Everton caution

Ahead of Everton's Super Sunday clash with Manchester United, Adam Bate wonders whether David Moyes will live to regret Everton's lack of transfer activity in January.

By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal.   Last Updated: 07/02/13 1:23pm

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David Moyes: Will he live to regret January transfer business?

David Moyes: Will he live to regret January transfer business?

Cautious optimism would be the best way to sum up the mood at Goodison Park at the moment. With the emphasis on the cautious. Everton are fifth in the Premier League, six points clear of rivals Liverpool and just four points behind Chelsea in third. Champions League football is a realistic target with just 13 games remaining. And the Toffees always come good towards the end of the season, right?

David Moyes' team have certainly been remarkably consistent during the run-in. In each of the last four campaigns they have secured 23 points or more from their final 13 games. Extrapolate their post-January average over a 38-game season and it would have secured a top-four finish in 15 of the last 17 seasons. To put it another way, if they can match their worst run-in of recent years Everton would still equal their best-ever Premier League tally.

Of course, sometimes they have received a boost in January. The mid-season arrival of Steven Pienaar last year was a significant factor in the team's improved form. "Getting Steven back was massive with the way he had played for us at the end of last season when on loan," Moyes told the Liverpool Echo. "He was the key to a lot of the things we did; the players enjoyed playing with him."

Pienaar wasn't alone. Landon Donovan and Nikica Jelavic also arrived to play big roles last season. "What Jelavic did was make every player about 10 per cent better," Moyes told Everton's official website. "He is what Everton needed - we really needed a centre forward." Donovan managed six assists in his brief spell, having also been named Everton's player of the month for January during a previous stint in 2010.

Collapsed

Leroy Fer was supposed to be the man to help Everton kick-on this season. The Holland international's £8.6million transfer from FC Twente had been all but agreed before the move collapsed due to issues in the medical. "It happens in these deals at times," Moyes told Sky Sports. "It's all part of the situation - the contract, the medical, everything about the thing has to be right before it can be completed."

Everton in the final 13 games:

  • 2011/12: 23 pts
  • 2010/11: 24 pts
  • 2009/10: 26 pts
  • 2008/09: 23 pts

He's right. Deals can go wrong. But the timing can rarely have been so frustrating. The size of the fee indicates that Bill Kenwright had found the funds to back his manager. And yet, with just hours of the transfer window remaining Moyes was unable to spend the money. Speaking after a narrow 2-1 win over West Brom on January 30, the manager still had the air of a man who knew an opportunity was in danger of passing him by.

"I'm disappointed for our players because they're looking for me to add one or two new faces," said Moyes. "We'll see if there's anything we can do to help the lads if we can. I want them to feel we're doing everything we can here to make it work. I'd think it's probably more unlikely than likely but we'll have a go at it."

Pivotal

There was a deadline-day acquisition as it turned out. John Stones arrived from Barnsley. The 18-year-old defender is highly rated and could go on to become a significant figure at the club. But nobody is expecting him to have an influential role in the run-in. And given the struggles some of Everton's rivals are enduring this season, this has the feeling of a pivotal season for the club.

Chelsea have the quality in their squad but civil war is threatening to derail things at Stamford Bridge and the European champions have won just one of their last six games. That victory came against an Arsenal side that remain alarmingly fragile, while Tottenham had deadline-day issues of their own having been left worryingly short of numbers up front. All three teams also have the energy-consuming distraction of European football to contend with too. The door is ajar and waiting to be kicked open if only Everton can seize their chance.

This is not to slight Moyes should they fall short. Despite their status as a famous club, Everton had spent nine of the 10 seasons prior to his arrival at Goodison Park languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table. That scenario has completely reversed in the 10 years since. But it's perhaps ironic given the financial restrictions in place at Everton that caution rather than funding could end up costing the club a Champions League spot this season.

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Everton caution

Adam Bate wonders whether David Moyes will live to regret Everton's lack of transfer activity in January.

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