The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
David Moyes may feel the Premier League’s superpowers are unmoved by Everton’s flying start but the pace of their progress has been noted in west London. Just ask Kevin Mirallas.
Habitually sluggish in the opening weeks, Everton been scintillating so far and deservedly sit in second after flattening Southampton 3-1 at Goodison Park.
Their tally of 13 points from six games is the best tally at a comparable stage since 2004 but Moyes made a point of saying that neither Manchester City nor Manchester United would be unduly worried about them being title contenders in the spring.
How long Everton can maintain such a lofty position remains to be seen but there is confidence is growing in the squad and the deep impression their play has made has won them admirers within the ranks of current league leaders Chelsea. Mirallas knows because Eden Hazard has told the Everton forward.
‘Eden says that it’s normal service resumed for Chelsea to be on top and he laughs at the fact Everton are now in second,’ the forward said of his Belgian compatriot. ‘He says “what are you doing there?!” We have been having a laugh about it.
‘Seriously, though, he does appreciate the way we are playing. Eden sees that we are doing well and he thinks it’s fully deserved we are so high in the table because of the good style of play we are putting in each week.’
Southampton may have rattled Everton when Gaston Ramirez profited from slack marking to nod in an early opener but the home side roared back with a three-goal blitz in 13 minutes before half-time, courtesy of Leon Osman and a double from Nikica Jelavic.
The contribution of the lively Mirallas, however, was just as important. He has made a fabulous start since his arrival from Olympiakos but Moyes is adamant there is more to come from the versatile forward; just as he is sure his team can offer more.
‘Kevin is a little but different from what we have had before,’ said Moyes. ‘It is going to take a little time to get it nailed down completely.
‘But his freedom and the way the players are playing are giving us a great platform. We are trying to get the right balance.’
MARTIN SAMUEL - Everton, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland, Stoke City, Liverpool, Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City. What have they got in common? Each one has already taken points from what might be termed the big five of the Premier League this season.
So, as Everton peer down the table at many of their supposed betters this morning, the only question manager David Moyes should be asking is: why not? Why can’t Everton be playing Champions League football next season? Why can’t the club still be up there in May? Pleasingly, he offered as much after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Southampton. Moyes said the bigger teams would not feel threatened by Everton’s presence now, but if they were still hanging on in April they would demand to be taken seriously.
True enough. It took the best part of the last campaign before anyone believed Newcastle United were more than a flash in the pan.
Everton should be encouraged in their ambitions. The acceptance of the status quo is thoroughly depressing and too many have been hoodwinked into believing that it must always be this way: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, latterly Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, for ever and ever, amen.
To dare to suggest this monopoly could be broken by a club of modest resources is to invite charges of heresy. When Stoke City made a promising start to the season a year ago, I suggested they might want to have a crack at the top four, too.
What a fuss that caused.
‘If Arsenal were playing Stoke City on Saturday, who would you back to win? Not easy, is it?’ the piece began.
It concluded: ‘This is an unusual year in English football with so many of the traditional elite in a state of flux. There are few guarantees, making the fight for the final Champions League spot as open as it has ever been. And then there is Stoke. Unfancied, unsung, the random factor. They might just do it. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if they did?’
So far, so unspectacular. What happened next? Travel through the land that thought forgot — Twitter, as it is known — and you will find this simple wish for change warped into a prediction that Stoke would definitely finish top four, being a better side than Arsenal. This is how preposterous some supporters of big clubs are; this is the extent of their sense of entitlement. To even contemplate that an unfashionable club might punch beyond its weight is to offend their precious sensibilities.
By the way, Arsenal have played Stoke three times since that column appeared and those backing Arsenal to win would have lost money on two of those occasions, but I digress.
No I don’t. Arsenal have won at Stoke once in six visits since January 6, 1990. Now I digress.
Anyway, Stoke blew it last year, unable to sustain taking on the Europa League and domestic football with a squad that lacked depth, and eventually fell to 14th, their poorest position since winning promotion to the Premier League. Yet Newcastle survived against expectation and finished higher than Chelsea.
Everton may prove more resilient, too. They have players of greater ability than Stoke, a more expansive style than in previous campaigns and a manager who took an underdog team to fourth before.
In Marouane Fellaini they possess one of the Premier League’s form players; the defence is strong and has already kept a clean sheet to take three points off Manchester United.
The credentials are impressive, even if history is against them.
So will Everton do it? Experience suggests probably not. Should they aim for it? Absolutely. The most boring aspect of the modern game is that we have been brainwashed into seeing ambition as a useless emotion. Clearly, money talks, and the clubs with the greatest resources are likely to occupy the top places, but we should never abandon hope.
It is not like this in other countries. In Spain, seven different teams have finished in the top four since 2008-09.In England, we have to rewind eight seasons to find equivalent successes, all the way back to Everton’s fourth place in 2005.
