Year ends on high note for Everton, sort of

Everton finished 2005 with a 1-0 victory at Sunderland, snapping a four game losing streak. That’s the good news. The bad news, which could fill the sports section of a newspaper, includes (1) the fact that Sunderland, hands down the worst team in the Premiership, outplayed us, (2) at the season’s half-way mark, we’re in 16th place, only three points outside the relegation zone, (3) our goal difference is the second worse in the league.

Why is Everton doing so poorly after finishing fourth last year? Again, the reasons are numerous, but here the my leading three. First, last year was a fluke — our goal difference suggested we were only of mid-table quality. Second, we’re not scoring goals. We have only 11 in 20 matches, the lowest the the Premiership. Tim Cahill, our top scorer last year got his first today. Duncan Ferguson, who scored so many key goals off the bench last year, hasn’t scored and, plagued again by injuries, is discussing retirement.

Finally, we are weak in defensive midfield. Last year’s unsung hero, Lee Carsley, provided a great shield for our back four. But he has been injured all season. The versatile Phil Neville (obtained from Manchester United) has done fairly well in Carsley’s place but frequently must fill-in at other positions due to injuries.

Sunderland is virtually sure to be relegated (today, it’s fans were singing “you’re going down with Sunderland” at the Everton faithful). The other two victims likely will come from Everton, Birmingham, West Brom, and Portsmouth. I make our chances of surviving at only slightly better than 50 percent.

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