Club Focus – Everton – Heitinga form and thoughts of a move proving a conundrum for Moyes

The four-game unbeaten run Everton currently enjoy has been punctuated by some much-improved performances from a number of key players. One player, however, whose form continues to be a concern on and off-the-field, is Netherlands international John Heitinga.

Twice now in recent weeks quotes purporting to be from the Dutchman have surfaced in which he has hinted at a desire to leave Everton. The most recent of which, where Heitinga confirmed he would be interested in joining Bayern Munich in January drew a response from David Moyes. He said: “Maybe his comments came from a bit of disappointment at not starting in the team. But, for me, he hadn’t been starting because I didn’t think he had regained his focus from the World Cup. I told him I didn’t think he was playing well and hadn’t regained his focus, and in a way he accepted that.

It is easy to see why Heitinga would be interested in a move to Bayern regardless of his form or status at Everton – the German side are one of the most prestigious outfits in Europe, indeed the world, and only a handful of players could genuinely see a move to Bavaria as anything but a step up. But when Heitinga’s form has been poor, to the point where his manager says so first privately to the player and then publicly at a press conference, any semblance of angling for a move away, looking to new, perhaps more lucrative, pastures is ill-timed at best. It is important to note that Heitinga has not vociferously asked for a transfer, and it is only eight months since Heitinga told The Guardian: “(Everton) has made me happy. From the people upstairs to the dressing room, I’ve been one of the team from the start.

But the fact remains Heitinga is not performing well, something made all-the-more frustrating as Everton fans have seen Heitinga enter some excellent showings in the second half of last season from the same deep midfield position he held against both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. In both the aforementioned games Heitinga was subbed off after around 70 minutes, and while part of the reason for his withdrawal against Spurs was Rafael van der Vaart’s switch from central midfield to a wider role, leaving Heitinga without a specific man to mark in front of the back four, as much if not more was due to his disappointing performance. If Heitinga was playing well the versatility he has shown throughout his career could have come into play again, but instead Moyes chose to remove his No 5 and push Phil Neville into midfield.

Neville was also moved into midfield after 72 minutes of the Merseyside derby, with Tony Hibbert both times the man introduced in Heitinga’s place, and the jubilation felt by Evertonians overshadowed any deep analysis of each player’s performance, when it would have been churlish to criticise immeadiatly after what was an excellent result. After missing the draw at Fulham and win at Birmingham City, Heitinga has failed to complete a full 90 minutes in either of the two following games, and was at fault for Hatem Ben Arfa’s winning goal when Newcastle United came to Goodison Park, allowing the winger to turn back onto his strongest foot. Heitinga has a future at Everton, if he wants it, but performances must improve.

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