Club Focus – Everton – Blues sink to the bottom but still take a point in the right direction

An improved performance from the nadir reached against Newcastle United, a first clean sheet and away point of the season and a more logical, natural team selection from manager David Moyes – all of these things arrived for Everton against Fulham on Saturday, and yet the Toffees still sank to the bottom of the Premier League.

Examining the positives of a result that saw Everton reach the lowest league position available to them feels more than a little bizarre, but after the club was on the receiving end of heavy – and much deserved – criticism a week ago, it would be remiss not to commend the club for righting a few wrongs at Craven Cottage. The starting XI Moyes selected showed more courage and ambition than in past weeks – Seamus Coleman’s presence on the right-wing ahead of Leon Osman the embodiment – while sticking to his one-striker principles. With Yakubu leading the line and entering a performance flickering with memories of the Nigerian’s peak of a few years back, Everton had a far sharper edge, perhaps not fully match-sharp yet but the regularity with which Yakubu tested Mark Schwarzer hinted at more to come. Yakubu’s preference for receiving the ball to feet also encouraged Everton away from the route one style that plagued the side against Newcastle, and towards a ground based approach that suits both the players and the fans far more comfortably.

Yet the fact remains Everton are bottom of the league. The despair that sentence would normally induce is not really apparent on Merseyside, more a sense of incredulity at how exactly a squad with talent not seen at Goodison Park in 25 years has gotten themselves into this mess, and how they are going to get themselves out of it. If the turnaround began at Fulham on Saturday, it continues next week against Birmingham City, a team Everton failed to beat in three attempts last season, at their St Andrew’s ground, a place at which the Midlands Blues have not lost for a year. A tough task, then, but Everton’s recovery from this bottom of the league spot was going to be difficult whoever stood in opposition, be it home or away. Fulham’s own home record is more than decent, having lost only five times at the Cottage last season and not at all this. A similar return from Birmingham as was gained at Fulham would be a small step towards Everton’s recovery – and it is going to happen in small steps – and with West Ham hosting Fulham the same day Everton go to Birmingham, a point could be enough to lift Moyes’ side from the bottom on goal difference at the expense of the Hammers – a symbolic boost ahead of the season’s first Merseyside derby, the next game after the Birmingham test.

Looking ahead to the visit of Liverpool is to look too far ahead in the future – the international break means the Reds do not cross Stanley Park until October 17 – but the clash with Everton’s eternal rivals marks the third game of a difficult streak that started on Saturday and arguably does not end until late November when West Bromwich Albion visit Goodison, with trips to Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and a home date with Arsenal to come before then – and the Baggies saw off the Gunners in impressive style over the weekend. With the team sitting bottom it does not feel as if that run got off to a good start but in the cold light of day, and in the context of the games that will follow and the performance that directly preceded it, holding Fulham to a draw should not be dismissed. Home games with Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City would make for real challenges whatever form Everton were in but have to be considered the Blues’ best opportunity to keep their head above water at this current time, even more so when they come after trips to Champions League-chasing Spurs and unpredictable top flight new boys Blackpool. Despite West Brom’s victory at the Emirates Stadium, Everton should be clear favourites when they meet on November 27, but it is results in the intervening period are what will ultimately decide.

It can be argued whether it is results are performances that matter most now. A decent – but not great – performance on Saturday was rewarded with a decent – but not great result, although Everton are hardly in a position to choose. Everton have to take what they can get right now, and if that means being content with taking a point from Fulham and Birmingham, so be it.

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