By Darshan Joshi, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For a few years now, Everton have only needed that final piece of their jigsaw: a top-notch forward, but cash has proven to be their sole obstacle. Their season has been wretched thus far, given that expectations were rightfully high, and the Toffees may just be risking losing David Moyes, and all the progress he has made with the team in the last nine years.
From the 5th of December 2009, through to the end of the 2009/10 campaign, Everton suffered just two defeats in a span of 24 matches. It is telling that had the season started in December, they would have finished 2nd in the Premier League, having only fallen to Liverpool and Tottenham in that time. Their poor start to that campaign was attributed to the fact that Joleon Lescott, for years a rock in the heart of their defence, had left after months of moaning and grumbling over a move to Manchester City: fair enough. They picked up their form, and the only real difference between the squad that embarked on that stunning run, and the squad that started this season off was a man called Landon Donovan.
On loan from LA Galaxy, his role at the club, though it only lasted thirteen matches and included two goals, certainly helped to propel confidence and gave the Toffees that spark they have been lacking thus far this season. He returned to Los Angeles after Galaxy refused to extend his loan spell beyond March. It is revealing that Everton then couldn’t afford to pay roughly £8mil for a player who would have fit straight into their first-team squad and offered much, much more in terms of value (especially after considering the inflated nature of transfer dealings in recent years) during the summer. Instead, Jermaine Beckford arrived on a free transfer from Leeds United after proving himself capable in England’s third tier.
It’s not that Beckford, Louis Saha, Victor Anichebe and Yakubu are horrible strikers - they just have too many flaws between them. Too many, considering the fact that Everton should really be challenging for a top six spot in the Premier League this season. The latter three have endured spells of injury in recent seasons; indeed Louis Saha’s career at Manchester United was hampered heavily by the fact that it seems like he finds himself engaged in an eternal battle with his body’s ability to function perfectly. Otherwise, any manager who has spent sufficient time in England’s top flight would tell you that a strikeforce of Saha and Yakubu together would be nigh unstoppable. Their other forward, the former Leeds striker Beckford has more often than not been a sheer embarrassment in front of goal.
The rest of the squad remains as resilient as ever. The aforementioned loss of Lescott was well dealt with as Phil Jagielka returned from a serious injury, while Johnny Heitinga, Sylvain Distin and Lucas Neill all joined the side. Philippe Senderos provided cover as he arrived on loan from Arsenal in January, and Leighton Baines has been on top form in the last 18 months or so with that lethal left foot of his. Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar could waltz into any of the top clubs in England and demand a regular starting spot, and yet they have remained under Moyes’ clutches. In fact, Fellaini remains Everton’s record transfer signing - he cost £15mil from Standard Liege a few years ago, and has easily been one of the best imports the Premier League has seen in the past few years. As for the other three, there can be absolutely no doubting that they are three world-class players, more than deserving of a crack at Champions League football.
For many, Champions League football would have been a very realistic target for the Liverpool-based side, and for David Moyes and his crew of players, it would certainly have been on their minds as they kicked off their season against Blackburn Rovers. They lost that match by a single goal, and things have since remained abysmal. The January transfer window is now open, and for the sake of one of the Barclays Premier League’s nearly sides, David Moyes needs to be given the opportunity to either open the cheque book and sign someone of devastating quality up front, or at least bring in a loan signing of sufficient quality. Otherwise, they would be at risk of putting through the shredder the years of hard work the manager put into building this club into a side of immense potential, or, perhaps even losing the man himself.