Everton Focus - Moyes facing balancing act against Norwich with Oldham to come
Everton go to Norwich City on Saturday looking for their first win in February. So far the Toffees have drawn with Aston Villa and lost to Manchester United in the Premier League and Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, and with the trip to Carrow Road the penultimate fixture of the month, it’s almost now or never for David Moyes’ side.
The only match remaining in February after the Norwich game is the cup replay at Oldham, and Everton saw in the original game just how tricky a tie with the Latics can be. And with Moyes speaking earlier this month about his desire to win a trophy with Everton - a common theme these last few years - it’s difficult to know which match the manager would make the priority.
Both, is the standard answer, probably couched in a cliché such as “take one game at a time.” With life still in Everton’s Champions League push it’s too early to say the cup should be the competition given precedence - Tottenham are six points ahead, not a huge amount with 12 league games to play - but everyone at Everton, from the manager to the supporters, would love a first trophy since 1995, so both it must be for a while longer.
The FA Cup replay though comes at the worst possible time for Everton. They’ve looked heavy-legged for weeks now, and a midweek, evening match against a lower league side that will be backed by a raucous support of around 6,000 fans, travelling from not very far away, is the last thing Everton will have wanted. But it’s what they face on Tuesday, and if their FA Cup experience is going to reach the latter stages then they must be on their mettle.
It’s quite recent that Everton lost to the same opposition, in the same competition, at the same ground - only five years ago, and the consistency in Moyes’ squad means there’s a number of players left over from then still present. And given that Moyes’ squad is among the smallest in the Premier League, they represent a significant percentage of the players the manager has available.
Statistics compilers Opta revealed on their Twitter page that Everton have used the fewest number of players of any Premier League side this season - only 22, showing just why the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman might be flagging in the second part of the campaign. Baines in particular has played almost 40 games for club and country.
A strong side will be needed against Norwich, despite the hosts’ poor form, and memories of the recent visit to Boundary Park mean a strong side is also needed only a few days later. Moyes has options in his squad that have gone underused - Bryan Oviedo’s played 15 times for Everton this season, Thomas Hitzlsperger just seven - but whether or not he has enough for both league and cup remains to be seen.
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