On Saturday afternoon at the DW Stadium, Everton supporters were left to rue for the second time this season what better officiating could have reaped for their club.
Although the visitor’s exciting 2-2 draw with a resurgent Wigan Athletic was anything from decisive in Everton’s favor, poor calls by referee Kevin Friend and his linemen saw the Merseysiders denied a clear penalty chance and an offside goal awarded for Wigan early on in the match.
The away draw was not dissimilar to the Toffees' earlier home match against Newcastle United, when goals by Marouane Fellaini and Victor Anichebe were ruled out and Everton were left with only one point for their troubles. Again David Moyes was furious and the club exhausted after an aggressive start to the season has the team among the Premier League’s top 4—even after potentially missing out on four points from the aforementioned matches.
Already, the club should have learned their lessons and can no longer expect to rely on proper officiating to follow them in their European quest this campaign. While clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester United can often really on overwhelmed and intimidated officials to call in their favor, that luxury is simply not plausible for a club like Everton.
Instead, they need to simply make the most of their chances. That should not prove very hard to do with the Toffees statistically ranked as the most attacking side in Europe so far this season.
According to the data, prior to the Wigan match, Everton have tallied up 124 shots in six matches (20.7 average), which is ahead of trailing Real Madrid by six and Bayern Munich by 12 shots respectively. Against Wigan, Moyes’ men racked up 17 more shots.
Currently, the club have scored 14 times in seven matches, with Nikica Jelavic on four league goals and Marouane Fellaini on one less. The latter, who has pushed up from a defensive position to the slot right behind the striker has proven incredibly devastating both in the air and when working in space against opposing defenses.
However, Everton could certainly be more fruitful with their finishing despite averaging two goals per league match. With 141 shots and the type of chance creation provided by players such as Leighton Baines, who is at the top of the EPL creation list, Everton’s finishing has simply not measured up.
While this may not be a problem against Queens Park Rangers, who sit in the relegation zone this season with a 0-5-2 record despite tremendous spending in the summer, it could certainly haunt the club in two weeks against eternal rivals Liverpool.
QPR, albeit disappointing under Mark Hughes and the wealth-laden ownership of Tony Fernandes, still possess quality players such as Alejandro Faurlin, Esteban Granero and the inconsistent, but often devastating Bobby Zamora. Everton will certainly get their chances against the struggling Londoners, but a bad night could see them lose very crucial points in the fight for Europe.
More importantly, in slightly less than three weeks, the first Mersyside derby of the campaign will take place at Goodison Park.
Liverpool, like QPR, have failed to find their spark this season and have won only once in the league under the leadership of new boss Brendan Rodgers.
Luis Suarez continues to be marred by controversy surrounding his theatrics, but is finally hitting the back of the net and has seven goals in all competitions for the club. Joe Allen has also brought calm and composure in midfield and Liverpool are playing stylishly, regardless of their porousness at the back.
As Everton learned in the semifinal of last year’s FA Cup, form matters little in local derbies. And, the Reds have managed victories in the last three despite finishing below their neighbors for only the second time in almost three decades in 2011-12.
So, following the international break this week, Everton will need to correct their finishing if they are to maintain their spot in the coveted “Top Four” until November.
Hopefully for the club, Darron Gibson should return from injury in time for both matches and would surely provide the finesse that has been missing since Phil Neville replaced him in central midfield.
Stephen Pienaar and Baines already have arguably the best left-sided partnership in the Premier League, and the thrilling start of new signing Kevin Mirallas has brought tremendous attacking threat to a club regularly regarded for its defensive solidity.
The Wigan draw may have proven tremendously deflating this weekend, but a strong finish to October could keep financially-stricken Everton among the big boys for at least a few more weeks.