Ian Holloway brings his Blackpool team to Merseyside with two places and a single point separating the visitors from the hosts. With such tight margins at the bottom of the table defeat is almost unthinkable for Everton, and a draw is barely more helpful. The Toffees need three points from what is essentially clash between two relegation threatened sides, but with only five wins all season – three at home – and 12 draws, the reason for Everton’s low standing is evident. Turning some of those draws into victories would have seen Everton shoot up the table. Likewise, drawing more than they win for the rest of the season could see Everton dragged into a full-blown relegation dogfight from which they may struggle to escape.
For 70 minutes on Tuesday evening Everton looked like clinching a sixth victory of the campaign until a moment of magic from Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin, and a moment of madness as Everton failed to defend a simple corner, cost the Blues even a point. The ensuing row between Moyes, Fabregas and Arsene Wenger overshadowed Everton’s loss of a lead and the amateurish marking that allowed Laurent Koscielny to put the Gunners ahead. Whether that was Moyes’ intention or not it has certainly been the outcome. Little attention has been paid to Everton’s latest defeat, thanks to the furore over Fabregas’ alleged rant against match officials, but the fact remains the Toffees were not beaten by an Arsenal at their best, rather a good Everton performance was rendered meaningless by a basic defensive error, the kind that condemns teams to a relegation battle. Having struggled to score goals all season, those defensive lapses cannot continue because Everton’s strikers might not have the goals to compensate.
The visit of Blackpool should at least provide Everton’s forward line with plenty of chances such is the open nature of the Tangerines’ play. At the same time the Everton defence should expect almost relentless attacks. Holloway’s outfit has not cowed in the face of any opposition and against a fragile Everton, with a home crowd already on the verge of revolt, Blackpool may sense their chance to snatch another famous three points. Indeed, the Seasiders’ number of wins on their travels equals Everton’s total wins all season. Meanwhile, Everton has drawn one more home game than Blackpool has drawn home and away, five to four. So while the Toffees have at times been obdurate in defence and toothless in attack, Blackpool has been the opposite, something reflected in the respective sides’ goal differences, with Everton’s -3 imarginally better than Blackpool’s -9.
The fact remains, whichever way you crunch the numbers only one outcome will satisfy Everton when the Seasiders come to Merseyside, and that is notching up a much-need victory.