Everton on Boxing Day made it three Premier League games without defeat courtesy of Leighton Baines’ penalty against Sunderland, one of the more preposterous spot-kick awards there is likely to be this season. But with two draws and a win in their last three games, David Moyes’ side have picked up some momentum heading into the New Year transfer window.
Drawing at home with one newly-promoted side, narrowly beating another and then drawing with a team 14th in the division might not appear a particularly excellent set of results, but when it is remembered that Everton lost six games out of seven earlier in the season it takes on a more impressive sheen. The manner the point arrived – with referee Howard Webb signalling a penalty after Leon Osman simply mis-kicked the ball and fell over – may be extremely frustrating to Sunderland fans and even somewhat embarrassing to Evertonians, but in such a tight and compact table, every point matters to Everton, however they arrive.
Some of Everton’s season-long failings were nevertheless on show at the Stadium of Light. It is no co-incidence it took a set-piece for the Toffees to score, since Everton are almost congenitally incapable of carving open the opposition to create a clear goal-scoring chance and, even if they do manage to find a promising opportunity, the Everton front two of Louis Saha and Tim Cahill have scored one league goal between them in 2011-12 – although, damningly, Cahill and Saha do not trail Everton’s leading goal-scorers too far, since Baines, Osman and Apostolos Vellios lead the pack with a less-than-resounding three goals each. But the Everton inability to unlock a stubborn defence or take a chance when it does arrive has plagued the team all season. Moyes has next month to put it right.
Multitudinous names have been linked with a switch to the blue half of Merseyside, although Landon Donovan is the only confirmed addition thus far. Bristol City’s Nicky Maynard is the latest to be rumoured to be heading to Goodison Park, although the former Crewe Alexandra striker, with his contract set to expire in the coming summer, has plenty of admirers. Maynard could join Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly, although the Northern Irish star is attracting almost as many approving glances, with Fulham and Liverpool also strongly in the running. Different sources put different teams in the driving seat, but it is widely known that Everton outbid both the Reds and the Welsh outfit in an attempt to lure Donnelly across the Irish Sea.
Moves then are clearly being made to solve Everton’s goal-scoring problem, but finding a solution to the problem of who supplies the goals may actually be more difficult. Moyes has a set way of playing and since the manager shows no inclination to change it, any new face has to fit in to Everton’s 4-4-1-1 system. With Cahill ensconced as the 1 behind the striker, there appears little room for a player with full creative licence. Instead, those players are consigned to the wings, but leaving them on the periphery may not be the best place for them in Everton’s current inspiration-free predicament.
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