Everton FC: Victory over Manchester City Just the First Step of a Crucial Run-in
The tame FA Cup exit at the hands of Wigan emphasised the Toffees' inconsistent start to 2013, one that had seen Champions League and even Europa League hopes start to evaporate.
As they fade, with them goes the prospect of David Moyes prolonging his stay at the club, which would ignite a particularly turbulent, fractious summer on Merseyside.
Therefore, with Europe once again being whispered after Saturday's win, it's important the result reignites Everton's form as they approach a vital nine-game stretch.
Two points off fifth and just six behind fourth, with a game in hand, considering the Toffees still have to play the third-, fourth-, fifth- and seventh-placed teams, their destiny is still very much in their own hands.
The only problem lies in the fact that all four of those ties are away from Goodison Park.
Travelling to a big side has never been a scenario Moyes has thrived on, rarely enjoying success, preferring to stifle the opposition in hope of stealing a draw.
Moyes hasn't won at Arsenal, with just two draws from 12 trips in all competitions, or at Liverpool, where he has six draws in 11. Similarly at Chelsea, with seven draws from 16 attempts—excluding an FA Cup penalty shootout win.
In fact, Tottenham's the only one of these four sides where Moyes has experienced success, although his record still reads three wins one draw and seven losses.
In total that reads a slightly depressing three wins and 16 draws from 50 encounters, with a bruising 31 defeats. Hardly the most inspiring return for the coming weeks.
Quite simply, that has to change if Everton want European football next season. Moyes has to completely invert his tactics, rouse his squad and approach these games intent on a win.
Where will Everton finish the season?
With sixth place now highly unlikely to achieve Europe, each game is essentially a cup final for the Toffees to stave off a summer of transition. Fans would almost certainly prefer a series of heroic losses over a couple of tame 0-0 draws and the odd defeat that still results in failure.
The Toffees must be ruthless in their home games against Stoke, QPR, Fulham and West Ham and attack their away ties (which also includes a trip to Sunderland) in a way that's been wholly unnatural to Moyes.
The club are currently 17 points off their best ever Premier League haul of 65, made in the 2007/08 campaign. With the correct balance of points taken from their rivals, Everton must aim to eclipse that.
Nobody said it would be easy and there will be few outside the club backing them for Europe next season; however, anyone thinking the club's season was done is mistaken, at least for now.
If the Toffees want to avoid a disruptive summer where their manager and leading players almost certainly question their futures at the club, the next nine games will prove pivotal.
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