Without doubt, our meek acceptance of the natural order stands in the way of progress. We don’t just promote conservatism; we actively mock or discourage those who aspire to challenge the elite.
And yet, has there been a leading group so vulnerable? Manchester United have lost twice already, Manchester City have needed goals in the last 10 minutes to secure points on three occasions, Arsenal are averaging 1.5 points per game, which would have been good enough for sixth last season, and although Tottenham Hotspur have found their feet under Andre Villas-Boas, they must now make up lost ground.
Only Chelsea are setting anything resembling title-winning pace.
And this is not winning it outright, remember. This is about coming fourth.
And not even coming fourth for certain. Just setting that as the target, considering it to be attainable, simply uttering two little words.
Life, you will find, is so much more fun that way.
IF THE general perception is that Eden Hazard has enjoyed a seamless adaptation to life in the Premier League, with little catching him unawares, then Kevin Mirallas is happy to set the record straight.
The Everton striker is in regular contact with his Belgium international team-mate, and while Hazard expected to be peering down at his rivals from on high with Chelsea, it was not David Moyes’ side he thought would be looming into view.
This dismantling of Southampton propelled Everton into second place and maintained an impressive start that is not simply turning heads at Goodison Park but, seemingly, at Stamford Bridge as well.
“Eden and I do speak and we have a bit of a joke,” said Mirallas, whose own acclimatisation following a £5.3million move from Olympiakos is proving swift – his fingerprints were all over two of Everton’s goals here.
“He says that it is normal service resumed for Chelsea to be on top and he laughs at the fact Everton are now in second.
“He says, ‘What are you doing there?’ We have been having a laugh about it.
“Seriously, though, he does appreciate the way we are playing. Eden sees that we are doing well and he thinks it’s fully deserved that we are so high in the table because of the good style of play we are putting in each week.”
Highlighting the swagger with which Everton are currently performing is important, because it strips away the misplaced view that Moyes is somehow a cautious manager.
Instead, Everton have carefully evolved under his leadership to the point where, with Nikica Jelavic picking up where he left off last season, with a well-taken double to add to Leon Osman’s equaliser here, they pose a considerable threat.
“Some of the performances last season we struggled and I told the players I was bored watching them,” said Moyes.
“I could never say that now. The question we were wondering with Jelavic was how would he be in this second season? “But he has started fine. We need him. You look at him in the box and he comes alive. You almost think, ‘Boy oh boy, he has taken a magic pill’.
“I do think that with Mirallas and Jelavic, you are seeing Everton with a greater scoring threat than we have ever had before.”
Yet still the job Moyes has done is taken for granted. The other argument that the Scot needs silverware to somehow legitimise his 10-year reign at Goodison is frequently aired – Neville Southall being the latest to do so.
But that is far too simplistic.
The only managers outside England’s elite – Liverpool and Manchester City are included as old and new powers – to have won domestic trophies since Moyes arrived at Goodison Park are Steve McClaren, Juande Ramos, Harry Redknapp and Alex McLeish. Two of these men have found themselves reduced to ridicule, two are out of work and three of the four clubs – Portsmouth, Birmingham and Middlesbrough – are now residing in football’s backwaters.
Ask Southampton manager Nigel Adkins which club he regards as a role model – and Everton would be among the first on his list.
Had Jay Rodriguez not spurned a glorious chance five minutes after Gaston Ramires had capitalised on Tim Howard’s error to head the visitors in front, then more twists may have ensued.
As it was, Southampton’s leaky rearguard, which has already conceded 18 goals, always looked unlikely to thwart Everton.
“It has been highlighted in the games up to now,” said Adkins. “When you analyse all of the goals that you concede, you can always do better. But we’re playing against top-level players now. We believe that we can score and, here, we have scored once again. But we have got to give ourselves an opportunity to go and win these matches. And if we can’t achieve a victory , at least get a point from the game.”
Everton may not finish runners-up at the end of the season, but they will play in Europe next season.
Above and beyond that, they are a proper football club with proper values, for which owner Bill Kenwright also deserves credit for instilling, given that it is 12 months since he was accused of letting Everton stagnate.
And while it is easy to now pat Kenwright on the back, that should not detract from the fact that the point is still worth making.
Nigel Adkins identified Everton's left flank as his greatest problem, tailored Southampton's tactics accordingly, and was beaten by two goals from the right and one through the middle. David Moyes has an answer for everything in the Premier League just now.
The competition has increased since Everton, who moved up to second in the table, last challenged for a top-four finish and sustained it through experienced defending, Lee Carsley's industry and slender victories delivered by Marcus Bent, Tim Cahill or Duncan Ferguson in 2004-05. Eight years on, the squad size remains as compact as ever but the promise of goals, attacking options and sheer quality of Everton's play is arguably superior to anything Moyes has possessed in more than 10 years at Goodison Park. "Their all-round game is so effective," rued the defeated manager from Birkenhead.
