Everton vs. Wigan: 3 Points That Show Champions League Credentials
Possibly more than any other result this season, Everton's gritty 2-1 win over Wigan showcased David Moyes' side to be serious contenders for a fourth-place finish.
These are the games you have to win to make the Champions League.
The games when your best player is suspended, you are down several right-backs and your exciting new attacker is missing.
The games when several players seem worryingly off-colour, few passes stick and the match is played out in miserable conditions.
In recent years, any time this kind of scenario has presented itself, the Toffees have consistently fallen short.
This was the first instance in a long time a David Moyes side played poorly but found a way to win. If this formula can be sustained, this season is sure to become increasingly memorable.
They boast a formidable home record when the big sides come to town and are often plucky enough to secure a draw at the most hostile of away grounds.
They stutter when supposedly inferior opposition come to Goodison Park, especially when so many additional elements arise that could easily be blamed for dropping points. The win over Wigan was a refreshing change from recent tendencies and is sure to install an extra layer of confidence.
Under Moyes, there have been three seasons when his side have displayed this kind of resilience—2008 and 2009, when Everton finished in fifth, and (of course) in 2005, when Moyes masterminded a fourth-place finish.
In each of these seasons, the Toffees were stubborn and uncompromising in defence, often securing a 1-0 win however well they played.
Both Everton and their opponents knew that if they got a lead, it was very likely they would keep it.
Defence has not been as impressive this season, but added flair and guile in the final third has enabled the Toffees to edge past enough opponents by the odd goal.
Now they need to establish this reputation enough to concern opponents.
However, few supporters would have envisioned their side sitting six points off the champions, tied for fourth in the league, with 33 points in the bank at this halfway stage.
If they double that over the remaining half, the Toffees will secure their best-ever Premier League tally of 66 points—a mark sure to put them on the cusp of a fourth-place finish.
Clearly this game was only one instance, and it's a process Everton will need to repeat again over the coming weeks to prolong their challenge and forge this identity.
If they can, and they develop this ruthless, selfish streak, the Toffees will bear far more resemblance to a Champions League side than they have done for the past few years.
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