Everton FC: What Is David Moyes' Best XI Going into the Next Few Weeks?
Everton spent the summer enviously observing their Premier League adversaries strengthen, before thrashing out several last minute deals themselves during a chaotic final day of the transfer window.
Fan favourite, and key creative linchpin, Mikel Arteta surprisingly left for Arsenal, whilst Jermaine Beckford, Yakubu and Joseph Yobo also left Goodison Park.
Yakubu and Yobo were on the periphery at Everton last season and have not been replaced.
However, to supplement the loss of Beckford, David Moyes brought in Denis Stracqualursi, an Argentine striker eager to prove his worth in the Premier League.
Royston Drenthe was also obtained from Real Madrid, to help fill the void left by Arteta.
David Moyes implements a fluid 4-5-1 formation that includes a transitional midfield. Generally, one or two sit deep, whilst another will sit behind or join the striker.
Therefore, with this flurry of late transfer movement, which personnel is David Moyes likely to deploy over the next few weeks?
GK: Tim Howard
Possibly the biggest certainty of Everton's starting eleven is Tim Howard. If he stays healthy, he should play the entirety of the Premier League season. The American has only missed four games in four years, and remains unchallenged for the goalkeeping jersey.
Jan Mucha will warm the bench all season, but is unlikely to feature. He did not make a Premier League appearance last season, and did little during preseason to suggest he is worthy of starting soon.
With Howard’s heroics against Blackburn a fortnight ago, Mucha may have to wait a long time for his Everton league debut.
Howard is very much the man in possession.
RB: Phil Neville
Phil Neville remains Everton’s best option at right back, and will certainly play over the next few weeks.
He remains as committed a professional as they come, and David Moyes very much sees the veteran as his "eyes on the pitch."
Poised to make his 200th Premier League appearance for Everton, his experience, passion and leadership qualities negate the fact that his game, at 34-years-old, is gradually beginning to wane.
Seamus Coleman will eventually become Everton’s right back of the future, but with the Irish flyer initially sidelined this season, and sure to be needed in midfield, Neville still has a season or two as first choice right back.
Tony Hibbert, a cult hero among fans, may be drafted in to shadow some of the best wingers that take on Everton, however his lack of attacking threat restricts his playing time. Though surely one day he will score at Goodison Park?
LB: Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines is arguably Everton’s best player, and undisputedly the most integral creative asset David Moyes has at his disposal.
Injuries aside, he will play over the coming weeks, and hopefully all season.
The fact he was not pursued in the transfer window came as a mighty relief to Everton fans, who voted him their Player of the Year last season. With 11 assists, the fourth highest amount in the league, his precise delivery is imperative for the likes of Tim Cahill and Louis Saha.
As back up, Everton do not possess a recognised left back, but have Phil Neville, and now Royston Drenthe, who have both played a proportion of their career in the position.
Versatility is a trait David Moyes demands of his players with such a threadbare squad and, should Leighton Baines be sidelined, one of these two should slot in.
CB: Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin
Despite the greater international pedigree boasted by Phil Jagielka and Johnny Heitinga, Sylvain Distin remains the constant in the heart of Everton's defence.
The Frenchman's height and left foot compliment the slightly smaller, right footed options of Jagielka and Heitinga.
Jagielka has survived a summer of transfer speculation, including some heavy courting from Arsenal. Earmarked by David Moyes as a future captain at Everton, he will continue partnering Distin in central defence over the next few weeks, and indeed for much of the season.
Last year, their first full season together, they initially struggled to strike up the right chemistry, and will be expected to gel much quicker this time around.
Apart from Heitinga. and some untried youth team products, Everton lack other viable alternatives at centre back, especially after Joseph Yobo left for Fenerbahce.
A loan bid for Nedum Onuoha stalled at the last minute, so it is important Jagielka, Distin and Heitinga all maintain fitness this season.
CM: Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman
Central midfield is where Everton can be most flexible. Last season, Mikel Arteta and Marouane Fellaini formed a decent partnership, before the Belgian became injured and Arteta adopted a wider role.
This season, Everton have initially partnered Fellaini with Johnny Heitinga, although this must surely only be a temporary pairing.
The nucleus of Everton’s midfield needs Fellaini as the dynamic destroyer, breaking up attacks and spreading the play, but next to him he needs some creativity.
With Arteta gone, after years of being ushered over to the flanks, Leon Osman finally seems likely to be allowed a run in his preferred central position. He will be charged with constructing attacks and threading through balls on to the strikers.
