Has Moyes had his Middlesbrough moment?

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesEverton players Steven Pienaar, left, and Nikica Jelavic argue during the Toffees' listless performance in their FA Cup quarterfinal against Wigan.

In March 2002, Everton lost 3-0 to Middlesbrough in their FA Cup quarterfinal after a dismal performance. Almost 11 years to the day, the same fate befell Everton. After the 2002 display, Walter Smith received his marching orders.

While David Moyes is safe from that danger, there was a similar end of tenure feel around Goodison Park after the final whistle.

- Jolly: Underdogs have their day at Goodison
- Match report: Everton 0-3 Wigan

With Wigan bossing the early stages, the game started badly and quickly worsened. This was a hideous display from the manager and his players. The baffling and uninventive decisions from Moyes were the crux of the problem and smacked of a man out of ideas and invention.

Substitutions appeared rehearsed rather than thought out, and they served to further stifle the side. Too reactive and cautious by nature, Moyes showed an unimaginative streak that was frustrating. Backed by a primarily defensive backroom setup, the tendency to revert to safety-first selections continues to plague Everton.

Looking for possession, linking the defence and attack, screening the back four, Darron Gibson is the vital cog in the Everton midfield. Yet for some unfathomable tactical reason, Gibson received bench-warming duties as Phil Neville took his midfield place.

Gibson has a troublesome thigh problem that may require surgery later, but the medical team is managing the injury. Moyes confirmed afterward that his decision was not fitness related. Injury management is fine, but with a free weekend approaching, it was a poor decision that drastically backfired, as Wigan regularly cut through the brittle Everton midfield.

After an early warning shot cannoned off the post, Wigan took the lead when Maynor Figueroa easily outjumped Leon Osman. Despite conceding the most headed goals this season, Everton are not learning from their errors.

Hauling every player back, the countless blue shirts are hindering rather than helping. The overcrowded area creates panic, and basic errors continue to compound it. The calamitous set pieces reached their pinnacle when Everton continued to bring every player back despite trailing by three goals; the disapproving din from Gwladys Street spoke volumes.

An individual error led to a Wigan second. Neville's over-hit pass reached Callum McManaman, and the boyhood Evertonian and former Everton youth player made no mistake. After a flowing move, Jordi Gomez added a clinical third, with the Spaniard curling his effort into the corner. The shell-shocked home side had no answers, and Everton's FA Cup hopes evaporated in the space of three minutes.

Halftime came and signaled the need for decisive action. Replacing Neville with Victor Anichebe fitted the bill. However, Anichebe spent the remainder of the match on the right wing. This extinguished all the remaining drops of shape and cohesion, leaving the disjointed shambles of a team to continue until the final whistle.

While the manager is rightly criticised, only a portion of the blame is his. Everton fans can forgive many things, but a lack of effort is not one of them, as Marouane Fellaini found out. Losing possession in the Wigan half, Fellaini simply stood still while the visitors countered. One of the select few to perform, Kevin Mirallas echoed the fans' grievances with a sharp word in Fellaini's ear.

Ross Barkley looked bright in a late cameo. Eager to get involved and willing to move, he showed more than most of his teammates. Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar ran tirelessly, though little came off, the pair suffering a rare off day.

Over-reliant on the same select few, Everton are carrying too many players at present.

Stagnation looms large over the club, and the upcoming summer is a critical one as uncertainty lingers over the manager and several players. Despite Moyes' protestations, it would appear that the unsigned contract is clearly affecting the side. Lacking leaders and leadership, this rudderless outfit needs concrete plans for the future, especially since Moyes may have had his Middlesbrough moment.

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