If there is anything positive to come from the injury suffered by Marouane Fellaini that now threatens to rule him out of Everton’s next few Premier League matches, it is that it occurred during an international week, giving David Moyes ample time to come up with an alternative system without the talismanic Belgian. That is still easier said than done, however.
Thereafter is the first Merseyside derby of the season, always a game looked towards with relish but even more so when Everton are in sublime form and Liverpool are stuttering under their new manager. Last year’s meeting at Goodison Park was spoiled when Jack Rodwell was dismissed for a foul on Luis Suarez – the red card was later rescinded – but when Rodwell departed, so too did Everton’s chances of winning the game. It must be hoped that the same is not true if Fellaini is not ready to return in time for the fixture.
How to replace Fellaini is a problem almost as taxing for Moyes as the question of how to handle him has been for opposition managers. Moyes will not decide too early. With such a break between the injury and the resumption of domestic football there is plenty of time for a member of the Everton squad to make their case in training, assuming a replacement is needed at all. If it is, there are a number of options open to Moyes, each, while not as effective as Fellaini, has their own individual merits.
The option of moving Kevin Mirallas from the right wing to a central role supporting Nikica Jelavic would likely reside quite near the top of the list. It is where Mirallas has been most effective anyway, coming in off the flank to overload the opposition in midfield – witness Jelavic’s first goal against Southampton, created by a one-two between Mirallas and Fellaini, as evidence. Jelavic and Mirallas appear to have something of a connection, one that would only be bolstered if they were partnered in attack.
Steven Naismith and Victor Anichebe would rank as the other two possibilities, unless Moyes chooses to push Steven Pienaar inside, but that would have the detriment of breaking up the South African’s relationship with Leighton Baines and potentially doing more harm than good.
Anichebe would be the closest thing to Fellaini’s physical presence, even if the Nigerian does not know quite how to use his size as well as Fellaini, while Naismith is by reputation a player of clever movement, although he has yet to truly show that at Everton since his summer move. But what is clear is that Moyes at least has options in the event Fellaini is ruled out, but the most ideal result will be a swift return to fitness for the popular midfielder.
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