Everton revert to early-season malaise in Merseyside derby

Disrespecting one of the season's biggest fixtures with squad rotation will bruise Moyes's estimation in the eyes of Evertonians.

Everton revert to early-season malaise in Merseyside derby
Moyes needs to lift his players before Saturday

Growing up as an Everton fan teaches you to take the rough with the smooth. The Kanchelskises with the Bilyaletdinovs, if you will.

No sooner have you won the league than English clubs get banned from Europe. While still on an ecstatic high from finishing in a Champions League slot, you get battered out of the UEFA Cup qualifying round in Romania. And a couple of days after you write a column of drooling admiration for your manager after a run of wins against top-rung teams, he throws out a bizarre team selection and you blow it against Liverpool.

We can only speculate about the factors, big and small, which left us watching an apparent 4-4-2 formation, or what exactly David Moyes told Victor Anichebe and Denis Stracqualursi to do. Moyes, by his own admission- whether Everton fans want to hear it or not- had one eye on the F.A. Cup at the weekend. Even the most adored of Everton managers would struggle to convince the Gwladys Street end that you can rest your best striker for the Merseyside derby.

Anichebe for one was a passenger throughout the game, and in drifting wide confused Steven Pienaar as to who was doing what down the left, rendering that flank disorganised when Liverpool attacked up the right, and making the famously instinctive rapport between Pienaar and Leighton Baines fall apart.

Speaking of Baines: It was his over-commitment to tackling Suarez, when he had team-mates around him to do the job, which left him out of position and led to the first Liverpool goal. To be fair, Gerrard's finish was superb, and his whole performance looked like one from around 2005. But no team containing Henderson, Carroll and Spearing can be very dangerous. Liverpool just took their chances when they appeared, even if the third goal was wasted on many of the Liverpool fans, who started making their way out of Anfield from around the 85th minute. How early do they leave if they're losing?

Seamus Coleman looked unhappy as he ran off in the 61st. We can only hope that this is because he realised how poorly he'd played. And this evening saw the Mr. Hyde side to his mercurial replacement, Royston Drenthe, who went through his usual routine of mouthing off and his trademark ice hockey-style run into a player who's just passed the ball. 

The honeymoon of David Moyes's media-wide adulation is certainly over. Well, I guess you can't really call it a honeymoon. More like that week after a couple's ten-year anniversary when they spend a week in Italy and forget that that's the same person who they see every day. Moaning, farting and leaving shoes round the house. All of the problems which plagued Everton before the festive season have returned, with no ideas or direction up front, the midfield passing the ball between themselves and waiting for Baines to do something excellent. As we saw around November time, that gets a team nowhere. 

A win on Saturday, and the resultant place in the semis of the cup, might make Evertonians forget about tonight, or at least make the strategic decision seem like a good one. Moyes has a big job if he's going to lift the team for it....