Everton Club Focus – Moyes facing questions over selection and system

Everton’s 1-0 home defeat by Stoke city on Sunday has brought the spotlight on the failings of David Moyes’ team, not least the anaemic strike force and lack of creativity in midfield. There is however a pervading feeling that despite the failings of the current side, the manager is not getting the best out of what he does have available.

Since 2004-05, when Tim Cahill moved to Goodison Park, Everton have played largely the same way – one striker with the Australian in support. There have been experiments with two forwards – combinations of James Beattie, Andy Johnson and Yakubu – but never did Everton look as comfortable with a forward pair than the one-up one-off system Moyes introduced seven years ago. For a spell, primarily between autumn 2008 and the end of that season, when Everton reached the FA Cup final, the formation subtly changed to a 4-2-3-1, with Mikel Arteta in his pomp and, even after the Spaniard was injured, Everton produced some sparkling football as well as positive results.

Neither results nor performances are coming today, however. Everton have lost more often than they have won this season, and conceded more goals than they have scored. Perhaps more telling, the games that have brought three points have not seen Everton truly dominate. Three points were practically stolen from Blackburn Rovers when the home side missed two penalties and Everton converted one of their own with the last kick of the game, the home triumph over Wigan Athletic was in the balance until the dying minutes, as was the win at Fulham, and the defeat of Wolverhampton Wanderers was as competitive as the 2-1 score line suggests.

The away success at Bolton Wanderers was mitigated by the home side losing a man in the first-half, and Bolton had chances to level the scores once Everton did take the lead. Walkovers are rare in the Premier League but rarely Everton have looked superior to any opposition this season.

Moyes’ preference for a single striker and essentially a five-man midfield has long been a point critics jump on when results go against the team – those same antagonists are silent when the same formation yields a victory, incidentally. But it is a long time, if ever, that Everton looked so toothless under Moyes however many strikers were on the pitch. Everton’s form and performances have been such this season that even Moyes’ staunchest supporters are questioning the manager’s tactics and, while stopping far short of calling for his head, are at least beseeching the Scot to attempt something different. Everton were grimly predictable against Stoke and could still be playing the Potters now without having found the net.

Moyes’ squad is small but there are players who could offer alternatives to the dirge on show at the weekend. Young winger Magaye Gueye, raw but energetic, and home grown midfielder Ross Barkley, tipped across football as a star of the future, are just two. Or a change in formation, be it 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 5-3-2, could be the solution. Questions are certainly being asked, but does Moyes have the answers?

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