Brian Goodison of SB Nation's Everton Blog Royal Blue Mersey has agreed to chat with me ahead of this weekend's match. When we last spoke in December, I was forced to eat my eat words. This time around, we've both taken a more humble approach to the conversation.
In the interest of making this as confusing as possible, the first half of our conversation can be found at Royal Blue Mersey here. You should check it out. I promise all the interesting stuff happened in that one.
Lennon's Eyebrow: Tell me more about Moyes three at the back experiment he's been playing with. Who does he think he is, Roberto Mancini?
Brian Goodison: Moyes can't pull the clueless and confused look quite like Mancini, but he's been imitating his tactics. It was a big shock when Moyes went with a 3-4-3 formation against Stoke, but given their defensive prowess it was a smart gamble. The loss of Fellaini and Pienaar required Moyes to throw more players into the attack, and since Baines and Coleman enjoy going forward, moving them higher up the pitch was a natural decision. This left Distin, Heitinga, and Jagielka to deal with Stoke's "forwards" as well as knocking out any crosses.
That said, I hope Moyes doesn't use this formation on Sunday. A more competent side could have really attacked our backline, and there were several close calls that seemed to come because of the squad's unfamiliarity with a 3 man backline. I think something closer to a classic 4-4-2 where Heitinga is dropped in favor of Steven Naismith is our best option. If Mirallas is missing I hope we can see Ross Barkley, but don't be surprised to see Phil Neville stumbling around the midfield.
LE: Lucky for you, I don't know if we're a "more competent side" right now. You'll probably see some permutation of Holtby, Siggy, and Dempsey line up behind Adebayor, which looks pretty impressive on paper, but none of them have really clicked for us this season. And this will be the first time we line them all up together ever. It could miraculously turn out to be this fluid interchanging attcking midfield masterclass a la Chelsea's Mata, Hazard, Oscar. Or more likely it will be a complete trainwreck where nobody knows quite what the hell to do.
Given our injury situation, I think a draw would be a great result to get out of this match. Unfortunately, I don't Spurs can afford to settle for a point. We've got Chelsea and City in our next two league matches after y'all, and we're sure to drop points at least one of those two matches. And with Arsenal and Chelsea breathing down our necks, Everton looks like a must-win if Spurs want to secure a Champions League place. Expect to see us come out guns blazing. But without Bale, they may turn out to only be bb guns.
Speaking of the Champions League, do you lot still have designs on the top 4, or is that dream finally dead? If so, what's the goal for the final stretch of the season, stay ahead of Liverpool?
BG: Top 4 is definitely a possibility. We are only 6 points behind you guys in 3rd, and we have a game in hand. The road will be difficult though. We still have games away to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool after this weekend. The good news is that they are all interspaced with winnable matches. If everyone stays healthy for the stretch run we can certainly finish top 4, but worst case we should qualify for Europe.
Unfortunately we have to root for Chelsea in the FA Cup. Apparently if they win the cup, but finish 5th in the league then the Europa League spot from winning the FA Cup will actually go to the 6th place finisher in the league rather than the FA Cup runner up. Only if the FA Cup winner qualifies for the Champions League does the FA Cup spot go to the runner up. It pains me to do it, but I want Europe too much to complain.
I'm guessing that if you guys don't qualify for the Champions League folks aren't going to be very happy? Or is 5th ok given how close everything has been between teams 3-6 this season?
LE: Before the season started, I think most people would have accepted a Top 6 finish, given that we sold our best player and fired our manager over the summer. But since the season's gone so well, I think finishing outside the Champions League places at this point will come as a disappointment to most. It would be easier to take if we could also bring home the Europa League trophy, but now that's looking like it might be out of reach. I'm not going to set my Spurs kits on fire if we finish in 5th, but I think most people will be rather upset.
Also from personal experience, I can tell you that if you need Chelsea to give you a certain result in a cup final to secure your own European dreams, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
If Spurs and Everton could take third and fourth at Arsenal and Chelsea's expense, I'd be absolutely thrilled. But with things being so tight, I hope we show you no mercy and beat you bloody on our way to a 5-0 victory.
Thanks for chatting with me, any parting thoughts?
BG: The only thing I have is that we can both agree Chelsea should lose out right? Cheers.