Everton manager David Moyes has been full of praise for his high-flying Toffees side, claiming they may be the best team he has put together while at Goodison. With the 2004/05 Everton side breaking the top four and gaining entrance to the Champions League qualifiers however, they're strong competition, so how do the two sides compare? talkSPORT attempt to reach a conclusion...
Comparing Everton's entire season in 2004/05 to the current Everton side would be one-sided, given that this season's Toffees have only played ten league games. For that reason, we're only considering the first 10 games in the 2004/05 Premier League in order to make the comparison as fair as possible. In our comparison, we'll look at the results, performances in key games, and the crop of players available.
Everton's 2004/05 Premier League record after 10 games read as seven wins, one draw and two losses. The current Everton side has a record of four wins, five draws and one loss in the Premier League this season to date, so the first and most obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the 04/05 vintage was better. That being said, the current side have lost only one game, whereas the 04/05 side had lost two. Everton's tendency to draw matches this season has seen them claim less points at this stage than their predecessors, however, and as a result the current Toffees outfit have only picked up 17 points in comparison to the 04/05 team's 22.
The big games
In their first 10 games, against the tougher opposition, Everton's current crop have faired slightly better than the 04/05 side. The team of eight years ago were hammered 4-1 by defending champions Arsenal in their opening league game, while they could only manage a 0-0 draw against Manchester United - who finished third in 03/04 - albeit at Old Trafford. The 2012/13 Everton team took the full three points from United on their opening day match at Goodison, while they also got a point against last year's surprise package Newcastle. Finally, the current team also picked up a decent point in the Merseyside derby clash at Goodison, coming from 2-0 down to do so. Although it didn't occur within their first ten league games, the 04/05 side did beat Liverpool at Goodison in their first league derby of the season, a rare feat from the Toffees in recent years.
While, as David Moyes rightly says, the 04/05 Everton side was good at grinding out results, the current side arguably has a bigger array of attacking talent. In Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic, Everton have two mobile, skilful players well capable of scoring goals. The 04/05 side on the other hand, while having more strength in depth in their forward line, arguably had less spectacular players. The veteran Duncan Ferguson, in his penultimate season as a professional, only managed six goals in the league that season, while Marcus Bent wasn't exactly prolific either. James Beattie had a slightly better touch in front of goal, and James Mcfadden had flashes of brilliance, but none of the forwards really compare overall to the current front two.
In midfield, the 04/05 team could draw upon Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Thomas Gravesen for inspiration, while Lee Carsley also had a big role in their campaign. In Kevin Kilbane, however, Everton had a player with little technical ability, despite his work rate. The jewel of the midfield in Everton's current crop is undoubtedly Marouane Fellaini, with the Belgian one of the most coveted in his position in the Premier League. Steven Pienaar also brings a dose of quality on the ball, while new signing Steven Naismith is beginning to find his rhythm in linking the midfield with the attack. Phil Neville also adds experience to the relatively young midfield.
David Weir and Gary Naysmith brought robustness and savvy to the 04/05 back line, while Tony Hibbert would go on to produce a brilliant season from right-back. Alan Stubbs was also a rock at the back for the Toffees, with Joseph Yobo also called upon.
The current Everton backline is perhaps better suited to initiating attacks from the back, with Leighton Baines in particular gaining high praise for his performances in that regard. In Phil Jagielka they also have a composed head and a leader in the middle of the back line. Veteran Sylvain Distin is past his best, but still a capable defender, while Jonny Heitinga is prone to the odd clanger when deployed at the back.
Ultimately, the two squads represent the difference in styles between the two sides. The 04/05 side had less technical quality, but was more robust and, in playing to its strengths, David Moyes was brilliantly able to get results from his team when it mattered. The current crop are arguably a better balanced team overall, with quality throughout the spine of the team, though they do lack strength in depth in some key areas such as the forward line.
So which side is better?
David Moyes may think his current side are better than his 04/05 team, but the facts state that, at this stage of the season, his previous team had chalked up more points. Perhaps there's a tendency to judge that team unfairly in hindsight because they were less spectacular than his current crop of players, but ultimately, results are what count. The current Everton outfit arguably present a better spectacle for the fans, but they'll need to become as clinical as the 2004/05 vintage if they hope to achieve the same position come the end of the season.
Which Everton team do you think is better? Comment below and have your say...