Saha’s rejuvenation really began earlier this month. Against Tottenham Hotspur Saha entered what at that point was his best display of the season, scoring the opening goal and playing with a similar all-round excellence as against Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea on Saturday. After a lacklustre season Saha was a revelation against Spurs, netting only his second goal of the season and looking dangerous throughout, certainly more dangerous in those 90 minutes than at any other point since August. Many at the time credited the presence of Jermaine Beckford in tandem with Saha as the reason for the Frenchman’s improvement, the thinking being that a legitimate strike partner rather than the halfway house of Tim Cahill allowed Saha to play his natural game. There may have been some truth in that – Saha was struggling and another forward to share the burden could have been just what he needed. But against Chelsea, Saha led the line alone and surpassed himself.
It could be entirely co-incidental that Everton rose to beat Tottenham and hammer Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup with Saha in the starting XI, then when injury struck collapsed in the first half against Liverpool (rallying to a draw in the second) and played with utter incompetence against West Ham United last week, only to regroup once the No 8 had returned against Chelsea. But since his goal against Spurs – also the last game Cahill played before departing for international duty – Saha has been Everton’s most dangerous player. That third minute strike exorcised the demons of not having scored in the league since February 2010 (two goals against Chelsea) and with Beckford lightening the load, the pressure was released. There is also the possibility that with Cahill toiling on the other side of the world Saha felt, as one of Everton’s most experienced players, that someone had to pick up the slack left by the talismanic midfielder, and that it should be him. Whatever the cause, Saha’s last few performances have been amongst his best in an Everton shirt.
Indeed, Saturday’s display was arguably Saha’s best since the last time he faced Chelsea at Goodison Park, in February 2010, when he scored twice in a 2-1 win. That night John Terry had an even loser hold on the 33-year-old than he did from Leighton Baines’ corner at the weekend, as Saha could, but for a missed penalty, have had a hat-trick. The Saha that terrorised Terry last February and again on Saturday is a player to strike fear into the heart of any Premier League centre-back, and inspire hope in any Everton supporter. The elegant, enigmatic King Louis looks set to reign once more.