Love and Marriage

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Or, the much more honestly, and boringly titled “Nothing to do with the royal wedding, Latics v Everton preview”.

I always find it difficult to pitch an Everton preview.  They’re a club I feel I should respect, and based on the Everton fans I know and the club’s history and stature one that I do, but then I see the likes of Tim Cahill on the pitch and the idiots jumping up in our end and most of it disappears.  So usually I’m torn, but not today because today we’re preparing for a game between two sides that are potentially approaching the end of an era.

Constantly, through his nine years in charge of the Toffees, David Moyes has been linked with better things, for many years he was the heir apparent to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.  But now as the Scot’s reign must surely be coming to an end he’s probably never been further away from the job and for no other reason than things have all got a little bit stale at Goodison.

Stale might not exactly the right word, but it must be frustrating for Moyes, the club and its fans that they appear to have hit a glass ceiling in terms of their achievement.  The notion of a glass ceiling preventing  you from establishing yourself in the top six may seem awfully nice to a Latics fan, but the expectations in the blue half of Liverpool are, rightly, a little higher than in WN5 and, as the money dries up, there’s a feeling that something has to change if, primarily, Moyes but also Everton are going to progress.

There’ll be a many that hope that change is it at the very top and chairman, Bill Kenwright is doing his damnedest to bring in fresh investment but there’s a growing feeling that it may be Moyes that makes the first move.   If that happens both club and manager will be hoping that their fresh start is a little more successful than the respective parties had when Alan Curbishley cut ties with Charlton back in 2006.

At the same time, Latics face the inevitable crossroads.  Turn left, stay in the Premier League and, if we’re to believe Bobby, never look back, turn right for the championship and all the doubts about what that might mean.  Similar to Everton, the root cause appears to be the lack of funds to compete at the level up from where they are right now and you might expect that a wrong turn now could be much more influential in the next ten years of the club.

And so, to tomorrow’s game, with Everton in good form, but with Europe probably beyond them and Latics, desperate for the points but… well… being Latics it’s hard to say what sort of form they are likely to be in.  

Mike Pollit aside, Bobby has got a full squad to choose from.  Figueroa is back in the fold and it’s probably a safe bet that he’ll be taking up the left-back berth.   The rest of the eleven pick themselves with the major question being whether Latics stick with the lob-sided formation that has been prevalent in the away games against Chelsea, Blackpool and Sunderland.   

It’s a difficult call because as much as much as a draw might not be the end of the world a defeat might be and with Everton’s tendency to nick results against us, the safer tactic might be to go for it from the start.  With that in mind, I expect we’ll be looking at two wide forwards, presumably in the shape of Cleverley and N’Zogbia, but we may see Moses come in for one of the central midfielders with the loanee moving inside.

For the visitors, it’s a case of good news, bad news.  From our end, the good news is that Cahill is injured, the bad that Arteta is back in training following injury and may feature.   Still they’ll take heart from their recent good form and perhaps even their defeat against Manchester United last time out given that they’ve not managed(?!) back to back defeats all season, but are there any other crumbs of comfort in the numbers.

Well, if we’re talking form then Latics marginally have the edge with eight points in their last six home games against seven in the Toffee’s last six aways.   They’re similarly well matched in terms of goals scored with both sides averaging 1.1 goals per game (again, Latics home and Everton away).  You only need to look at goal differences to know that Latics have conceded significantly more goals than the visitors (31 at home against 20 away for Everton) but perhaps the most telling comparison is between their records over the season.  Latics home record runs P17 W4 D7 L6, Everton’s away one P17 W4 D7 L6.

 So the obvious outcome is a draw then?  Probably, but it really is coming to the twitchy time of the season and history doesn’t give us too much to cheer about as far as the toffees go.  Latics have managed nine points out of a possible 33 in Premier League games against Everton who have 21.  The home end of those figures don’t make for happier reading with Latics pooling four out of the possible 15 and Everton ten.

Are you worried yet?  Well, it’s only a game of football, eleven against eleven, two halves of 45 minutes, goalposts for jumpers and a pig’s bladder wrapped in polyester and compressed polyethylene.  Everton might have the edge, but it’s close and about the only confident prediction that I will make is that anything could happen and I’ll be wearing my lucky duds, just to make sure.

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