Despite the potential of Aston Villa and the money of Manchester City, it was Everton who finished closest to the so-called 'Big Four’ last season.

Even though they have been knocking on the door of that exclusive quartet for some time they have secured an invitation just once in recent seasons. Their record against the Big Four, including the opening day fixture against Arsenal at Goodison Park this weekend, portrays the problem.

In the last five campaigns, David Moyes’ men have averaged 0.65 points against those sides and 0.95 when playing them at home. In contrast it does not really matter whether Arsenal are playing a top half, non-Big Four team away or at home. In the same time period, they have averaged 1.83 points per game on the road and 1.96 in North London. It suggests Arsenal have managed to hold off the challenge from their main pursuers in direct confrontations.

Unsurprisingly, there is a major statistical difference when Andrey Arshavin plays for Arsenal. During his spell in North London, Arsène Wenger’s men have averaged 2.42 goals per game with the Russian in the side and 0.5 without. However Cesc Fabregas seems to be highly influential in this area too – Arsenal score 2.03 strikes with the Spaniard, 1.32 without.

Everton spent a significant period of last season without a recognised striker. Tim Cahill plugged the gap for much of that period. The Toffees average 1.57 goals with the Australian rather than 1.1 without. However it seems that Cahill’s presence was more important to the team overall. Everton took two points per game with him in the side and 1.05 points without. Oddly the games with Jo, the striker loaned in to add strength up front, saw a reduction in goals from 2 to 1.64.

Cahill’s importance at Goodison Park is well known however Steven Pienaar enjoyed a very decent second season on Merseyside. When the duo played together Everton averaged 2.09 points per game but only got 1.25 when they were not in tandem.

Oddly, though Mouraine Fellaini was Everton’s Young Player of the Season, his team got more points where he did not play - 1.86 per game as opposed to 1.68.

That emergency formation of 4-6-0 actually averaged a higher points tally than any other system – 1.83. Unsurprisingly it reaped only 1.16 goals per game, well down the list.

Everton (last 50 Premier League games)

Key partnerships (points per game when present in the same side):
Lescott – Neville (defence) – 1.76 with, 1.00 without
Cahill – Pienaar (midfield) – 2.00 with, 1.28 without
Cahill - Felliani (midfield) – 1.86 with, 1.50 without

Points trends (average points per game with or without player):
Tim Cahill (midfield) - 2 with, 1.05 without
Steven Pienaar (midfield) – 1.78 with, 1.36 without
Goal trends (average goals with or without a player):
Jo (striker) – 1.64 with, 2.00 without
Yakubu (striker) - 1.23 with, 1.56 without

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14 Aug 2009