Everton: More fuel required (@Mark_Jones86)
It was there again on Tuesday night, that famous battling spirit that David Moyes has instilled in Everton and watched grow for the past 11 years.
The Blues battled to a goalless draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in a match that was very much a contrast of styles but one played out with all the passion and intensity of the best Premier League contests.
It was the second of back-to-back draws that Everton have played out at the home of the two North London clubs who they have been battling with to secure a top four place all season, and whilst such results would no doubt be looked upon favourably earlier in the campaign there was a sense that they simply weren’t enough now.
With five matches left, Everton sit four points off third-placed Arsenal and two behind Chelsea and Tottenham sides who at the time of writing have two and one games in hand on Moyes’ men respectively.
Everton face a tricky trip to a revitalised Sunderland, a Merseyside derby at Anfield – where they’ve not won this century – and a final day visit to Chelsea before the season is out, leaving their hopes of reaching European football’s elite competition for the second time under Moyes somewhat hanging by a thread.
Despite using the least amount of players in the Premier League, undoubtedly this has been the most consistent season that the Blues have enjoyed under the Scot, and that probably makes it the best.
Their uncharacteristically lightning quick start all sparked from an opening weekend win over Manchester United, and from there they only seemed to grow stronger and stronger.
The likes of Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and recently Kevin Mirallas have turned in performances that indicate they’d look at home in any team in the division, and there is a real sense that Everton are performing as best they can right now. That though, could present a problem.
Although not widely covered in the mainstream media, Everton’s fans are desperate for investment in a club which needs a financial injection to move forward.
Current chairman Bill Kenwright is undoubtedly a fine man judging by the speech he gave at this week’s Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield, but in this age of billionaires and with the money swirling around the Premier League an old fashioned, homegrown owner such as him simply can’t compete. He and his team have been punching above their weight.
Investment in that team is what is needed now, especially as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are all likely to strengthen over the summer, whilst Liverpool continue to gain in momentum and confidence following their rocky few years.
At the moment, Everton are going flat out to keep up with them all. There has to be a question over whether or not they can sustain that going into a new season.
As well as facing the battle to keep hold of his key men, Moyes – if of course he stays at the club – must also come up with a couple of squad additions that will both freshen the Blues up and keep them at the level they’ve shown this season. Anything less and there is a danger that there won’t be an awful lot left in the tank.
Young talents like Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman, as well as the improvement of Victor Anichebe mean that the club is certainly showing promise, but what use is that when you’ve run out of gas?
If Everton thought it was tough to keep up with the big boys this season then that is only likely to get even tougher next time around, and they’ll need reinforcements to do that.
That tank deserves to be filled based on this season’s efforts alone.