With the Merseyside derby fast approaching, we asked Click Liverpool's Everton correspondent Aaron Sharp what he expected from the game.
With Everton seeing the likes of Mikel Arteta heading out of the club, and only a handful of loan signings being brought in, just how disappointed were supporters with the clubs summer dealings?
I think, when considering Evertonain reaction to this summer’s transfer window, you have to take into account the almost freakish way with which the eventual flurry of activity came about.
Everton headed into deadline day the only league club not to have done any business – and fans had no real reason to suspect that would change. 24 Hours later their best paid player had been sold, along with two strikers (the one thing you’d say Everton are short of) and they had only two loan signings to show for their loss. Understandably, the immediate reaction from fans was one of surprise, having not expected their club to be the big story of deadline day, but also one of dire pessimism – Arteta had enjoyed genuine cult hero status at Goodison.
Now that the dust has settled though, I think fans are a little more sanguine about the whole thing. £10m for 29-year-old Arteta, whose powers of influence in the team had been on the wane, seemed like good business. Especially considering his most recent injuries had been a cruciate knee ligament injury and a hamstring tear; the type of knocks which seem to strip older players of that dynamism in their 30’s (see Michael Owen). What also became apparent in the fall out of the deal was that he genuinely wanted to leave, a revelation that made his move easier to swallow all round.
As for the arrivals, in Stracqualursi Everton have an enigma on whom judgement should probably be reserved until he is fit enough to offer a meaningful alternative for Moyes. And in Drenthe they have excitement, if unpredictability. The Dutchman does have an air of the ‘Babel’ about him, but he’s already brought a pace and directness to the side which Moyes lost in Pienaar and had never really replaced.
Speaking of transfer dealings, how would you rate Liverpool’s business in the summer?
I think they’ve bought well, if not very economically. But then, I can’t see that John W Henry is expecting any of his summer signings to go out and justify their price tags, more that he is willing to underwrite the cost of squad strengthening as a necessary outgoing, in which case the money spent is irrelevant.
It goes without saying that in Henderson, Adam and Downing, Dalglish has added a youth and mobility to his midfield, which has been needed in the absence of Gerrard. And while Adam has been, for me, the best of that trio, Liverpool’s best summer capture has to be that of Jose Enrique. The Spaniard has been one of the best left-backs around for some time and I think he could be an astute solution to Liverpool’s past width problems, down that flank at least.
The one glaring omission from the Reds’ summer shopping basket is a top class centre half. I’m not sure whether it was a case of the club not quite having carte blanche when it came to someone like Gary Cahill, or whether there is, in my opinion, a misplaced confidence in the likes of Carragher, Skrtel and Agger to be able to forge a partnership which could be Liverpool’s foundation for a charge on the Champions League places this season.
Everton have obviously been in the media a lot recently due to the growing concerns over the finances. Just how worried are supporters about the future of the club and how realistic is it that the club will find new ownership or at least persuade someone to make a significant investment?
That question is the one on everybody’s lips and that nobody seems to know the answer is a big source of the consternation around Goodison. Fan groups like the Blue Union would like to see a more transparent approach to selling the club so that at least the paying Evertonians could know of any progress in a potential sale. But Bill Kenwright and his staff have a method and it’s one they’re keen to stick to.
All we can really know is that issues such as the stadium are a real obstacle when it comes to potential investors weighing up how much they’re going to have to spend to help Everton achieve its potential as, historically at least, one of the genuinely great clubs of English football.
Despite all the worries off the pitch, Everton sit just three points behind Liverpool and with a game in hand. Just how important would a win in the derby be for helping fans forget about the goings on behind the scenes?
The fact that, despite the storm clouds having seemingly converged over Goodison, Everton have managed to make a better start this year than they have in recent ‘happier’ seasons is really testament to David Moyes’ good work. And even if there is still the suspicion the Blues are papering over some cracks at the minute, a derby win, as reds will well know, does wonders for morale.
The backdrop of such a spending difference this summer would make a win for the home side extra gratifying to their faithful. But also, and this is the point that David Moyes will doubtless be impressing upon his squad, a victory on Saturday could see Everton move to fifth, just three points off third with a game in hand. That should be incentive enough, even if the game in hand is a trip to the scene of Liverpool’s recent demise, White Hart Lane.
The national press are quick to dub the Merseyside derby as “the friendly derby” however some of us who have been to clashes between the two sides may beg to differ! What’s your take, the friendly or unfriendly derby?
It does surprise me that misty eyed memories of Blues and Reds sharing a coach down to the ’89 cup final still informs the national media of Merseyside Derbies being ‘friendly’. As you rightly point out, anyone who has seen recent clashes between the sides will attest they’re anything but. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing though, I think the recent coming together of the sides in terms of league position has added a genuine competitiveness to the fixture.
On the subject of relations between the two clubs, what’s your take on the idea of a shared stadium? It’s fair to say Liverpool supporters, and indeed the club, seem to be against it, but the idea certainly hasn’t been shot down by the Everton board.
You’re right in that, while Everton have remained pretty open minded about idea, it certainly seems to be something that’s not on John Henry’s agenda. To my mind that is reflective of where the two clubs are – Henry, clearly, is in the process of implementing a plan to grow Liverpool’s club identity in the coming years, and that plan is never really likely to include Everton given their current predicament.
That could change with investment over the park, but I’d be surprised if it does. Personally I think the city is big enough for both of us and in time two new stadiums will show that.
If there’s one Everton player who’s going to trouble Liverpool, who is it going to be?
When it comes to derbies you can never really look past Tim Cahill for Everton. The combative Aussie gets himself up for these games more than any other and his goal record shows it. Cahill is the Toffees top-post war goalscorer against Liverpool with five strikes, a crown he took from Duncan Ferguson in last season’s 2-0 win at Goodison.
For a left-field offering though, Seamus Coleman is another player who revels in a scrap. He announced himself last year with a fearless showing which Paul Konchesky is unlikely to ever forget, and whilst Enrique will be a different proposition altogether for the young Irishman, expect him to ask for no quarter when the whistle blows on Saturday.
And which Liverpool players are you most worried about going into the game?
Undoubtedly one: Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has shown his tempestuous side this week but whatever his attitude to being substituted, his aptitude for goalscoring in unquestionable. Distin and Jagielka will face their toughest test of the season in Suarez. No small praise given that they lined up against Kun Aguero not seven days ago.
Finally, what’s your prediction for the game?
I don’t do predictions – especially for derby matches. But I do think it will be close, one goal in it.
You can follow Aaron on Twitter.
You can follow Aaron on Twitter.