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Everton Season Preview: Here’s How The Blues Rise

Peering into the future for a look at Everton’s potential rise...

Everton v Lille - Algarve Cup Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

The ball skips across the Wembley Stadium grass on a direct line at Richarlison, who deftly welcomes it with the inside of his left foot.

Stationed out at his customary left wing position, the Brazilian winger’s boots are dusted with the chalk of the touch line, having spent the FA Cup doing what he had done for the entire 2018-2019 campaign: terrorizing opponents.

With the ball settled, the Toffees’ winger rises onto his toes like a large cat preparing to pounce on it’s prey, as the Everton fans rise to their feet in anticipation.

Shoulders slightly hunched, with his chin tucked into his chest, Richarlison’s eyes move up to his defender.

The now almost sinister-looking winger begins to drive at his helpless victim.

Diogo Dalot stumbles back and fearful of getting beat inside over commits to Richarlison’s right, showing the winger a clear path to the end line.

Right toe still pointed down as it softly pushes the ball at the retreating defender, the Brazilian suddenly changes direction and sends the ball rolling parallel to the touch line and gets up to speed in almost unbelievable time.

The defender, now acutely aware of his miscalculation, reaches out to grab the now accelerating Richarlison but it’s too late.

The Brazilian dips his right shoulder to adjust course and shifts the ball to his inside foot as he steams towards the front post.

David De Gea, the last thing between Richarlison and the goal, begins to close down the angle, eating up space and closing the Brazilian’s angle by hopping forward in 2-3 foot increments.

Knees bent and arms extended straight by his side, he knows his ball-carrying opponent is not short of options.

6 yards away from goal and just a yard outside the front post, Richarlison rears back to shoot on his right foot.

The Spanish keeper shifts his weight and begins to drive off of his left foot. simultaneously extending his arms in anticipation of the imminent strike coming over his left shoulder.

Sensing the keeper’s early commitment to his dive, Richarlison drives his right knee towards the ground before suddenly kicking not the ball, but the ground.

As the ball continues to roll, the winger shifts it to his left-foot and pulls the ball back to the top of the 6 yard box.

A sea of blue jerseys flood the box and the ball rolls appetizingly along the line.

Gylfi Sigurdsson recognizes the path of the ball, and adjusts his run accordingly.

As the Icelandic midfielder meets the ball just seven yards from goal he allows it to roll across his body.

As he opens his right hip and picks his head up to strike the ball, Gylfi gets a glimpse of the screaming, sweaty Toffees supporters trying to suck the ball into the goal.

Their faces, checkered by the netting, disappear as he swings his right leg through the ball, which nestles into the back right corner of the goal as the fans begin to lose their minds.

The Toffees have done it.

They’ve won the FA Cup.

The 2018-2019 campaign was one that will forever be remembered and recalled by Everton fans.

The league campaign, and Marco Silva era, got off to a flying start as a friendly schedule saw the Toffees take full points off the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, Huddersfield Town and West Ham United while drawing at a stubborn AFC Bournemouth side.

A trip to Arsenal provided the first test against a top side, and while Everton allowed Arsenal to take ownership of the ball, it was Everton who claimed the points as new signing Bernard came on late to provide the winner with a beautiful strike from distance.

Now poised second in the table, the Toffees momentum felt like a tidal wave.

Of course like the waves, Everton eventually came crashing back to Earth.

Failing to capitalize on the win at the Emirates, they dropped points at home against Fulham before suffering their first loss at Leicester City.

Another shaky performance saw the Toffees hold on for a point at home against Crystal Palace but slip to 4th in the table as the Toffees prepared for their first matchup with a Top 4 side from the previous campaign: Manchester United.

In a confident position themselves, the now 2nd place Red Devils welcomed a slightly-unsure-of-themselves Toffees side to Old Trafford.

Sensing they may be underestimated, Marco Silva decides to avoid the obvious temptation to sit back and counter and comes out in a high press.

Richarlison, already proving to be a bargain with 5 goals and 4 assists, takes advantage of the space provided by the the spacious Old Trafford pitch and terrorizes the Man United back line all day.

Alternating between provider and finisher, the Brazilian shows exactly why Silva was so adamant in his pursuit of the winger as he lead the Toffees to the seasons second road win over a Top 6 side and a much needed confidence boost heading into October.

The Blues returned from an International Break to welcome Cardiff City to Goodison. Picking up where they left off against the Red Devils, Everton disposed of the recently promoted side.

It was then time for the Toffees’ first Merseyside Derby of the season. The neighbors played each other tough, but a scrappy affair ended in a bittersweet 1-1 draw.

The Toffees faithful were disappointed not to get the win, but the match affirmed what fans had been whispering: a Champions League spot was now a serious consideration.

Chelsea had fallen apart from the beginning, firing Sarri just eight weeks into the campaign, while Tottenham Hotspur’s failure to sign any players, combined with World Cup fatigue, saw them struggling to stay in the Top 8.

The busy December period got off to a rousing start as back-to-back home wins saw the Toffees head into a showdown with runaway league leader Manchester City.

