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So close, yet so far: Everton remain frustratingly near to becoming a club who would be feared

Both on and off the pitch, the Toffees are painfully close to matching England's biggest and best sides, but ultimately look unlikely to bridge the gap any time soon

ANALYSIS
By Chris Myson

Why none of the wealthy foreign owners we have seen arrive in the Premier League over the last decade have decided to bring their cash to Everton remains a mystery.

A club with history, prestige, stable management and a large fan-base who consistently punch above their weight would surely be an attractive proposition.

But as the wait for that investment goes on, Everton remain tantalisingly close to a situation where they are competing with England's biggest clubs in the top four on an annual basis.

It is a state of affairs they are really not far away at all from - on the pitch at least they are perhaps only two more top-quality players away from being a complete squad capable of mounting a lasting challenge year in, year out - but it is a situation which will remain out of reach if circumstances do not take a dramatic change.

CURRENT PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
Team

1. Man Utd
2. Man City
3. Chelsea
4. Tottenham
5. Everton
6. Arsenal
7. Liverpool
8. West Brom
9. Swansea

Played


23
23
23
23
23
22
23
23
23


Points

56
51
45
41
38
34
34
34
33

GD

+27
+26
+25
+12
+11
+15
+12
+1
+7
Monday night's 0-0 draw with Southampton at St Mary's left Everton fifth in the Premier League, with 38 points from 23 games and just three points away from the Champions League places.

It has been an excellent start to the season, although that was the 11th time in the league that David Moyes' side had shared the points. Despite being well in the running to challenge the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal for fourth, the reality is they are likely to come up just short, with that extra bit of quality in the tight matches sometimes eluding them.

With funds limited and investment on new players unlikely to arrive in January, it leaves the Toffees facing an uncertain short-term future.

As Goal.com revealed at the weekend, Everton are concerned over the plans of Moyes. The manager's contract expires at the end of the season and the club fear it will only be so long until he becomes frustrated by having his hands tied as he hopes to take the club to the next level.

He is reluctant to commit his future to Goodison Park on a new deal until after the transfer window and will wait to see what happens with Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, two of his key players.

A new long-term deal and £4 million-a-year contract could still keep him at the club, but Everton fans must wish it could be so much simpler and there be no way he would be tempted by big jobs that may be on the horizon both at home and abroad.

With funds behind them and another two quality signings to complement an impressive squad, the club would be ready to return to the big time and Moyes would have no reservations about committing his future.

As it happens, a top six finish from the strong start they have made is the likely outcome, but without new arrivals, a push to the Champions League and holding on to stars like Fellaini looks like an increasingly tough ask. Next season will likely be a battle to maintain that position, rather than improve on it.

"I think after the way we played in the first half I was frustrated, but in the second half that we got one or two good opportunities and we didn't nick a goal," said Moyes after the game at St Mary's.

"From our first half performance we deserved to be down but I thought in the second half we deserved to win it and I thought we had one or two chances where we could have done it. We have to start turning some of these draws into wins."
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One area the Toffees would love to be able to bring in a £20m star is in attack. Nikica Jelavic initially impressed after his arrival in January last year from Rangers and remains a decent option to lead the line.

But his problematic season in front of goal continued against Southampton, mis-kicking from a presentable second-half opportunity to extend a poor run that has yielded just one goal from 12 Premier League games.

The hard-working Croat can certainly be a lethal finisher on his day but he is no Robin van Persie, Demba Ba or even Luis Suarez, which is the type of quality Everton need to play in front of Fellaini and their well-drilled line-up if they are to make that final surge to join England's elite on a regular basis.

Another top option in midfield or defence would also make the difference but the fans at Goodison Park know Moyes will just have to continue getting the best out of what he's got and try his utmost to hold on to the stars already at his disposal.

That is the harsh reality and Everton will continue to have frustrating nights like they suffered on Monday.

They have all the tools to succeed and are not far away from greatness on and off the pitch, but a spot as top-four regulars is something that looks destined to remain so close, yet so far.

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