If you haven't been checking out Royal Blue Mersey for all of your Everton related needs, you should begin to rectify that immediately. The folks over there do a fantastic job of covering the Toffees, and today we're lucky enough to have site contributor Calvin stop by to answer some questions about Everton as we prepare for Saturday. I answered some of Calvin's questions as well, and you can find that post over at RBM.
Q: All season long, Everton have been either in or within striking distance of the top four. Skeptics have been saying that they would fade as the weeks went by, but that hasn't happened. How optimistic are you that Everton will be playing Champions League football next season?
It's hard to say. While there is quite a bit of disappointment that Everton didn't make any significant additions during the window, there's also gratitude that we didn't overpay for mediocre talent either. That being said, if the team can remain relatively injury-free and Nikica Jelavic can rediscover his goal GPS, Everton could well steal that fourth spot and play Champions League football.
Q: In my eyes, this is the best Everton team we've seen in quite some time. Do you feel like this is the start of a new level of competitiveness for the club, or do you envision losing key players and taking a step back?
David Moyes himself feels this is the best Everton side he's managed, and thinks there's better to come. Everton have lost key players in the past decade and have come back stronger, which is credit to the gaffer because Everton truly play as a team and are not centered around one player. When Wayne Rooney was sold a lot of the fanbase were getting ready for life in the lower leagues, but look where we are now. If Marouane Fellaini leaves, I fully trust Moyes to come up with a new gameplan that does not require the Belgian's physical attributes.
Q: Everton's biggest and most well-known players get much of the credit for the club's success, and perhaps that's for good reason. Are there any players on the team whose contributions you feel are overlooked?
With Everton hovering around the European football spots, they have seen quite a bit of the spotlight this year. As a result, some of the supporting cast have been thrust to the front and have done quite well there. Leon Osman has long been one of those unsung heroes, but finally got his chance in England colours, and did quite well in his debut. Same with Leighton Baines, who toiled for years while everyone was enamored with Ashley Cole. Darron Gibson was a victim of a witch-hunt at Old Trafford, but has been nothing short of spectacular at Everton. Sylvain Distin is another one of those foot soldiers who rarely get a mention in the press except when they make game-changing errors, which to his credit are quite rare.
Q: Earlier this week it appeared as though FC Twente midfielder Leroy Fer--a player of whom I personally am very fond--was on his way to Everton, but the deal fell through due to some concerns that came to light following a medical. With that deal falling through, it ended up being a relatively quiet window for the club. How disappointed are you that there wasn't more done in January?
I can't say I'd heard of Fer before last week, but the more I read and watched the more excited I got. However Everton did have some serious concerns about his repaired knee, and I have no problem with them pulling the plug on that deal. Then the rumour mill had it that Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo was in advanced level talks with the Blues, and that got us all even more excited.. two world-class strikers at Everton?! When was the last time that happened! So after all that build-up when the clock ticked down and we found out that all we had was depth signing John Stones, there was bound to be some disappointment and some heckling. Inside sources say that they were kicking some tires looking for late loan deals, but hey, some times things just don't work out.
Q: What are you expecting from Saturday?
I'm not sure what Villa side will show up. The team that beat Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield, or the befuddled lot that got hammered by Chelsea. This much is clear, if Everton don't keep close tabs on Benteke and Weimann they will be punished, no doubt. The Toffees have a bad habit of making things more difficult for themselves than they should be, so I think a 3-2 home win would be about right.