We return to Craven Cottage on Saturday to face Everton and, in case Martin Jol hasn't done his homework, I got the lowdown on all things Toffee by chatting with Royal Blue Mersey blogger, Calvin.
1) CC: It's become quite clear in previous years that you're more of an end-of-season team than an early season team. This year, though, something's changed and you've started brightly. Why do you think that is and do you think you can carry it on throughout the season?
RBM: The fantastic finishes Everton have put together the last couple of seasons had made the slow starts all the more frustrating. This season it seemed like the team took off at a sprint, and though they have slowed up in recent weeks, this is a much better start than most fans would have anticipated.
This just might be the best squad in terms of youth and experience, skill and grit, that David Moyes has assembled in his decade with Everton. In fact, most of the players have been here for a few years now and it was always going to be just a matter of time before the tightly-knit group gelled together, and it's looking like now is the time.
2) On this year's form, who are your most threatening players to our defence? And who, at the back, do you rely on most?
Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar form a lethal left wing combination, and most of Everton's attacking football originates on that side. Marouane Fellaini has sparkled this year playing in a forward role while Nikica Jelavic is an instinctive, one-touch striker, much like your Dimitar Berbatov. What has made Everton a much more balanced squad this season is the signing of Kevin Mirallas to play wing on the right - his flair and vision has really helped put opponents to the sword when they overload their right side to counter the Baines-Pienaar effect.
Everton have a strange quandary in the back - they have three very good central defenders, but it seems no combination of two players have the right chemistry. Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga are all very capable and solid centerbacks, but all sorts of chaos have been plaguing Everton's defence from setpieces and counterattacks. Darron Gibson plays a pivotal role as defensive midfielder, and has been absolutely outstanding since his switch from Manchester United last year. His absence due to injury in the last few weeks is arguably the reason why Everton's charge has lost some momentum recently.
3) You've been recently accused by a certain someone of playing long-ball football. Is this an assertion you agree with, or is this just another, dirty case of sour grapes?
The certain someone's comments were received with much hilarity by Everton players and fans alike. His furious backpedalling the next day was cause for even more mirth. Personally I am amazed that he was this quick to shoot off his mouth when the statistics are out there and actually disprove his accusations. That might have been true over a decade ago when Everton's sole mode of obtaining goals was to hoof the ball upfront for Duncan Ferguson to somehow put in the net. Nowadays, Everton's patient passing and incisive wing play might not quite be Barcelona's tiki taka, but certainly does take advantage of the players' strength and aerial prowess.
The Reds have had David Moyes' number in derby fixtures for sure, but Everton finishing ahead of them last season in the Premier League table certainly rankled, and they definitely are not enjoying trailing in the wake of Everton again this season, while the Toffees are playing the attractive, attacking football they want to be known for.
4) Aside from the league, are you hoping for any cup success this season?
Everton getting knocked out early from the League Cup was very frustrating. David Moyes has not won any silverware in his Goodison Park tenure, and part of it has been a lack of squad depth. Everton's financial issues have resulted in a very thin squad, and it shows when he trots out reserves to play in the League Cup. Fans would have certainly liked to have seen him play his strongest team, but it looks like Moyes is trying to make sure his players remain well-rested for the long, grueling season ahead.
In the FA Cup on the other hand, Everton have come quite close in a couple of occasions, and it always seems to be Moyes' tactical timidity that does the team in. I would absolutely love to see Moyes get his squad to play full-blooded attack for ninety minutes, but it always seems he tries to close up shop when leading, and settles for draws when we are behind. There is a lot of hope for the FA Cup among the fans this year, but let's see what Moyes can conjure up in the January transfer window.
5) What do you think of Fulham as a club, and is there anyone in our side that you'd like in your squad?
I have been envious of Fulham's riches and European adventures in recent years! Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a Juventus fan too and took very masochistic pleasure in seeing Fulham come from behind to beat Juventus in the Europa Cup a few years ago, as that precipitated the demise of that Juventus squad and the growth of the current, championship-winning one.
Your side has quite a few attacking players that I would love to see in Everton colors. While Berbatov is very similar in playing style to Jelavic, Mladen Petric and Bryan Ruiz are a couple of excellent attacking players. Midfielders Steve Sidwell, Kieran Richardson and Damien Duff are also experienced Premier League players and any one of them would be more desirable than incumbent Everton substitute Magaye Gueye playing in midfield.
6) And finally, what do you think the score will be?
If Fulham scores early Everton will be under the gun and I foresee a home win. However, if Everton can settle quick and establish themselves then we should be in for a very exciting game - I'd say 2-2, with Fulham scoring late to tie it up.