In case you missed it, things have not been looking up at Goodison Park as of late. Everton are 12th on the table with one win in their last ten league matches and they've dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League.
The EPL is allotted four slots in the 2016/2017 Champions League, given to the top four teams on the table at the conclusion of the 2015/2016 season. The good news is that Everton has not been mathematically eliminated from competing for one of those places. The bad news is that in order to get one, they will basically have to break the Premier League record for consecutive victories in order to achieve it.
Everton currently holds 29 points with 15 games to play. That means that if they win out, they will end up with 73 points on the season. Below is the average point total of the top four Premier League teams over the past five years:
Ouch. As you can see, if Everton breaks Arsenal's consecutive game winning streak, they just may squeak into fourth place.
Of course, its been a roller coaster season, so its possible fourth place will end up being more achievable. Tottenham currently is in fourth, with 42 points through 23 games. That breaks down to about 1.83 points per game. If we assume that Tottenahm will continue that pace, then we would expect them to earn an additional 27 points by the end of the campaign, giving them a total of 69. Slightly better for Everton, but still extremely unlikely.
Alright, given that Everton have yet to win two consecutive league games this year, 15 in a row may be a bit ambitious. But what about the Europa League? This one is much more doable, even if several of the options are somewhat convoluted.
English teams are allotted three Europa League places - one to the fifth place finisher in the EPL, one to the winner of the FA Cup and one to the winner of the Capital One Cup. If the winner of the FA or Capital One Cups is also a top five finisher in the Premier League (and thus already qualified for European football), then the slot moves down to the sixth place team. If both cup winners are in the top five, then the seventh place team also earns a berth.
Let's examine each path to the Europa League.
Win the Capital One Cup
Not to twist the knife here, but this would have been Everton's most straightforward and achievable option. As its now off the table after their loss to Manchester City, let's move on. Currently both finalists City and Liverpool are above Everton in the table.
Win the FA Cup
A much longer road then the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup is still an option for Everton. It'll be tough sledding as well - thirteen Premier League teams are still in contention, including six of the top seven (only Leicester City has been eliminated). At least three more will be sent packing however, as Round Four features Aston Villa - Man City, Stoke City - Crystal Palace and Liverpool - West Ham United.
Everton have drawn a favorable matchup against League Two side Carlisle United and should be expected to move on to Round Five. Beyond that however, the road will get tougher. Given Everton's allergy to putting together consecutive high quality performances, we may have to hope for what we couldn't achieve withe league cup - survive a reasonable draw, then take a couple of games from high quality competition.
Qualification Through League Play
Here's where things get a bit muddy. Only fifth place is guaranteed a Europa League spot, with sixth and seventh place dependent on the cups. Here's the average point total of each of those positions in the Premier League over the last five years:
These totals are a bit more reasonable, but still represent an uphill climb for the Toffees. Even seventh place would require Everton to average two wins every three matches. Certainly easier than a 15 game win streak, but still a tough go.
Even if take into account the somewhat open nature of the league this year, Everton would need about the same number of points. Liverpool currently sits seventh with 34 points. On their current pace, Liverpool would end up with 56 points on the season. That means Everton would at minimum need to take 27 points from the remaining 15 contests. That doesn't guarantee a berth, just earns them a spot in the conversation.
One small positive of Man City's victory is that it is more likely to open up a qualification spot for the sixth or seventh place team to sneak in through league play. City is almost certain to win a Champions League spot. If they do, then its marginally more likely that a more achievable spot opens up for Everton. As if you needed another reason to root against Liverpool during the final...
Hope is not lost Evertonians, although it does stand on the edge of a knife. Nine wins from 15 is not unprecedented, but given that we've won just six from 22, that seems unlikely. We'll more or less learn the team's fate in February. If they take at least two from the four, then there's still a chance.