Season Preview - Everton

Quick Reminder, Real Life

Stop me if you’ve read this before but Everton didn’t start out the season particularly well. Shocking, I know. This time around, it took them a little longer to revert to being a top half team but they got there eventually with a late charge up the table well after there was any chance of them challenging for a Europa Cup spot. Still, they finished 7th in the table which is something for a team that hasn’t spent much money on their squad in a few years. Throw in the injuries to key players like Mikel Arteta, Marouane Fellaini, and Louis Saha (although the latter’s frequent absences can hardly be considered a surprise at this point). Of note during the season, Leighton Baines continued to be exceptional going forward while being a very solid defender on the left. Tim Cahill did what he always does with a brief injury interruption. Jermaine Beckford took a while to adapt to the Prem but ended the season with solid goal numbers that belied the reputation he earned early as “in over his head”. Finally, Seamus Coleman moved into a more regular starting role - split between right midfield and right back - and played pretty well.

Quick Reminder, Fantasy

Baines was an absolute stud with 5 goals and 11 assists and a ton of phantom points for the formats that count those sorts of things. Coleman was the unquestioned value play in the squad since he was listed as a defender but played in midfield more often than anywhere else increasing his chances at both attacking and defending points. Quietly, Osman had a nice run of starts in a more advanced role and good fantasy production late in the season that reminded us that he can be a valuable player if injuries provide an opportunity for regular starts. On the down side, Tim Howard (incredibly inconsistent as a fantasy keeper) and Arteta (not as productive as he used to be and still just as expensive) were disappointing to fantasy managers who fondly remember better seasons from both in the past.

Summer Changes

  • Have They Done Anything? - Aside from rumors that Arsenal are trying to poach Phil Jagielka, there hasn’t been much going on at Everton this summer, has there? They sold off James Vaughn to Norwich and picked up a 17 year-old defender Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon. Not much to talk about really.

2011-12 Outlook, Real Life

Hard to get too excited about something different happening this season over last when so little has changed. The positives are that at least thus far, their key players - Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Rodwell, Fellaini, Arteta, Cahill, and Saha - are still around and that’s not a bad core group. The downside is that Jagielka seems destined for the exit, Cahill can’t keep up the “little-man-playing-a-big-man’s-game” act up forever as he ages (he’s now 31), and Rodwell can’t seem to crack the starting line-up despite a great reputation. The supporting cast isn’t bad so that will help. Assuming that the rest of the summer holds no major moves, I think we’re looking at somewhere between 7th (again) and 10th depending on their fortune with injuries. The problem is that with little apparent budget to buy new players, there is undoubtedly a big drop-off coming in the not-too-distant future. It won’t likely be this season but if I were David Moyes, I’d be looking for a new job to capitalize on his reputation as a strong manager before it is tarnished by captaining a ship that starts sinking fast.

Probable Starting XI

Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman, Arteta, Cahill, Saha

2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
  • Fantasy Gold - That Leighton Baines is still with Everton given the money flying around this summer is pretty remarkable if you ask me. That said, he is and despite a high price, you have to say that he’s worth it more often than not.
  • On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
    • Coleman (relative newcomer) had a strong fantasy debut as a semi-regular starter but this season the task gets tougher as Yahoo has re-cast him (appropriately) as a midfielder. The price still isn’t too high but the lack of CS point potential and the fact that he still will likely play as a defender from time to time means you need to tread much more carefully.
    • Beckford (relative newcomer) did almost nothing in the first half of the season but if you can write that off to him getting used to the higher level of competition then his second half certainly looks like he got used to it alright. He’s more in the Darren Bent all-or-nothing mode than the TH14/CRon goals/assists/phantom points mode but he did score more than 10 fantasy points more often than he didn’t from Week 22 on (and that includes a couple matches he didn’t play in). Promising but without much hype in the press.
    • Bilyaletdinov under use) doesn’t seem to have earned Moyes’ trust - probably because he doesn’t play any defense. That said, he’s cheap and when he does get a chance to start, he’s a good bet for goals, assists, and phantom points which is all you can ask for someone priced at 5.59.
  • Traps - There are a couple trap players here at Everton to start off the season. Saha is always a bit of a trap, especially when he’s priced over 12 like he is now. We all know he’s capable of some great stuff but he is also prone to doing nothing when he plays and mysteriously injuring himself between the deadline and kick-off. Rodwell and Heitinga are both cheap but fall into my definition of “trap” players because their reputations as a rising star and a Holland international lead managers to believe that they might produce in fantasy but history has told us it is almost always not the case.

2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy

Studs: Saha comes in priced at 7.5M and wherever he plays, whenever he plays, he just scores goals. A super Premier League striking record when fit. Of course, “when fit,” for Saha hasn’t been too often in his career but he is Everton’s clear #1 this season despite competition from Beckford. Saha only scored 7 league goals last season but he only played 1,300 minutes. He scored 13 in the league the year before and I expect production somewhere in the 10-13 goal range this season. Use him as a good 2nd or 3rd striker when Everton have fixtures and he’s fit. Leighton Baines is the other obvious stud despite his exorbitant price-tag of 8.0M. He comes in as the most expensive defender in the entire game - tied with Nemanja Vidic. Baines is deadly from set pieces and when Mikel Arteta is out injured he’s the penalty kick taker as well. If Arteta starts the season injured, the extra spot kick responsibility could be just enough to force his way into our fantasy minds.

Duds: Don’t be fooled by Seamus Coleman’s high score from the 2010-2011 season - the right back cum winger is valued at 7.0M based on his 4 goals a year ago but he was then playing in midfield ‘out of position’ while classified by the game as a defender. This year he is correctly classified as a midfielder and faces stiff competition for a regular starting role. Arteta is only 1M more at 8.0M and the likes of Yaya Toure, Charles N’Zogbia, Joey Barton and others are much more reliable fantasy options in Coleman’s price range. He’s a fan favorite and was a decent acquisition for parts of last season, but unless he starts every game, save your cash.

On the fence: Mikel Arteta (8M) and to a lesser extent Tim Cahill (9M). Arteta hasn’t been the same player since his horrific knee injury two seasons ago and though he is still classy on the ball and deadly from set pieces, he’ll need to prove his form and fitness to fantasy managers. On form, he’s a cheaper David Silva and vital to Everton’s success - a guy who can score 5-7 goals a season and dish out another 6-8 assists, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to bounce back after a poor year. Tim Cahill, like Saha, is on the wrong side of 30, but the brave Aussie still has decent fantasy worth. 8-10 league goals should be expected, a superb return for a midfielder, but the 9M price-tag is a bit much, considering Everton’s history of recent slow starts to the season. I’d advise a “wait and see” approach on Cahill and Arteta in their first 2 or 3 fixtures before jumping into investment.

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