The Blues have only taken maximum points in front of their own crowd from Stoke City and Liverpool, having drawn with Manchester United and the Wanderers of Wolverhampton and Bolton, and lost to Arsenal, Newcastle United and, on their last outing on Merseyside, West Bromwich Albion. It is on their travels that Everton have performed best, not just at Chelsea but in victory over Birmingham City and draws with Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland. Unexpected points from Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane and St Andrew’s have had to account for dropped points against Wolves, Newcastle and West Brom, two newly promoted sides, and sides a team with European aspirations should be rolling over on their own turf.
Indeed, last season Everton also failed to take three points from two sides fresh out of the Championship at Goodison, drawing 1-1 with both Wolves and Birmingham, and their European dreams went unfulfilled, finishing two points short of Liverpool in the battle for the last Europa League spot. For history to repeat itself this term a similar run of epic proportions that arrived post-Christmas needs to follow, but in lieu of that unlikely event Everton need to ensure they are not dragged into a relegation battle when winter turns into spring. Roberto Martinez’s Wigan are only two points behind the Toffees and sit in the final place of the relegation zone – putting an extra three points between themselves and the Latics would be a useful comfort as Everton look to move away from the basement and back towards the European places.
With nine points gained at Goodison compared to eight on the road, it is only when you factor in the weight of home expectation that the full story is told. Even with Chelsea’s recent stumble few would honestly have expected Everton to take a point from the champions and with Spurs’ impressive form in mind – Everton went there days after Harry Redknapp nearly upset the European Cup holders – a point from North London was an impressive return too. Holding Sunderland, unbeaten at home, to a draw, and winning at Birmingham, whose home is usually a fortress, was equally remarkable. Contrast that with results at Goodison, where only victory over Liverpool can be classed as outstanding, the other win over Stoke, was more routine while the comeback against Manchester United hides the detail that Everton were woeful for much of the second half and United should have won comfortably. A victory over Wigan does not have to be remarkable or outstanding or even routine, it just has to be victory.