Everton Club Focus – Donovan return boosts Toffees ahead of Norwich match

Everton host Norwich City on Saturday in the first of their crunch Premier League double-header. Swansea City come to Goodison Park next week but far from looking past the Canaries, the Toffees must realise Paul Lambert’s side are potentially very dangerous opponents. Preparations for the fixture were handed a boost late on Thursday when it was announced Everton had reached an agreement “in principle” for Landon Donovan to return on loan in January.

An Everton statement read: “Everton have reached an agreement in principle to bring Landon Donovan back to the club on a short-term loan from LA Galaxy…[Donovan] would be eligible to play in Everton’s game against Bolton Wanderers on 4 January, with the loan lasting until after the Merseyside derby at Anfield on 25 February.” Though a shorter period than the United States international’s first spell on Merseyside in 2010, when he stayed until mid-March, the boost Donovan will give the club on the field – and the supporters off it – is worth the sacrifice of those extra two weeks.

A player with devastating speed but, more importantly, the intelligence to know how to use it to maximum effect, Donovan was used as a right-sided winger last time. With Everton desperately short on attacking potency, and to a lesser extent the emergence of Seamus Coleman on Evertons’s right, the 29-year-old may be used more centrally. He would certainly be an interesting foil to any of Louis Saha, Tim Cahill or Apostolos Vellios. With his pace and smart runs, as well as solid all-round ability, Donovan adds something the Everton squad is severely lacking, and the two months he will wear Everton colours could be enough to push Everton further up the league and build some momentum as the season heads to a climax just as Donovan departs.

It is in fixtures such as these next two that Donovan would actually be most useful, but without him the Toffees must find a way past first Norwich and then Swansea. To that end, Louis Saha will be particularly vital. The Frenchman, who played an hour against Arsenal last weekend, has as usual battled his own body in an effort to keep fit and available, but he remains Everton’s most potent striker – not the backhanded compliment it appears, as Saha’s mix of power and elegance cannot be replicated by any of the raw strikers competing for a starting place. How well Saha fits in Everton’s lone striker formation – if he still has the physicality to play the role – would normally be a question worth examining. Since the manager shows no desire to play two forwards however, the answer may be meaningless.

The return of Donovan might change Moyes’ attitude towards a strike duo, given that in Coleman, Everton are reasonably stocked for right wingers and the opposite is the case for strikers. It will almost certainly be a solo forward against Norwich and Swansea however, and Saha will, fitness as always permitting, be that forward. He just needs to hold the fort a little longer until the Donovan-led cavalry arrive.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton v Norwich

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