The international week has seen Seamus Coleman, Louis Saha and Jack Rodwell diagnosed with injuries that threaten to keep them out for much of the rest of the season, bitter blows to Everton’s meagre forward department and another pull on a midfield already stretched to near breaking point. A dearth of strikers has plagued Everton all season but Saha’s latest injury heaps the pressure back on Jermaine Beckford and Victor Anichebe to deliver the goals, while the loss of Coleman and Rodwell combined with the absences of Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta mean Everton will have a strong midfield sitting in the treatment room but not on the pitch, and with the stricken trio may go Everton’s already faint hopes of sneaking into the Europa League.
How to replace Coleman, Saha and Rodwell is a question Moyes has the best part of a week to answer. Beckford’s eight goals this season put him above Anichebe in the pecking order but after that pair the well is distinctly dry, but it may be drier still in midfield. Leon Osman, John Heitinga and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov remain – although only in the case of Osman could that be considered a blessing on this season’s form – while the fourth midfield spot will likely be taken by Tim Cahill, requiring a change in formation as Cahill is usually the principle support to a lone striker, and has suffered injury concerns of his own since January. Moyes may then be forced to look to some promising youngsters and blood them before the end of the season, with French winger Magaye Gueye, a £1m summer signing, a possibility. Ross Barkley, 17, highly-rated and versatile, capable of playing in defence or attack as well as midfield, could also be a solution but he himself is still recuperating from a broken leg suffered on England youth duty last year. Jose Baxter, a perennial substitute and occasional late replacement is on the list as well.
Throwing in a talented young player and hoping they rise to the challenge is a practice that has served Everton well for generations, ever since Colin Harvey made his debut against Inter in the San Siro as an 18-year-old. Since then, Everton have been forced by necessity as much as anything to put their faith in Michael Ball, Francis Jeffers and Richard Dunne, who all left for inflated transfer fees once established, as well as Wayne Rooney, an exception who demanded inclusion because of his sensational talent. Anichebe and James Vaughan were handed debuts because of injuries while Rodwell stood out in the youth set-up from a young age, and Osman’s persistence and hard work earned him a place in the first team after a series of loan spells. The time may be right, then, for another generation of Everton youngsters to break through again, thanks to the ever-present injury crisis that surrounds Goodison Park.