Everton’s 2-1 victory over Hull on Saturday sees them sit 7th in the Premier League after eight games played but are Roberto Martinez’ Toffees the dark horses in the race for the top four this season.
Under David Moyes last term, Everton finished out the season in 6th place, narrowly missing out of a European place to. I say narrowly but it wasn’t really – there were no less than nine points separating Moyes’ men from Tottenham in fifth which is quite a substantial gap considering Spurs were only one point behind Arsenal and Everton were only two points better off than Liverpool behind them in 7th.
In fact the biggest gap between two team in the league was between 8th place West Brom who were twelve points behind Liverpool – it goes to show that the level of consistency and quality of the competition between the top seven teams really is quite far ahead of the rest of the league and, even thought anyone can beat anyone else on their day, there is quite distinctly a gulf between the top teams and mid-table teams.
However, Everton are one of those top seven teams and, at present, they are more than capable of competing with the big-spending big boys – currently the Toffees are just one point off Manchester City in fourth, four points off Arsenal at the top and yet they are four points ahead of Moyes’ Manchester United behind them in 8th.
As impressively as Southampton (6th place) have been performing so far this season, you’d expect them to drop off and eventually out of the running and you would expect at some point United will get their act together and march up the table but, other than that, it’s neck and neck and there are no certainties whatsoever – this is probably Everton’s best chance of making the Champions League than they’ve had in a significant number of years.
In fact, they’ve played some tough fixtures so far – they lost to City but they beat Chelsea and again they seem to be settling for a few too many draws but, given that Martinez has only just arrived, it’s all going swimmingly for him so far – you really couldn’t expected much more from his, especially in light of the difficulties his predecessor is having over at Old Trafford just now.
As far as I can see, the Blues will only improve as his ideas and philosophy and setup really starts to resonate with the players and until it becomes second-nature and with tricky fixtures coming up in November against Tottenham and Liverpool, that cohesion that’s been building and the understanding that’s been building at Goodison Park couldn’t have come together at a better time.
They’ve lost just the one game in eight so far (to City) and have four out of their last five – that’s a pretty sensational record for a new manager who’s just arrived, lost a key player, and played two of the top three teams in the country. Not too shabby at all. I think, as long as the boss, the team and the squad can keep working and building each week, Everton could very well be the dark horses in the race for the top four.
The likes of Tottenham may have spent in excess of £100 million and City very close to that with Liverpool and Arsenal giving their bank managers headaches too but I have a very good chance this term of qualifying for the Champions League.