Lee Dixon: Moyes inspires his players to overachieve but life is getting tougher for the have-nots

The Weekend Dossier
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There could hardly be a greater footballing contrast than at the Etihad Stadium this lunchtime – Roberto Mancini and the have-it-alls against David Moyes and the have-nots.

As Mancini works out how to get the most out of one of the game's most expensively assembled squads, Moyes has had to scrimp and save to produce a team as he seeks to keep up his remarkable record in the top flight with Everton.

Given all the doom and gloom that surrounded Everton after Mikel Arteta, their best player, left as the transfer window closed, it is almost a surprise to see they are currently seventh in the Premier League and have not lost since that surprise first home-game reverse to QPR. It shouldn't do, though – seventh was where they finished last season.

You cannot fail to have huge respect for what Moyes has achieved under huge financial restraints. The way he has organised his troops and the levels they have reached – that seventh last year following on from eighth, fifth, fifth, sixth in previous campaigns – is way above what anyone could have expected. It's pulling rabbits out of hats.

He has not had the luxury of buying a replacement when a player is injured or out of form, or he simply wants someone better, as his opposite number today has had. For a manager that is not always a bad thing. It can force them to rely on what they should be doing – coaching players. If he does go on to a bigger job, then Moyes may look at this point of his career as a key time in his development as a manager. The restraints he is under at Goodison may have helped make him a better coach.

It's not easy to get current players or managers to come on to Match of the Day 2 but Moyes is someone who is happy to share the sofa and is always a guest worth having. The Scot is one of those people who you know within a couple of minutes of meeting that he is worth listening to. There's no need to read between the lines with him, as there is with some managers – and he has an obvious passion for the game. There is also something of the old school Scottish manager about him. He has not hesitated to take a firm line with Louis Saha, despite his shortage of striking options.

The big question for Moyes – and Everton fans – is whether a squad that is solid in defence and midfield but short of attacking options can sustain the level of the last few years. There are two main worries: Where will the goals come from and what damage could be done to the dressing room when the January transfer window opens? Without a regular scorer – and Arteta – it is difficult to see them finishing as high as seventh or eighth.

They have a good defence with the likes of Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Johnny Heitinga. Arteta was their most talented performer but Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill carry a midfield threat. Up front it is less convincing, even if it turns out he's picked up a decent youngster in Apostolos Vellios, the Greece Under-21 forward.

The emergence of young players from within the club has become a feature of Moyes's time at Goodison. It has become an imperative given their current financial concerns, but it's working. Midfielder Ross Barkley is the one who really stands out at the moment – he's the sort of player who doesn't come around very often.

From Wayne Rooney onwards, Moyes has been willing to give youngsters a go and that will make a difference when it comes to attracting players at academy level. When I started out with Burnley they were known for bringing players through the club and that can sway decisions. If you are a young player, where do you think you are more likely to get a chance – at Everton or their opponents today?

There are serious off-field issues at Goodison and if they continue it can become an on-field issue too. Moyes must be dreading January and the offers coming in. Were he to lose a Jagielka then, with no money to spend, the centre-half would be replaced by someone of lesser ability.

It's such a different job Moyes faces to the one Mancini has in Manchester, but there's one thing in Everton's favour this afternoon – they've done the double over City for the last two seasons, which only goes to show the difference a good coach can make, no matter the players on the field.

Five Asides

1. I faced agonising choice – my ankles still hurt

It is great to see Owen Hargreaves back after all the problems he has had. He is obviously an extreme example, but nearly every player will be faced with a decision over medical treatment in the course of his career. I had ankle problems – at one stage I was told I could have an operation and be back in six weeks or leave it to heal naturally and be out of action for three months. Put like that I chose the operation – as a footballer you want to get back as fast as possible and I don't know a player who wouldn't have gone for the quicker option. But it comes down to the player's choice. You trust the medical staff and are guided by them but it is still up to you whether you have the injection or operation. I would never have a pain-killing injection but I had that operation and I still have problems with my ankles.

2. All credit to Owens but forget England call-ups

It's been a week for comebacks: Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen on the scoresheet and Steven Gerrard back for Liverpool. You'd expect Gerrard, once he has games under his belt, to be return for England, but it amazes me there are calls for Fabio Capello to pick Hargreaves or Owen. They must be first choice for their clubs before becoming an England choice.

