Going undefeated across all competitions through the first eight games of games of a season is no easy feat. For Everton, it is the first time in over a century-and-a-quarter that such an accomplishment can be claimed; with so much season to go, it will mean little unless we can continue building from here. And while the draw versus Liverpool kept us top of the table, as well as undefeated, the match was none-too-beautiful.
Between the hamstring injury to Seamus Coleman, the Jordan Pickford tackle on Virgil van Dijk, Mane’s uncouth challenge and dive, Robertson's snide foul, Richarlison’s own horror tackle and subsequent red card, and VAR ruling in favor of the home side, there is a lot to unpack. While it is both fair and necessary to do so here as well, we must address not only the aforementioned, but also how the club looked and their positioning on the table moving forward; finally, can the Toffees be taken seriously once more amongst the top English clubs?
Derby Days and the play’s not easy
Against LFC, the match unfurled in many ways one might except, but not early mind you; offensive play was both possible and prevalent, while tough, knocking defense and aggression was obvious from the jump. The response from the Royal Blues after falling behind in just the 3’ to the champs was awesome so see, especially when considering that that, as well as the VvD-Pickford collision, both occurred before even the tenth minute had struck; no one wants to see any injury to anyone, whether friend or foe of course. But pushing ahead, Michael Keane deserves applause for his offensive and defensive ambition this season to be sure, further exemplified with his 19’ equalizer. The resolve of the club as a whole has been growing ever since their boss Don Carlo Ancelotti took over, and over the course of nearly ten months, the effects are tangible; a demoralized squad is no longer born out of an early opposition goal and this was always evident in the match.
And when the captain went down with an injury, their newest defensive signing, Ben Godfrey, coolly came on in the 31’, out of his customary position mind you, to play a proper game at the right-back slot. It is not difficult to see how sincere the Boss’s post match messages were to both the media and his team; Everton played a very good match against a club that was certainly interested in putting the Aston Villa debacle behind them coming out of the first international break.
Yet they weren’t able to do so. For all of Everton’s flaws, which plainly still exist, Liverpool was not able, no matter the chances, to cut us open too severely. When finally the Reds were able to come take the lead back at the 72’, it was from an error by the defence.
Even then, the unrelenting and flying Dominic Calvert-Lewin took one back from them just nine minutes later, leveling the game once more; from there, the draw was inevitable.
The multiplicity of chances from James Rodriguez, DCL, Richarlison and countless Reds alike all taken into consideration, escaping with a point is not such a burden; the suspension for the Brazilian on the other hand is not as easy to overcome. Alex Iwobi will have to play in wonderful form, and a date with Southampton could help to imbue the Nigerian with confidence to spell the Brazilian for however long is necessary.
While Everton could’ve won, they did not, and perhaps could have lost with just as much ease. Something as simple as a few inches/centimeters difference in a shot for example, is all that separates many wins from many losses across football everyday. The club will have to continue to play tough, gritty and creative football should they wish to continue onward with the same trajectory. But with luck a recognized part of life and football as well, where do Everton stack up against both Liverpool, as well as with the rest of the Premiership across the rest of this campaign?
Guess Who’s Back?
Everton didn’t play their best game of the season against the best team in England. As it stands, they each scored twice on one another and no matter how close some strikes were on either side, they did not count towards the final tally. For the Toffees, this must be counted as a positive and an innovation to build on moving forward; sure, was it perfect? Of course not, and mistakes can be worked on and corrected whether with the entire club or individual players but the point remains that we played with the top English club and stayed with them for 90 minutes plus.
And so we must consider Everton right now to be amongst the top clubs of the nation. Might it change? Absolutely, and results in the coming weeks, starting with Southampton, Newcastle and Manchester United, will give us more information to appraise the campaign and the results of it so far; until then however, we can only take the information available to us and as of now, the Toffees are top of the table and with a good goal differential. We will have time to complain over the course of the year but surely, we can enjoy such times as today and this week while we have them?
Liverpool meanwhile, is going through some adversity from Virgil to Allison; they are a tough club and will put up a fight every week no matter who is playing. When we visit Anfield, it is quite likely that they will attempt to exert a similar physical nature and aggressive offensive maneuvering that Everton attempted on Saturday. Whether they’re any more or less successful will be to be seen, but the Toffees will not blink no matter the circumstances.
They have gone toe-to-toe with the champs and came out hardly the worse for wear. In the coming weeks, the club will look to gain even more traction and confidence and should the accomplish more positively, will be difficult to stop as they gain better cohesion with one another across the country. Games like Saturday however, help to build not only character, but understanding, poise, knowledge and further ambition; they are crucial for us, as are the mistakes that we find in these performances. As we go through the campaign, we will surely carry the lessons learned from the Goodison Park edition of the Merseyside Derby to each successive victory and achievement.