THE January transfer window transformed Everton’s season for the better last year.
THE January transfer window transformed Everton’s season for the better last year. This time, though, David Moyes will hope it doesn’t have the reverse effect.
The failure to bring in more new faces last month is already proving a problem.
Moyes was right to say his players looked tired after defeat at Manchester United.
They appeared leggy and, for whatever reason, lacked sparkle.
The squad is threadbare and a couple of players are clearly in need of a rest. But most of the players know they are going to be playing every week.
There is no real competition for places, and Moyes can only shuffle things about a little bit without weakening the team.
Everton would benefit from a mid-season break, a few days away. Maybe they could do something after the FA Cup game at Oldham.
You cannot overstate what an impact buying new players has in a dressing room. It perks everybody up.
Look at what happened last January with Nikica Jelavic, Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson and, for a while, Landon Donovan coming in.
Obviously, Leroy Fer failed a medical last month, but the deal was done so late it left Everton no time to bring in another replacement.
Everton weren’t helped by losing Sylvain Distin before kick-off at Old Trafford and the way John Heitinga has been playing at the moment probably left many fearing a defeat was on the cards.
As such, Moyes’s men circled the wagons before they needed to, and the game was over at half-time.
There was never any suggestion Everton could fight back.
Phil Jones did a number on Marouane Fellaini, and that might be something other teams look at.
Fellaini will have to learn to deal with such close attention, but Everton failed to make inroads elsewhere.
Sunday was the first of several tough away games between now and the end of the season, and the difficulty will be that tiredness I have mentioned.
With everybody fit and fresh, I’d back Everton to give anybody a game. But this stage of the season is where Moyes and his coaching staff will really earn their money by squeezing every last ounce from the players.
We keep saying this is Everton’s best chance to finish in the top four, but it’s going to be tough as the bigger squads are starting to count. Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea can change things dramatically from the bench because of their quality. Everton can’t.
That said, Arsenal could be distracted by the Champions League and Tottenham have been on such a good run they are bound to lose soon. Everton have to keep hanging on in there.
Everton have to sidestep a shock at Oldham on Saturday – defeat there could completely derail the season.
I don’t think Moyes will prioritise the FA Cup, however. It’s too early for something like that. And, apart from the League Cup, I don’t think a lot of the top teams field weakened teams in any competition.
Such is the pressure now on managers, they just have to try to be as good as possible in every single game.