Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Phil Kirkbride

Carlo Ancelotti will be aware of Premier League table problem as Everton win again

Tonight, the table reads a little like this.

Everton, with a game in hand on all of those above them, are seventh with 43 points.

In sixth are Liverpool with the same. Chelsea are fifth with 44 and West Ham are fourth with 45.

It's as tight as a drum, shows little sign of relaxing any time soon and you can't help but feel that the race for the Europa League, never mind the top four, is going to go down to the wire.

The margin for error will be razor thin. Whoever gets there will do so via the footballing equivalent of a split decision.

It's why goal difference could be oh so crucial.

Look, when you've not won a league game at Goodison in over two months, any victory is to be celebrated - however it comes.

Especially one which backs up an historic win at Anfield and keeps the pressure on the teams above Everton.

And even more so when it was one which looked in real danger until Jordan Pickford charged from his line to deny Jannik Vestergaard, for what seemed like a certain equaliser, in the final minute of normal time.

So job done and well done. It was a big victory in so many ways and another win at West Brom on Thursday will make it even better. Carlo Ancelotti's gritted teeth and clenched fist reaction at full-time told you as much.

But it should've been bigger. Certainly at half-time, the margin of Everton's lead should've been greater.

Ancelotti knows that the failure to capitalise on their dominance in the opening 45 minutes always risked Southampton coming back into it and nicking an equaliser, as they so nearly did.

And the bigger picture is that this season, and the race for Europe which shows no sign relenting, could quite easily go down to goal difference.

Everton have to begin turning the screw in games.

Remember how the table looked?

Well, keep that in your mind when you add goal difference into the mix.

Everton, in seventh, +5. Liverpool +13. Chelsea +16. West Ham +9. Tottenham, one place but four points behind the Blues, are +12.

Everton are the lowest scorers of anyone in the top seven positions, with 38, and here they mustered just one shot on target, had a second goal correctly ruled out for offside and saw a Ben Godfrey effort block in front of the line.

Again, Everton have emerged with three points having seen less of the ball than the opposition. The Blues' defensive resilience has been the bedrock to a season which could deliver something special, but the team's attack must share the burden.

This game became far more nervy than it really ought to have been. Everton must start creating more chances and putting games to bed. And it just reinforces the importance of a challenge laid down by Ancelotti earlier in the season to Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

He may have arched his famous eyebrow and delivered it with a smile, but there was real meaning by what the Everton boss said.

“We have two fantastic strikers and behind them we have James and Sigurdsson.

“I think if they do not score at least 20 goals each they can have a problem with me.”

At least...

Richarlison's smoothly taken goal here was his 11 in all competitions, and third in as many games, as his season rediscovers its touch.

Calvert-Lewin has 18.

With 13 league games and, at least, one more cup tie to go, they have to find another 11 between them to do as their manager requested.

Those 11 goals could be the difference.

And while the Blues have had 12 different scorers across all competitions this season, the team are reliant on those two picking up most of the slack.

Indeed, how successful this season turns out to be may hinge less on the number of goals conceded, but the number scored.

If Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, with the creative input of Rodriguez and Sigurdsson, were to find another 11 between them then it would leave them, out their on their own, as the most prolific pairing Everton have had in any season in the modern era.

Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley plundered 37 goals between them in the ill-fated 2015-16 season.

David Moyes' 2007-08 side saw 51 goals shared between four players that season, but in terms of a combination, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are striving to be better than anything that has come before in a long time.

Here they dovetailed well, particularly in the first-half, with Richarlison breaking the deadlock while his strike partner ran the channels and was a handful in the air.  Indeed, Calvert-Lewin was singled out for praise by his manager, afterwards.

Interestingly, this season they have only scored in the same league game once - at Palace, early on – but Everton and Ancelotti have to find a way of keeping both of them in games, and in scoring positions, more often and for longer in games.

The return of Allan, who played for the first time since mid-December and came through the full 93 minutes, will help, as Ancelotti has said recently, in Everton's balance between attack and defence, but that still needs work.

Find it, and maintain the supply line to the team's top scorers, and they will feel confident of reaching their manager's challenge.

And, perhaps, in the process, ensure the Blues get the Euro decision they want.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.