The Premier League is a long and grueling competition. And while no Carlo Ancelotti coached team, when given a full season, has ever finished outside of the top six domestically, there are multiple ways for Everton to reach Europe. Without added depth, whether for philosophical or financial reasons, the Premier League will be a real battle; as no team has as of yet, removed themselves from the pack, the Toffees absolutely should consider themselves in contention for a top five spot. Yet if the Champions League is not possible for us, the FA Cup can still get us to the Europa League.
And so that cup competition should be highly coveted moving forward, and not only because its a ticket to Europe, and in turn, an expanded wallet. No, Everton need silverware and need it badly; while the league is of course, coveted higher than almost anything apart from the Champions League, the oldest trophy in the world of football and its consequences, would be excellent ways to mark the Ancelotti Era as profoundly different than its predecessors.
A long way to go, yet Everton have potential
After a good January, which includes the FA Cup fourth round victory against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, Everton have a real chance to challenge the top tier English clubs for a place in Europe next season. Economic, practical and perhaps even philosophical issues might prove difficult to overcome should the clubs with larger coin purses flex that particular muscle in the remaining days of January while Everton apparently does very little, as of now anyway, yet as those top teams shift their focuses towards European and Premiership gold, the FA Cup remains a viable source of European competition, and last season's Arsenal team is proof.
After a forgettable season under first Unai Emery, then Freddie Ljungberg, and finally Mikel Arteta, Arsenal were able to recollect themselves after the season was resumed, only to shockingly win the FA Cup and salvage a terrible season with a European ticket. Their next victory after that, against Liverpool in the Community Shield, further gave morale to the Gunners moving forward, of which they have since squandered to this point in the season.
Returning to Merseyside and Everton, this club and this team are much better than the Arsenal team of last year was on and below the surface. This Royal Blue collection has a real shot at a top five or six finish with the players they currently have, and while I fear that losing out on the Josh King’s, Isco’s and Sami Khedira’s of the world may have fatal consequences as the season comes closer to it’s conclusion, a Toffee club that can avoid injuries and suspensions, while continuing to naturally improve, has as true a shot as any club in England that I currently see, perhaps excluding both Manchester squads.
Yet in a year so close, it only takes a small slip up, as has already occurred earlier in the campaign for the club, to derail the ambitions of a team on an otherwise proper trajectory. If something like that should occur, without the proper depth behind our top team, the FA Cup must truly be coveted with with even greater desire than it likely already is. It cannot be doubted that Don Carlo likely wishes a top six finish and a FA Cup victory, although if he cannot have the former, he’ll not complain about only achieving the latter.
And it is not that those other clubs are not shooting to win the FA Cup alongside their domestic and European conquests, simply that they are not all equally as important for all clubs, depending on the past success of each club in question. And so last year, while a team like Manchester City and Chelsea were thinking of other ambitions, Arsenal was able to put their best foot forward to pull off the numerous upsets; this year's Everton would have less of a task on their hands, in part because they are a better club with better coaching whom are playing better together.
Holders Arsenal are out, as are Liverpool. If Everton can overcome Tottenham Hotspur, then they could be looking at a quarter-final where up to seven other Premier League teams are still around.
There are lots of good teams left in the FA Cup and so it is not a guarantee that Everton will even last to the later rounds, yet getting the proverbial monkey off of the back with a trophy would change the dynamic on Merseyside as it did in north London for Arsenal. While Don Carlo was always going to have more time than Mikel Arteta, and Everton more patience with their legendary boss than were the Kroenke’s with their first time manager, the volition of Everton would be incredible as visible progress could be witnessed by even the most skeptic of supporters and players; who would not want to join Everton during the next summer window?
A lot riding on success at home for the future
There are, after proper analysis, many reasons why winning something this year is of paramount importance for Don Carlo and the project he has going on Merseyside. While belief is high, the proof is in the pudding as the popular expression goes, and a trophy in only the bosses first full season would already etch his name into the great, long history of the footballing club.
It would create belief, energy and excitement, a reason to remain for the most talented of the club, and reason to come to the club from players lookin on Merseyside from the outside in. It would allow Everton to continue to grow as a club, playing in the Europa League should they fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League, or would simply act as the reward to a season that saw them reach the UCL via the traditional domestic route; finally, a trophy and the highest tier of European club football currently available to earn entry to.
I have no doubt that the boss has the entire team fired up to play at the highest level in both remaining domestic competitions, despite the toll that COVID-19 continues to take on the world at large. He doesn’t need to give them any scenarios, for they must surely know that they have a real chance to do something that no Everton team has done for quite some time; will they grab the chances they can see in the distance, or shall they be fumbled as we inch ever closer to them? While the league is a test of endurance, the FA Cup might be ours to win this season, and with it, many of our woes, including FFP and a lack of both European competition and recent silverware, are all fixed with one accomplishment. There is hardly time to waste!