Everton’s re-signing of Steven Pienaar in the final seconds of the January transfer window may well spell the end of Royston Drenthe’s long-term hopes of remaining at Everton, and is the latest example of the David Moyes mantra of perspiration over inspiration.
Royston Drenthe has undoubtedly sparkled and frustrated in equal measure since joining the club back in August. His chequered past and questionable attitude precedes him, and explains (much like Louis Saha’s injury problems before Moyes signed him) why such a naturally talented player is plying his trade at Goodison Park.
David Moyes, like with Saha, has shown shrewdness in picking up a bargain. However, if anybody truly expects Drenthe to be anything other than a short-term move then they will be sadly disappointed. In a rigidly negative tactical set up that demands work ethic over skill, the wildcard option will never truly flourish. See Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a talented ball player ostracised to left wings or benches. The key question remains unanswered: Why does Moyes bring in skill players and try to change them when he clearly values natural workhorses more strongly? Earlier this season he spoke of Drenthe’s limitations: “We want [players] to entertain, but for the right reasons…Sometimes in the Premier League, the harder side of it is defending”.
Drenthe’s supposed inability to defend corners cannot detract from some great moments so far this season. As well as a 30-yard screamer against Fulham, his direct running has often caused havoc and his danger around the box is unquestionable, with several brilliantly drilled balls along the six-yard line that the geriatric Saha could never reach immediately springing to mind. Even when off-form, such as during his disappointing performance in the victory over Manchester City, Drenthe provided a spark with a driving run drawing in defenders before a lay off to Baines that led to Darron Gibson’s winning goal.
His bottom line stats are impressive. Drenthe has started 7 Premier League games (albeit finishing only two of them) and has come off the bench in 8, always between minutes 54 and 73. Overall, he has scored twice and achieved five assists. By way of contrast, in 101 Premier League starts for Everton his teammate Steven Pienaar has achieved 9 goals and 16 assists. Pienaar’s ball retention and hard work is impressive but his figures, however, are not. A goal every 11.2 games and an assist every 6.3 clearly illustrate this. Even if I was to wrongly count all of Drenthe’s fifteen Premier League appearances as starts, he would still average a goal every 7.5 games and an assist every 3.
It could be argued that upon Landon Donovan’s return to the MLS at the end of the month, Drenthe will be given a run of games on the right wing. However, with the return of future-right-back Seamus Coleman as the reliable and hard working option, Royston will likely be avoiding splinters on the bench once more. And who could blame him for being a little annoyed, having lost his place firstly to Donovan, a loan signing only available for two months and then to a former player in Pienaar who had left in search of riches before begging to return a year later.
Sadly, on Saturday it is likely that the spark that Everton have often lacked this season will sit once more on the bench, kept away from the pitch due to his rash decisions, rushes of blood and occasional taste for playing questionable passes in dangerous positions. Steven Pienaar will start, his return to link up with Leighton Baines having been met with delight from Everton’s manager and fans. However, Pienaar is truly a percentage player, with his poor record of goals and assists masked by his ability in holding the ball, turning in circles and constant hard work. He is also aging at 29, in contrast to Drenthe’s room for improvement at 24. No disrespect to Pienaar, but he sums up Moyes perfectly. Moyes is an adequate but truly overrated manager outside of Goodison Park, a negative tactician who adores ageing players and bemoans the lack of entertainment his team has offered this season whilst leaving his wildcard option on the bench, choosing to bring Phil Neville on for Tim Cahill while his team are drawing against Wigan.
So the “fancy dan” Double-R Drenthe would probably be best off elsewhere, as much as I’d love to see him stay. You will struggle to find a player with such natural ability available and obtainable for no transfer fee, but under a manager who values perspiration over inspiration he will never truly succeed. Drenthe is a wildcard, a footballing madman even, equally capable of winning games alone and frustrating you in to submission. But isn’t it the surprise factor and the hope of entertainment that puts backsides on seats? If so, then no wonder there are more than ten thousand of them empty at Goodison Park these days.