Deadline day passed on Monday with the Everton squad reduced, their trading in profit and not one loan signing made. January was the fifth successive transfer window when Everton did not make a net spend on players, or the sixth if the January 2008 sale of James McFadden is taken into account for the following summer. Inactivity in the market has rekindled criticism of the chairman, Bill Kenwright (his fellow directors Robert Earl and John Woods are rarely mentioned), and tormented Moyes to the point where every defeat fuels whispers of his exit. The Scot has never indicated he would walk out on Everton but he is now prepared to concede that others might.
Marouane Fellaini, the club's £15m record signing, reaches the final two years of his existing contract at the end of the season and could grace most midfields in Europe. Arsenal continue to monitor Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines had admirers at Bayern Munich, while Steven Pienaar has gone and it took a club record contract to keep Mikel Arteta last summer. Poor results are, of course, to blame for Everton's deterioration this season but Moyes admits a talented but underperforming squad will need to be convinced this summer that the club's ambitions tally with their own.
"It is a problem and something as we go towards the end of the season I will need to have a chat with the chairman and the board about," said Moyes on extending Fellaini's contract. "They are important players for us and we have to keep a strong side together. We have to give them some hope and encouragement over what we are going to do. It is a discussion I can't have with the players at the moment, I need to speak to the club. I think Marouane has been looking a really good player but I have been saying that for a year now."
Everton have spent only what they have raised for the past three years. The £15m for Fellaini came from the sales of Andrew Johnson and McFadden in 2008, while 2009's £21m investment in Sylvain Distin, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and John Heitinga followed Manchester City's £22m purchase of Joleon Lescott. Last year Moyes spent what money was available on securing Arteta, Baines, Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell on new long-term contracts. No one at the time disputed the wisdom of keeping together a team who had lost only two of their final 24 games in 2009-10.
Kenwright has still to find a buyer for his majority shareholding and there is no new stadium planned after two failed attempts to relocate. In the last available accounts, to May 2009, Everton posted a record turnover of £79.7m having finished fifth in the Premier League for a second successive season and reached the FA Cup final but still recorded an overall operating loss of £6.7m. They are a business with all its assets on the pitch.
Moyes added: "You have to show the players that you are trying to progress and moving forward. You have to have a direction and a strategy. My strategy when I came to Everton was to change the age-group around to bring in young players who would give me value on the pitch, give me resale value, and it would take time to get that going. It is probably still the right way forward for Everton."
Accounts for 2010 are expected next week, although Everton have until 28 February to submit them to Companies House, and are likely to show turnover down and wages up. From fretting over how to keep ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City two seasons ago, the Everton manager is now being out-spent in the transfer market by clubs threatened by relegation. Moyes frequently expresses regret that football and money are inextricably linked but Everton are drifting dangerously with a strategy that relies on a manager conjuring tricks such as a £2m Arteta, £1.5m Cahill and a £60,000 Seamus Coleman.
Moyes rejects the view that no other strategy exists at Goodison. "We have done it [for players] to stay. A lot of clubs were interested in our players in the summer so the strategy was to keep them here. What we need to do is try and add to it and show them we mean a bit of business.
"We have tried to buy in one or two younger players and hope to get something out of them. I am aware that the age-group is starting to creep up and we have to start looking at the longer term and how we keep bringing that down. But we hope [Ross] Barkley, Jack [Rodwell], Victor [Anichebe] and Seamus [Coleman] start to push on. If you don't get players in then it gives your current players the space to push on. That's the other side of all the big spending; the young players get an opportunity here."