How Everton wasted their chance for a Champions League push
Arsène Wenger has won the double twice with Arsenal but the fans have now turned. Manchester City are the current Premier League champions and yet criticism of Roberto Mancini is growing. But knocking David Moyes? Now you’re really on dodgy ground. Unless you’re Gary Neville armed with a touchscreen, it’s one of those things you just don’t do.
After all, Everton continue to overachieve. Having finished in the top half of the table just once in the decade prior to Moyes’ arrival at Goodison Park, they have now achieved that feat eight times in the 10 full seasons the Scot has been in charge. The five teams above the Toffees have vastly bigger wage bills and free-spending neighbours Liverpool look likely to finish below them for a second successive season.
The narrative is clear: the only thing holding Everton back is the fact that chairman Bill Kenwright can’t find the funds. So it was particularly strange during the January transfer window when Dutch international Leroy Fer came mightily close to signing for the club. Everton talked of finding a whopping £8.6m to secure the deal with FC Twente as others might describe the discovery of a pound coin down the back of the sofa.
But complications emerged in the medical and, when a restructured deal was drawn up, the move collapsed. An ambitious attempt to lure Sevilla striker Álvaro Negredo was launched on deadline day, but it didn’t come off and fans were left frustrated. Like they say, it’s the hope that kills you.
“We are short,” Moyes subsequently admitted. “We said before the window that we’re short of what we want and we tried – but it didn’t happen and that’s the situation we have to deal with. I don’t think we need to dwell on why the deal for Fer didn’t work – and we had a go for the boy from Spain, but for different reasons it didn’t work out. It wasn’t for the want of trying. If there is any criticism, then maybe we could have tried a little bit earlier.”
Maybe we could have tried earlier? Assuming the Everton board weren’t indulging in the worst case of posturing since Michael Knighton fancied playing keepy-uppy at Old Trafford, the money was there. Moyes even pointedly denied it was made available too late. And yet, it wasn’t spent. The chance to strengthen for a Champions League push, while the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool toil, was wasted. If the news was dispiriting for the supporters, the manager’s comments suggest it may have been a feeling shared in the dressing room.
“I’m disappointed for our players because they’re looking for me to add one or two new faces,” Moyes had revealed in the hours before the window closed. “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.”
It worked last year, as the January arrivals helped ensure Everton were unbeaten in their final nine games. What they were after this year was another Nikica Jelavic-style impact signing. Maybe even a Steven Pienaar-type loan deal if necessary. Or, at the very least, a short-term arrival in the vein of Landon Donovan. What they got was John Stones, a promising 18-year-old right-back from Barnsley.
“We are disappointed,” added Moyes. “Obviously, Fer is a top player and it’s a shame it turned out like that, but we are still one of the contenders to be in the top half and in and around the top four.” Contenders, yes. But in this of all years, a more purposeful performance from the management in January and, perhaps, it could have been so much more.
Follow Life’s a Pitch on Twitter @BTLifesaPitch
Watch Everton live on BT Vision:
Everton v Man City, midday, 16 March, Sky Sports 2
Everton v Stoke, 4.30pm, 30 March, ESPN
Don’t have BT Vision? Find out how to get it