Tagged ‘everton’
A dramatic injury time winner from Andy Carroll gave Liverpool a first league win since their 3-0 victory over Everton in early March.
And the two Merseyside rivals face each other on Saturday, this time with an FA Cup final place up for grabs.
Even throughout a miserable run of league results during the first quarter of the calendar year, Liverpool have been impressive in cup competitions. Man City, who were runaway league leaders at the time, were dumped from the Carling Cup, before Man United lost at Anfield in the FA Cup – one of only two away defeats to a Premier League team that they have suffered so far this season.
Things have been different for Liverpool in the league however. At 5.00pm on January 21, Everton’s draw with Blackburn had left them nine points behind Liverpool having played a game more.
Liverpool had the possibility of extending that lead to 12 points with a win against bottom-of-the-table Bolton in the day’s evening fixture, but a comfortable win for Bolton was the first of eight defeats that Liverpool have suffered in their 14 Premier League matches since the turn of the year.
In contrast, Everton have enjoyed a consistent run of results that has seen them not only catch their local rivals, but move ahead. Only Arsenal, Newcastle and the two Manchester clubs have gained more league points in 2012 than David Moyes’ men.
Everton don’t score many – their 4-0 win against Sunderland was their first win by more than two goals for exactly a year and the first time they’d scored three in a home match in any competition since mid-September – but they don’t concede many either, and only Chelsea and Liverpool have managed to score more than two goals in a game against Everton during the Blues’ last 56 competitive matches.
Rightly or wrongly Liverpool will be favourites in Saturday’s Wembley showdown, and it’s likely that everyone involved with Everton will be happy for most of the pressure to be on Kenny Dalglish and his team. The blue half of the city know that they’re capable of reaching the final, and don’t have to go far back to recall the last time they won a semi final despite being considered underdogs – in 2009 versus Manchester United.
Liverpool’s losing run may have ended, but Everton should still go to Wembley confident that they can not only finish above Liverpool in the league but also secure a win in the biggest Merseyside derby for more than 20 years.
At the Camp Nou, Liverpool were playing for their Champions League future. Defeat would spell elimination, and even a draw was not guaranteed to keep the Reds in the competition, depending on the result of the other Group B match taking place in Italy between Galatasaray and Roma.
Before the game, a homemade banner – or rather, hotel made – was unfurled in the opposite corner of the stadium. It read simply: “Walter Smith football genius”.
Even as a Liverpool fan, I remember quite specifically the day in which Everton appointed David Moyes. Or at least, the day before.
A first experience of the Camp Nou is not something to be forgotten quickly. And the date? Well, it was my mum’s birthday!
While Liverpool enjoyed the big occasion in Spain, earning a goalless draw on the way to qualification for the quarter-final stage a week later, back on Merseyside only goal difference was keeping Everton out of the relegation zone.
David Moyes’ first job was to keep Everton in the top-tier of English football, which he duly took care of with three consecutive wins – all achieved against fellow Premier League strugglers.
Only once have Everton flirted with relegation in the ten years since Moyes arrived and the fact that the ‘R’ word is no longer associated with Everton is testimony to an excellent job done at the club by the former Preston manager.
Highlights over the decade will undoubtedly include the club’s fourth place finish in 2004/5, which earned Champions League football for the first time, and the 2009 FA Cup Final at Wembley.
But more importantly has been the consistency shown in the league over the last few seasons, something which didn’t come straight away as evidenced by the rollercoaster-like league placings between 2003 and 2006.
Boosted by the emergence of Wayne Rooney, Everton competed for a Champions League place in Moyes’ first full season but finished 17th the following year, then took 4th place ahead of Liverpool in 2004/5, before ending the next campaign below Wigan, West Ham and Bolton.
Throughout the years since then, Everton have only once placed below 7th in the table, and never lower than 8th.
David Moyes’ achievements may be unspectacular to some but there are few other managers who have seen their side reach virtually the height of their potential as often as Moyes has with Everton.
It is surely therefore a source of frustration that there have never been the kind of funds available in order to take the next step and challenge regularly for a place in the Champions League, especially when watching Everton overtaken by the likes of Tottenham and Man City following big investments in players at those clubs.
With Harry Redknapp strongly linked with the England manager’s position, Moyes has in turn been tipped as Redknapp’s potential successor at Spurs. and there’s no doubt that his work at Everton deserves the kind of recognition that would see him as a candidate for a side with title aspirations, regardless of whether or not such a challenge tempt him away from Goodison.
That’s a question for the future however and the present involves a Merseyside derby, Moyes’ 22nd. Only four of the previous 21 have been won by his team, and none at Anfield.
But on the eve of his tenth anniversary as Everton manager, and a possibility of leapfrogging Liverpool in the league, there might never be a more perfect time in which to change that statistic.
It’s difficult to see beyond the two Manchester teams and Chelsea for the 2011/12 Premier League winner.
Man City weren’t entirely convincing last season and have the added challenge of Champions League football this time around. But they have the most expensively assembled squad in the league and one which should have enough quality to compete on two fronts. If Roberto Mancini can keep most of his team happy then Man City will almost certainly be competing for trophies and I could see them as title winners.
But this is Man City. A club who don’t do things smoothly, and still have too many of the game’s most temperamental characters on their books. There is bound to be unrest of some sort, and reluctantly leaves me opting for Man United.
Arsenal may not have enough to overhaul all three sides already mentioned and claim the title, but they will still be expected to finish within the top 4, though Spurs and Liverpool will both provide strong competition for a Champions League place.
Spurs have experience of playing in Europe’s premier competition but it’s difficult not to think that they missed an opportunity to consolidate their domestic position when they missed out on a second successive top four finish, caused by a dramatic dip in league form following their European exit.
Liverpool start the season with a far stronger squad than they had available when Kenny Dalglish took over in January. The lack of European football may be seen as an advantage but will be hoping for extra games in domestic cup competitions. If the likes of Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam can add the creativity they were signed for, I predict Liverpool will be strong enough to claim fourth place.
Should both the League Cup and the FA Cup be won by a club who have already qualified for Europe through the league, a Europa League place will be on offer for whoever finishes 7th.
Aston Villa were at a similar level to Spurs only a couple of years ago, but after squandering two good opportunities to secure Champions League football they have appeared a side in decline ever since. A fact emphasized by the sale of two star players which leaves them looking too weak to compete for a European place.
Sunderland are another side who have looked to be on the verge of reaching the next level in terms of league performance only to fall spectacularly when the season entered its most crucial stage.
All of which leaves Everton as the most obvious contender. Notoriously slow starters, but David Moyes’ team are usually amongst the most consistent teams around once they’ve got themselves going.
The newly promoted trio are likely to start as favourites to go down, but rarely have the same three teams returned straight back to the Championship after only one season in the top flight.
As with last season, I expect up to seven or eight sides to be involved and there’s always a surprise or two amongst those fighting for survival.
Newcastle could be one of those, given the loss of some key players, and I don’t think Blackburn will fare much better than last season which would put them at risk of the drop, too.
Picking the three teams to be relegated before the season has started is always risky, but to avoid sitting on the fence I’ll go for QPR, Swansea and Blackburn to finish in the bottom three places.