From Oct. 6 to Dec. 1, Everton won only one of nine Premier League matches, yet they managed to stay near the top of the table despite their 1-1-7 run. Now having won three of four after their Sunday victory over Wigan, the Toffees find themselves in a relatively similar place: just outside the top four. Based on this season’s very small sample size, it seems there’s little David Moyes’ team can do to move up or down the table.
Their recent run, of which today’s 2-1 victory over Wigan is a part, is worthy of note, and not only because it got Everton back to their winning ways. Starting with Dec. 9’s win over Tottenham, the Toffees have taken 10 points out of a possible 12, getting wins over Spurs and at West Ham while earning a valuable point at Stoke (something their more-celebrated crosstown rivals are currently finding it difficult to do). In what could have been a tough stretch, Everton has consolidated their place near the top of the league.
Wednesday’s win over visiting Wigan wasn’t as convincing as toppling Spurs or coming back against the Hammers at Upton Park, but it will help convince critics that the team is more than Marouane Fellaini. Even though the Toffees’ leading scorer was serving the second game of his three-match suspension on Wednesday, Everton claimed a solid victory, leading by two goals before Arouna Kone halved their lead. Perhaps it wasn’t the convincing win so many want to see against the likes of Wigan, but it’s too much to ask a team of Everton’s resources to lose their best player and be dominant.
With goals from Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka, Everton continues to get contributions from an array of players. Their two leading scorers — Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic — have only 14 of the team’s 32 goals. Five others Toffees have scored at least twice this season. It’s the type of depth Moyes’ squad have always lacked during their previous Champions League challenges.
Now things get tougher for the Toffees. When Chelsea visits on Sunday, Fellaini will still be out. Even without Fellaini, Moyes should expect his fifth place team to get results at home against a fellow Champions League contender.
These are the types of hurdles Champions League contenders have to navigate. Manchester United’s been surviving without Nemanja Vidic and Shinji Kagawa. Chelsea’s still third despite the absences of John Terry and (until recently) Frank Lampard. Good teams are judged by more than their best performances.
If Everton’s equal to the hype, they’ll find a way to compete on Sunday.