Everton have had a great start to the current campaign making a mockery of their usual tag as slow starters. There is no doubt that in the past David Moyes' side have gained a reputation as one of the more sluggish teams out of the Premier League blocks yet this year they raced out with impressive performances from Leon Osman, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Maraoune Fellaini at the forefront of this exceptional start.
However the fervour was always slightly tempered by warning signs over the accustomed lack of depth in the squad. The signing of Thomas Hitzlsperger highlighted the need for reinforcements in the Goodison ranks.
Currently the club have Kevin Mirallas, Victor Anichebe, Tony Hibbert and Darron Gibson all on the treatment table for various ailments. With Maraoune Fellaini suspended for their next fixture with Norwich City it leaves them desperately short of options which has seen a recall for Sheffield Wednesday loanee Ross Barkley.
The main injury concern is that of Phil Neville who had to undergo surgery on a knee problem. Moyes expects to be without his skipper for the next two months meaning he may be unavailable for vital matches with Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur before Christmas.
How vital is he to The Toffees?
Well if Darron Gibson was fit then perhaps the worry would not be so palpable but now it is difficult to see who will take Neville's place in the starting line-up with anything near the aplomb in which the former Manchester United stalwart has been showcasing.
This season the 35-year-old is one of the best midfield passers of the ball in the league with an average success rate in the 90 percents. He also reads the game extremely well allowing him to break down the play on various occasions. Earning possession and getting the ball out to Everton’s extremely potent full-backs, in particular the Premier Leagues most adept creator of chances Leighton Baines, with speed and accuracy has become a trademark of Neville and Everton’s success. Add to this his fitness levels that continue to belie his age and you have one of Everton’s key men missing for two months. Neville remains optimistic it could be a faster recovery time:
Had my op yesterday it went v well I normally recover quick from these so hopefully back soon #attacktherehab— phil neville18 (@fizzer18) November 17, 2012
There was also positive news as Darron Gibson featured for Everton reserves on Sunday so there is hope he could return soon from a troublesome thigh injury.
For now Hitzlsperger is likely to be given an extended run in the first team and time will tell if the gamble security signing can help fill the void left by the injury to Everton’s under-valued skipper for the next couple of months.
How will Neville’s injury affect Everton over the Christmas period?