x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

David Moyes is counting the cost of Everton's low-spending policy

Gossip spreads quickly in football and even faster in a city like Liverpool. Rumours abound that David Moyes is considering his Everton future and it would be hard to blame him for jumping ship.

Everton’s Tim Cahill cuts a forlorn figure during Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Bolton. It was a result which left David Moyes, the long-serving coach of the Merseyside club, in a miserable mood.
Everton’s Tim Cahill cuts a forlorn figure during Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Bolton. It was a result which left David Moyes, the long-serving coach of the Merseyside club, in a miserable mood.

The cut-backs at Everton are making life increasingly difficult for their long-serving coach. Richard Jolly reports

Merseyside has been a county in England since 1971 and a village since time immemorial. Not in size - though Liverpool's population is declining, it still numbers the best part of half a million residents - but in mentality. Gossip, true or untrue, spreads as quickly in far smaller communities. And much of it is football related.

It accounts, in part, for the recent rumours David Moyes would resign. They were denied, just as they were in November 2009 when the Everton manager was also supposedly similarly disillusioned. And yet, in one respect, it would be no surprise if the Premier League's third longest-serving manager were contemplating his future.

Moyes cut a thoroughly miserable figure in Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers, drenched by the rain and depressed by the performance. On days such as this, it appears he has taken Everton as far as he can.

This season has been one of regression, not progress, with the reminders that Everton can trouble the best - they are unbeaten against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool - interrupted by failures against lesser sides. Overachievers for so long, they are underachieving now.

The capacity of Moyes to coax and coach Everton out of apparent crises has been one of the most impressive elements of his long reign. Gordon Strachan once suggested that most managers' lifespan at any one club was around three years: by then, he reasoned, the players had heard everything a coach had to say and the message became less effective.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are obvious exceptions but so, too, is Moyes. He has done an outstanding job, rendered all the more impressive because of his longevity.

But there is a tide in the affairs of men, and it is turning against Moyes. He has never been afforded unlimited funds, breaking even or making a profit in each of the last three calendar years, but now the money really has dried up.

Everton's recent financial figures, a £500,000 (Dh2.95 million) annual loss increasing debts to £48m, came to illustrate the restrictions on Moyes.

Steven Pienaar, whose contract was due to expire in the summer, was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £3m, James Vaughan borrowed by Crystal Palace and Yakubu recruited by Leicester City, who are thought to have paid a hefty loan fee as well as the Nigerian's considerable wages. Yet no new senior players arrived in January.

At a time when Aston Villa and Liverpool have displayed a renewed commitment to invest, when Newcastle United and Sunderland have ample funds in the bank and after years of investment from Manchester City and Spurs, Moyes's job is getting harder.

Anyone who has signed Tim Howard, Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Seamus Coleman and Pienaar and still had change from £10m has a justified reputation as a bargain hunter. That does not mean rabbits can continue to be pulled out of ever smaller hats.

Moreover, while it is to Moyes's credit that many of his best buys have echoed his commitment to the club (Leighton Baines was uninterested in a move to Bayern Munich, while Phil Jagielka's head was not turned by Arsenal's admiration), the combination of poverty and poor performances means his team is in danger of breaking up. The offer of a new contract to Marouane Fellaini has become a test case.

The Belgian, like many of Moyes's buys, has the ability to play for an elite club and, while Everton broke their wage structure to keep Arteta in the summer, Pienaar discovered there is a limit to their largesse.

It all gives Moyes much to ponder. Having taken Everton to an FA Cup final and a Champions League qualifier, made European football an almost annual event, the disappointment of this season could take its toll on the manager. Everton must hope it does not.

Exponents of the overhead kick variety

There is a strange symmetry for Manchester United to savour.

The two home games the regulars at Old Trafford want to win most were both decided by extraordinary overhead kicks: first Dimitar Berbatov against Liverpool then Wayne Rooney against Manchester City.

The Bulgarian's was an early contender for goal of the season; now it does not even look the best overhead kick scored by a United player at home this season.

Defensive Hodgson could be right up West Brom's alley

One of the criticisms of Roy Hodgson at Liverpool was that he was too negative. That might encourage West Bromwich Albion.

Hodgson had a watching brief during Albion's 3-3 draw with West Ham before taking charge in earnest and, after six months without a clean sheet, Hodgson's fondness for defensive drills could be just what the relegation strugglers require. As Albion showed in the first half, they are capable of scoring goals, but their inability to prevent them at the other end cost Roberto Di Matteo his job.

Drawing blanks

The cliche that luck evens itself out over a season is not always true, but there appears a levelling impact on several sides' fortunes in front of goal within the space of nine days. Everton, Newcastle and Blackburn Rovers struck 12 times between them on surreal Saturday last week; the following weekend, all drew a blank.