Everton: How David Moyes has reinvented the club

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton - Premier League

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For a team that worked so hard at winning their reputation as the Premier League’s slow starters, the table makes healthy and refreshing reading for Everton and manager David Moyes.

Too often in recent times Everton and their supporters have examined the final standings in May and been left wondering what might have been had they produced post-January form before the turn of the year.

They need wonder no more. The platform for a serious push at the top four, achieved almost miraculously by Moyes and his players in 2005, has been firmly set.

The 2-1 win at West Ham United, fully deserved despite the debate surrounding Leon Osman’s disallowed early goal and two highly contentious red cards for West Ham’s Carlton Cole and Everton midfield man Darron Gibson, exemplified much of their development this season.

Everton have shifted emphasis significantly from their previous image of a hard-working, organised side moulded very much in the image and likeness of their manager. This season, as they were from January last season following the additions of Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic, they have continued to be an attractive, pleasing on the eye team while retaining that resilience. It is a potent combination.

So, can Everton force another crack at the Champions League after falling agonisingly to Villarreal at the qualifying stage in 2005?

On this season’s evidence, and on what we saw at rain-lashed Upton Park, Everton can consider themselves rightful contenders to the two places left to fill after Manchester United and Manchester City sort out first and second between them.

The victory was sealed despite Jelavic, normally the model of efficiency in front of goal, having a nightmare in pretty much all aspects of his game. Even in these circumstances the Croat’s natural feel for space in the penalty area earned him chances he is likely to take next time around.

It was also a win achieved without their outstanding player this season, Marouane Fellaini, serving a three-match suspension by letting Everton, his manager, team-mates and supporters down badly by headbutting Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross.

It is on such factors that Everton’s attempt to finish in the top four could hinge.

Moyes has a solid first-team group but Everton’s squad would be pushed to the limit by a succession of injuries or, in Fellaini’s case, an utterly senseless ban.

Everton will want the giant Belgian back and behaving himself as soon as possible, as well as his fellow Belgian Kevin Mirallas, who looked an absolute steal at £6m before succumbing to hamstring trouble.

Moyes may try to work the markets in January but it would be a surprise if he had serious money to make major moves.

The Scot himself has issues to resolve, with his contract expiring at the end of the season and with a new one not yet in the offing. Moyes said he will examine the situation more closely at the end of January but he will be as keen as Everton not to allow this to become a sideshow or distraction at such a crucial time.

It is an intriguing state of affairs. Moyes may hanker for a larger budget as Kenwright searches in vain for new investment but will the grass be greener anywhere else? The chairman cannot give Moyes money he has not got but the manager is well-rewarded personally at Everton, is unlikely to be a contender for major Premier League jobs any time soon and has a level of control to be envied over affairs at Goodison Park.

And, very importantly in all his considerations, he currently has a team and a squad that is closer to the finished product than any he has had in almost 11 years at Everton.

Where would life be better for him unless he was tempted abroad, perhaps to indulge in his open admiration for the Bundesliga?

For now Moyes has plenty to keep him occupied at Everton and plenty to please him. If this is their usual slow start then optimism can move on to rarefied levels once they pick up their normal pace in January.

Read Phil McNulty’s entire piece about how Moyes has consistently ensured that Everton punch above their (financial) weight, at BBC Football.

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