The Citizens were too much for the Blues and the visitors left the Etihad with their heads down.

The following run of games saw the worst stretch of the season for Toffees as a home loss to Tottenham was followed up by frustrating road losses to Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion.

The end of the calendar year saw Everton poised 5th in the table, only 4 points out of Champions League soccer and the FA Cup still to come.

Everton would need to balance league competition with their Cup aspirations, and January reinforcements in the defensive midfield and back line were meant to help save legs while keeping the momentum going.

2019 kicked off with Everton getting revenge for their first loss of the season to Leicester by handing the Foxes a 3-0 loss at Goodison.

The badly needed victory also gave the Toffees momentum heading into their Third Round FA Cup match with Championship side Aston Villa. Everton took no chances and jumped all over the Villans. Running rampant offensively, and with organization finally being shown by the back line, Everton walked away with an enjoyable 4-1 victory.

Matches with Bournemouth and Southampton earned the Toffees six points heading into their Fourth Round FA Cup match with Fulham.

Everton again fielded almost their entire starting XI, with only Leighton Baines and Oumar Niasse getting the nod in lieu of Lucas Digne and Cenk Tosun.

An early Cottagers goal silenced the faithful, and a second goal for the visitors just before the break left Goodison silent and left to ponder what had gone wrong in the first 45 minutes.

Coming out of the break, Marco Silva made two changes to the Blues personnel, bringing on Bernard for an ineffective, if not exhausted, Richarlison and Tom Davies for a yellow-card carrying Morgan Schneiderlin.

The changes?

They worked.

Bernard continued to play his role of super sub superbly and created Everton’s first with a delicious through ball to Theo Walcott who was at the back post to finish emphatically and bring Goodison to life.

A quick second was not to be, however, and Everton found themelves still trailing as they moved into the final quarter of the match.

Once final change saw Kieran Dowell make an appearance as the Blues shifted to three in the back.

The Everton academy product wasted no time putting his stamp on the match as he found enough space near the top of the box to turn and finish with his silky left foot.

The outcome seemed inevitable at that point, as Everton spent the next five minutes sending a barrage of shots at the Fulham net, before the visitors finally capitulated on a corner kick, with Seamus Coleman scoring one of his trademark back post headers.

The win turned Goodison on it’s head and was a foreshadowing of things to come.

Four points from a run of games against Huddersfield, Wolves and Watford FC left the Blues looking forward to their upcoming match up with Championship side Norwich.

Blues fans were surely having flashbacks to the Toffees 2-0 exit in the EFL Cup at the hands of the Canaries just two seasons ago, but worries were quelled when the home side took an early lead on a Cenk Tosun header.

Everton were consistent if not impressive in a 2-0 win that saw them keep their hopes alive of breaking the trophy less run that has plagued the Toffees for more than two decades.

A quick turnaround against Manchester City cost the Toffees three points, but they rebounded for a win against Cardiff.

The second Merseyside Derby of the year was a back and forth affair, with the sides eventually finding themselves tied 2-2 late in the match.

The Goodison crowd was in hysterics as Mo Salah dove to earn a penalty kick, but Jordan Pickford’s save brought the crowd right back to life.

A late Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick, compliments of a Richarlison-drawn foul. found Michael Keane’s forehead to give the Toffees their first Merseyside Derby win since 2010.

A draw at Newcastle took some air out of the sails of Toffees fans, but the Quarterfinal FA Cup matchup with Tottenham got Everton fans and players alike quickly refocused.

Playing at the struggling Spurs new facility, Everton were still considered big underdogs.

Harry Kane sought to prove the prognosticators right when he deftly finished into the lower right corner 10 minutes into the match, but Richarlison’s magic feet beat Spurs on the counter and tied it up before half with his curling right-footed shot giving Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris no chance.

The second half played out much as the first did, though neither side gave up nor earned a good opportunity at goal before a litany of subs for both sides just after the hour mark injected much needed pace into each side.

Theo Walcott, coming off an ankle injury that put a six week pause a near career year, came into the match for Bernard and proceeded to defeat Ben Davies with regularity down the Toffees right hand side.

When the diminutive Englishman received the ball in behind he took off toward goal, and as he shifted the ball to the left foot got off a back post shot that Lloris parried directly into the path of on onrushing Oumar Niasse, who used his left hip to redirect the ball into the net.

The traveling Blues section went delirious as Spurs fans sat in stunned silence.

Everton survived the last 5 minutes of the match, and 3 Tottenham corners, to earn the victory and move onto the FA Cup semifinals.

When the Toffees returned from the international break they had only one league match with West Ham to use to prepare for the semifinals.

A 2-1 win over the Hammers gave Everton positive vibes heading into the early April semifinal against Arsenal.

Facing their second consecutive London team. the Toffees were excited to play at Wembley and it showed.

Cenk Tosun played one of the best matches of his career as he easily handled the Gunners center backs.

With Richarlison and a fully-fit Theo Walcott running off of him, the Turkish striker played provider.

