The matches aren’t about to become easier. That is the refrain one is drawn back to time and time again when appraising Everton’s late November and entire December stretch of matches. The Toffees needed to grab nine points from the first three matches back from the international break against Fulham, Leeds United and Burnley, yet were only capable of a win, loss and draw; four points in a relatively easy stretch of Premier League football is simply not going to cut it, no matter what even the boss says, when the matches moving forward are only against more talented and in-form outfits.
Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Manchester United will all provide difficult challenges for an Everton squad that has struggled to put goals on the board unless it is thanks to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. With the goal production not as fluid as was seen earlier in the season, Carlo Ancelotti’s men will have to find their form with haste in order to salvage another four to six points, as well as a ticket to the EFL Cup Semifinals.
Two Victories out of Three would be Marvelous
Chelsea are looking like world beaters currently, with solid play coming from both youth and veterans alike across all competitions. Olivier Giroud has turned back the clock recently, and that sturdiness and experience in front of Jordan Pickford will have to be something that our central defenders keep in constant mind of. With the amount of weaponry and combinations of it at manager Frank Lampard’s disposal, the Toffees will have their hands full in coping, while simultaneously attempting to create fluid team offense as well.
A victory against Chelsea at Goodison Park would be potentially momentum shifting, giving us confidence on both sides of the ball as the schedule blusters forward; a draw is more likely if we can avoid dropping three points altogether, a result that would not bode entirely positive going towards a fate with the Foxes of Leicester. They too have shown good form so far this year, as was witnessed last season before the late season, post resumption collapse; while they will be no easy opponent either, they do present opportunities that Chelsea currently does not.
Although just a point behind Chelsea, Leicester are a team with less remaining evolutionary potential than the west London outfit; in my view, they are vulnerable despite their success and should the Toffees find some offensive fluidity in the previous match, could be capable of gutting out three points. Emerging from these two matches with four points would be uplifting, but three across these first two would still be promising, for the club coming up next has had a horrid stretch recently as well, and Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have struggled to turn it around against English competition at least.
Everton will have to come out and make sure that Arsenal can’t get on the front foot, can’t dictate tempo or shape, and can’t handle our own offensive outlook. The Toffees will have to find passion from other names on the depth chart, and will have to take three points in this match. Yet for the Gunners, three points will also be crucial, as the Premier League season may be on the brink by that time. While the Europa League has thus far been a sanctuary for the team, the Everton match could truly make winning Europe necessary for a UCL spot next year.
Beyond that, success can be found before Everton join the FA Cup Fray
For Everton, the Arsenal match coming just days before the Carabao Cup Quarterfinal against Manchester United presents not only a real chance for three points, but a chance to build further momentum for the EFL competition, the league and looming FA Cup too. Each has a significance to the club, but at the current level of their performance success in any three is not currently possible. However, wins in the three games leading up to the United game will put the Toffees on track in the first two competitions, with an easier stretch sans Manchester City, leading up to the FA Cup match against Rotherham United.
Sheffield United is sandwiched between both Manchester matches, while West Ham United begins the new calendar year for the outfit. While the Blades have not looked as they did at stretches last year with an imposing defense, the Hammers have looked really wonderful at times with David Moyes at the helm. And while the ex-Toffees gaffer will look for revenge against Everton, everyone Blue on Merseyside will simply be hoping to enter the FA Cup having taken at least seven points after beating Manchester United in the Carabao.
For our Premier League outlook moving forward, we will have to start nabbing points at the proper rate, for four points out of three matches will not get it done now, and similarly pedestrian totals will not get it done in the coming weeks either; for Don Carlo and the Toffees, there is simply no excuse for the club, they must play better, and play better as soon as possible. While the season is still young, we must waste no time in digging ourselves out of the hole we’ve created after a brilliant start to the new season.