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Why Everton are feeling blue

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15 Jan 2011 01:35:47

Why Everton are feeling blue

'I would expect Liverpool to improve under Roy Hodgson. Tottenham are on the upswing, given their form last season and Harry Redknapp's experience. But the interesting one is Everton. They have got all their players back now.' - Sir Alex Ferguson, August 13, 2010 When Manchester United's manager made his prediction on the eve of the new Barclays Premier League campaign, he articulated the thoughts of many about Everton. Here Sportsmail examines why David Moyes's side have failed to live up to the exalted billing they were given before a ball was kicked - and weighs up the prospects for 2011. STUTTERING STRIKE FORCE Moyes usually errs on the side of caution before the season starts and tends to tell his squad that getting to 40 points is the main objective. This time, though, he was much more bullish and the message before the first trip to Blackburn was that Everton would 'give it a right good go'. Great expectations: Everton manager David Moyes Yet there was a nagging doubt he did not have a sufficient goal threat and that has proved the case. Louis Saha has only scored once in the Premier League, Jermaine Beckford has regularly underwhelmed and Yakubu has been moved on. Had Tim Cahill not been in such outstanding form, scoring nine goals from his prominent midfield position, Everton's campaign would have been in total disarray. CREATIVE HUB This is the root of Everton's problems. The major investment last summer was to make Mikel Arteta the best paid player in the club's history, on £75,000 a week, and attempts were made to give Steven Pienaar a similar deal. That was hardly a surprise as over the last three seasons, they had a combined total of 54 assists. When they play well, Everton can destroy the best defences around and both players have numerous admirers. But this season their return has been dreadful. Arteta has scored twice but his only assist was a freekick that fell into the path of Cahill against Wolves on August 21. Pienaar has been responsible for teeing up just one goal - against Huddersfield in the Carling Cup. FEELING DEFLATED With great expectations came an increase in pressure and the more they failed to pick up results, the more the tension and annoyance grew in the squad. It was a source of enormous frustration to the players that they could not realise their manager's ambitions. Things reached such a level that following the 4-1 defeat against West Bromwich Albion on November 27, Moyes abandoned the idea of soft-soaping those who were underperforming and instead subjected them to what can best be described as a week of boot camp training. Double sessions became the norm at Finch Farm and Moyes let all those around him know how upset he was that Everton were flattering to deceive. Low point: Paul Scharner scores for West Brom in the 4-1 victory over Everton WHEELER DEALER It is a constant gripe of many Evertonians that chairman Bill Kenwright does not do enough to back Moyes in the transfer market. When they see teams like Stoke, Bolton, Birmingham and Sunderland paying big money for new signings, there is bewilderment that Everton cannot do the same. If there was a time to be bold, last summer was it. But there was a decision to stick with what they had. Hindsight is wonderful but, looking back, there is an argument that says Moyes should have sold Arteta to Manchester City so he could sign a top-class forward. With the endless search for investment showing no sign of reaching a successful conclusion, Moyes will have to continue to be inventive if he is to keep progressing Everton's squad but it must also be pointed out he is not working under impossible demands. Everton's annual wage bill now stands at more than £50million and Kenwright has given Moyes every penny he has raised from sales to re-invest. Other managers - one at Old Trafford springs to mind - have not been so lucky. BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS Don't believe it is all doom and gloom at Goodison Park. The progress of Irish midfielder Seamus Coleman has been one of the happiest themes of the campaign. The young man from Sligo plays with a youthful exuberance. A close friend of Jack Rodwell - a player widely tipped to play for England - Coleman has already repaid the £60,000 it cost to sign him from Sligo Rovers in 2009. INDOMITABLE SPIRIT When Everton ended a run of seven games without a win at Manchester City on December 20, the coach that the team travelled back to Merseyside on was effectively turned into a mobile disco. Rarely do you see squads mix like the one Moyes has assembled. Captain Phil Neville is key to fostering that spirit - hence the reason Tottenham's bid to sign him has been rebuffed. But others like the squad's prankster Leon Osman play their part and that is why it comes as no surprise when Everton get good results on the days they are expected to slip up. For that reason, even when times get challenging, Everton are always capable of clawing their way back into contention.  We need a hero: Kenny Dalglish issues battle cry with Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard out of Merseyside derbySpurs OK Birmingham's £6m Robbie Keane fee as Harry Redknapp bids £2m for Steven Pienaar  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Phil Neville, David Moyes, Harry Redknapp, Louis Saha, Bill Kenwright, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman Places: Birmingham, Liverpool, Bolton, United Kingdom


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