Having to prioritize between two competitions is an unfamiliar position for Everton. Granted, they have had a few good cup runs in recent years. But if it came down to fourth place or winning the FA Cup, lifting silverware would certainly have the greater positive influence on the club going forward.
The fact that Everton have even found themselves in this situation is testament the improvements made this season. The notorious trait of starting domestic campaigns slowly would usually see the Toffee’s around mid-table at this point, before an inevitable upturn in form results in a finishing position of around about seventh position.
This season is a bit different. A good start has left them within striking distance of a top four spot and the possibility of Champions League is very much real. In addition, Everton are in the last 16 of the FA Cup. Negotiate two home ties against Oldham and possibly Wigan and the club are off to Wembley. Easier said than done, of course.
Everton have a squad that is high in cohesion and team spirit, but lower on numbers compared to their immediate competitors. Therefore, if Everton continue to progress there will come a point in the next few months when David Moyes will have to make some sacrifices.
Moyes, in the main doesn’t really buy into the rotation policy for cup competitions. Everton have fielded a full strength side all the way through the FA Cup.
But going all out in the Premier League and the FA Cup could cost Everton in both of their pursuits. Prioritizing one over the over? Well, you just never know in football.
Here is why Moyes and Everton should go all out for the FA Cup...
Everton are one of the most successful club sides in the English game, having won the League title nine times and the FA Cup five times.
So in many respects, the 18 years since Everton last picked up some silverware must be viewed as one of the most disappointing spells in the clubs history.
For all the hype around finishing fourth and the all the riches that it can bring, it’s not something a club can stick in their trophy cabinet, no matter what Arsene Wenger might try and tell us.
Fans will not look back decades on and reminisce about finishing in fourth. They will remember those days out at Wembley, seeing their side parade a trophy around the pitch.
Winning trophies is what football is all about. For club like Everton, that has a trophy-laden past, 18 years is too long to go without one. It has to be time to end that barren run.
The manager that has overseen a major chunk of those 18 years is David Moyes. Under his stewardship, Everton have gone from relegation battlers to the brink of the Champions League.
Moyes and Everton have made fantastic progress together in the last 11 years. That is beyond dispute.
But, for all of the good work Moyes has done, Everton have yet to make that final step in the cup competitions. They have been close, reaching the FA Cup final in 2009 and the semi-finals in 2012.
Unfortunately for the Scotsman, that last step still eludes him. It seems to be that when the pressure really is on, Moyes’ Everton side just do not step up.
This will be a concern to Moyes, as he surely has eyes for jobs where he will be challenging for these trophies on a regular basis. He needs to show that as a manager, he can set his teams out to win these big games. The FA Cup provides him with ample opportunity to do so.
Looking at the teams left in the competition, Everton have a realistic opportunity to win this competition.
Oldham and Wigan (both at home) present difficult challenges in their own right, but The Toffee’s would be majorly disappointed if they failed to progress into at least the semi-final stages.
We already know that Manchester United and Chelsea are set to face each other, so one of those two will drop out.
In one of the other quarter-final ties, Blackburn face Millwall meaning there will be at least one second tier team at Wembley. Manchester City should also progress, a team that Everton have an excellent recent record against.
The Manchester sides are obviously stand-out favourites, but the Toffees have nothing to fear in their pursuit of silverware.
For a supporter, seeing your team playing in a big game at Wembley comes pretty close to the ultimate fan experience. The only thing that might be better is seeing your team win at Wembley!
Everton supporters have had the fortune of three trips to the national stadium in the past four years. But they’ve also had the misfortune of seeing defeat in the 2009 final and further heartache against Merseyside rivals Liverpool in last season’s cup campaign.
The Everton faithful will be desperate for the team to get through to the semi-finals and eradicate those heartbreaking memories of missed opportunities.
Fans who have waited 18 years for success certainly deserve it.
Through success, you develop a winning mentality. The kind of mentality that Everton have failed to demonstrate in the really, really big games under Moyes.
In the 11 years since Moyes took charge, Everton have failed to notch a victory at Anfield, Stamford Bridge, The Emirates or Old Trafford. Sure, Everton can compete with anyone in the country on their day, but these are damning statistics.
Maybe on the big occasion, the lack of that ruthless winning mentality has hindered them. It certainly seems that way.
That is why it is so important to pick up a trophy. The players need to become winners. The only way to do that is by winning silverware.
It is only really Phil Neville from the current squad that has experience of competing and winning the very top honours.
Once they have that mind-set, Everton can go on to achieve more. The longer the wait goes on for a trophy, the harder it will be to shake off this "nearly-men" attitude.
Then, Everton might be better placed to have a real crack at those Champions League spots.