Can Everton manager David Moyes finally end his big-four hoodoo?

Everton manager has never won at United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea and it’s make or break for Champions League entry at the Emirates tonight, he tells Simon Hart

David Moyes has achieved so many good things during his 11-year tenure as Everton manager but one particular wish has proved elusive. It was a wish expressed early in his first full season at Goodison Park, during a post-match interview after a televised Monday night game at Manchester United.

For 85 minutes, Everton had held United. They had almost nicked a goal when a young substitute called Wayne Rooney wriggled his way through the home defence but failed to beat Fabien Barthez. Instead, a blitz of late goals left Everton 3-0 losers, and Moyes with a face like thunder. Asked if he was heartened by his side’s showing, the response was defiant – “I want to be coming to places like this and winning.”

Fast forward 11 years and Moyes has still to taste the satisfaction of a league victory at one of the quartet of clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – who became defined as the Premier League’s “big four”. It is a statistic that stands out as the real oddity of his Goodison reign given some rousing home victories over all of the aforementioned, not to mention Everton’s ability to get under the skin of Manchester City since their Abu Dhabi-funded elevation to the elite.

Forty-three visits to the big four have brought not a single victory, but Moyes’ team will visit the Emirates tonight knowing they will have to shred that unwanted statistic if they are to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive. “I think if we win this one, we will be right in with an opportunity. If we lose it, we will probably be out of that chance of making the top four,” said Moyes. Everton would climb within a point of third-placed Arsenal with a victory and will arrive in north London on a run of four wins from five league matches. But now comes the hard part. Those four victories all came at Goodison; now they need to do the same on their travels – and trips to the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, as well as a re-energised Stadium of Light, all feature in a forbidding-looking run-in.

“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to have to win one of the big games somewhere along the line,” said Moyes. “I’ve said to the players that we’re going to have to win away from home and for the Champions League it might have to be more than once. It is us trying to break new ground in a lot of ways.”

History suggests the Emirates is the toughest place to start. Everton have taken fewer points there (two) under Moyes than at any of the big four and even in 2004/05, the season they earned Champions League qualification, found themselves on the receiving end of a 7-0 drubbing – albeit three days after an evidently big night out at Albert Dock to celebrate finishing fourth. They came closest three seasons ago when leading 2-1 through a delicious Steven Pienaar chip until Tomas Rosicky equalised with a deflected shot in stoppage time.

Perhaps this was the reason Moyes, despite an air of quiet confidence – “I feel good about the team, there are a lot of good things about them right now” – rated Everton’s Champions League prospects as “15 per cent” yesterday. “I am really loath to talk it up or think that way because it’s such a difficult game for us. Undoubtedly our record has not been great at the Emirates. We go there as big outsiders to make it.” Everton’s last success at Arsenal was in January 1996, eight months before the arrival of Arsène Wenger. Graham Stuart and Andrei Kanchelskis were the scorers in a 2-1 victory in which Barry Horne, the former Wales midfielder, also figured for Everton. Now a Sky analyst, Horne defended his old side’s away record against their wealthier rivals.

“Have a look at the games and they’ll have been in front, they’ll have been close and [have had] no hammerings,” he said. “With Everton over the course of the season their results are more or less what they should be and you don’t get too many shocks. Yes, you might expect a top-six team to do better in one of those games but I don’t think it’s a huge surprise. Everton pick points up against the teams below them home and away, pick points up against the teams above them at home and pick draws up on the road – that is how it should be.”

Moyes himself argues Everton’s consistency means “you get less complacency from the bigger sides when they play Everton” at home, while another factor is their lack of a reliable goalscorer, according to Horne.

Dismissing the suggestion it has anything to do with tactics, he points instead to the absence of “a player who can turn a game almost single-handedly” – which is what they had in 1995/96 when Kanchelskis was the matchwinner at both Highbury and Anfield. “When you’ve got that type of player in form, you always have a chance,” said Horne.

Although Kevin Mirallas’s recent spectacular goals against Stoke and Tottenham suggest he has that in him when fit, the fact is no Everton player since has surpassed Kanchelskis’s 16 league goals in 1995/96 – hence Moyes’ admission on Saturday’s Match of the Day that a consistent marksman would be his dream signing. “[Luis] Suarez has got 29 for Liverpool and we’ve missed someone who has got us 15 or 20 goals. If we’d had that, we would be genuine contenders for the top spots,” he mused yesterday.

As it is, they are the underfunded outsiders hoping to spring an upset tonight to keep an unlikely dream alive. “If Everton did have a chance of making the Champions League it could change an awful lot of things for Everton as a football club, which it nearly did the year we [lost to] Villarreal,” said Moyes, referring to the 2005 qualifying defeat against the Spanish club. Then Everton’s chances died with a controversial Pierluigi Collina decision to disallow a Duncan Ferguson header which would have levelled the aggregate scores in the second leg at El Madrigal. 

It remains one of the big “what ifs” of the Moyes reign. With a question-mark against his future, tonight could prove almost as pivotal in its own way. “I’ve actually not really thought how big a game it could be for Everton,” said Moyes. “I think maybe if I won it then I would start thinking how big.”

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone