Scott: How did you rate 2012-2013 for your club?
Zach: It may seem strange considering Everton finished sixth, but when there was still no European spot for that and they could have been closer to Spurs, it felt disappointing. Everton got off to a great start — by their recent standards — but then crashed out of the League Cup against Leeds United. Say what you will about that competition but it’s a ticket to Europe and a winnable competition, something Everton should be focusing on. There were several games against teams like Aston Villa, Southampton and Sunderland where the Toffees dropped points that might have put them a little closer to Tottenham at the end of the season. Plus the 3-0 thumping from Wigan in the FA Cup quarter-finals didn’t help spirits either.
It wasn’t a bad season but it was yet another year where Everton looked capable of something bigger but lacked the focus and ambition to take the next step.
Scott: Who was your best player?
Zach: Leighton Baines. Hands down, no question. There may have been guys with more goals and assist, but there’s no debating that Baines was the engine that drove Everton last season. When he played well, the team played well. When Baines and Pienaar clicked on the left side, Everton were at their best.
Scott: Which player are you expecting most important in 2013-2014?
Zach: Leighton Baines. With Roberto Martinez tinkering with a 3-5-2/3-4-2-1 alignment in the pre-season, wing back play is going to be important. Baines was essentially a wingback in Moyes’ 4-4-1-1 so he should be comfortable with any adjustments. He’s the team’s best player and they need him to perform.
Scott: If you could take one United player, who would it be?
Zach: Phil Jones. There may be flashier players on the United roster, there are proven goal scorers as well — something that could always help Everton — but I would never pass up a young, talented defender. Phil Jones is a player that you can build your team around for a long time and if you can defend well, you can win games.
Scott: Are you pleased Fergie’s retired?
Zach: As an Everton supporter, absolutely! He got Moyes out of the top job here. Think I’m nuts? I’ll explain. Moyes was great for Everton, he kept the team successful and over achieving for a decade and we owe him so much as fans for what he did. That said, eventually you need a change. Especially if the coach isn’t producing trophies or trips to Europe. It’s not about being greedy but a League Cup once over the past 10 years would have been cool. It was time to shake things up at Everton and Fergie’s retirement was the catalyst.
Scott: Where do you think your club will finish this season?
Zach: My heart says 6th, my head says 8th. This is a talented roster and perfectly capable challenging for Europe, however with a new coach, new formation and new faces, who knows how everyone will react. I’d be happy with finishing low Top-10 if it means a League or FA Cup.
Scott: Where do you think United will finish?
Zach: 4th. Moyes is going to struggle but I think he’ll have the ship righted by mid-season. United are too talented to not be in the Top 4 but I think Chelsea and City will be better this season. I feel like Fergie coached United to a title last season with pure willpower, duct tape and chewing gum. Not sure Moyes can do that but I think he’ll still end up ahead of Arsenal or Spurs, but just barely.
Scott: What do you think about Rooney handing in two transfer requests to United?
Zach: He and Moyes have never had the best relationship so I can’t say it’s surprising to see Rooney unsettled. He’s also accomplished a lot during his time with United so maybe he’s ready for a new challenge. It’s modern football, this stuff happens and loyalty of any kind to clubs is rare. Players like Giggs and Scholes are not the norm anymore.
Scott: How worried are you about losing your manager and coaching staff?
Zach: There’s definitely some worries about Moyes leaving considering his consistency over the last decade, but as I said before it was a good time to shake things up. It’s more about a general fear of change than anything else for me. I like the change, I felt like it was time and I’m confident in the new boos. Martinez proved he can win a big competition last season and Wigan’s relegation wasn’t all his fault. I’m feeling pretty good about everything.
Scott: Do you think Martinez is capable of recreating the success Moyes had at Everton?
Zach: It’s definitely possible but it’s going to be a test for Martinez with Everton’s finances and the necessity of getting the most out of your transfers. If he’s smart about bringing in players and sells the right guys when the value is high, I think he’ll do fine. The consistency we got from Moyes was great but if Martinez can deliver some silverware, fans will quickly forget about all that consistency as they celebrate the sheer joy of having won a cup for the first time since 1995. It would also give him a lot of wiggle room if he’s not finishing on the cusp of the Top 4 every season.
Scott: Finally, what do you think about the prospect of losing Fellaini and Baines?
Zach: I think it would be a blow to lose either player but there’s no question Everton could use the money, as long as Martinez could re-invest it. Losing Baines would be a much bigger blow for two reasons. First, he’s our best player and second, at this point in the season there is very little time to find a possible replacement for him. Everton have depth in the midfield and could find a physical midfielder to replace Fellaini if he left. In the end its business, if it happens I just hope Everton get good value.