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What next for Moyes & Everton?

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Phil McNulty | 08:01 UK time, Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Emirates

Everton manager David Moyes delivered an instant response when invited to deliver his verdict on the drama that unfolded in the final hours before the January transfer window closed.

With a fixed smile and just a hint of gritted teeth, the manager who had his nose pressed up against the window in frustration without a penny to spend, stopped short of turning out empty pockets as he said: "You're asking the wrong man."

Moyes had been cutting a figure of frustration in recent days, even before two late Arsenal goals snuffed out Everton's hopes of lifting spirits as Arsene Wenger's side snatched a 2-1 win at The Emirates.

Everton and Moyes have endured a transfer window in reverse. The period when clubs traditionally strengthen, even slightly, has ended with Moyes in charge of a squad that is markedly weaker than at the start of January.

It is a month that has shone a harsh light on Everton's desperate lack of financial firepower, the failure of owner Bill Kenwright's search for investment and that has raised serious doubts about how Moyes can even keep the club standing still in future, let alone make it move forward.

As neighbours Liverpool were reinvesting the £50m received from Chelsea for Fernando Torres on Newcastle United's Andy Carroll and Ajax captain Luis Suarez to create an atmosphere of fresh excitement around Anfield, Everton's activity was limited to the acquisition of Greek teenager Apostolos Vellios from Iraklis FC to bolster their Academy side for what was described as "a nominal fee".

So to quiz Moyes about the lavish spending of other clubs is indeed to ask the wrong man. He has seen one of his outstanding players Steven Pienaar leave for Spurs for a cut-price £2.5m and witnessed his threadbare striking resources reduced by the departure of Yakubu and James Vaughan on loan to Leicester City and Crystal Palace respectively.

No players of first-team pedigree arrived to replace them.

As clubs in and around Everton - as well as above and below - were able to find the finance to do deals in readiness for the final weeks of the season, the club known long ago as "The Mersey Millionaires" were exposed as operating in desperately reduced financial circumstances.

David Moyes has cut a weary and frustrated figure at times this season

Moyes was unable to make any significant aditions to his squad in January

After Everton's defeat at The Emirates, I asked Moyes how he felt on the outside looking in as other clubs were doing business while he was reduced to the role of passive observer.

He told me: "We knew what the situation was. We said we would try to sign a couple on loan and we did try, but to get players in on loan who are better than the ones we already have is not easy to do."

It is a valid point. Unless he can acquire loan signings of the calibre of last season's big success, LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan, then he will merely be bringing in players to work on the margins of a squad that has plenty of talent but has too often disappointed this season.

So is this a source of increasing frustration to a manager who, if Everton lose an FA Cup fourth round replay to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later this month, will go at least a decade at Goodison Park without getting his hands on silverware?

He said: "I am at a brilliant football club and this is our situation. Plenty of other managers don't have any money, so my job is to get the best out of the players I send out to play for Everton. And I think most people would say the players who played against Arsenal did a great job for Everton."

The signs of Moyes' work were on show at The Emirates, where they were organisation and discipline personified and led through Louis Saha's hotly disputed goal until they cracked under Arsenal's pressure, defending shoddily to allow two goals in five minutes from substitute Andrey Arshavin and Laurent Koscielny.

Ultimately, they were let down by a lack of belief and a lack of threat - a familiar thread running through a poor season for Moyes and his players.

The Scot has been lauded, both by his peers and beyond for his work in renewing Everton since his arrival from Preston North End in March 2002 - but this summer may well emerge as a watershed moment in his reign if he is once again powerless to add to his squad.

How will Moyes react if he is forced to watch clubs of what he will regard as lesser stature invest and attract investment, while Everton, one of the great institutions of English football, continue to exist amid the financial inertia that has undermined them this season and threatens to do so in the future?

Will he want to endure more of the same, unable to attract top players to improve his squad with the likely consequences that the best days of his Everton reign are finally behind him?

And will he be tempted to pastures new should the right offer be made? The summer will provide the answers.

Everton concentrated on retaining players such as Jack Rodwell and Mikel Arteta last summer and the club's most high-profile signing was Jermaine Beckford on a free transfer from Leeds United.

As other clubs spend to bolster their squads, it is almost impossible to see Everton moving forward unless funds can be found from somewhere. Moyes is unlikely to guide Everton into Europe this season, failing to reinvigorate a financial situation that is clearly unsatisfactory and may get worse before it gets better.

Everton's transfer policy in recent years has been shaped by sales. Marouane Fellaini's £15m signing from Standard Liege was paid for by the departures of James McFadden and Andrew Johnson while the arrival of John Heitinga, Sylvain Distin and what admittedly was an expensive error, £10m Russian winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, were bought with the proceeds of Joleon Lescott's £24m move to Manchester City at the start of last season.

Moyes would only be human if he finally found his will sapped by once more having to sell to buy. Tottenham's derisory bid for Everton captain Phil Neville was a signal that they are seen as easy prey for chancy offers while there is the clear danger that others in their squad may take the same view as Pienaar and cast envious eyes towards clubs with greater clout and ambition.

Everton will soon want to open contract talks with Fellaini, who has blossomed from uncertain beginnings into an outstanding midfield player. It is likely he will want to see greater signs of progress before committing his future to Goodison Park.

This all throws increased pressure and an unforgiving spotlight on Everton chairman Kenwright, with stirrings of discontent starting to surface among long-suffering fans as the improvement and increased optimism of recent years drains away.

Talk of pre-match protests against the impresario before the FA Cup tie against Chelsea failed to materialise, but while there is not yet open revolt there is now a more questioning environment, asking why Everton not only failed to add to their resources in January, but actually reduced them.

As a model for future success it is very obviously flawed and not built for sustainable growth. Something needs to change but Kenwright currently appears powerless to produce the investment Everton's barren January showed they desperately require.

A crowd of only 28,376 for the FA Cup tie against Chelsea at Goodison Park was disappointing in a competition cherished at Everton, even allowing for a televised early kick-off. Some votes have been cast with the feet this season, a sign that patience is running thin and a worrying trend for a chairman who could at least rely on cash coming through the turnstiles.

Kenwright has often declared Everton is for sale to any suitable buyer and insists he continues to search for investment, but none lurk on the horizon despite his revelation in September last year that he was in talks with three potential buyers.

And the need for a new ground to replace the wonderfully atmospheric but ageing Goodison Park is also cited as a major handicap to attracting new money.

Moyes will continue to work with a squad decreased in number as he attempts to salvage something from a season in which he has himself, on occasion, appeared wearied by the battle. The FA Cup, an old Everton favourite, may yet provide salvation but even that may prove a false dawn unless Kenwright can finally end his fruitless search for new money.

When I spoke with former Everton winger Pat Nevin before the FA Cup meeting with another of his old clubs Chelsea, he told me: "If David Moyes wasn't at Everton, I would be delighted to see him at Chelsea if there was ever a vacancy. I don't know one person who could have done a better job at Everton in the circumstances.

"If he was relieved of his post, which obviously he won't be, there would be a queue for his services. He would not be out of work for long because he is so highly regarded within the game."

"Things may not have gone right for David so far this season but I would say Everton need David Moyes more than David Moyes needs Everton."

Bill Kenwright will hoping Nevin's theory is not put to the test.

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