Everton Club Focus – Toffees prepare for second coming of Donovan

Everton host Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday night with a squad bolstered by the return of Landon Donovan and off the back of a hard-won three points against West Bromwich Albion in the Toffees’ last Premier League outing. The on-loan LA Galaxy forward will then be tasked with helping Everton maintain the momentum generated by the Hawthorns victory.

The Everton Donovan joins in 2012 does not on the surface differ much from the one which he first found in 2010. Donovan’s first game of that spell, a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in which Donovan’s corner created the opening Everton goal, featured an XI of which nine players could again feature against Bolton, Donovan included. Only Lucas Neil and Steven Pienaar have departed from the side that lined up against Arsenal on January 9, 2010 – compared to the Gunners, who have only six players from that match remaining in their squad today.

To show this is not an aberration, in one of Donovan’s last Everton games, a 5-1 victory over Hull City where Donovan came off the bench to score, Everton named eight players still with the club today and a further three on the substitutes’ bench.

That sort of familiarity will help Donovan bed in at Goodison Park again, theoretically quicker and more comfortably than he did two years ago. If Donovan hit the ground running at the Emirates Stadium, when his performance was described by the BBC as: “…giving Armand Traore (the Arsenal left-back) a torrid time throughout…”, expectations are understandably high for an immediate impact this time around. Donovan himself has done little to downplay these hopes, revealing that he believes he is a better player now than he was in 2010.

Not only will Donovan find plenty of recognisable faces around Finch Farm but Everton are in a similar league position too – 11th with 23 points from 20 games in 2010, 10th with 24 points from 18 games today, a slight improvement but little to write home about. By the time of the Hull triumph, where Donovan netted a spectacular fourth goal, Everton had moved up four places and gained an impressive 18 points from a possible 27. A similar return this time would see David Moyes’ hope that Everton can surge up the table in the second half of the season come to fruition.

Nevertheless, the current vintage of Everton differ from that of 2010 in two key respects – the chronic lack of goals and the inability of the side to create clear openings. Shorn of the kind of creativity Donovan found in 2010 – particularly from Pienaar and Mikel Arteta – Everton are much more workmanlike. And Louis Saha, who netted 15 goals in 2009-10 – although non past February – has scored just twice this season, while Tim Cahill, on target 10 times that season, has not found the net in more than a year. For that reason, many expect Donovan to take a more central berth after playing on the right wing in 2010, and the 29-year-old may indeed be central to Everton’s prospects this season.

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

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