3. City's chance to say they have arrived

On Tuesday against Bayern Munich, Manchester City have a chance to put down a real marker in Europe. They are in one of the great theatres of European football against a team full of recognisable names like Franck Ribéry. This is what the Champions League is all about.

4. Flying visit to Paris left us checking train times

Paris – fantastic city. Even Charles de Gaulle airport looks fantastic. Shame, then, they don't seem to worry about getting anyone through it in a hurry. Yesterday, as the check-in queue got longer and longer, one of the two staff put on his jacket and strolled off to his lunchbreak. At passport control people were so frantic about missing flights they were barging in all over the place. Next time it'll be the train.

5. Arsenal look vulnerable in every game they play

Where do I start with Arsenal's performance at Blackburn? It went from awful to diabolical. It was terrible to watch them defensively – it was heartbreaking how bad they were. It means there is now massive, massive amounts of pressure on Arsène Wenger and the players against Bolton this afternoon. They just look so vulnerable at the moment. You hoped the United defeat might be a one-off but then came Ewood Park and the scary thing is now you feel it could happen in any game. There is no doubt they do have the quality in the squad but – there is no other way of putting this – they have to man up.

Lee Dixon on all the weekend action

Manchester City vs Everton

Odds: Home 4-9 Draw 7-2 Away 15-2

Kick-off: Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Kolo Touré may make a first league appearance in seven months after returning in midweek, but Owen Hargreaves misses out. Royston Drenthe could make his first league start for Everton.

Arsenal vs Bolton Wanderers

Odds: Home 2-5 Draw 7-2 Away 7-1

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Bolton await updates on Stuart Holden but have Ivan Klasnic suspended. Bacary Sagna, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky return to the Arsenal squad but Johan Djourou and Yossi Benayoun miss out.

Chelsea vs Swansea City

Odds: Home 1-5 Draw 6-1 Away 14-1

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Daniel Sturridge (knee) is injured and Alex suspended for the hosts, but Petr Cech is fit. Kemy Agustien (hamstring) misses out for Swansea, but Danny Graham (back) returns to Brendan Rodgers' squad.

Liverpool vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Odds: Home 1-3 Draw 4-1 Away 9-1

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Kenny Dalglish welcomes back Steven Gerrard, while Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel return from suspension. Roger Johnson (calf) and Steven Fletcher (groin) are both back for Mick McCarthy's side.

Newcastle United vs Blackburn Rovers

Odds: Home 4-5 Draw 5-2 Away 4-1

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Hatem Ben Arfa is in line for a first league game in almost a year after recovering from a broken leg, and Leon Best may start. Blackburn are without David Dunn (calf) and Ryan Nelsen (knee).

West Bromwich Albion vs Fulham

Odds: Home 5-4 Draw 23-10 Away 11-5

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Gabriel Tamas serves the final game of a three-match suspension for West Bromwich, but Shane Long (illness) is back. Aaron Hughes and Andrew Johnson may return for Fulham; Dickson Etuhu remains out.

Wigan Athletic vs Tottenham Hotspur

Odds: Home 3-1 Draw 5-2 Away 10-11

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Hugo Rodallega (knee) is out for a month for Wigan. Spurs miss Roman Pavlyuchenko, Niko Kranjcar (both hamstring) William Gallas (calf) and Aaron Lennon (groin), with Benoît Assou-Ekotto (throat) doubtful.

Stoke City vs Manchester United

Odds: Home 5-1 Draw 3-1 Away 8-15

Kick-off: Today, 5.30pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Team news: Kenwyne Jones misses out for Stoke after suffering a hamstring injury in midweek. Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck compete for a start for Man United, while Rio Ferdinand (calf) also returns.

Queen's Park Rangers vs Aston Villa

Odds: Home 6-5 Draw 23-10 Away 9-4

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Team news: Neil Warnock has no fresh concerns; Kieron Dyer (foot) remains out. Darren Bent (groin) and Emile Heskey (hamstring) miss out for Aston Villa, but Jermaine Jenas could return from a thigh complaint.

Norwich City vs Sunderland

Odds: Home 6-4 Draw 12-5 Away 17-10

Kick-off: Monday, 8pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights SS1, 12.30am, Tues)

Team news: Zak Whitbread (hamstring) misses out for Norwich, but Grant Holt could be recalled to partner Steve Morison. Phil Bardsley is suspended for Sunderland, who may hand a recall to Lee Cattermole.

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