x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Everton show is set to run and run

David Moyes may be the Premier League's greatest exponent of the adage "it's a marathon, not a sprint", although to hear him say it this season takes on an entirely new meaning.

David Moyes has been in charge as manager at Everton since 2004. The club finished fourth in 2004/05. Paul Ellis / AFP
David Moyes has been in charge as manager at Everton since 2004. The club finished fourth in 2004/05. Paul Ellis / AFP

One of the many cliches wheeled out by managers is, "It's a marathon, not a sprint". It is usually uttered after their side have just lost; a defence designed to fend off moans from the stands as to why they are struggling.

Indeed, David Moyes may be the Premier League's greatest exponent of the adage during his eight years at Everton. Although to hear him say it this season takes on an entirely new meaning.

Everton are notorious slow starters when the season kicks off in August and strong finishers when it climaxes in May. Their form over the course of a season can be characterised much like Usain Bolt in a 100-metre sprint; slow out of the blocks, trailing rivals by five strides at halfway before finishing with a flourish, although a top-10 finish is usually all they have to show for their efforts.

Too often they surrender ground to rivals early on. This term, only Chelsea have set a faster pace.

After six games, Everton sit second in the table with 13 points, including an opening-day victory over Manchester United. The last time they matched that tally, in 2004/05 - Moyes's first season in charge - they went on to finish fourth.

The Scot is rightly credited for working wonders on a relatively small budget at Goodison Park but Everton's austerity has often brought prosperity in the transfer market.

The manager's eye for talent inspired the current influx of Belgian players in England when he forked out a club record £15 million (Dh89m) for Marouane Fellaini in 2008, a towering presence in midfield, standing 6ft 4 ins (1.94m) tall, who garnered admiring glances from Real Madrid in the summer.

While many questioned whether Nikica Jelavic could reproduce his prolific form in Scotland against England's superior defences, Moyes backed the striker to score goals in a tougher league when he signed him from Glasgow Rangers.

The Croatian netted twice in the 3-1 win against Southampton on Saturday.

The defence is compact and creative. Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin provide the muscle, Leighton Baines the muse for attacks with marauding runs from left-back.

But will Everton have the legs for a sprint finish, or will they gasp for breath down the home straight?

With Moyes running the show, Everton have all the pieces in place to secure a Champions League berth.

sluckings@thenational.ae

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