Moyes feels strain over cruel luck

Everton manager admits that the club's injury crisis is starting to 'drag him down'
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The Independent Football

David Moyes won't look back on October 2009 with much pleasure. In fact, he will positively wince whenever he recalls the period which has seen him suffer some of his darkest hours since becoming Everton manager.

In six games over the last four weeks Everton have managed just one victory, against Europa League minnows BATE Borisov. Results that promise to linger in the memories of those connected with the Merseyside club however are more likely to be chastening defeats to Benfica and Tottenham, along with disappointing home draws against Wolves and Stoke. Just to rub salt into Everton's wounds, Moyes's men were left on their knees when Bolton snatched a late victory at the Reebok after Moyes's side had fought back from a two goal deficit.

Yet these setbacks only tell half the story. At the same time, Everton's medical room at the club's Finch Farm training complex has resembled an A & E department at one of the city's busy hospitals.

Moyes has never known anything like it. He is not one to feel sorry for himself and will plough on regardless, but there is plenty of sympathy for someone who doesn't have the largest squad of players to begin with, or the finances at his disposal to sign replacements.

Moyes's cruel luck started last season and has shown no signs of abating. Yakubu was struck down with a serious Achilles injury which threatened his career and removed him from the manager's plans for nine months, while Mikel Arteta suffered damaged knee ligaments in February and has not been seen since. He is still a month away from returning at least and his absence, along with that of Phil Jagielka due to a similar injury, has been the catalyst for Everton's demise.

Last week Moyes showed the first signs of cracking under the strain of fitting square pegs in round holes.

"The injuries are beginning to drag me down,'' he said, "It is beginning to weigh on us. The other thing is, it is weighing on the players as the same few are having to dig deep all the time. The injury list is a long one, but we will keep putting the best eleven players out that we can. I'm relying on the medical staff to do their job and help us.

"There are injuries at every club, It's all part of it, but you need your better players available to win games and the sooner we get them back the better."

Joining Arteta and Jagielka on the sidelines are captain Phil Neville (knee), James Vaughan (knee), Leon Osman (foot), Victor Anichebe (knee) and Leighton Baines (calf). Currently struggling for fitness are Joseph Yobo (head), Steven Pienaar (knee), Louis Saha (calf) and Russian international Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (groin). Some have been and will continue to be asked to play through the pain barrier, such is Moyes's lack of options.

During this period of debilitation, Everton have slumped down the table to within just four points of the relegation zone.

Moyes has not been helped by having to prepare his side for a recent and ridiculous run of three games in six days, including Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat at White Hart Lane, a fixture he tried but failed to have put back 24 hours.

Little wonder then that Moyes bristles at questions regarding his injured troops. He is clearly tired of being reminded of his current plight. He added: "We have been without some of our best players, certainly for half of last season and now the start of this. Sooner or later it will take its toll in performances and some of the results.

"But I'd hate to think people thought I was whingeing about injuries. I'm not like that. In fact I'm quite the opposite. We've got injuries like everyone else, but we'll get eleven players out there to play against Aston Villa."

Everton host Villa today and Moyes's starting line-up is anyone's guess. Everton beat Villa at Goodison Park 3-1 in the FA Cup last season en route to the final and Moyes would kill for a similar result. Villa, however, have no such injury problems and go in search of a Merseyside double having already beaten Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season. And there might, just might, be some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel Moyes has found himself in.

Baines is confident of overcoming his calf problem in time to face Villa, while Neville has reiterated his desire for a return in time for the game at former club Manchester United in three weeks. Neville said: "I really want to be back training and helping the guys out. I am hoping to be back for the Man United game. But you never know.

"That would be eight weeks after the injury and the surgeon said it was a 12-week injury. It just depends on how it is healing and how it is progressing.

"I am back running now, which is good, so we'll take each day as it comes. In an ideal world I would love to be fit for the Man United game, after the next international break."

Sickie Toffees: Everton's injury list

Victor Anichebe (knee) Injured ligaments at Newcastle in February, due back mid to late November.

Mikel Arteta (knee) Ruptured cruciate ligaments in the same match. Due back towards the end of next month.

Leighton Baines (calf) Could return today.

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (thigh) Doubtful for today.

Phil Jagielka (knee) Ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in May, due back at end of November.

Phil Neville (knee) Injured posterior ligaments at Fulham last month, not due back for another four weeks.

Leon Osman (foot) Out for three weeks after recurrence of ankle injury.

Steven Pienaar (knee) Not featured since win at Portsmouth at the end of last month. Out for a further week.

James Vaughan (knee) Returned from loan at Derby County after picking up injury. Out for a further two months.

Joseph Yobo (concussion) Doubtful for today's match.