Everton’s last Premier League fixture before the closure of the transfer window saw David Moyes’ side defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 thanks to a Leighton Baines brace, but the match gave the manager plenty to think about as he ponders any late moves on Thursday.
Moyes’ pursuit of Leroy Fer and its collapse has been well-documented and showed Moyes’ hand as to where he wants to strengthen while he still can. The centre of midfield has become something of a problem position for Everton, at least as long as Darron Gibson has been injured.
The former Manchester United midfielder returned as a second-half substitute against the Baggies and not before time. Everton were at their best earlier in the season when Gibson was partnering Leon Osman in the middle. Against West Brom Phil Neville was teamed with Marouane Fellaini but the captain is increasingly a fish out of water in midfield.
Simple passes went astray and there was a distinct lack of communication between Neville and some of his teammates, although the skipper was not the only culprit and midfield was not the only area in which it was a problem.
Gibson though offers a great deal of composure in midfield and has the technique to play the sort of one-touch passes that Everton need to maintain the tempo of their game. Against West Brom, in the first-half until Baines intervened, Everton were struggling to break down the opposition, largely because they were so slow in moving the ball around.
West Brom were given the chance to regroup, get numbers behind the ball, and force Everton into a more difficult pass or a hopeful long ball. Swansea City employed a similar strategy and took a goalless draw back to Wales. Everton cannot rely on Baines to produce a moment of magic every time they are faced with an opposition content to draw.
If Fer had arrived – or Everton manage to snaffle someone else in the deadline day maelstrom – then Fellaini will likely only be used in midfield when there is a shortage of other options, or when Everton are chasing a goal and want as many attack minded players on the pitch as possible.
Fer would have given Moyes options, but if he does have the best part of £9million to spend there should be a number of other candidates – whether deals for any of them will go through is another matter entirely.
The performance of Victor Anichebe against West Brom may lessen the need for Moyes to chase a striker on Thursday. The Nigerian entered his hardest-working showing for a while, and led the line with all the force that his physical size suggests he should. Against a towering Albion defence that is no mean feat.
Moyes is not the sort of manager to make snap judgements based on one game but the win over Albion has likely strengthened his desire to add a midfielder to the squad, but also reduced the need for a striker.
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