David Moyes’ Everton set their sights on fourth spot
Everton’s recent resurgence in the League has seen David Moyes’ side conquer the mighty powers of the top flight. Both Chelsea and Manchester United have visited Goodison Park and surrendered leads as they succumbed to an enterprising Everton team.
Saturday’s performance against United epitomised the tenacity of the squad which David Moyes has assembled.
A turbulent start to the season saw the Toffees languishing at the unfavourable end of the table. The opening day slaughtering at the hands of Arsenal stunned many pundits who had expected Everton to push for a Champions League spot this season.
It was clear to see that afternoon that the media hype surrounding the inevitable departure of Joleon Lescott had unsettled the squad. Moyes had only one viable option at his disposal: he had to sell the English defender if he wanted to implement stability back into his side.
Frankly the £23 million Mark Hughes spent on attaining the services of Lescott was vastly over the top. It was a smart sale by Moyes who was able to reinvest the capital raised by acquiring Sylvain Distin, John Heitinga and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
Unfortunately an initially injured-ravaged squad struggled to elevate the club up the table. Moyes was forced to delve deep into the academy as he produced starlet after starlet to provide cover for his crocked first-teamers.
However since the turn of the year, as more players made their return from the injury table, the Premier League has witnessed a renaissance at the Merseyside club.
Louis Saha has provided an ever-present strike threat up front while Felliani is maturing into a complete midfielder under Moyes’ watchful eye. In addition to these two instrumental players Everton boast the aerial ability of Tim Cahill and the tenacity of Steven Pienaar.
And they are just as solid in defence, possessing the consistent Leighton Baines while Distin and Yobo have struck up a fruitful partnership. The return of the midfield maestro Mikel Arteta has also injected a shot of creativity into the side.
The shrewd acquisition of Landon Donovan proved a masterstroke by the Scottish manager. Many doubted the capabilities of the American but he has proven he has the quality to hold down a regular spot in a team of Everton’s calibre.
And unlike many squads nowadays there is a refreshing stable of local thoroughbreds. Jack Rodwell has been tipped for glory and has already alerted the likes of United to his availability. Dan Gosling is another bright prospect for the future while Irishman Seamus Coleman had a telling impact during the club’s clash with Spurs earlier this season.
Their superb form has propelled them to within touching distance of their rivals for fourth spot. They now trail Champions League rivals Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur by a mere five and six points respectively.
Since the end of November Everton have lost only twice in the league, with both defeats coming at the hands of their derby rivals, Liverpool. However Toffee fans will gain sufficient solace from the performance of their beloved side against the champions elect and the reigning title holders in the last fortnight.
Wayne Rooney, a former Everton wonder kid, returned to Goodison Park looking to inflict misery on his old club. However the English star looked tired and lacklustre after his midweek exploits: heavy touches and loose passes are traits not normally associated with the United number 10.
Instead it was two new prodigies at Everton who stole the headlines. Moyes introduced Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell into the game. Gosling put the Blues in the lead after fantastic work by Pienaar on the right wing.
With United pushing for an equaliser and leaving gaps at the back, Jack Rodwell picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and darted past three United players and promptly firing a low drive past Edwin Van der Sar. It was a run reminiscent of a youthful Steven Gerrard.
The emphatic strike by Rodwell crowned a superb comeback by Everton in the game and in the League.
In a season rife with inconsistency and unpredictability, Everton are now in a position to launch an attack on fourth spot. Undoubtedly it would give Moyes great satisfaction to beat Liverpool to Champions League qualification.
Rafael Benitez once controversially branded the Toffees as a ‘small club’ but with the form of the Reds this season and the bright future of the developing Everton squad, it could soon be the Red side of Stanley Park that bears that mantle.