Everton, beaten at Leeds in the Capital One Cup in midweek, began apprehensively. In the second half they eased off completely. But from the moment Leon Osman equalised Gaston Ramírez's opener, to their departure at half-time to a standing ovation, Everton were devastating. Even Moyes was seen to applaud and afterwards dropped the pretence that this season's priority is all about avoiding relegation.
The Everton manager said: "I think that with Mirallas and Jelavic, you are seeing Everton with a greater scoring threat than we have ever had before. Felli [Marouane Fellaini] can get a few goals too. It is making a huge difference. A lot of the games in the past we have had to stick in there and nick a goal. Now you expect Everton to score."
Kevin Mirallas, the Belgium international signed from Olympiakos with £5.4m of the £12m received from Manchester City for Jack Rodwell, did not register, but two assists capped an energetic, inventive contribution. It was Mirallas' inviting cross that enabled Osman to equalise from close range and his piercing pass that released Nikica Jelavic for the first of his two goals. Everton's third, headed in at the back post by their Croatia striker, arrived courtesy of a fine run and delivery from Seamus Coleman. A whirlwind response erased from the memory Ramírez's first Southampton goal, a header after Tim Howard had flapped at Adam Lallana's corner .
"I actually thought it would take longer for Mirallas to settle and for us to get used to him," admitted Moyes. "He is a little bit different from what we have had before. It is going to take a little time to get it nailed down completely but his freedom and the way the players are playing are giving us a great platform.
"We got a bit of a tip-off about him. We were told how good he was and we thought he could do well over here"
Satisfaction for Moyes included the productive afternoon for Jelavic, who was clearly struggling for fitness on his return from a knee injury but not with his eye for goal.
The manager added: "The question we were wondering aboutwith Jelavic was how would he be in this second season? Last year was great for him but my worry was could he do it again? It can happen. But he has started fine. He has got a few goals and we need him. We know that if we get the ball in the box often enough he is a good finisher and gets in good positions. You look at him in the box and he comes alive. You almost think: 'Boy oh boy, he's taken a magic pill'."
For Southampton and Adkins this was another lesson in how swiftly and brutally punishment is inflicted in the Premier League. It again raised the question of whether the manager's ideals should be compromised to protect such an open and at times naive defence. Unlikely.
Adkins said: "Everton are effective, especially down the left and we tried to nullify that by being positive and going the other way, but that 15-minute spell before half-time they were very, very good. We've got players that are good going forward and you can take that threat away by being a bit more defensive. It's a fine thing. A lot of teams only play one up front at this moment in time. We believe we're playing football the right way but we've come away from home and it's about winning."
Remember John Lambie’s reply when told his striker did not know who he was when concussed during a game: “Tell him he’s Pele and get him back on”?
You suspect the spirit of the cult Scottish manager was somehow revived by David Moyes for 30 glorious minutes of this game, as Everton produced some of the most compelling, outrageous, sublime football surely to have ever been seen at Goodison.
The way Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas performed in that first-half spell suggested their boss convinced them they played not for Belgium, but Brazil.
“They were so good, even I could only stand there and applaud,” a slightly stunned Moyes admitted afterwards.
OK, they were up against a sieve-like Southampton defence, but the new-found belief and confidence evident in the Blues approach to a more expansive game, suggests an enduring excellence.
Moyes thinks so. Despite the tag as a hard-working, physical team, which they certainly can be if needed, he has always tried to instil a certain style into his sides, most notably when he played through a midfield trio of Arteta, Pienaar and Osman a few years ago.
Losing players meant he had retreated slightly from that, but Moyes revealed he still urged his side to try to play more and spent much of last season telling them how dreary they were.
“The way we’re playing right now, I would definitely pay to watch. We’re being brave with the ball, keeping it to keep trying to play,” he explained.
“In some games last season we struggled and I told the players I was bored watching them. I could never say that now – some of the stuff out there was amazing to watch. We’ve a great crowd and you can see we brought them some joy.”
The return of Steven Pienaar has brought a sense of balance to Everton’s play, and he is a key figure in the way they perform. So too is Fellaini.
In Nikica Jelavic they have a genuine finisher When you try to build through passing, an end product is vital. The skill and movement of Mirallas perfectly complements the striker.
And Leighton Baines’ excellence on the left has given Everton a threat from all over the pitch, explaining why they are second in the table.
For Moyes, that is the most important aspect of their rise this season: “I think with Mirallas and Jelavic, we’re a greater scoring threat than ever before. Felli can get a few goals too. It’s making a huge difference.
“A lot of the games in the past we’ve had to stick in there and nick a goal. Now you expect us to score.
“Jelavic gives us that threat. He comes alive in the box. There seems nothing on, then suddenly he gets in the penalty area, and you almost think ‘boy oh boy, he’s taken a magic pill’.”
The new approach was evident after Gaston Ramierz took advantage of poor marking to put Saints ahead from a corner.
With the crowd howling for the ball to be lumped forward, Everton kept it for two minutes, before eventually working the space for Mirallas to cross and Leon Osman to finish.
From there, in the space of 13 sublime minutes, the home side were irresistible, Mirallas combining brilliantly with Fellaini to send Jelavic in to score, then Seamus Coleman crossed superbly to find Jelavic.
It was a lesson for Saints, whose boss Nigel Adkins said: “It’s been highlighted in the games up to now, one mistake and you pay.”
KEVIN MIRALLAS admits the start of his Goodison career has surpassed his own expectations – and believes Europa League qualification should not be the limit of Everton’s ambitions.
David Moyes’s side moved up to second place in the embryonic Premier League table with a 3-1 home win over promoted Southampton on Saturday.
Mirallas had a hand in Leon Osman’s equaliser before playing Nikica Jelavic through for the first of the Croatia international’s two goals.
It continued the 24-year-old’s impressive impact since completing his £5.3million transfer from Olympiakos in August.
And the Belgium international said: “It’s going a lot better than I could have hoped for. The settling in period has been a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be.
“That’s because of various reasons. My team-mates are really cool with me, they have been great with me. They talk to me a lot and support me a lot.
“The other big factor is that I’ve spent a lot more time on the field and played in more games than I thought I might have done at first.
“I’m still not quite there physically. I still need a good run of games to be 100% fit. I had a chat with the manager when I first came here and he was fully aware that I hadn’t a full pre-season because I’d had a problem with my knee. I’m trying to catch up on that by playing games.”
Mirallas added: “I knew before I signed about the physical aspect of the Premier League. I was mentally prepared for that before I even came here.
“One of the advantages of the way I play is that I am quick, so I try to avoid those hard challenges that skilful players with ability like myself tend to attract.”
Saturday’s win was Everton’s fourth in their opening six games, the first time they have made such a start since the 2004-05 season in which they finished fourth.
And Mirallas believes the Goodison outfit may soon have to raise their expectations for the campaign.
“Before I signed, I was looking at the Europa League being a more realistic ambition,” he said. “But certainly now as the season has got under way, we have got a good crop of players here and are playing
some really nice football.
“It’s fantastic that we are second and our ambition now has to be stay up there and put pressure on those around us. It’s a long season though and there’s a long way to go, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Mirallas forged his reputation playing on the left wing at Olympiakos, but has been operating either centrally or on the right since moving to Everton.
And Moyes has been surprised at the immediate impact of the Belgian.
“I actually thought it would take longer for him to settle and for us to get used to him,” said the Everton manager. “He is maybe a little bit different from what we have had.
“We got a bit of a tip off about him. We were told how good he was and we thought he could do well over here but we are not getting carried away.
“He played a lot from the left at Olympiakos, he can play as a striker and he can play on the right. That was probably the position he has been least used in.
“I wanted to add some goals and I do actually think when he plays through the middle he will score more goals. He is doing a good job for us where he is just now.”
SEAMUS Coleman believes his partnership with Kevin Mirallas can give Everton FC another thrilling attacking outlet.
The pair combined in impressive fashion during Saturday’s 3-1 win over Southampton at Goodison which saw the Blues move up to second place in the Premier League.
Coleman sent in the perfect cross for Nikica Jelavic’s second goal after summer signing Mirallas had created the striker’s first, and the Republic of Ireland international senses their link-up, which is modelled on Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar’s superb left axis, could cause headaches for many opposing teams.
He said: “I’m an attacking defender and I like linking up with Kevin. I can give him the ball and get past him, then he can either use me or go himself. He’s got great ability.
“I’d like to think we can do what the lads are doing on the left – maybe not to that extent because they’re unreal but it’s nice playing behind Kevin.”
Everton fought back from conceding an early Gaston Ramirez goal to tear the visitors apart with an exciting attacking display, and Coleman said it was a joy to be involved in.
“It was probably some of the best attacking football I’ve been part of at Everton,” he said. “You could sense from the crowd how well we were doing. We’ve got the two lads on the left and you can’t say much more about them – they’re just brilliant.
“And it was good the way me and Kevin kept switching it, and got a few nice goals.
“It was good to keep the run in the league going and important to lift spirits after Tuesday because we were a bit down after that. It wasn’t ideal going a goal down early but we stepped up and played some really good stuff in reply.
“It’s a shame we sat back a bit in the second half but we’ll take the result.”