Everton Club Focus – Tamworth victory shows signs of changing approach from Moyes

Everton overcame non-league Tamworth in the FA Cup third round on Saturday with a comfortable 2-0, a score line that perhaps left those expecting the Toffees to win by six or seven goals disappointed but, after the desperate performance against Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League fixture immediately preceding, a straightforward passage to the next round was exactly what David Moyes required.

The goals tally may underwhelm some but there were plenty of deeper positives to take from the match, not least the fresh look to Everton’s midfield and forward line. Landon Donovan – with Seamus Coleman at right-back – joined Marouane Fellaini, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Magaye Gueye in midfield, with James McFadden and Victor Anichebe in attack, but aside from the central pair of Fellaini and Bilyaletdinov, the positions were merely nominal. Donovan, Gueye, McFadden and Anichebe intertwined at will, with each spending time in the others position at various points of the game, providing Everton with movement and variation rarely seen at Goodison Park this season.

What the fluid four really needed was a midfield playmaker to exploit their runs and interchanges, a Luka Modric-figure to act as orchestrator. Without such a player Everton’s attacking was far from smooth but there were enough promising moments to suggest Moyes may have found a style worth pursuing. Finding that playmaker will prove as difficult as finding the goal scorer Everton sorely lack. Bilyaletdinov was given the opportunity against Tamworth, almost by default after injuries to Everton’s other midfielders, and the Russian entered a performance thoroughly in keeping with his usual inconsistency. There were moments of class from Bilyaletdinov, some nicely-weighted cross-field passes to maintain Everton’s moment and a stinging shot from distance, but also some lacklustre challenges and sloppy passes.

Bilyaletdinov, the subject of interest from German side Wolfsburg early in the transfer window, has struggled to settle on Merseyside. Adapting to a central midfield role in the middle of the season, having only ever played as a winger for Everton, may be a tough ask, but Bilyaletdinov’s Everton future may hinge on it. Supplying the forwards has been a problem for Everton all season – even before Mikel Arteta left, thanks to the Spaniard’s patchy form – and if Bilyaletdinov can act as Everton’s creative hub, with the muscular protection of Fellaini, he and the team would be facing a new lease of life. It will nevertheless require Bilyaletdinov shouldering a great deal of responsibility, playing with greater consistency, and not becoming quite so quickly disheartened when things do not go his way, a major fault in the midfielder’s game.

The XI selected by Moyes for Wednesday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur will certainly see a handful of changes – Leighton Baines will return at left-back while Coleman limped off in the second-half against Tamworth – and White Hart Lane is far from the ideal location to employ a relatively new approach. But in the long run Moyes may be best advised to persist with the fluidity on show from the front six against Tamworth and Bilyaletdinov in central midfield since, without the funds to add to his squad, every possibility must be examined to get the best out of what he already has.

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