All quiet on the Everton front

Many thanks to Roger Hassell for the report, complete with photo, on his encounter with the Everton team. It’s all the excuse I need to update our readers on Everton’s off-season.

As usual, it’s been uneventful. While most of Everton’s rivals in the second cluster of Premiership teams — the tier below the big four of Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool — have made plenty of news on the transfer front, Everton has created barely a wave. This is distressing for three reasons. First, a big squad is essential for teams hoping successfully to compete simultaneously in European and domestic competition, a lesson that was confirmed last year when Everton fell a bit short of its ambitions on both fronts. Second, we have lost important players from last year’s team. Third, several key players, most notably Tim Cahill, are injured going into the seaons.

The biggest loss is Lee Carsley, the unheralded journeyman midfielder who has shielded our defenders so ably and energetically for the past five seaons. Carsley epitomizes the industry and fighting spirit that powered Everton’s rise from relegation fodder to European qualifiers. At age 34, he has decided to step down to a lower division and play for his home town club, Birmingham City. All the best, Lee.

The other major loss is forward Andy Johnson, another non-stop runner. Everton is poised to sell him to Fulham for around 12 million pounds. Like all but the very best strikers, Johnson’s marksmanship was inconsistent. However, his goal-scoring rate was respectable overall, and his running, a constant threat to defenses, helped open things up for others. When Everton had trouble scoring the culprit was usually the decision to play only one forward, not the play of Johnson.

To replace this duo, and then add to our thin squad, we have so far brought in essentially no one. This probably isn’t as bad as it sounds. Our manager, David Moyes, is known for waiting until just before the start of the season to make his moves, and usually they are good ones. Even so, we need, by my reckoning, five players including three of high quality. That’s a tall order. Moreover, although Moyes usually picks players who fit in, that’s not always the case. Having lost two players who embody Everton’s fighting qualities, it won’t do to replace them with bigger names who possess less stomach for a scrap.

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