Only those who do not understand football in the slightest or do highly illegal things with small animals would look upon the 2013/14 season and think of it as anything but a great campaign for Everton. 72 points made for a tally that most seasons would secure Champions League football, but the vagaries of a highly competitive Premier League meant we had to settle for fifth. Bear in mind that we were predicted by most to finish between sixth and eighth, or sixteenth in the mind of David James – but we’ll ignore that seeing as we dealt with his type in the first sentence. How do we go about matching or even beating this tally, as we all want to do, with our less-than impressive start so far?
That depends how you quantify it. To do a points comparison against last season we can do a results comparison, focusing on the sides against which points were picked up and dropped. If you compare the single point gained from home games against Arsenal and Chelsea so far to the twin home wins last season, it looks a bit grim. But it’s also quite easy to use this way to see how we can balance it out.
The promoted teams
It’s easier to start with the teams that we didn’t play last season – Leicester, Burnley and QPR. They replace the relegated sides Fulham, Cardiff and Norwich in these estimations. Last season we beat Fulham home and away, 4-1 and 3-1 respectively, but we drew 2-2 away to Norwich and 0-0 in Cardiff, despite 2-1 victories against both at Goodison Park. So that’s a total of 14 points from 18 against the sides that went down. The 2-2 draw away to Leicester is a slight blow, but the King Power Stadium will prove tough for many sides to take maximum points from. Home wins against all three promoted sides is expected, while we’d also like to think that we’ll come away from Loftus Road and Turf Moor with all three points. At this point it’s still possible to pick up 16 points from the promoted sides, which would beat the 14 points notched against last season’s relegated teams. Does that make sense? I hope so.
Aston Villa, Hull, Man Utd, Newcastle, Swansea, West Ham – 6 Points
We managed to do the double over six teams, which is about four or five more than most seasons. It might be tough to repeat the trick against all six. It would of course be sweetest to do it to Man Utd or Newcastle, so they can celebrate being in a “different league” to us again, but wins at Upton Park, Villa Park, the KC Stadium or the Liberty Stadium aren’t exactly impossible feats. We need to beat these pesky mid-table sorts at Goodison. Because Man Utd “mid-table” jokes will never get old, will they.
Arsenal, Stoke – 4 Points
This is a beautiful contrast. Arsenal and Stoke. However both have previously been tough to overcome, and both were soundly beaten at Goodison Park. Sadly the chance to do the same to Arsenal this season was relinquished in classically Everton circumstances. Therefore there is a need to improve on the 1-1 draw at the Emirates. It was the same scoreline at the Britannia in January, but a better performance there would yield three points – which would be an improvement.
Chelsea, Southampton, Sunderland – 3 Points
The comparison here is the sublime versus the ridiculous. The win at Goodison Park against Chelsea was monumental, while the Southampton victory was marked by two world class goals. Then the thought of that Osman backpass, the Howard red card and a siege so doomed it could’ve starred Tommy Lee Jones brings us right back down to Earth. On the other end of the coin, the defeat at Stamford Bridge was as heartbreaking as the one at St Mary’s was lifeless and frustrating. Suddenly a Wes Brown own goal at the Stadium of Light looks alright. Nine points gained against these sides in six games can be beaten, although it’s now nine in five after the Goodison debacle against Chelsea.
West Brom – 2 Points
Only one side held us to two draws – West Brom, the side who notched up the most stalemates in the league last season. The 0-0 home draw in August was horrific but can at least be put down to the ‘transition’ that ended a couple of weeks later, but the 1-1 in the Midlands was simply tossing away points after Kevin Mirallas gave Everton the lead. This Saturday provides an excellent chance to make an advance on last season’s tally against the Baggies.
Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Spurs – 1 Point
Ah, we’re in the stage with those really great memories now, people. Where shall we start? The tepid draws against Palace and Spurs were pretty poor. The 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane was hard to swallow. The 3-2 reverse at Goodison against Crystal Palace was horrendous. And to cap it all off, that 4-0 scoreline at Anfield is still the stuff of nightmares. The only slight positive is recovering from going behind twice in the home derby. But look; there’s Daniel Sturridge to put a dampener on that one. Oh, Everton. This means that a win at home to Crystal Palace next week would match the points tallied against all three of these sides in the whole of the 2013/14 campaign. Anything else is progress.
Man City – 0 Points
We used to excel against Man City, yet somehow last season they were the only side to beat us twice. Then again Manuel Pellegrini’s side were the deserving Premier League champions, so it’s not all that shameful. However, this season Everton face City in December and January – last time out the 3-1 away defeat came during a major purple patch of theirs and the 3-2 at home (which obviously we threw to stop Liverpool winning the league. Obviously) came as they closed in on the title. That might help. But the aim will be not to let any team beat us twice.
The point of this wasn’t to justify the first three results of the season, because they weren’t good enough if we have progress in mind. The real point is that progress shouldn’t be seen as a lost cause. Points can be made up. Of course the team will have to repeat some pretty excellent feats from last season. But the joy of having goals is that, no matter how ambitious they are, they can be strove for up until the moment they’re no longer possible. And there’s a lot of the season to go. It might not match the exploits of 2013/14, but it could be even better. All we can do is watch and see.