Three points counts for three points no matter how the goal that decides it goes into the net. This includes the instances where a ball should roll between the legs of Arsenal’s goalkeeper Bernd Leno after a Richarlison cross came to near the German; while this might’ve been luck, fortune, or simply life, the goal gave Everton the only goal required to secure the three points against the Gunners at the Emirates in north London.
The match was not the nicest to watch, and neither team appeared very fluid or inspired. Both sets had players that showed work rate and ethic across the pitch, yet finishing was flawed and play from box-to-box was often disjointed and disappointing. While Richarlison danced as the score appeared as 1-0 in the 76’, it felt like even he knew that it was a strange goal, in a strange match. No matter the way by which the double against Arsenal was attained, the first in twenty-five years, the three points in this last endeavor were important to grab going away; another draw might’ve ended any realistic hopes, being able to take only four points from the last four matches.
Yet the win that the club earned was massive, in that it broke a streak of draws that had extended from the loss against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals onward, and also because of the results of the other clubs in contention for these precious European qualifying spots on the league table. While Tottenham Hotspur beat Southampton, and Chelsea beat West Ham United, draws by Aston Villa and Leeds United, alongside the loss of Arsenal, left the Toffees in a reasonable position as six games remain in this Premier League season.
At fifty-two points and a game in hand on every other club, other than Villa, the Blues have a real opportunity to pressure the clubs ahead of them for a European berth. Fifth place West Ham are only three points ahead and still have to play Everton. This means, that for as crucial as the last run of games were, the next run of three will be even more crucial towards determining the course of this and the coming campaign.
The Villans and the Hammers coming up
No matter how scheduling pans out, Everton will have to win the matches versus Villa and the game against David Moyes in London. Six points in those two fixtures could feasibly see the Toffees pull into fifth position by May 9th, and really set the stage for a sumptuous end to the season.
Should the Blues do the double over Villa, alongside the win against the Hammers, Don Carlo’s men will be in the driver’s seat, even with a final test versus Manchester City to close out the season. Without these nine points however, it is likely that the possibilities of any European competition, whether it be the Champions League, the Europa League, or even the Europa Conference League, becomes fleeting.
At this point in the season however, in part to the resilience of the club, and in part thanks to slip ups by other clubs, Everton are not out of the running. This, when considering the poor stretches of play that the club has embarked on, is more remarkable than most things about the Toffees year this season. During the good times, things have stayed relatively even keel, while during the bad times, things have never seemed too desperate from club or coach; fans and pundits can be another matter of course, yet many Toffee faithful have been steady with their written words as well.
Patience and Performance: Balancing expectations for the Toffees
Patience is key, and patience, when accompanied by visible progress, is a lot easier to sell. This chance for the club is massive, as it is for the players, who sit on the precipice of doing something special and increasing their value and prestige in the game. For the boss and his staff, it is simply another possible notch to attain in a belt that is studded with dazzling accomplishments.
The players Everton could bring in should they get to Europe, mixed with the salary allotments and prize winnings, could be revolutionary for the club. While this year has been difficult thanks to scheduling, depth and injuries, the team next season could very well have much more depth, much more talent, and much more experience incorporated into it. Will this make the team a title challenger? It remains to be seen, as does everything in this life.
Yet these daydreamings are less relevant should Everton start dropping points to any of these opponents. These nine points are important thanks to the position we sit in currently in relation to everyone in contention surrounding us. To let the chance slip away would be devastating and disappointing, and would hamstring the team’s continual push to regain the prestige that was once readily showered upon the Toffees.
If the points come as ugly as they did against Arsenal, they will still count all the same on the table. And while pundits and writers, hecklers and haters might speak down regarding the victories, the crucial points will certainly still count the same as any other victory might. This is not preferable of course, yet football cannot always be beautiful; it is as tough and gritty a game as it is beautiful, and Everton will have to show all those qualities in order to get to Europe next season.