It is often the case that the departure of a key player can actually provide a team with the opportunity to adapt its style of play and improve as a result. Tim Cahill may be in decline and had his weakest season as an Everton player last year (his return of three goals was his lowest in eight years) but he still featured in thirty-five league games in his position behind the striker. Cahill’s importance to the team has always been through the number of goals he scores so it was not a great surprise to see him leave for the MLS.
Cahill’s absence gives David Moyes the opportunity to reshape the side. While Cahill was clearly an asset, his role in the side was quite restrictive. Operating behind a lone striker the Australian provided energy and a goal threat but little creativity. It may have been Cahill’s role that has contributed to a succession of strikers failing to shine at Goodison Park (although Niko Jelavic bucked the trend following his arrival in January and Moyes will hope that he can continue scoring goals in the new campaign). Everton now have the option to play with an extra striker or use a more creative playmaker such as Steven Pienaar or Stephen Naismith behind Jelavic, which may give the team a greater goal threat.
Further back the team is likely to remain the same as last season, which will be a relief to a club that has become accustomed to losing key players on a regular basis. The sale of Jack Rodwell to Man City will be a lot easier to recover from given his susceptibility to injury and limited appearances for the club than the possible sales of Leighton Baines or Johnny Heitinga. Unfortunately for Moyes there remains the possibility of either of these players leaving before the transfer deadline passes, although the money from the Rodwell deal should at least allow Everton to deal on their terms.
This will be Moyes’ twelfth season in a tenure that has drawn countless plaudits for the manner in which he has kept Everton competitive despite severe financial restrictions. However he has to realise that without significant investment there clearly seems to be a limit to what he can achieve, especially as clubs around them continue to attract wealthy benefactors. Although Moyes would never admit it he must be frustrated that numerous rumours of interest from larger clubs have failed to materialise into an offer of employment. If the likes of Newcastle, Fulham and Sunderland continue to improve, and Aston Villa and QPR profit from new management and new investment, Moyes may start to find it difficult to keep the club clutching to the coattails of the European places, and a disappointing cup record does not suggest he can find success elsewhere. It may be that Moyes’ reputation will stagnate with the club that he continues to prop up, making future job offers more and more distant. This is not just an interesting year for the shape of his side, but an interesting one in shaping his career.