It seems like every season Everton gets off to a good start, hangs in there with the big boys in the table early and come January they fall apart. Its understandable that Everton isn’t normally one of the big boys in the Premier League. With their front office holding to a tighter budget than say the Manchester City and Chelseas of the world it makes it tough to produce week in a week out with a less talented roster. But this year seems different. I watched Everton on numerous occasions last year and I found myself always trying to stay awake. They were lacking creativity and their goals seemed to be few and far between. If Leighton Baines wasn’t pulling something crazy out of his rear end there was nothing that made you want to watch this side. However the late addition of Romelu Lukaku at the end of the transfer window has given them a dominant striker up top that can create goals out of no where. Somewhere Chelsea fans are asking why this man was let go on loan and isn’t scoring goals for them at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea blue instead of Everton blue. The other big change for Everton is the maturation of Ross Barkley. His movement and his creativity on and off the ball have done wonders for his team. Granted he still makes mistakes as most young players do but if he continues to grow and build his connection with Lukaku there will always be the chance at a goal. Not to mention Leighton Baines is still hanging around whenever you need a big bender around the opposing wall. Although he is set to miss the next couple weeks recovering from a fractured toe, the team seems to be doing fine for now without him. But while we have praised some of the attacking players on this revived Everton side we should also mention the back four and their American “los gringos” keeper Tim Howard. They too have been rock solid. They have produced eight clean sheets through their first fifteen games. According to the Premier League PPI rankings Everton boasts their entire back four in the top 20 defenders this year. Leading the rankings is Seamus Coleman and we can argue Baines would be right there behind him if not for the injury. Tim Howard aint to shabby himself, finding himself in the top three. ‘Merica. Basically what Im trying to get at is this team isn’t going anywhere if they keep this form up.
This year under Roberto Martinez these guys look to be playing more free and enjoying the game. They don’t sit back and soak in the pressure versus the bigger clubs. Instead they take the games to them. No one could have predicted this instant success after the departure of Everton “Legend” David Moyes to Manchester United. But instead Manchester United look to be playing like the Everton of old and its Everton who look like they’re playing like the Manchester United of old. Part of why there is so much added tension at Old Trafford seeing the success that has come to Everton post Moyes. But that’s another story for another day. If we take away their first three games, all of which were draws (two of which were nil-nil finishes) this side has been one of the top clubs in the Premier League. Averaging more than two points a game over their past twelve games it would be good for second highest total only behind table leaders Arsenal. Think about this, they’ve taking points away from games with Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Newcastle, Liverpool and Tottenham. Not only did they take points from Chelsea and Manchester United, they took the full three points. The win versus Manchester United was their first win at Old Trafford in 21 years. Oh did I forget to mention they did it versus their old manager David Moyes? The only big club they didn’t walk away with points was against Manchester City at the Etihad, and lets be honest no one takes points away in the Etihad.
So unlike their Merseyside derby rivals Liverpool they aren’t doing it versus a weak schedule. We could argue they have gone through the meat of their schedule already. Their next six fixtures see them take on five teams that are in the bottom half of the table. Two of which are in the relegation zone in Sunderland and Fulham. So its safe to say come late January will be well in the Champions League battle. What also is helping them stay fresh is they aren’t playing in Europa and Champions League like some of their competitors at the top. I can’t stress how important this is for a smaller club like Everton to break through. Not having to play games midweek is huge, as seen by similar club Newcastle in its form last year to this year. Barring huge injury problems losing some of their players in the January transfer window I look to see this Everton side to be vying for a Champions League spot come April and May. Good news for a club that most thought would be struggling at the bottom half of the table at the beginning of the year.