Rarely can there have been a better day as Everton manager for David Moyes than Tuesday January 31 2012. Not only did Moyes see his side defeat Premier League leaders Manchester City with a gutsy performance of the highest order, but Moyes also signed a new striker, Nikica Jelavic, from Glasgow Rangers, re-signed South African winger Steven Pienaar on a six-month loan deal, and shipped out the mis-firing and highly-paid Louis Saha.
The later flurry of transfer activity and the triumph over Roberto Mancini’s petrodollar-fuelled title-chasers also meant January ended on a positive, after a month that included some disappointing results, particularly the home draw with Blackburn Rovers, the home defeat to Bolton Wanderers and the meek capitulation at Tottenham Hotspur. But on a brighter note progression to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup has been secured with barely a scare, and Everton have not lost in the four games since their White Hart Lane defeat. With a trip to Wigan Athletic to come this weekend, Everton have a good chance of stretching that run to five.
It is on the transfer front that Everton have succeeded to the greatest extent, however. The departures of Saha and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov have been accounted for by the signings of Jelavic and Pienaar – the latter swap for the Russian and the South African is undeniably a step up; the former is more a wait-and-see exchange – while Everton have emerged stronger in numbers as well with the temporary return of Landon Donovan and the permanent signing of Tuesday’s goal scorer Darron Gibson. Donovan, as expected, has hit the ground running on his second Goodison Park excursion, creating both goals in the FA Cup win over Fulham, while Gibson has taken a little longer to settle in, but his match-winning strike against Manchester City should speed up the process.
Jelavic may be something of an unknown quantity when it comes to the rigours of the Premier League but it is, sadly, for the best that Saha moved on. Saha, who will forever have a place in Evertonian hearts for his 25-second FA Cup final goal against Chelsea, had looked increasingly lethargic this season and was fast running out of credit with the Blues supporters. Only two goals all season confirms Saha as a principal reason for Everton’s goal-scoring problems and, while the major problem has been Everton’s inability to create good opportunities for the strikers, Saha has missed some relatively straightforward chances. Around the likes of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale, Saha should be provided with plenty of assists, if he can shake off this season’s poor form and capitalise.
Jelavic may have been expected to replace Saha and go straight into the Everton XI but that would be incredibly harsh on Denis Stracqualursi, the burly Argentinean who is slowly winning over his critics. Strac, as he is known at Goodison, may lack in technical ability but more than makes up for it with sheer hard work. But simply having the option of Stracqualursi or Jelavic, Royston Drenthe or Pienaar, confirms what an excellent month of transfer it was for Moyes.
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