Everton look back to get on a winning track when Norwich City visit Goodison Park on Saturday, but David Moyes will have to do without the team’s player of the season so far, Marouane Fellaini. Supporters will be forgiven for hoping Fellaini’s absence is not a harbinger of things to come.
Fellaini is suspended for the meeting with the Canaries after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Reading, but with the games starting to come thick and fast as the festive period approaches – with Arsenal heading to Merseyside in midweek – there are worse occasions for Fellaini to have a brief, non-injury enforced break. That being said, if Everton do not cope without their talismanic midfielder and surrender points to Norwich, that view will find little support in hindsight.
At least, though, Fellaini is only missing for one game, rather than permanently as would be the case if the vultures circling over Goodison were allowed to swoop for the 25-year-old. Fellaini himself has again spoken about his future and the chances of him remaining at Everton past the end of the season, revealing that if Moyes takes his side into the Champions League then he will stay a little longer.
While the caveat of a top four finish is not exactly encouraging the fact that Fellaini is not running for the first club waving a big cheque in his direction is something to be positive about. Nevertheless, Evertonians may wish the phrase “no comment” would enter Fellaini’s vocabulary sooner rather than later.
Regardless of the future of Fellaini, Moyes must find a way to play without the player who this season has plundered half-a-dozen goals before the end of November. The chances of the manager deviating from the 4-4-1-1 formation that has served the side so well are always slim, but, quite understandably, there is no like-for-like replacement for Fellaini in the squad – how could there be another one like him?
If Kevin Mirallas is fit then Fellaini’s compatriot could be deployed more centrally, but that would run the risk of removing what it is that makes Mirallas so dangerous, namely his ability to cut inside from the flank and overload the opposing midfield. Yet that still seems the most promising option available to Moyes, and opens up the possibility of Mirallas and Steven Pienaar interchanging between the No. 10 position and the left wing.
The match with Norwich then will be a test of the depth of Moyes’ squad and the innovations the manager can conjure up to replace a vital part of his team. It is also a fixture that looks more difficult today than it did a few weeks ago following the upturn in form of Chris Hughton’s side. But it remains a game Everton have to win. Not only for their own chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, but as well, it seems, their chances of keeping hold of Fellaini once the season comes to an end.
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