AT TIMES they have seemed almost unstoppable – and even prompted Fulham boss Martin Jol to compare Everton to Barcelona earlier this season.
But the incessant menace posed by Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar has finally prompted opposition managers to take special measures to combat them, and recent weeks have seen their fluid partnership lose some of its potency.
Alex Ferguson paid the duo perhaps the ultimate compliment at Old Trafford when he ensured that his title-chasing Manchester United paid extra attention to halting them, and even Oldham Athletic boss Tony Philliskirk found a way to limit their efficiency.
But Pienaar has a defiant message for anyone who thinks the pair are ready to surrender their tag as the Premier League’s most deadly left-sided partnership any time soon.
“It is hard but we just have to keep going and going, simple as that,” says the former South Africa captain.
“Sometimes the opposition’s plan will work for 80 minutes but then there might be one slip-up and we get through and create something.
“We’ll always keep going no matter how many players the opposition put on our side of the field.
“We try to make sure we keep our composure and don’t get frustrated.
“We’ll try to make it as exciting as possible for the supporters, because at the end of the day they pay a lot of money to come and watch us and they want to see good football. We try to give them that.
“Sometimes it doesn’t come off but we keep going.”
Pienaar admits that the partnership is largely an intuitive and unscripted act, which must be supported in other areas of the team.
“Sometimes we ask the assistant manager to have a look at how it can work for us before a game,” he says.
“Some teams overload the left hand side and the manager will look to try to find a way to get out of that and use it to our advantage.
“That’s why it’s also important that we have the likes of Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas fit who can bring us a lot of attacking threat for the team.”
With 27 games under his belt already so far during this campaign, Pienaar’s own performances arguably dipped below their usually exquisite standards in Everton’s last two Premier League fixtures – a draw with Aston Villa and that defeat by United – but he was approaching top form again in the FA Cup at Boundary Park despite the frustrating outcome.
That setback, which means Everton must face the Latics again at Goodison on Tuesday, was particularly infuriating for the playmaker who admits that the replay will be another 90 minutes David Moyes’ men could do without.
“We put ourselves in a difficult position,” he says.
“We didn’t want another game as a team because we don't have the biggest squad, and also the game is coming on Tuesday so it’s quite close to the Norwich game.
“But we’re professionals so we just have to deal with it.
“The Norwich game is our priority but then we’ll think about the cup.”
Pienaar believes that Everton allowed nerves to creep into their late defending against Oldham, and ultimately left themselves vulnerable at the last-gasp.
“To concede in the last minute of the game is really terrible,” he adds. “We’ve done the opposite during this cup run and won at Bolton so I know how that feels, but it was sad what happened at Boundary Park because we had the experience out there not to concede and to get the job done.
“Sometimes the players get tense.
“You know they have already beaten a Premier League team and even though you’re 2-1 up and it’s nearly the end of the game it’s in the back of your head. Now we’ve got a good chance to set it right when they come to Goodison.
“We want to win something and if you look at how the FA Cup has been going this season we’ve got a good chance.
“Manchester United could end up playing Chelsea and that would be another big one that could drop if we go through.
“Also that would be the shortest way to European football. We’re determined to carry on.”