After the widespread release of tension following an incredible comeback win for Everton against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park in the penultimate round of matches of the 2021-22 season, as Evertonians we had all pretty much decided we did not want to be at that stage ever again.
Alas, circumstances, poor leadership, transfer decisions, player errors and a hundred other small factors have all conspired once again to not only put us back in that emotional whirlpool but also have us going into the last weekend of the 2022-23 season still needing to secure our Premier League survival. If anything however, Everton’s relegation fight remains in their own hands and the Toffees do not need results from elsewhere to be safe. As long as they win on Sunday against AFC Bournemouth, that is.
Let’s take a look at the league table as it stands.
Everton will be safe from relegation with a home win over Bournemouth on Sunday, no matter what Leicester or Leeds do.— Royal Blue Mersey #AllTogetherNow (@RBMersey) May 22, 2023
A draw will make things more complicated given the goal difference situation, Leeds -3 and Leicester +6 on the Toffees.#EFC pic.twitter.com/9JNZVgkIRH
Southampton have already been relegated. Nottingham Forest’s win at home against Arsenal saw them climb clear. That leaves three teams fighting it out to not be the two other teams that go down. An Everton win last Saturday at Wolves would have pretty much ended all the suspense even before Leeds United and Leicester City played. However, the Blues went behind early and then were only able to grab a late equalizer to snatch a much-needed point, but injuries to key players Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nathan Patterson could yet hurt them.
Needing a win at West Ham who were still partially hungover from their exertions and celebrations after getting to the Europa Conference League Final, Sam Allardyce’s Leeds United side took an early lead but then fell apart defensively in a 3-1 win for David Moyes’ men. The former Everton manager may yet have a second part to play in this gripping relegation saga, but more on that later.
On Monday night, Leicester City went to Newcastle United knowing a defeat would pretty much doom them. In a much-improved defensive performance that still saw the Magpies generate 23 shots, the Foxes had the woodwork to thank as thrice the goalframe came to their rescue in a 0-0 draw. Indeed, Leicester came terrifying close to snatching a late winner — and sending Evertonians everywhere into a collective panic attack — but Jordan Pickford’s able England deputy Nick Pope kept the point-blank shot out, keeping Leicester in the drop zone.
The Survival & Relegation Scenarios
For Everton it’s really simple - win and they’re in. No matter what happens in the Leicester and Leeds games, if the Toffees record a victory they will be safe. We will all be earnestly hoping and praying for Everton to start strong, jump out into a multiple-goal lead, see out the rest of the game and give our well-worn tickers a calm finish to the season, but we all know that is likely not going to happen.
If Everton draw, or even worse, slip to a defeat, all is still not lost, but it does get a lot more complicated because once again their fates will be out of their hands and dependent on what their rivals are doing.
In an interesting twist of fate, all three sides embroiled in the Premier League relegation battle will play at home for their lives on the last day of the season - Everton vs AFC Bournemouth, Leicester City vs West Ham United, Leeds United vs Tottenham Hotspur. Let’s look at the different scenarios.
As said before, if Everton can bag all three points then they will climb up to 36 points and finish the Premier League season in 17th place. While they will be safe from relegation, they will also bear the utter shame of completing a campaign with less points than games played for the first time in the club’s proud 145-year history.
Leicester and Leeds’ games results will become immaterial as both sides will go down. The Foxes marked ten years of being out of the top tier by winning the Championship in 2013-14 and went on to win the Premier League title in 2015-16 in one of the biggest shocks in sporting history, while Leeds gained promotion under Marcelo Bielsa for the 2020-21 season.
The Blues have the third-highest number of stalemates in the league this season with 12, behind Brentford’s 14 and Newcastle’s 13. The Toffees’ have only drawn twice against the Cherries in the sixteen times they have played each other, and both have been away at the South Coast. Another draw on Sunday could certainly prove problematic.
One point on the season finale will see Everton go up to 34 points, and would require both of their relegation rivals to win to overhaul them. A Leicester draw or loss would still see them going down. A win for the Foxes by any scoreline will have them jump above the Blues because of their goal difference being more favourable than the Blues. Remember, with a European final coming up for Moyes on Wednesday June 7th, he’ll be unlikely to field a full-strength side and even the players on the pitch might not be fully committed to trying to win with injuries a distinct possibility this late in the season.
For Leeds though, even a win might not be enough, as they are behind the Toffees by three on goal difference. They would have to beat Spurs by three goals if Everton draw, and that would then level the two teams on goal difference, with the tiebreaker going to Leeds who have scored more goals overall. Tottenham do have incentive to play for on Sunday though, because they sit a point behind Aston Villa and out of the European spots. Finishing in 8th place would be an unmitigated disaster for Spurs who as recently as 2019 were in the Champions League Final.
If the Toffees draw against the Cherries and with two out of three teams relegated, either Leeds winning by three or more, or Leicester winning at all, would send the Blues down.
This would be a disaster. It would not mean certain relegation, but would certainly open the door for either of the Blues’ rivals who would still need to win their games to overhaul Everton. And it’s not beyond the realm of the impossible. The Toffees have shown themselves to be susceptible to pressure at Goodison, as their miserable 18th-best home record has proven time and again this season. Despite the bearpit the Evertonians will no doubt create for the visitors, if the players come out tense and an early error leads to a Bournemouth goal, the home crowd will likely get silenced and the longer the Blues stay behind, the louder the mutterings and grumblings will grow.
An Everton loss will see them stay on 33 points, but both Leeds and Leicester will be forced to win to surpass the Blues, no matter the scoreline. If either manage a victory, Everton will go down. A win would not guarantee survival for either Leeds or Leicester though, because the Foxes do have a nine-goal goal difference advantage over the Lilywhites. If Everton lose and the two other teams draw or lose, we will be safe.
The comprehensive, 27 permutations for the final week of this season, and it’s implications for Everton. 27 permutations, one for each trophyless season… there’s a horrible poetic irony there. pic.twitter.com/r4z91tU1HH— Everton Montreal (@EvertonMontreal) May 23, 2023
At the end of the day, the Toffees just have to win to keep themselves safe, but will be resorting to scoreboard-watching should they fail to pick up all three points.