A couple of weeks ago I asked if Everton were realistic candidates for the top four and a Champions League place next season.
The Toffees last two Premier League results have showed everybody that Roberto Martinez’s side can equal some of the big teams in the top-flight.
The Toffees have won 1-0 at reigning champions Manchester United and drew 1-1 at league leaders Arsenal in the space of less than a week.
Both performances were impressive, but it was the Toffees early domination against Arsenal that has fans believing they can make the top four this season.
The Merseysider’s dominated possession for the first 35 minutes of yesterday’s encounter at Arsenal, without really creating many chances. The Gunners were almost shell-shocked at how well the visitors kept the ball, they almost out-Arsenaled Arsenal in the game with their possession football.
The Gunners started to get into the game towards the end of the first half and in the second half. However, they were probably slightly fortunate to take the lead on 80 minutes through Mesut Ozil. The lead lasted only four minutes, as Everton substitute Gerard Deulofeu fired home a superb equaliser.
French striker Olivier Giroud nearly stole the points with a fantastic long-range effort in stoppage-time, but it would have been harsh on the visitors. The statistics show that both teams had an equal amount of possession, which is strange as Arsenal usually dominate the ball against most teams they play.
Everton under Roberto Martinez are light years away from the team that played under David Moyes. Suddenly the Toffees look like a danger to every opponent they play. They play a vibrant, possession based style of football that is refreshing to Everton fans more accustomed to watching the direct style of former-boss Moyes.
Everton’s players seem to fear nobody and are not scared to attack any team they come up against and it really is fantastic to watch. It is fair to say that Toffees fans have taken well to the new regime.
As Toffees boss Martinez stated recently Everton have a really good balance of youth and experience. There are the talented youngsters like Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and of course yesterday’s hero Gerard Deulofeu.
However, the likes of Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry provide the solidarity for the youngsters to provide Everton with a major attacking spark.
On-loan stars Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku have been superb for the Toffees this season. Barcelona wonderkid Gerard Deulofeu is also starting to make a big impact for the Blues. The Toffees will miss all three players when their loan deals expire in the summer.
Barry is out of contract at Manchester City in the summer and has already stated that he would like to stay at Goodison Park, which on current performances is more or less inevitable. Martinez has recently stated that Deulofeu could extend his loan spell at Goodison for another season.
Lukaku has been the striker that Everton have been crying out for in recent seasons. They always had a good solid team, but did not quite have that clinical striker to score enough goals to move them to the next level.
It is a shame for Everton that Lukaku will return to Chelsea in the summer, most likely to be sold on for a massive fee if he continues to perform at such a high level.
These are exciting times for Everton and their supporters. Those critics, who have criticised the Toffees for loaning in players, should praise the Merseysider’s for having such vision in signing two of the most promising young players in world football, even if it is only on temporary deals.
Roberto Martinez has had very little to spend and he has made the most of his resources. Signing player’s on-loan was an ideal way of bringing in talented players and Martinez has worked the loan system superbly well.
The Premier League has been extremely unpredictable this season and definitely would not rule out Everton clinching one of those Champions League spots.
The Toffees are currently playing some of the best football in the top-flight and in Martinez seem to have a boss capable of taking them to the next level.
Even if Everton do not make the top four this season, at least the Toffees fans are now watching a better brand of football and can see the team making progress. The good times could be coming back to the blue half of Merseyside and it is about time.
Everton show they are realistic challengers for the top four