Premier League: Is This The Year Everton Wins The Title?
When you ask a casual soccer fan about which clubs they know in the English Premier League you get a variety of the typical answers — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Then there is Everton FC — the forgotten club of England. After this season, though, Everton will be a household name throughout the casual soccer fan world.
The 2013-14 Premier League season is at its halfway point with the top 8 in the league all separated by nine points and smack dab in the middle of it all is Everton. The Liverpool-based club is currently sitting in fourth place in the final UEFA Champions League qualifying spot just five points behind league leader Arsenal; if it wasn’t for a silly red card to American goalkeeper Tim Howard early in their Boxing Day fixture at home to Sunderland the club could be only two points off of the lead.
The key to the success of Everton this season and in the recent past has been consistency both on the field and in the managerial position.
David Moyes is currently the manager at Manchester United, but before that had managed with Everton since March of 2002 — a tenure that is very rarely seen at the club level. In his past seven seasons at the helm Moyes led Everton to consistent finishes between fifth place and eighth place with at least 54 points, 50 goals scored and a positive goal differential. Occasionally Everton would make an appearance in the UEFA Cup or Europa League if the position fell to them.
Former Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez was appointed to the manager role after Moyes left to take the United job, and he has done wonders with the club. As mentioned earlier Martinez has the club in fourth place within striking distance of the top, and he has been able to complete this task with consistency of his tactics and his lineups.
Three of his four defensive starters have made at least 18 of 19 possible starts along with his goalkeeper. Martinez also has seven players he rotates in the other six available field spots with each of those players having at least 13 of 19 possible starts.
League Championships are not won with consistency though; they are won with talent, luck and good timing on the schedule. Lucky for Everton the schedule is on their side.
Everton does have a tough set of four on the road from late January through early March, but it is offset by a very forgiving home slate during the same time frame. This stretch kicks off with the Merseyside Derby at fifth-placed Liverpool on Jan. 28 and includes matches at seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Feb. 9, third-placed Chelsea on Feb. 22 and eighth-placed Newcastle United on March 8.
Thankfully for the Toffees the home matches during that span look like Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and West Ham United. These matches should provide Everton with the opportunity to pick up points potentially lost in the tough road affairs as well as build confidence going into those matches.
After the Newcastle match the month of March sets up for maximum points to be gotten with home matches to Cardiff City and Swansea City followed by a road test at Fulham to finish the month.
Everton will need to be in a solid position in the standings at this point because the schedule swings from favorable to dreadful in April with road matches against Sunderland, Southampton and Hull City and home contests against Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.
If there is any solace in this road to the finish it is that all of the tough fixtures will be at home, and other than City, Everton got points away to Arsenal and United already. The road to the title will be difficult, but this coach with this team in this season of parody at the top of the standings can do it.