9 September ~ Matches between Everton and Aston Villa usually follow one of two distinct courses. They are either multi-goal thrillers that leave one set of fans elated and the other exhausted at the final whistle, or they are dour draws or single-goal affairs that leave supporters of both sides questioning their life choices and wondering where it all went wrong. After a tumultuous summer at Goodison Park, such a passive afternoon when the two sides meet tomorrow as the latter suggests would probably be welcome.

If anyone believed that the start of the new season would herald a respite from unseemly tales of spats between the board and a supporters' group or newspaper whispers linking Everton's better players to moves elsewhere, they have been mistaken. Inept in their first league game against Queens Park Rangers, Everton somehow got worse against Blackburn Rovers but still came away with a victory. If playing poorly and winning really is the sign of a good team, then on the evidence from Ewood Park, Everton are actually world-beaters.

How Everton cope without the player who earned the points at Blackburn from the penalty spot, Mikel Arteta, will begin to be answered against Villa. Even though Arteta didn't have a particularly good season last year he was still Everton's most composed player in possession, and replacing someone widely described upon his departure as the most talented Everton player in a generation is never going to be an easy task regardless of his recent form.

Arteta's deadline-day sale didn't quite raise the predicted ire from Evertonians. Resignation was a more common reaction, which only made matters worse since anger is an easier emotion to deal with than grudging acceptance. You know how to deal with a player you feel has stabbed you in the back. What to do when one calmly sits down and reasons with you, as Arteta did in a final interview with the club's website, is an altogether more conflicting experience.

The atmosphere on Saturday promises to be along the same lines, so low are the expectations of most home supporters after the events of the summer, but so high remains the standard Everton are still expected to reach. Selling off your best players is rarely a route to success, something Villa have experienced lately too. But if there isn't a definite improvement in Everton's performance, sections of the crowd will have no problem relocating their vitriol.

For a few years midway through the last decade Everton and Villa were considered the teams most likely to break into the Champions League cabal, but save for one fleeting Everton appearance in 2005 they were both left on the outside looking in. Now, as their financial situation continues to degenerate, Everton are simply trying to keep their heads above water. Andrew Tuft

Comments (4)
Comment by Blackmac79 2011-09-09 09:54:19

"They are either multi-goal thrillers that leave one set of fans elated and the other exhausted at the final whistle, or they are dour draws or single-goal affairs that leave supporters of both sides questioning their life choices and wondering where it all went wrong."

Does this not sum up all football?

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-09-09 13:19:59

I'm not sure what to make of the current situation at places like Everton, and indeed Villa too. Until very recently, clubs like Everton and Villa have been widely respected among the neutrals for their development of young British players, their community work, their stability, their astute management of finances, their insistence on working within a budget, etc. And their fans have rightly been proud of their clubs, for all of these reasons. But now I'm getting this horrible sinking feeling that things are changing.

It seems to me that, for many people, financial doping in football is no longer abhorrent. It is not even something that is unpopular but reluctantly tolerated. We seem to have reached a nadir, whereby the media is dismissive of any club that does not spend big in pursuit of glory, and the fans are demanding that their long-suffering chairman and fellow board members step aside, in order to allow their club to become a rich man's plaything. In fact, just plain rich isn't good enough any more. These days, football club owners need to be stinking rich. Doesn't matter who they are, or where they come from - as long as they are disgustingly stinking rich.

Frankly, the spectre of a bunch of American business barons, Russian oligarchs and Arab sheiks slugging it out in the transfer market twice a year to decide who's got the best football team in England really doesn't float my boat. The magic has gone for me. Roll on 2013, and "UEFA's Financial Fair Play" regime.

(Don't let me down, Monsieur Platini. I've placed all my hope in you....)

Comment by Lincoln 2011-09-09 14:09:15

Great point. In other countries it would be held up as something special. A through and through fan running his club with prudence and standing by a manager through thick and thin. However in this country it is a case of throwing him out the door and getting in multi billionaires who know nothing of the club or its tradition but gives them a bit of kudos when it comes to making deals in the west or forms part of their assest building procedure.

Comment by jameswba 2011-09-09 15:28:55

I also agree. Perhaps also because neither has broken into the 'Champions League cabal', Everton and Villa are the most palatable of the clubs which, according to my own fairly random criteria, can be described as the biggest eight in the country.

Also a visit to either Goodison or Villa Park remains a proper football day out, in a traditional ground with (mostly) 'real' fans. There seem to be fewer of the corporate types, Thomas Cook clients or camera-wielding tourists than you get at Old Trafford, Anfield etc etc. All because, I think, as has been said, the clubs aren't rich, slimy men's playthings and aren't on the Champions League gravy-train.

Hope it's a 'multi-goal thriller' with Everton winning, though how much notice will be taken is another question.

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