Everton: Was FA Cup Defeat to Wigan a Blessing for David Moyes' Side?
Everton's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic saw their inauspicious exit from the FA Cup and ended, for yet another season, the club's hopes of getting their hands on their first piece of silverware since a Paul Rideout goal gave them victory in the FA Cup final against Manchester United close to 18 years ago.
The result is arguably one of the worst in the club's 135-year history, and certainly ranks highly among the most disappointing of David Moyes' time in charge, reflecting the inadequacies of the side and their lack of resolve in key matches, particularly in cup competitions.
Exactly a week later, at the same venue and at the same time, an altogether different Everton side, far more alert and much better organised, saw off Roberto Mancini's Manchester City 2-0 to keep alive their hopes of achieving a top-four finish.
The contrast between the two displays—shambolic and nervy one week, assured and clinical the next—could not have been more apparent, and it raises the question: might Everton's defeat to Wigan turn out to be just the sort of jump-start their season needed? Could it well be that, come May, when Everton have secured fifth or even possibly fourth place in the table, fans look back and pick out the Wigan result, disastrous though it was at the time, as a crucial turning point in the season?
These are questions well worth asking.
Of course, it's hard to get away from just how disappointing it was for Everton to crash out of the cup, especially in a year where the field is as weak as it is and the route to the final didn't seem overly hazardous.
For a club like Everton, domestic cup competitions represent the only opportunity they have to get their hands on honours, and while decent finishes in the league are necessary and reflect the tremendous job David Moyes has done in 11 years in charge, nothing quite beats the feeling of a Wembley final, with all the history that comes with it, and a shot at silverware.
At the same time though, prior to the Wigan match there had been a growing sense of unease around Goodison, linked to the team's inconsistency in the league, and underpinned by rumours that David Moyes was set to leave once his contract ran out in the summer. Spurs had moved clear in fourth place, and the feeling was increasingly that Everton probably didn't quite have enough quality in their squad to maintain their pursuit.
In a sense then, the Wigan result came at exactly the right moment for Everton. It was a startling wake-up call, an indication that they're still some way off where they want to be and a coming to a head of various worries and concerns surrounding the side.
The Toffees basically couldn't sink any lower, but just as sure that the match itself was a real nadir, it was almost a guarantee that they would react the following week, galvanized by the defeat and spurred on by a determination to banish the result from their memory.
The defeat also leaves their calendar relatively clear, and while those around them—Spurs and Chelsea in particular—still have a number of engagements in Europe and the FA Cup, Everton are free to focus exclusively on the league. Striking a balance so often proves difficult, especially given the threadbare nature of the squad Moyes has at his disposal, and it must in some ways be a consolation to have an uncluttered schedule between now and the end of the season.
Naturally, it all comes down to priorities. If you're the sort of fan who recognises the importance of cup success above anything else, then a quarter-final exit to a team like Wigan will be just another letdown.
If, though, you appreciate that in the modern game, while supporters enjoy cup achievements the most, managers are judged on their showings in the league, you might be inclined to take a more pragmatic approach.
Strange as it may sound, losing 3-0 at home to Wigan might well turn out to be exactly the result Everton needed.
But that remains to be seen.
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