If Everton fans needed more bad news after watching their team lose to Reading (a team that hadn’t won since being promoted), manager David Moyes was more than willing to oblige:
The Toffees may have more depth than they’ve had in recent seasons (meaning, they have some depth this year), but they’re still very thin in central midfield. Moyes’s first choice pair of Darron Gibson and Phil Neville were already compromised by Gibson’s thigh injury. With Neville out, the Toffees look set to rely on Thomas Hitzlsperger and Leon Osman, a duo unlikely to keep Everton near the top of the league. Osman is a quality wide option, but deployed in the middle with a player who hasn’t been good since 2008-09? It’s not something that will inspire confidence with games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham on the horizon.
On Saturday, Osman and Hitzlsperger were fine, albiet against one of the league’s worst teams. It’s also possible they’ll be fine going forward, but should they falter, there are a few alternatives. Netherlands international John Heitenga can be moved from defense into midfield, while Marouane Fellaini is also capable of playing at the base of midfield. It’s not like David Moyes has to live-and-die with Osman and Hitzlsperger.
Still, the Neville injury is a big blow for a team that had been one of the league’s pleasant surprises. Should the Toffees fight through this, that surprise will become all the more acute. Regression, however, would be understandable.