Everton’s week has been dominated less by the build-up towards what promises to be a tricky trip to Fulham, but more by the continuing fall-out from the Merseyside derby, helped along by prickly comments from Steven Gerrard, a retort from Phil Jagielka and a batch of statistics that speak for themselves.
Gerrard’s accusations are well-worn and bare little repeating, especially after even the Liverpool captain realised how wide of the mark they were and apologised accordingly. Perhaps Gerrard would do well to watch Everton take on Fulham, when, with Steven Pienaar sure to return to the side and resume his partnership with Leighton Baines on Everton’s left flank, David Moyes’ team will have their most influential creative player available after he was forced to miss the derby through suspension.
Pienaar was sent off against Queens Park Rangers for two fouls, neither of which were arguably in the same category as the ones committed by Luis Suarez at Goodison Park last weekend. The Uruguayan’s rake down the back of Sylvain Distin’s ankle drew most attention but it was a clumsy Suarez challenge that eventually did for Kevin Mirallas, who, until being nobbled by Liverpool’s ever-charming striker, had proved an able deputy for the absent South African.
But with almost a week gone it is time to move on from the rights and wrongs of the 219th meeting between Liverpool and Everton. Moyes and his players must certainly have their minds firmly on the task at Craven Cottage, as Fulham have a home record that outranks even that of Everton. The Cottagers have won more games, earned more points, scored more goals and conceder fewer at their quaint old ground than Everton have at Goodison, losing this season only to Manchester City and beating Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa.
The three sides Fulham have vanquished are each a step below Everton, in theory at least. They are all lower ranked in the table and Everton’s away record betters them all too, with none of the trio picking up maximum points on their travels so far this season. By contrast Everton have won twice on the road, against Villa and Swansea City, and picked up useful points at QPR and Wigan Athletic. Considering Fulham’s home form, a draw would be a decent outcome for the visitors.
If Everton hope to keep pace with the top four, though, three points could well be needed. Easier said than done. But that opens up the wider question of exactly what Everton’s ambitions for the season should be. Is a Champions League place a genuine possibility? Or would settling back into the top six and the Europa League represent a worthwhile achievement?
Everton have experienced top six finishes with regularity under Moyes, to the point it no longer excites like it once did. But the resources of some of the other teams competing for European places still dwarf Everton’s, so a top six finish should not be sniffed at – much like getting a positive result at Fulham, in fact.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Fulham