Everton Club Focus – Toffees prepare farewell to Donovan after Blackpool FA Cup fixture

Landon Donovan’s second loan spell at Everton comes to an end after David Moyes’ side meet Blackpool in the FA Cup on Saturday. The United States international is again proving a popular figure amongst his teammates and the supporters, as well as another shrewd loan acquisition.

In his nine Toffees appearances Donovan has created six goals, an impressive number and a tangible example of the impact the 29-year-old has had. As well as providing delightful crosses into the box of the calibre that produced two goals against Fulham in the FA Cup, or through balls capitalised on by Victor Anichebe at Aston Villa or Denis Stracqualursi against Chelsea, it is Donovan’s pace on the right of midfield that has been of equal import. With Donovan on the wing Everton have been able to counter-attack more dangerously than when the more perfunctory Leon Osman holds the position, or even the equally-speedy Royston Drenthe, who can match Donovan for pace but comes up devastatingly short in the consistency stakes.

Not only has Donovan been admired by colleagues and fans, but the feeling appears to be mutual. In an interview with Everton’s official website, Donovan said: “ There is something magical about this club that captures you the minute you step through the door – and it doesn’t let you go.” Such words are more heartfelt than the commonly-heard platitudes from player to club and they echo similar sentiments expressed by the legendary Alan Ball, who said: “Once Everton has touched you nothing will be the same.” Donovan appears to have found a home away from home on the blue half of Merseyside and has himself recently spoken of the possibility of a permanent move, a transfer that would be warmly welcomed by all parties.

Whatever Donovan’s long-term future may be, Everton will have to cope without the No 9 for the rest of the season following the Blackpool fixture. There are a few leading candidates as replacements. Anichebe, Drenthe, Osman – when fit again – and Seamus Coleman, back from injury with an hour for the reserves in midweek, are Moyes’ four options, assuming Steven Pienaar will be used primarily on the left of midfield, in tandem with Leighton Baines. Each offers something their competitors lack – Anichebe is more physical than the rest, Drenthe more unpredictable, Osman the most consistent and Coleman, a converted full-back whose long-term future may be in defence, is unsurprisingly the most defensively sound. With no standout candidate Moyes may be best advised to pick and choose depending on the opposition.

Before coping with the loss of Donovan, Everton will have to live without Pienaar against Blackpool, as the South African is cup-tied after appearing for Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the competition. Drenthe is expected to replace his fellow loanee, a chance for the Dutchman to show he can step in after Donovan heads back to LA Galaxy. Thus far Drenthe has shone only sporadically, but will need to find consistency to fill the big shoes left behind by the popular Donovan.

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