What a world we live in — fascism is mainstream; the entire planet is struggling to breathe; and Everton is top of the league. #OKthen
But it’s early, right? Everton will fade away. Right? RIGHT?!
Or will they?
In all likelihood, the answer is yes. But Everton has finally turned a significant corner. They are not on a streak. This team is good and the players they have brought in are of a veritable quality. Carlo Ancelotti is a top manager. We know that. He has trophies and has experience in every single one of the big 5 leagues (Serie A, Ligue 1, La Liga, Bundesliga, Premier League). His name brings players to Everton that…let’s say…a David Moyes or Sam Allardyce or Marco Silva don’t. And that has made the difference to a team already with some decent lads.
Look, Everton has history. They are not some nobodies who happened upon some South Americans and are now gunning for glory. Everyone is aware of their city rivals Liverpool, but Everton has a relevant CV. The Toffees have won two titles in my lifetime (1985, 1987…runners-up in 1986) and were absolutely dominant in the mid 80s under Howard Kendall. They won the FA Cup in 1984 and were runners-up in 1986 and 1989. This era also included their one and only European triumph when they won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985. With English teams banned from European competition from autumn 1985 to 1990 after the Heysel Disaster, who knows what damage Everton could have done on the biggest stage. And they had stars you may have heard of…Graeme Sharp, Peter Reid, Andy Gray, Gary Linekar, Adrian Heath. So, they were well out there.
And now they’re looking to replicate some of that magic. Everton has already beaten Tottenham and drawn with Liverpool (their only dropped points thus far). Jordan Pickford’s often calamitous performances in the net aside, the roster has depth from back line to forwards. James Rodríguez is shining. There were question marks surrounding the Colombian, who has certainly not lived up to the 2014 billing as the next best thing, but he has found his footing quickly. He has elite talent on the ball and the ability to change a match on his own. He can pick apart defences with his vision and that has been crucial during this young season. He’s playing like he’s genuinely enjoying himself as well, which is a bonus. And James has help. Richarlison is always a threat going forward and scores goals (six in 9 games at one point last year). Abdoulaye Doucouré in midfield (along with Allan and André Gomes) brings stability and that little bit of gloss that the Everton middle has distinctly lacked. And there’s still Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi to pepper into the attack from the bench. A proper squad.
But no one has been more vital to Everton than the emergence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Dom erupted in the middle of last season scoring eight goals in 10 games during a late December to early March run. And has picked up where he left off before the lockdown. And then some. No striker in Europe (ALL OF EUROPE) has been more deadly than Calvert-Lewin has to begin this current campaign. He already has SEVEN goals for league-leading Everton and even scored for England on his debut in October! Not bad at all. Calvert-Lewin is young still at 23, but he is the real thing. He has bulked up his 6’2″ frame a bit and now is even more of a monster in the air. He is swiftly turning into one of the most lethal headers of the ball in the Premier League. And he can shoot. His technique makes him a true behemoth in the box and nobody has been able to slow him down in 2020. His form has skyrocketed Everton into dreamland. And if he can continue truly performing (a big “if”, but even just performing at a reasonably high level) then there is no shame in Toffees fans starting to wonder what is possible.
This is new territory for many. Everton is indeed good again. The one main concern for them and others is that the Premier League in the middle of a chaotic pandemic-strewn season consists of possibly the most capable conglomerate of talent ever assembled. Many teams are very good. Finishing 10th in the league come May 2021 will be a bona fide achievement.
Liverpool (with or without Virgil van Dijk), Manchester City (emptied the wallet again for defenders) and Chelsea (see previous parenthetical but for attackers) look like the title contenders. Arsenal and Tottenham (if Harry Kane can show the form he did in the first half against West Ham) will have their moments where their fans will think “why not?”. Manchester United will undoubtedly have a say and will likely (read: should but probably won’t) re-tool in the January window. Leicester City has already beaten Manchester City and Jamie Vardy is purring once more. Wolves are still well-managed and well-equipped with Portuguese firepower. That’s eight sides right there. And we haven’t even mentioned Aston Villa who have won every match they’ve played in so far (and smashed SEVEN past Liverpool), Leeds United who look very comfortable in the top flight, Sheffield United who are struggling but finished 9th last term and this very Everton side, of course.
Completely strawberry-jam-packed with quality. The likes of Southampton, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United (all of whom have had highlights of their own already) will be fighting just to get into the top half of the table! With all that to take into account, there will assuredly be plenty of points dropped by all of the big dogs making this the season where anything can happen. It is wide open and teams will have to take advantage of mistakes and Steven Gerrard-like slip ups.
So, then, Everton. Let’s see what you’ve got.