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Challenging December To Shape Toffees Season


When the fixture list for this season was announced, December was widely touted as a month that would test Everton and give a clear indication of how far they had progressed after two promising transfer windows.

Unlike in previous campaigns, the Toffees have begun brightly and find themselves only four points adrift of a Champions League position, in sixth place.

Most blues would have happily accepted such a healthy standing at this stage given the fact that they are notorious slow starters. The general feeling around Goodison Park however, is that Everton should be on more than their respectable if not remarkable 22 points out of 14 games.

Sloppy late goals conceded against Newcastle, Fulham and Norwich as well as some suspect refereeing decisions have all contributedto David Moyes’ outfit dropping points where all three were up for grabs.

Luckily, this season seems as open as any in recent history in terms of qualification for a Champions League spot and outside of the two Manchester clubs, there are as many as five teams competing for the remaining two jackpot slots.

It is however worth noting that five of Everton’s six fixtures in December are against sides currently occupying a top ten berth.

Saturday’s unforgiving trip to champions Manchester City is the first of three difficult away trips during the festive period, with visits to West Ham and Stoke providing Moyes’ squad with some stern tests.

Goodison Park will play host to top four contenders Tottenham and Chelsea in December as well as Roberto Martinez’s vastly improved Wigan.

If Everton can reach January and still be in touch with their rivals for European qualification than the remainder of 2012 will surely be deemed a success.

That would leave the Toffees in a healthy position going into the second half of the season, where their form normally picks up dramatically.

Also, heading into the January transfer window still in contention for a top four spot will surely play into Moyes’ hands as far as potential transfers go.

When asked about signing a new contract, the 49-year old said: “I will probably wait until we have got over January and see how things go. I want to see what we’re going to do and where the club are looking to move to in the future.”

Although his comments may not appear to give away too much on the surface, Moyes is being smart.

He knows that the board will do everything they can to keep him at the helm and he also knows that with his contract up at the end of the season, he holds all the cards.

The Scot realises that although his first 11 is a match for anyone, his squad needs quality additions and a successful January transfer window could see his side really push on for a shot at a top four position.

Whether these additions come in the shape of one or two loans or bargain deals, the board have to be seen to be backing Moyes in his quest for the top table of European football.

If there is one thing that the majority of Evertonians agree on, it is the fact that this is a huge season. Failure to qualify for the Champions League could see key players leave and then it is back to square one.

If they are successful in qualifying for Europe’s top competition, the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines will have no need to move on. The Belgian has already stated that he wants to play in the Champions League, ideally with Everton.

A decent December would result in Everton heading into the New Year with a clear goal and the remainder of the season will be an exciting one. A poor December however, would leave the blue half of Merseyside feeling extremely deflated and, more importantly, a long way off the pace in the race for European football.

Gary Maiden @GaryMaidenEFC