Ordinarily stationed on the left of Everton’s midfield, Pienaar has been the Blues most consistent creative presence this season. Cahill has received much praise for his goals – and deservedly so – but it is Pienaar who has looked the most likely to create worthwhile opportunities. Pienaar and Leighton Baines have formed an almost telepathic link on Everton’s left hand side, complimenting each other perfectly, but with Cahill due to spend the next few weeks in Qatar wearing Australia’s green and gold, their bond is about to be broken as Moyes seeks to replace his top scorer.
Pienaar has been picked out by Moyes as the man to fill Cahill’s role playing just off Everton’s lone striker, the connection between the midfield and whichever of Everton’s misfiring strikers is chosen to lead the line. But Pienaar is a vastly different player to Cahill, and the transition may not be smooth. Cahill has two major benefits to Everton – his ability with his back to goal, and ability at attacking a crossed aerial ball from deep. Pienaar, at 5ft7in, is unlikely to win many headers or physical battles with opposing centre-backs, but the burst of speed and quick feet that allow him to skip away from onrushing defenders could open up new opportunities Cahill’s more robust style closes off. The form of Cahill has made changing his position a risky strategy but with his absence now enforced, the variation Pienaar offers could be the boost needed by Everton’s anaemic forward line.
Ironically, the added responsibility about to be placed on Pienaar comes at a time when his Everton future is even less clear than before. Pienaar’s soon-to-expire contract has made him a regular name in transfer gossip columns and the opening of the transfer window has only exacerbated the rumours, despite Moyes’ insistence the player will not leave before the summer. With Cahill potentially missing the entire month of January, Moyes will be loathe to lose Pienaar too, particularly for the much-reduced fee an out-of-contract player commands, and Everton’s goal scoring problem is not going to be solved by letting Pienaar move to the capital. And although Pienaar is not a prolific goal scorer – never scoring more than five goals in a season – the four goals he scored in 2009/10 would be a useful contribution between now and May.
A loan signing or two may still arrive at Goodison, or Moyes may find another way of revitalising his goal-shy strikers, but for Everton to shake their current malaise senior players such as Pienaar have to step up, and Cahill’s absence has given Pienaar the perfect opportunity, wherever his future lies.