Can Everton finish in the top-four?
Daniel McKeown | 5 March 2017
With a winning February, we investigate
Everton made headlines last month with an astonishing, and fully-deserved, win over the free-spending Manchester City. That result shocked punters and football fans alike, but it would’ve come as no surprise to followers of The Toffees, who are watching their side transform from the bottom-up.
The City win was the money shot, it announced their arrival on the big-stage, but it was by no means a freak occurrence. Take a closer look at their record until the end of January and you will see a side who waited a while to find their feet, but now that they have, are sprinting towards success.
Koeman’s team full of promise
Manager Ronald Koeman is building a team, not just to compete this season but, if the board can be persuaded to invest and keep their star players – something their failure to do has held them back for years – then the glory days will live long at Goodison Park. Four of the side who starred in that destruction against City were under 24-years-old. Two came from the famed Everton academy.
The same group ended January unbeaten in five, with wins over Leicester, Southampton and Crystal Palace added to that big tick vs Pep Guardiola’s high-earners. If that wasn’t good enough, each of those victories came without conceding a goal. They are building from the back, and utilising those young legs, full of hunger and ambition, to catch sides on the counter-attack.
February’s fixtures offer hope
Going forward there’s reason to be optimistic too. They held onto their better players during the winter transfer window, which was a major concern for fans, and even sent a few of the stars of tomorrow out to get some vital game time with seasoned professionals.
Just look at what February has in store too. They opened with a draw against Stoke on the road, before then hosting Bournemouth in a thrilling 6-3 victory. Next up is a trip to Middlesbrough – winless since 17th December, a run of seven – before ending at Sunderland – in the relegation zone, staring the Championship in the face, just one win in nine games.
Football favours the brave
Of those four matches, surely they must be targeting the best part of 10 points? If they can stick to their task and keep their run going, then they will be homing in on the top-four, and who do they open against in March? Only Tottenham, which will rank as a season-defining fixture for both clubs.
It’s a pipedream at present, but we recall another group of dreamers last season who believed they could be the best team in England. They did it too! Everton to finish in the top-four is currently available at 40/1 (from 66/1 after the weekend’s action). If they go on a winning run over the next few weeks, that price won’t be hanging around. That much is a certainty.