Everton sailed into an FA Cup quarter-final with Sunderland by virtue of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Blackpool on Saturday, putting David Moyes’ side just a game away from a return to Wembley and the FA Cup semi-final.
Indeed, it is customary for Everton to slip up more often against the likes of Blackpool than Sunderland, such as last season, when Championship Reading unceremoniously dumped the 2009 finalists out of the competition. A common theme of Everton under Moyes is failing to win when it is most expected and winning when it is least, seen in Everton’s last home defeat, to struggling Bolton, and their last two home Premier League victories, against title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea.
The momentum generated by such excellent league victories and a smooth progression in the Cup cannot now be allowed to dissipate with the Toffees’ weekend off. As a result of Liverpool reaching the Carling Cup final the Merseyside derby scheduled for next weekend has been rearranged, leaving Everton with a rare moment of calm in the hubbub of the season. But at a time when Everton players and supporters are relishing each match, the break arguably comes at the worst possible moment.
On the other hand, Moyes was without around half a dozen players for the visit of Ian Holloway’s Tangerines, while Leighton Baines played despite suffering from illness, so the game-free weekend will at least provide the manager with a chance to get some of his unfit players back in the fold. The return of Steven Pienaar, cup-tied against Blackpool, will also be a boost.
Landon Donovan, another missing against Blackpool, due to ‘flu, has since returned to the LA Galaxy, but his replacement against the Championship side, Royston Drenthe, impressed with a goal and an assist. Drenthe has, however, struggled to replicate that sort of form from one minute to the next, never mind in consecutive games, but without Donovan and with Pienaar unavailable in the Cup, the Dutch winger will have more of a role to play than before Christmas.
With Drenthe’s Real Madrid contract expiring in the summer, if he wants to convince Moyes to make his loan a more permanent arrangement, consistent and responsible performances between now and May are the way do to it. Nevertheless, the majority of Everton’s supporters have taken to Drenthe, impressed by his livewire dribbling down either flank and powerful shooting. Moyes appears less convinced, regularly leaving the 24-year-old out of the starting XI, but if Drenthe can inspire Everton up the league and to the FA Cup final, he may be exciting and frustrating Evertonians for a while longer.
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