A 0-0 second half deadlock was broken when Tosun’s magical outside of the foot layoff found an onrushing Walcott, who slid the ball back across the front of the goal for Idrissa Gana Gueye to finish off.

The 1-0 lead would hold up as Everton showed newly discovered confidence and poise in seeing the match out without giving up any clear chances to a frantic Arsenal side.

It had happened.

The Toffees had finally found their way back to a final.

Everton fans were ecstatic, but with the final coming after the end of the league season, all focus shifted back to final six matches of the season.

The Toffees were six points back of the recently FA Cup dismissed Gunners with 18 points left up for grabs, with the teams having one more head-to-head match up.

Everton handled business versus Fullham, Crystal Palace and Burnley but could only earn draws with Manchester United and Chelsea (like the upcoming Arsenal match rescheduled due to the FA Cup).

Arsenal did themselves no favors as they sputtered towards the finish line, including back-to-back losses leading into the match up with Everton.

The Toffees need to win their final two matches, home versus Arsenal and at Tottenham, while hoping Arsenal dropped all the points at a lame duck Burnley side in the last fixture of the season.

Everton took care of their own business against Arsenal in a rematch of the FA Cup semifinals as Marco Silva relied on defensive organization and supreme conditioning to earn a 1-0 win, via a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick.

The simultaneous kickoffs off the last weekend created mountains of nerves for Everton fans who would be cheering on the Toffees at Spurs while keeping one eye on their phones and the Burnley/ Arsenal match.

Returning to the the site of their earlier FA Cup victory, Everton found an opponent motivated to play spoiler after their own disappointing campaign.

Everton were up to the challenge, however, and some Jordan Pickford heroics kept the match even after thirty minutes.

When Morgan Schneiderlin slid the ball thru to an overlapping Lucas Digne the Everton crowd rose to their feet.

The French left back picked his head up and seeing a front post run by Cenk Tosun slid a hard cross on the ground.

The Turkish striker, running straight at the front post, used his left foot to shepherd the ball at goal.

Hugo Lloris was perfectly positioned, however, and the ball rose up and struck him directly in the chest.

The ball rebounded up into the air about 10 feet and slightly over Lloris’ left shoulder, leaving him out of the picture to make the save.

With the ball up for grabs players began to converge before Schneiderlin, having followed the entire play, leaped into the air above everyone else and flicked the ball into the net off the left side of his head.

Pandemonium set in among the Everton faithful and the teams went into the break at 1-0 to the Toffees.

In the other game, Burnley was doing their best to hold down the fort against Arsenal, but at 0-0 the Gunners were still in position to eke out the points.

Everton played fairly conservatively to begin the second half and suffered the consequences when Tottenham leveled just 10 minutes into the second half.

Now tied up, the Toffees would need to find a goal themselves and hope Burnley would find a way to win against Arsenal.

Sometimes it’s just your year.

First, Sam Vokes put Burnley ahead on a set piece with 15 minutes left in the matches.

Knowing a draw would do them no good, Marco Silva threw caution to the wind and put on Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin with Cenk Tosun.

Jordan Pickford’s sliding clearance at 35 yards out prevented Dele Alli from being through on goal, and Everton were heaving everything they could into the box.

The five minutes of time added on meant that the Toffees knew Burnley had done their job and defeated the Gunners.

Now the Toffees just had to score.

A Hugo Lloris punched landed at the feet of Seamus Coleman at the top corner of the 18 and as he reset his feet to cross a hush fell over the crowd.

Coleman clipped the ball to the far side of the 6 yard box, the crowd rising in sync with the ball.

As the ball reached the air above the scrum, Lloris was planted squarely on his line, unable to get to the cross.

Just then, a Toffee rose above the collection of players.

It was DCL.

Elevating above the rest of the players by a few inches the young English forward met the floating cross with his forehead, driving it into the ground where it struck the goal line before bouncing up and into the top of the net.

Fans went wild!!

After over a decade, Everton would be returning to the Champions League.

There would be plenty of time for celebration later, however, as there was one more match to go in the season, and it was for a trophy.

The opponent?

Manchester United.

The buildup to the Final was extensive, and by the time kickoff rolled around, Wembley was clearly divided between Red and Blue.

Romelu Lukaku got the Red Devils off to a fast start when the former Toffees striker beat Jordan Pickford with a screamer from 14 yards away into the top right corner. (Jordan used the correct hand).

Manchester United held onto their lead going into the break, with Everton creating only one good chance in the first 45 minutes.

The second half would be a different story, however, as Marco Silva got the team fired up and ready to play.

Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne were constant threats and the pressure finally paid off when a Coleman cross was accidentally redirected into the net by a recovering Eric Bailly.

Everton had all of the momentum after that.

Creating opportunity after opportunity in the final thirty minutes, Everton were poised for a winner.

In the 87th minute, Idrissa Gueye won a tackle before picking his head up and playing it wide left.

The ball skips across the Goodison Park grass on a direct line at Richarlison, who deftly welcomes it with the inside of his left foot...