With 45’ gone in the match at Goodison Park against Crystal Palace, Everton were level in a game in which they should’ve been up by two to three goals already. Between Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin alone the score should have been 3-0 and the frustration Toffees around the world rightly felt was palpable from wherever you happened to watch the match.
It was much the same in the second half, and when James Rodriguez finally scored in the 56’, through just a minuscule space to the keeper’s left, one could feel a sense of relief, but not any type of finality. There was too much time left in the match for a Palace side that had been passing the ball really well, and with the amount of goals left off the board by the home side, it still felt as though Everton were the ones that required further attacking ambition and desire.
And while Calvert-Lewin nearly gave them just that in the minutes after the initial goal, it was not to be for either him or Richarlison. The possibilities remained of course, for both sides however; Wilfried Zaha remains a scary presence wherever he plays, while former Ancelotti player Patrick van Aanholt looked a threat as well. And while Jordan Ayew played with purpose, it was his substitution that would ultimately tilt the tie back to even, placing Everton in a really unfortunate spot with nine matches left.
With the goal by super-sub Michy Batshuayi just minutes after entering the game, the Toffees were left with a real dilemma, and only four minutes until stoppage time began to overcome the conundrum. It was not to be overcome, and the game was to end a one-one draw, wasting a weekend where favorable results might’ve allowed the Blues to add three points to their season total while moving up the table with a game in hand on most everyone; oh, what a pity indeed.
The Toffees are capable in the literal sense of still realizing their European ambitions of course, yet dropping two points against Palace, on top of all the other dropped points to inferior opponents across the season, is unacceptable. These mistakes are really starting to weigh heavily upon the players and coaches alike, and proper performances will have to be found in the remaining matches to steady the proverbial ship and ease it into Europe and a top six finish in the Premier League.
Nine matches for Everton; nine matches for Europe
It is often said as a cliche that a team holds their destiny in their hands so to speak; they control where they end up as a result of fortunate outcomes regarding their competition as well as themselves often times. Yet I will risk sounding cliche by stating that this is a truth when it comes to so many clubs, with Everton certainly included. The Monday match at Brighton must be a victory, in the same way that the last game was incredibly necessary as well. The difference in this match must not only be result, but of course the execution in the run up to the final whistle as well.
Three points will be useful, and while I cannot predict what position it might buy us after this weeks clutch of matches is completed, it is simply the best result we can ask for. With this understood, the stretch of games after this visit to the Seagulls are likely to give us a really good idea of where we can expect Everton to land on the table by the seasons end.
Tottenham Hotspur is coming to Goodison Park first, before Everton travel to the Emirates in north London to play Arsenal. Aston Villa are set to visit Merseyside the next week, and it remains a possibility that the Toffees might have to travel to Villa Park just days later to make up the earlier postponed, and hitherto yet-to-be-rescheduled tie. For Everton to really be in contention for a top six finish then a winning streak would be needed in those fixtures with even fifth or fourth possible.
Many might say in rebuttal that with the threadbare squad Carlo Ancelotti has at his disposal, reeling off eighteen consecutive points between when Everton play Brighton and when they play West Ham United is simply unreasonable. Those individuals might be correct to some extent, yet this is the time of the season where ambitions must be biggest, and courage must be most profound. So many other matches this season, both Newcastle United losses, as well as the Southampton, Fulham and Burnley losses come immediately to mind as examples, have been let-downs in that they came always against teams that a top six team shouldn’t be losing to, especially after beating teams of a higher caliber in previous weeks. While these negative performances are part of the reason why we sit in the position we currently find ourselves in, the best matches of the season are a testament to what the team can do with the rest of the schedule that lies before them.
Will they win all of these matches? The odds are not terrific, yet optimism costs us nothing and oftentimes yields us a much greater bounty than that in the end. We must trust the process, the coach, his staff, as well as the players, young and old, experienced and green; the Toffees will do better than many believe, and worse than I might pontificate.
With this understood as well, getting out of that stretch of games with a great amount of hope and ambition remaining, as well as accrued points, would be the best case scenario for Don Carlo and his men as the team looks to finish out the season against the likes of relegation fated Sheffield United and Wolves at home, before traveling to the treacherous Etihad Stadium in Manchester to end the year against the soon-to-be-crowned champions.
It would be for the best were Everton to have sealed their spot in a European competition before that final game, as I can’t believe City will want to finish their domestic campaign with anything less than a victory. Yet a loss is not a foregone conclusion either, and were Everton forced to have to take three points in order to find themselves in a better position on the league table after the final week, I believe they are also capable of defeating City in order to do that. Why let it get to that point though? Take victories against the teams that you must, and are more theoretically capable against, and make a statement to the league in the process.
The Toffees might’ve wasted a really wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the misfortunes of the rest of the league, yet the proverbial war is not lost. Nine more battles remain however, and with it, the fate of Everton’s European dreams for next season truly hangs in the balance now more than at any other point this season.