Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Everton failing to paper over the cracks

It’s time to talk about money.  To be precise, about Everton FC owner Bill Kenright’s lack thereof. 

One of England’s great clubs has begun the slow decline that accompanies a squad’s ageing and find themselves in eleventh position.  They are in no threat of relegation, but the club faces a greater existential crisis than any other club with a similarly storied history.

The Toffees have been on the market – if not officially, certainly on the sly – for much of the past decade.  Kenwright has attempted to fund assaults on the Champions League, but lately manager David Moyes’ spending money has become increasingly scarce.  Over the past two years, impact players have rarely made the sojourn to Goodison Park and Moyes has repeatedly squeezed blood from young, cheap stones like Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley.

Much has been made of Everton’s fiscal situation, as well it might.  Moyes has been able to propel small, limited – and often injured – squads to outstanding achievement in the past.  He and a small band of loyal overachievers have been able to mask a fraught balance sheet.  He has been the Premiership’s MacGyver manager – able to create ingenious macguffin lineups out of little more than what he finds in his pocket.

As things now stand, more apparently than at any time in the past decade, the Toffees lack bite on the field.  Mikel Arteta has left the building; the ghosting runs of Tim Cahill now fail to deliver goals and Marouane Fellaini is no longer thought of as a potential World-Class prospect.  Their players have all been solid, but the Blues need more – the element of magic exists now more in the computers of their accountants than on the field.  Their top scorer in all competitions this season is left back Leighton Baines.

Great Premiership players have become simply good ones.  Over the past two seasons, the players who’ve tried to fill the practically-vacant striker position include the ageing, hamstrung Louis Saha and the underwhelming trio of Jermaine Beckford, Denis Stracqualursi and Victor Anichebe.  Papering over the offensive cracks in the Everton lineup has become a full-time occupation.

This hardly speaks for Moyes’ management skills and he is still held in incredibly high regard by football people all over the British Isles.  However, the regeneration required for clubs to keep themselves at the top level has eluded the Toffees.  Disconcertingly, there is every chance their best attacking player is the on-loan Landon Donovan and their best player overall his USA teammate Tim Howard. 

Unless this dearth of upper echelon talent is rectified, their run as Premier League overachievers will almost certainly end soon.

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