Head-to-Head: Pienaar v Duff
We take a statistical look at the two midfielders.
Amid all the talk of Nikica Jelavic’s ice-cold killer touch and Darron Gibson’s proficiency in pulling the strings, it would be remiss to overlook the impact their fellow January arrival has made on Everton’s 2011/12 campaign.
Blues supporters took to their social networks in a dizzying outpouring of excitement when it was confirmed Steven Pienaar would be returning to Goodison Park – and the little midfield maestro hasn’t let them down.
>>> Try out evertonfc.com's Head-to-Head stats tool
Pienaar made just four domestic appearances and only one start for Tottenham this season before striking the loan deal which secured his return to Merseyside.
But a more regular shot at first-team football is not the reason for the rediscovery of his best form – he was the undisputed Man of the Match in his very first game against Wigan and he hasn’t looked back since.
It seems he is just at home here.
"I think he's been absolutely fantastic since he's come back," says Blues legend Graeme Sharp. "He gives us so much. He's got so much energy and ability. His first touch is good, he's creative and he causes teams problems."
According to evertonfc.com’s Head-to-Head stats tool, the 29-year-old has added a further 10 appearances to his overall tally for the season since rejoining the Blues and taken his goals total from one to four – an improvement aided by his appearance on the scoresheet in each of Everton’s last two Premier League games.
His four assists this term have all come since his deadline day move and, in the 10 games he's played, Everton have suffered defeat just twice – a run which has helped propel David Moyes’ men up to seventh in the Barclays Premier League table, two points and two places above Saturday’s visitors Fulham.
The Cottagers’ own good form has largely been down to the goalscoring gusto of talisman Clint Dempsey. The American can’t do it all, however, and Pienaar’s possible left-wing counterpart Damien Duff has also been key in weighing in with four goals and six assists of his own.
Though he is just as likely to be seen cutting in off the right these days as operating in the touchline-hugging role which made him, Duff has still managed to supply a whopping 81 crosses – more than eight times as many as Pienaar, a player whose potent threat comes almost entirely through his marauding forays into the thick of the action.
“Steven's not what you would call an out-and-out left winger - he'll come in off the line and come into positions infield and make it difficult for people to mark him,” explains Sharp.
“If I was comparing the two of them, I would probably say that Steven has more impact on our team than what Damien has at Fulham.
“Fulham have the likes of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey who take the headlines, but Damien Duff is a sound player who will come in and do a job for them.
“He's not the player he was in terms of pace, but he's had a good career and is still a competent player. He likes to come in from the right and score with his left foot as well now. He's still got ability and works extremely hard.”
Defensively the pair can't be separated, our stats tool showing they have contributed three blocks and five clearances each.
But Duff's 26 appearances put him 12 ahead of Pienaar and, amongst all the praise, Sharp believes the South African's all-round contribution is something all too often overlooked.
He adds: “What people don't realise with Steven is his workrate. He works extremely hard. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he'll get back and help his full-back, whether it be Leighton [Baines], Sylvain [Distin] or whoever. He's a complete player for me.
“Defending is part and parcel of the game nowadays. You have to do it now if you're a wide player. It's not all about getting forward, although they'd like that to be the case. You've got to get back and work for the team and Steven does that."
And as for the prospect of facing the Cottagers on Saturday, Sharp is optimistic.
"Martin Jol's come in and done a bit of tinkering but defensively they're very good, the midfield are hard-working and they've got a couple of flair players who can cause problems.
"So they're very similar to ourselves. We've got a good record against Fulham at Goodison though and hopefully that will continue at the weekend."
Try out the evertonfc.com Head-to-Head tool and statistically compare any Everton player to any other Premier League performer now.