For sterner tests against the best in the Premier League, Jack Rodwell may be brought in and given a chance to impress next to Fellaini.
Osman can revert to a wider role, or appear further forward. Rodwell provides combative elements, and offers enough going forward to not limit Everton's attacking credentials.
Everton will play an interchangeable midfield, with many players occupying different roles as games progress. Rodwell is useful in any central position, and has been toyed with on the flanks.
Phil Neville is capable of playing defensively, whilst Tim Cahill often drops back as a genuine central midfielder.
Ross Barkley may also appear in the middle, his favoured role, but seems destined to begin his inaugural Premier League campaign out wide.
RM: Ross Barkley/Seamus Coleman
When Everton’s Young Player of the Year, Seamus Coleman, was felled by a dire tackle in preseason, many supporters were right to feel apprehensive.
However, the cavity this left on the right flank gave Ross Barkley a chance to shine, and the youngster grabbed this opportunity with a fine display against QPR.
With Coleman set to return soon, he will eventually be restored to the starting line up, although Barkley's emergence allows the Irish international the time to secure peak fitness.
Barkley will eventually become a central midfielder but, in order to adapt to the Premier League, a spell out wide should provide him with some rapid tutelage.
Both may rotate in the coming weeks as David Moyes is anxious to protect Barkley, whilst Coleman will take time to recapture his best form.
Leon Osman may yet be required to do a job out wide, while left footed Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Royston Drenthe and Magaye Gueye can all play on the right and cut in onto their best foot.
Hopefully these are enough options for Moyes, and he keeps Jack Rodwell more central this season. Ventures out wide only seem to have helped stagnate the youngster's career.
LM: Royston Drenthe
After Royston Drenthe's arrival, Everton now have a pool of left footed wingers in Magaye Gueye, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Drenthe. All three will be competing against each other for a spot on a flank.
After Steven Pienaar left in January, Everton are still to find a replacement to pair up with Leighton Baines down the left.
The mercurial Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has scored some stunning, brutal strikes in his two years, but his influence on games has generally been fleeting, his touch is sloppy and he seems to lack concentration.
Although he is not fit enough to face Aston Villa tomorrow, Drenthe seems likely to occupy the left flank for a number of upcoming games. On paper, his seems a perfect companion for Leighton Baines, and his arrival has been regarded as a coup among fans.
Gueye impressed during preseason. His performances had led to many speculating he might have been included in the first game of the season. Sadly injury prevented that, but the French youngster has developed well and should feature more for David Moyes this season.
AM: Tim Cahill
Despite recently being dropped against Blackburn, Cahill is an offensive fulcrum for Everton, and remains Moyes’ best option behind the striker.
If he is not adding to his haul of 54 Premier League goals for Everton, then his linking up play is attracting markers and providing openings for others.
Leon Osman produced some impressive displays in this advanced role last season, with Cahill sidelined by injury and international commitments.
As mentioned, Arteta’s absence seems likely to give Osman the platform to conjure up creativity from the hub of midfield, but should Rodwell, or even Barkley, force their way into the reckoning centrally, then Osman may well be considered for this role again.
Rodwell, Barkley, Magaye Gueye, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Royston Drenthe all possess attributes to excel, and offer Everton some alternative dynamics in this advanced role.
If Cahill's form dips, or if he called upon as a striker, Moyes has a variety of choices to mull over.
CF: Louis Saha
Up front, Everton are certainly short of proven Premier League scorers.
When fit, Louis Saha remains the greatest threat, and should start for David Moyes in the coming weeks. He has 26 Premier League goals in 80 games for Everton, although 30 of those games have been off the bench.
Protracting spells of fitness has always been his biggest challenge, although he has appeared in 69 percent of Premier League games at Everton, compared to the 51 percent of games he managed at Manchester United.
Elsewhere, Everton brought in the top scorer in Argentina for 2010, Denis Stracqualursi. The tall, powerful frontman may well have to adapt quickly to the pace and rigours of the Premier League, especially if Saha’s playing time is succinct due to injury.
He may well be asked to lead the line against Aston Villa tomorrow.
Victor Anichebe played against Blackburn, but has returned home from international duty with an injury. Therefore, Tim Cahill will also be considered further forward at times this season.
Never one to shirk a challenge, the Australian performs manfully when asked to roam up front, and always poses a goal scoring threat. His presence will help to quickly integrate Stracqualursi into the team, and he may well excel playing just off a target man.
What would your current Everton XI be?
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