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Will Phil Neville’s absence halt Everton’s European charge?

If one man could write a book on how to manage a Premier League club on a limited budget whilst coping with injuries, that man would be David Moyes.

Not a season passes by where the Everton manager isn’t forced to make the best from an injury deprived squad. Only a couple of months ago, Moyes led the team to an impressive 5th place league finish despite playing a large proportion of the campaign with only one fit striker.

The injury jinx recently struck again as Everton captain Phil Neville damaged his knee ligaments in the 2-1 away defeat to Fulham. The successes and failures of a football team can never be put down to one player, no matter how much of an impact they make for their club side. Neville himself would openly admit that he is not the most naturally talented of the Everton squad so why have pundits and supporters alike been so quick to bemoan the player’s lengthy lay off.

Neville 1

One thing that Everton will certainly miss is Neville’s versatility. The former England international has already played at centre back, centre midfield and in both full back positions this season. His consistency in all of these areas is invaluable for a team with such a small squad. Although the club has recently signed another versatile player in Dutch international Johnny Heitinga, he is not eligible to play in the Europa league this season.

Another who will miss the benefits of Neville’s experience is young midfielder Jack Rodwell. In the past year, Neville has worked closely with Rodwell in a bid to help the youngster settle into the spotlight of the first team. It is likely that the England U21 international will be expected to fill the large void left by Neville. However despite his obvious talent, Rodwell doesn’t yet offer the same stability and consistency that Neville provides without fail.

Who will David Moyes pick to fill Neville's absence?

Who will David Moyes pick to fill Neville's absence?

On the other hand, Everton have managed to handle the loss of key players in previous campaigns and their team spirit is well renowned for being amongst the best in the league. Only earlier this week, new signing Lucas Neill expressed that this was a significant factor in him joining the club.

Also, in the past, several Everton supporters have been quick to lambast Moyes’ decision to pair Neville and Rodwell together in a defensive midfield combination. One Everton blog stated: “Given my criticism of Moyes being too negative, this could be a blessing in disguise, as it will force him to do something other than playing Neville and Rodwell in central midfield together, two defensive midfielders, when the team is screaming for creativity in the centre.”

However, one rather surprising statistic to casual followers is that Phil Neville was the player most involved in the creation of Everton’s goals last season. The team may still have the playmaking talents of Stephen Pienaar, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and the soon to return Mikel Arteta but they may well miss their organiser, their voice and the inspirational leader of the team.

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