The troubled Toffees

Everton desperately need a turnaround in fortunes but the Red Devils could add to their woe on Saturday.
EVERTON fans may be accustomed to slow starts but this season is proving to be a perplexing one.
An abysmal haul of one point in three games has left many Toffees scratching their heads and the bad news is that no one seems to know what is going wrong – David Moyes included.
Wishful thinking: Everton manager David Moyes aiming to get their season on track this weekend.
Occupying 18th spot in the BPL table, Everton surprisingly find themselves amongst the likes of Stoke City and West Ham, instead of turning the screw on their cross-town rivals and the other big boys.

Putting things in perspective, a club that aims to feature in Europe on a regular basis should be at the business end of the table. Granted, Everton are too good to go down – seriously – but the sight of the club languishing at the bottom is bound to cause uneasiness.
And as far as European football is concerned, the rot had better stop fast. Everton tend to find a second wind after Christmas but with the league getting more competitive, one wonders whether that will be enough – it certainly wasn't last season.
Now, the effectiveness and psychological state of a team's performance changes dramatically with its form and a win is badly needed to remedy the situation. At this stage, it won't matter how the ball goes in – as long as it does.
Herein lies the problem. A cutting edge was sorely missing in all of Everton's games and despite enjoying the lion's share of possession – and creating more chances – the Toffees can't seem to score to save their lives.
On current form, the Toffees are living the reversal of the playing-badly-but-winning cliché. And the hard reality is that the cliché – however uninspiring – gets you the three points. Playing-well-but-losing does not.
Much of this is down to the uninspiring performances of Jermaine Beckford who might still be adapting to life in the BPL. The former Leeds United striker looked out of his depth once again against Aston Villa and the Everton attack only came to live when Beckford was replaced by Louis Saha.
The former United frontman looked lively and he certainly made his experience count with some nice diagonal runs which bewildered the Villa defence. Entrusting Saha – who has made one start and two substitute appearances this season – to lead the line with Tim Cahill in support could just bring back Everton's bite.
The bad news: Saha is struggling with fitness – again. The 32-year-old's international comeback took a turn for the worse when he limped off only after 10 minutes against Belarus in Paris with yet another knee problem.
This makes Saha a major doubt for the United game and the Frenchman will be gutted to miss a reunion with Sir Alex and his old mates. Saha worked tirelessly to get back into shape and he even used leeches to treat his knees which swell up every now and then.
And if this isn't bad enough, Everton's luck is compounded further as young Jack Rodwell – who picked up an ankle injury against Villa – might not feature on Saturday. The 19-year-old was forced to withdraw from England Under-21 duty and it will be quite surprising if he wins his battle with fitness.
After making 26 appearances for Everton last season, Rodwell has come of age and the starlet has virtually guaranteed himself a starting spot in Everton's midfield. In fact, Rodwell has been so prodigious that Cahill's position could even be under threat – if rumours are to be believed.
Without the duo, the Toffees are likely to struggle against United and unless Beckford can rediscover his scoring touch that made him such a hit at Elland Road, a draw seems to be the best possible result.
Although question marks persist for Everton in the goalscoring department, the same cannot be said about the midfield fulcrum. Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta have been simply dominant in the middle of the park and Moyes will expect more of the same from the duo on Saturday.
Granted, they will find the going tough against the likes of Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes but if the duo can keep their supply of through balls going, Everton might just get lucky. And should the going get tough, the Goodison faithful can always count on Steven Pienaar to help them out.
Moving on to United, the Red Devils have some questions of their own. For starters, when will Wayne Rooney rediscover his old form and is Dimitar Berbatov really the club's top scorer?
While it's good to see the Bulgarian finally justifying his hefty transfer fee, Wayne Rooney's issues on and off the pitch have raised many an eyebrow and Sir Shrek must pull up his socks. There is a silver lining though. Rooney seemed to leave his sex scandal behind him by scoring in England's 3-1 romp over Switzerland and United fans will be hoping for more of the same on Saturday.
However, Rooney had to return to face wife Coleen's wrath and the nature of their "make-or-break" talks could affect his frame of mind. Sir Alex will no doubt be paying attention to his star's marital status – no pun intended – and the wily Scot could opt to start another striker should the need arise.
Still, United's Rooney conundrum is not as pressing as Everton's Saha injury. With Bebe and Javier Hernandez waiting in the wings, Berbatov is assured of company upfront. And don't forget that Michael Owen could have the golden opportunity to play against his boyhood club.
United do not have many complaints on the injury front and Rio Ferdinand is easing himself back into first team reckoning. The big defender recently passed a test with the reserves and he could even start at Goodison.
That said, the odds may be stacked against Everton but Moyes will take heart that the statistics have not done his side justice and it's all systems go at Goodison Park. The mood appears to be upbeat and Sylvain Distin recently expressed his confidence that the club's first win would happen soon.
Knowing Everton, even the biggest cynic could not disagree. However, the match against United could come too soon and the Toffee's might have to wait for their next fixture against Newcastle to record their first win of the season.
But then again, anything's possible in football as Everton showed against Manchester City last year. And from now to Saturday, you can be sure that Saha will be keeping up with his "leech" act. Just don't bet on Michael Owen to score.
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