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The Goodison cupboards are bare

A sixth place finish in 2007 and a fifth position in 2008 proves that Everton are quite literally a team on the up. Should any of the established top four slip up, the Toffees appear to be the best placed team to take advantage and are the last to do just that, in 2005.

But there a dark clouds on an otherwise bright horizon. A lack of money to compete with England's elite clubs has prompted the chairman Bill Kenwright to insist that only a billionaire backer can get Everton into the top four and CEO Robert Elstone has suggested that Kenwright will sell his stake in the club if the right buyer comes along.

With no sugar-daddy imminent Kenwright believes it is crucial to the economic future of Everton that the Merseyside club quit Goodison Park and move to a new, bigger stadium that can generate more matchday revenue than their current 40,569 capacity ground.

However, the proposed move to Kirkby has been 'called in' by the Government and the entire scheme, a £400million joint venture with Tesco that already has planning permission, is now under review. The new stadium plans are also opposed by local residents and fans who do not want to see the club moved to outside of Liverpool's city boundaries.

Against this backdrop manager David Moyes has been bemoaning the fact the Everton are yet to make any ripples in the transfer market. Their only foray so far has been an £11.8million bid for midfielder Joao Moutinho that was dismissed by Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon.

Moyes has reacted angrily to the lack of success in bringing players to Goodison Park and told the club's official TV channel: 'We cannot hide the fact that we need new players at Everton. Everybody knows it, I know it, the players know it - we have to get five or six players in before the season starts.'

The Scot has pointed to the lack of competition for places as one of the reasons for Everton's troubling pre-season results that included a 4-2 defeat to Cambridge United, a 1-0 defeat to FC Sion and a 2-0 defeat to Chicago Fire at the start of a tour of the USA.

But despite all the problems off the pitch Everton still have a first-eleven, if not necessarily the required depth of squad, that can once again finish in a European place this season.

In Ayegbeni Yakubu, Everton have a striker who has scored goals wherever he has been and such was his impact at Goodison Park last season - he scored 15 Premier League goals in his debut campaign on Merseyside - that Moyes has been able to sell Andy Johnson to Fulham for £10.5million to boost his transfer kitty.

Johnson's sale, after only two years at Goodison Park, means that Everton will continue to operate with a single striker this season and should any injury befall Yakubu the responsibility of leading the line will fall upon the young shoulders of Nigerian international Victor Anichebe, who is away at the Olympics, and injury-prone youngster James Vaughen.

The striker situation highlights the lack of depth in the Everton squad but with just one man up front it allows Moyes to pack the midfield, which is arguably the strongest department of the side.

The likes of Mikel Arteta, Phil Neville, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar forge a formidable combination in the middle of the pitch but the key man this season could well be Tim Cahill.

The Australian international missed much of last term through injury but still managed to score 10 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions. And although he will be sidelined for the first few weeks of the season his contribution as a goal scoring midfielder will be invaluable.

Last season defender Joleon Lescott chipped in with ten goals but it is unlikely that he will reproduce that tally this term, so Cahill must take up the slack in front of goal. The attacking, hardworking midfielder boasts a potent aerial threat and will need to stay clear of injury if threadbare Everton are to flourish this season.

Fighting on two fronts, in the Premier League and in the UEFA Cup, could well prove too much for such a limited squad and unless Moyes prioritises this term the team will certainly suffer.

The difficulty in prioritising is that Everton require a profile-raising run in Europe to lure the type of player needed to take the club onto the next level, but can't afford to drop out of the lucrative European qualifying places in the league.

The team is not strong enough to do both and unless Moyes enjoys late success in the transfer market the focus should be on another top six finish in the Premier League; although that will be no mean achievement.

  • Any comments? Email Dominic Raynor


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