Club Focus – Everton – Taking the injury battle to the pitch

David Moyes hailed his players as “great” following the superb away result at league leaders Chelsea on Saturday. The Scot has not had an awful lot to smile about recently with injury worries casting a shadow over the Blues start to the season. The high scoring draw was their second in a week in the Premier League and although the goals were quite fortunate – the Everton boss will take whatever luck he can gather at present. Joseph Yobo has added to the injury crisis at Everton after the Nigerian was sidelined for a month but there is some welcome news – captain Phil Neville should return soon and Yakubu Aiyegbeni seems to be back to full fitness – pouncing on the score sheet on Saturday will be a big boost to his confidence. The goal machine is also likely to appear on Thursday when the toffees play host to Bate Borisov in the Europa League – as entry to the last 32 is already assured, Moyes will have a chance to rest his regulars.

Landon Donovan is also set to sign a loan deal with Everton and has been in talks with Moyes recently – fellow countryman Tim Howard praised the skilful midfielder/ striker stating he “will bring strength” to the Everton side. Although the move would be a loan deal it would certainly cover for the absence of Mikel Arteta who has certainly been a huge miss for the Blues this year, the creative Spaniard made seven assists last season and scored five of his own. The midfield maestro has a perfect set piece technique, and can deliver the ball with pace with a particular trait in crossing hard and low in front of the goalkeeper. This leads to chances from all areas of the pitch and Moyes will be ecstatic to see him return, however this will not be until early next year. A ruptured cruciate ligament will require tender care to achieve physical match fitness and once deemed able to play the magician will need to be nurtured back into the Premiership hardcore. The ex-Glasgow Rangers player was in splendid form last season with Everton only losing 26% of the games that Arteta started. This season they have lost seven from a possible 15. Arteta isn’t the only big name that the Blues miss, Phil Jagielka is also a long term worry and although replaced well at the weekend by Lucas Neill and John Heitinga, he has been sorely missed.

The Blues have now scored five goals in their last two matches against good opposition and the Toffee men will be hoping to continue this run in the Premier League. Louis Saha has scored two of those five and has had an outstanding campaign to date – as expected of a player holding such high merit. The Frenchman has been on prolific form netting 10 times in 11 starts in the league – form that grabs the attention of the clubs and the press as rumours begin circulating about the No 8 moving in the January transfer window. Big clubs will certainly be keeping an eye on the former Fulham and Manchester United front man and Moyes may be hard pressed to persuade him to stay.

The well earned point at Stamford Bridge on Saturday still leaves the Blues in a desolate 15th place in the league and they remain only three points from the relegation zone. With three league games coming up that Moyes will expect to take at least five points from – a good Christmas period could soon see the Blues season back on track. However a detrimental injury list has meant that the Merseyside club are going to suffer patches of poor form especially away from home. Whilst the squad looks to have more cover than previous years it is not big enough to plaster as many injuries as Everton have had.

Whilst Everton may not have the spending power and appeal of the top four, they are also unable to match the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City in this department. Everton have always competed over the last four to five seasons with the top clubs and always pushed for European football – this is a credit to Moyes who obviously has fewer resources than that of the managers above and around him.

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