SUNDAY’S defeat to Chelsea highlighted both Everton’s ability to compete at the top of the table and also the squad’s shortcomings, particularly in terms of depth.
With the transfer window now upon us, player trading could provide the key differential to our fortunes in the second half of the campaign just as it did 12 months ago.Š
Against Chelsea we dominated the first 30 minutes and over the 90 minutes had more shots and struck the woodwork three times to our visitors’ zero.
Moyes had sprung a surprise in terms of shape by playing Pienaar central behind Jelavic and Anichebe on the left.
Heitinga was tasked with hitting diagonals for the Nigerian to attack in a physical miss-match against Azpilicueta.
The much maligned forward won more aerials (six) than anyone from either side.
Pienaar’s role was twofold; on the ball he would link midfield and attack and when possession was lost would press Luiz. As well as his goal and creativity Pienaar attempted more tackles than any player on the pitch.Š
There was always the worry that the pressure game we had deployed would be hard to maintain for 90 minutes and this was to prove to be the case.
Chelsea could afford to bring in players such as Lampard, who had been rested for the last seven days, and Ramires, who hadn’t started any of the festive fixtures – and both would play crucial roles as the pendulum swung Chelsea’s way.
In comparison our key attacking triumvirate of Pienaar, Osman and Baines had played pretty much every minute in all three of our games in the last eight days. Š
Our bench looked bereft of options to give Chelsea anything new to think about as fatigue set in with Barkley’s cameo an example of why Moyes has been loathe to give him more game time. With Gibson out for a month it’s likely we will go back in for Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and if so it would probably be worth Barkley heading back to Hillsborough where he can continue to develop his game.
At the back, our inability to keep a clean sheet in 16 games would suggest there is a chronic defensive issue which should be our number one priority.
Few would question the logic of bringing back Joleon Lescott to partner Jagielka to plug these gaps, after all the duo’s 17 clean sheets in 2008-09 is still the best of any season in the Moyes era, although competition for Howard who has had a poor season is equally important.
You get the feeling this could be our best chance of getting fourth spot and I’d surprised if we didn’t bring in at least three players to freshen things up – probably from the loan market.