Can Everton still make the Champions League?
Conveniently forgetting matches which took place in similar circumstances in 2005 and 2008, this was billed by many observers as the biggest Merseyside derby for decades. Finishing in the top four and making the Champions League is the ultimate aim, and it was Everton left feeling dejected on Tuesday evening after a 4-0 defeat.
Everton were simply outplayed at Anfield, making some costly errors as they struggled to contain the home side, but has this result derailed their pursuit of Europe’s most lucrative and star-studded competition?
It must not be forgotten that this is a side that was earning rave reviews mere weeks ago. Even in the build-up to this game, Everton were seen as a major threat to Liverpool’s hopes of making it into the top four for the first time since 2009, but in the space of 90 minutes, they went from being realistic challengers to outsiders.
This all seems a little harsh as it was, after all, only their third Premier League defeat all season, with the others coming at Manchester City - which was far from a disgrace - and surprisingly at home to Sunderland, although they played with a one-man disadvantage for much of the encounter.
Since arriving in the summer, Roberto Martinez has been positivity personified, just as he was at Wigan Athletic. He immediately set himself and the club the target of reaching the Champions League, and he has succeeded in proving the doubters wrong thus far thanks to the remarkable consistency the team has shown up until now.
The Spaniard has introduced a more adventurous, almost fearless style of football to Goodison Park than his predecessor, David Moyes, along with making some very astute signings in the transfer market.
Romelu Lukaku may have eased off slightly after his early season form, but he is a danger to any defence in the top-flight with his power and striking ability. He will be missed as he recovers from the ankle injury picked up at Anfield. Gareth Barry, who collided with Lukaku as Liverpool scored their first goal, has provided a much-needed calming influence in the centre of midfield, while youngster Gerard Deulofeu always looked capable of making something happen before his injury.
Martinez has also been able to enhance Ross Barkley’s game to the extent that the youngster has now become one of the hottest properties in English football, while on the right side of defence, Seamus Coleman looks a totally different player, and his confidence has enabled him to score some superb goals in recent weeks and months.
Of course, the Liverpool defeat will come as a shock to the system, and the injury list is showing no signs of improving, but this is an Everton side that has proved over the course of the campaign that they can mix it with most teams in the Premier League should the perform well.
All Martinez needs to do is restore the confidence which has arguably been missing in their last two league games, and Everton should be back on the right track. It may not seem like it after the events of Tuesday evening, but they are still just four points from fourth place, so it is still well within reach.
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