This is the seventh in a series of previews of Fulham's opponents in the English Premier League. It is now time to look at Everton. The team resides in Liverpool England. They play their matches at Goodison Park. The capacity is over 40,000.
To help me with this preview I have found someone excellent to help me. Thomas Mallows is the writer and editor for the website Royal Blue Mersey. He has been an Evertonian his entire life. He has always loved football and qualified as a journalist in 2008 with the hope of becoming a sports reporter. He has been freelancing ever since, doing various bits and pieces but also ran his own Everton blog, which caught the attention of the guys at SBNation who asked him to edit Royal Blue Mersey.
I asked Thomas many different questions about the upcoming season for Everton. I am glad he was able to assist me with this preview. Below is my Q & A with Thomas Mallows of Royal Blue Mersey.
What are your thoughts on last year's season for Everton?
TM:A year of two halves, the start to the season was wrecked by injuries to key players such as Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka, though at times we barely had 11 players fit! As soon as our key men returned we enjoyed a excellent second half of the season, definite top 4 form. It would be nice if we could stretch that out to a whole campaign this time round!
What are your general feelings on the state of Everton as the season is about to begin?
TM: I think we are in a very good state. We haven't had a lot of cash to spend but David Moyes has instead chosen to keep what he has - with the likes of Jagielka,Jack Rodwell and Mikel Arteta signing new long term contracts. The new signings: Jan Mucha. Jermaine Beckford, Maguaye Gueye and Joao Silva, may not be instant first teamers but they will give our squad a bit more depth which we didn't have last season when injuries hit.
What Everton players are the keys to your success this season?
TM: If you look at the spine of the team I would say: Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and Tim Cahill. They are all talented players but also leaders who can inspire those around them. If we can keep them all fit we have a chance of success this year.
What style of play would you say Everton play?
TM: We play a pressing game with the whole team seeking to close down the opposition a every opportunity - we are probably one of the fittest sides in the league because of it. When we have the ball we try and play good football, especially when Arteta and Pienaar are in possession, though when things aren't going well that frustratingly goes out of the window and we often resort to long aimless balls up front! But are also deadly at set pieces, with Tim Cahill a constant threat in the air.
What are the strengths of Everton?
TM: Commitment, passion and desire with a bit of skill from our star players sprinkled on top
What are the weaknesses of Everton?
TM: Squad depth, we have little money so beyond our first XI we don't have back up players of the same standard, though Moyes has done his best given the tight finances.
What players were key acquisitions so far for Everton?
TM: Probably Jermaine Beckford on a free transfer from Leeds. He were a bit one dimensional up front at times last season so he will offer us a something different. Other than that the new contracts for Jack Rodwell and Mikel Arteta are just as important to our progress.
What players were key losses for Everton?
TM: The only major player we lost was Dan Gosling who signed for Newcastle on a free transfer. Despite verbally agreeing a new deal his agent engineered it so he could become a free agent as a deal wasn't offered in writing, enabling Gosling to sign a more lucrative contract elsewhere and the agent no doubt earning a nice pay day too.
Other than that doubts remain over the future of Steven Pienaar. He only has one year left on his contract and is stalling on a new deal, it looks like he will play out that last year, meaning he could leave on a free - unless we have a successful season which could tempt him to stay longer.
Who are some of the young players of the future for Everton?
TM: Jack Rodwell is the stand out player. He is only 19 but he has the poise and composure of a veteran. I tell anyone who will listen that he will be an England captain one day, I just hope he is still an Everton player when he does! Another youngster to keep an eye on is right full-back Seamus Coleman. The Irishman played a handful of games last Christmas time before playing a key role in Blackpool's promotion during a loan spell there. His performances in pre-season suggests he will start many more games this year, plus he likes to push forward so should get plaenty of assists (handy if you have a fantasy football team!)
On your manager David Moyes, what are his strengths and weaknesses?
TM: He promotes a strong team discipline, work ethic and team-spirit. He squeezes the maximum out of every player and you get the impression they would run through brick walls for each other, which helps us overcome adversity and makes up for the lack of money we have compared to teams around us.
Weaknesses? Occasionally he is a bit rigid with his tactics and substitutions, but he is still a relatively young manager who will make mistakes, he rarely makes them same one twice though!
What do you think Everton need to do to break through in the top four?
TM: Keep our key players fit. Our starting XI is as good as anyone's and we showed last year we could compete - and indeed beat - the best in the division. Not being in Europe is also a crucial factor as we probably don't have the players to cope with the extra games. However, with Man City's spending power it will be very hard to last the course, especially as they will probably spend big again in January if things aren't going their way.
What are your thoughts on the owner of Everton?
TM: He isn't universally popular with the fans but I have to admit I like him. He is a born and bred Everton fan who genuinely wants the best for the club. The problem is he isn't a Roman Abramovich so we just don't have the cash to compete. Many fans question his apparent '24/7' search for a buyer/investor but I genuinely believe he is only looking for the right person to take the club forward, which is a lot harder than it looks - you only have to look at our neighours across the City to see what can happen if you sell to the wrong owner.
What are your predictions for Everton in the English Premier League?
TM: Top four would be fantastic but I think the top six is a realistic goal - I think the top eight is at it's most competitive in years. A cup would be nice too as we haven't won one in a while!
I want to thank Thomas Mallows of Royal Blue Mersey with his help on this preview. If you are an Everton fan please check out his website.