Merseyside Triumph Could Be Everton’s Springboard for Champions League Push

Merseyside Triumph Could Be Everton's Springboard for Champions League Push

It’s very easy, if not unavoidable, to get caught up in early season Premier League hype.

One club gets off to a flier, albeit against weak opposition; one player scores for fun, albeit against weak opposition and one manager appears to be getting his tactics spot on…albeit against weak opposition.

Tottenham don’t fall into the weak opposition category, but that opening day display was nothing short of tragic.

On the other hand, Everton’s 100th attempt at sensible recruitment appears to have finally come up trumps. An almost entirely new midfield should really have been welcomed with enough patience to allow for an essential gelling period, but there have been no indications of new club rustiness. They’re top of the league for a reason.

So yes, we should get caught up in the current Toffees hype.

Any doubts over their capabilities against better opposition will be partly answered on Saturday, with the champions making their way to Goodison Park. A Merseyside derby that for the first time in years won’t have the outcome predetermined, no no. Everton’s acid test awaits.

The gulf in class has been stark for the best part of a decade. Liverpool last tasted defeat against their cross-city rivals, in any competition, back in 2010 – a 2-0 Premier League loss.

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Everton's Australian midfielder Tim Cahi
2010 was the last time Everton beat Liverpool, in any competition 

While Everton’s season won’t be defined by their result against the Reds, victory, or even just a positive result, could act as a springboard for an eventual surge towards the top four.

A different kettle of fish, sure, but we saw Frank Lampard steer Chelsea to the Champions League spots last season with a helping hand from the rest of the division. The Blues were far from outstanding, defensively frail and lacking spine, but dire campaigns from Spurs and Arsenal ensured their failings weren’t overly exposed.

Witnessing a United side in dire straits, a Chelsea team glistening with a treasure chest-inspired squad rebuild but led by a one-legged pirate, an Arsenal side still in the early stages of their revolution and a Spurs outfit who may only just be clicking into gear – the jury is still out on that – the door to the top four is being left ever so slightly ajar.

As of yet, Everton don’t have any obvious flaws to their game. Question marks over the back four? Yes, perhaps. Two goals shipped apiece against West Brom and Brighton isn’t great, but then neither is Michael Keane. Carlo Ancelotti appears to favour him, although summer addition Ben Godfrey may have something to say about that.

James Rodriguez, Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Everton are flying high 

What they have shown themselves capable of doing is scoring goals. James Rodriguez can’t keep his name out of the headlines with each dazzling display mirrored by the next, and the in-form striker in Europe – Calvert-Lewin – has unearthed an uncanny ability to score while touching the ball as little as feasibly possible.

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Rodriguez and Calvert-Lewin are taking all the credit, but the base of midfield is where they’ve truly righted previous wrongs. Allan’s arrival for roughly £22m may have raised eyebrows given his age, but he’s come in and immediately instilled bite to their midfield, along with plenty of bark.

In the eerie Premier League stadia we’ve now become accustomed to, the Brazilian is an ever vocal presence. Organising those both in front and behind of him, he’s shored up an area of the pitch that was the Toffees’ primary frailty last term. Alongside him there is Abdoulaye Doucoure, who adds drive and progression through the thirds. It’s a well-oiled machine.

Tweaks at the back are needed with the centre-backs still questionable, but considering the struggles elsewhere and the wave they’re riding on at the minute, the bones of a successful season are in place. Add to that one of the most successful managers of this generation starting to implement his ideas, and they’re on course to launch a meaningful assault on the top four.

With confidence sky-high, Everton will be touching the stars if they can end a torrid ten-year run at home to their fiercest rivals. Primed for a memorable campaign regardless, their sights could be set even higher with three points the club, and its fans, yearn for.

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