Everton finally got its Premier League campaign moving in the right direction on Sunday when we defeated Wigan, at home, 2-1. We had lost our first two games, 6-1 to Arsenal and 1-0 at newly-promoted Burnley.
Everton left it late against Wigan, scoring the winner three minutes into “injury time” on a penalty kick by Leighton Baines. It seems appropriate to have won on a PK, Wigan having stayed in the match through persistent hard fouling.
Everton also left it late, as usual, when it came to bolstering its squad. While virtually every other team was adding talent all summer, we waited until just before this week’s signing deadline. The rest of the summer was devoted to the slow-motion defection of our star defender Joleon Lescott to cash-splashing Manchester City.
Once the Lescott ordeal was over, we were able to spend the proceeds on two defenders and a winger. Specifically:
Sylvain Distin — a solid veteran center-back who will replace Lescott; ironically Distin played at the heart of Manchester City’s defense for several years.
Johnny Heitinga — a versatile defender, only 25 years old, but a fixture in Holland’s national team for years; he’ll probably take over at right-back
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov — one of the Russian wingers who tormented England during the qualifying stages for Euro 2008; he went on to play in all five matches during that tournament in which Russia made it to the semi-finals, including the thrilling victory in the quarterfinals over Heitinga and the Dutch (both were subs).
With these additions, we should be as strong as we were last year, assuming that Phil Jakielka and Mikel Arteta rebound from their injuries. But with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur having vastly improved, another top six finish will probably prove very difficult.