February 18, 2011

A defining moment for Moyes

Posted by Rebecca Lowe on 18/02/2011

David Moyes has been the subject of some criticism in recent weeks © Getty Images

Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at Stamford Bridge is arguably a season-defining fixture for both Chelsea and Everton. Given their current malaise, it does not look as though Chelsea can win the league, and the Champions League could also be beyond them in this kind of form, so the FA Cup could be the final trophy for them to recover some pride. For Everton, meanwhile, it could be a decisive game in the reign of David Moyes.

It has been such a shame to see some Everton supporters criticise Moyes during what has been a difficult season, as he has achieved so much since being appointed in March 2002. However, they are just venting their frustration at failing to see their club progress. Smaller clubs - in terms of history and stadium size - are moving ahead of them.

I am sure he is desperate to strengthen his squad but you feel he is in a position where Everton are being left behind. They are such a big club, but the rest of the top ten - sides like Manchester City of course, but also Aston Villa and Sunderland - have big investors. Everton do not. That is a difficult situation for Moyes to manage, particularly when he has no funds whatsoever.

The Scottish boss finds himself in a very difficult position. For a start, there is not too much interest in buying the club, so it is not as though there is light at the end of the tunnel. Ever since he finished in fourth spot in the 2004-05 season and then failed in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, people have suggested that Moyes may have taken Everton as far as he can, and questioned when he will go.

But where can he go? It is unlikely he will get the Manchester United, Manchester City or Arsenal jobs without recent success, and he cannot get success without money. You could argue that the longer he remains there, his stock drops, but what else can he do?

Sir Alex Ferguson tipped Everton to be a club who could break into the top four this season but that has proved to be wide of the mark, and it is purely down to the fact that the club have no funds at their disposal. When Moyes does buy, he buys well - the success of a player like Marouane Fellaini demonstrates that - but there are too few occurrences of improvements in the squad.

In that context, it is understandable that fans are growing frustrated. The worry is that the longer Moyes stays and the longer things don’t go quite right, the stronger those feelings will become amongst supporters. The achievements he has enjoyed - taking the club to the FA Cup final in 2009, finishing fourth in 2005 - may be forgotten by the fans. I wonder whether he is thinking, ‘Do I quit while I am ahead?’

If Everton are to rescue something from this season they have to get past Chelsea on Saturday, and I actually think they have a decent chance of doing so given the problems afflicting the London side at present.

Also, Everton know they will have Reading at home in the next round, and that is a real incentive. Whoever wins has a genuine chance of the quarter-finals, and after that, anything can happen. One thing is certain though: Everton, and their under-fire manager, need a result.