Our upturn in fortune coincided with the arrival of USA captain and eventual January Player of the Month, Landon Donovan, taking up his place on the right side of midfield. During his second short stay with the club he appeared to supply the ammunition for nearly every goal scored in that period.
Of course, all good things come to an end and the on-loan Galaxian has departed for warmer climes leaving his adopted side in much better condition than he found it. Talk of a third stint is rife (even the faint possibility of permanent switch across the pond has been muttered but I'm sure we've heard that before) and he would be welcomed back by fans and players alike as his influence on the team and atmosphere within Goodison Park was exceptionally noticeable.
The month of March is looking like becoming season defining, with a whopping seven games, including last weekend’s uneventful encounter at Loftus Road with QPR. This sort of fixture congestion is a welcome change, especially after a relatively quiet February, if a club like Everton are ever to compete for cups, domestic or European, or dare I say championships, again, it is something we need to get used to. Too often managers are too quick to complain about the amount of games their teams are playing over a season, however this tends to be the dismissive view of the successful rather than those chomping at the bit to engage in a piece of the action.
In order to be able to sustain such a level of competition we need to have strength in depth within the squad so not to burn out players early on in the season. The average age of the squad is hovering around the 30 mark so rotation is an essential pawn to play. We have a number of key members returning to fitness and Steven Pienaar being cup tied means immediately one name is assured a rest in March allowing him to be ready and prepared solely for league competition.
Pienaar's late arrival in January seems to have had a positive impact on the equally diminutive Royston Drenthe. The unquestionably talented Dutchman has been under the spotlight recently, until the new year he was seen as Everton's only attacking outlet who could provide the touch of flair every football fan wants to see. However, David Moyes has frequently admitted that the Madrid misfit causes him great frustrations due to his lack of defensive ability or willing to at least provide some sort of cover for his full back.
In Pienaar, Moyes has the perfect blueprint for young Royston to observe and study, if he has any aspirations to earn a full time move to Everton in the summer, and I believe he does, he needs to impress the boss and show he is keen to develop and diversify as a player. The match with QPR exhibited the good, the bad and the ugly parts of Drenthe's game, he scored an absolute peach and then, one assumes, trying to take on his manager’s feedback tracks back only to impede his opponent in a dangerous position resulting in a free kick which in turn led to the equaliser. To be fair, in a post match interview he identified he may have cost the team a vital three points, so he is clearly learning to cite his mistakes and wanting to rectify his errors, which is exactly what a supporter wants to hear.
In the space of less than a fortnight Everton face Tottenham at home followed by Liverpool in the season's 2nd Merseyside derby at Anfield and then the possible return of the former Gwladys Street darling Mikel Arteta, as Arsenal travel to Goodison. Sandwiched between those 3 tough league games is the intriguing FA Cup quarter final tie with Sunderland, somehow we have managed to be drawn at home in each round of this year’s competition, now just 90 minutes away from another jaunt to Wembley the omens appear to be with us, home draw, two of the Black Cats best players, in Lee Cattermole and Sebastian Sessegnon, are suspended, the last two times we've been to a FA Cup Final we have been up against a North East team in the 6th round and for the 1st time this campaign the St Patrick's Day game will be played in front of a full house, so the from the Street end to the Park end, the place will be rocking.
March also sees Moyes' 10th anniversary in the manager’s seat, he has always stated that he desperately wants to win something with Everton, so what better way to say thank you for his work this past decade than by fulfilling that dream.
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