Everton in the rearview

Call it the devil’s arithmetic. We now have to keep more than one anxious eye on those behind us, as those ahead of us look to be pulling away. Our own fade, which has seen us fail to win consecutive matches since beating Fulham and then Coventry in January, means that a once-possible tilt at the top of the table is now improbably, if not outright impossible, and we now have to focus on winning, not to keep up with Liverpool but to stay ahead of Everton. If we fall out of the top four but win the FA Cup, we will on one hand end the infamous trophy-drought—but miss out on the prestige of competing in the Champions League. On the other hand, if we secure a top-four finish but fail to win the FA Cup, the trophyless monkey on our backs sprouts a second head and starts dry-humping. It’s not an either/or proposition, of course, as we could very easily finish 4th or higher and win the FA Cup—but we could also stumble to 5th and lose the FA Cup. Shockingly, there are some calling for precisely that as it will, in their minds, rid us once and for all of the hopelessly inept manager they’ve been forced to endure.

On a positive note, we have the idea that no team that has 60 points after 31 matches has finished outside the top four. We have 63 points after 31 matches. So there. Done. Dusted. Let’s move on to—what’s that? Everton has 57 points after 30 matches? Hm. By the same logic that assures us that we’ll finish in the top four, so too will Everton. There’s just enough wiggle-room in the logic to assure us. After all, 60 points is, by definition, not more than 60 points, so we’re still safe. Why doesn’t it feel safe?

Our recent form compared to that of Everton has a lot to do with it, as do the remaining fixtures for each club. Heck, by the time the whistle blows at Goodison Park, we might be level on points with Everton—who will still have a game in hand. With us hosting Man City and Everton visiting Craven Cottage, this weekend, who’s more likely to grow a pair, us or Fulham? We’re stretched to a breaking
point with injuries, debilitating losses, and a restive fanbase that seems more than eager to hoist the manager on his own petard. After all, the financial stability and youth development that have been Arsène’s stock in trade now look to be his own undoing, as young, overworked players are falling one by one, leaving us even more short-handed and threadbare for the run-in. We haven’t won consecutive matches since January, and our current form over the last six Prem matches doesn’t offer much in the way of reassurance. By that standard, we’re a mid-table team while Everton are top-four.

Thankfully, that’s not how the Prem table works, but it’s still a stark reminder of how our fortunes have slid. With seven matches left on our schedule, and eight on Everton’s, it’s not too early to look ahead to our trip to Goodison Park as well as to each club’s remaining fixtures. Our magic number—the combination of points Everton drop and we gain to keep us in fourth—stands at 19. For example, should Everton draw at Fulham, the magic number drops to 18. If we defeat Man City, the number drops to 16. Once we get past Man City and Everton, arguably the toughest fixtures we have left, we still have five matches to play—West Ham, at Hull, Newcastle, West Brom, and at Norwich. These are winnable but only give us 15 of the 19 points we need. By comparison, Everton will have six matches to play after they face us—at Sunderland, Crystal Place, Man U, at Southampton, Man City, at Hull. Depending on what happens this weekend and next, we may still need Everton to drop four points from these six matches. They’ve been strong at home (11W, 3D, 1L; +16GD) but only average away (5W, 6D, 4; 0GD). In a sense, then, their game in hand may not work in their favor because it represents points not yet in hand. There are too many permutations to suss out, but you see for yourself the path that each club has to travel.

Whereas Everton are daring to dream of their highest Prem finish since 2005, we now appear to dread our lowest finish since 1996. Our ragged form, our haggard countenances, our waning fortunes…it all seems like everything is slipping away, and in a season that seemed so full of promise, so full of dreams of potential glory, it seems so shabby to fall back on grim maths to assess our chances. Rather than the heady optimism of November and December, even of January, we now sit with abacus and slide-rule, weighing odds and outcomes.  Where once we were doing so to weigh whether we could win the Prem, we now do so just to see if we can finish just where we are 10 months ago.

On the other hand, reasons for hope abound. Chelsea and Citeh have more money than many countries. Liverpool and Everton have not had European commitments to sap them. Still, despite our many injuries, we’ve taken it all on the chin but refused to go down. We may be staggering against the ropes, we may even have faced a standing eight-count, but it’s far too early to throw in the towel—even if I’m guilty of loosening my grip on it barely 12 hours ago. This season ain’t over, and there’s still plenty of fight left in us. Write us off at your peril, for I have a feeling that we’re coming out swinging. If we’re going down, it won’t be without a fight.

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8 thoughts on “Everton in the rearview

  1. Anonymous

    agreed to a extent. The fans don’t pay to watch the books get balanced. We go to see out club try their absolute hardest to achieve something amazing. The stadium move was wondrous. But you can’t dine out on that ten years after its opening. A simple glance at the numbers over the last 5 years shows that Wenger hasn’t spent all that’s been available to him. This summer, he panic purchased a £43m player… and failed to land a striker. We’re a top flight European Champions League side and we have one striker. That’s should sackable offence in itself. How can Ivan Gazidis look at the shambles that’s going on and sanction another deal? The very fact it’s down to Wenger decide is embarrassing in itself. He said he’d decide on his future based on performance. We’re now in a situation where Everton, if they win their game in hand, will be 3 points behind us. Then we’ll likely lose to City. Then we have to play Everton. Then it’s game on. Everton are fresh, they have a game plan, they have a manager who has explosive players built into his starting 11. Barkley is an absolute monster, Lukaku is a green Drogba and Delofoeu is a dream of a winger. Not to mention players like Seamus Coleman diving in with the goals as well. … and on the goals. As my work pal just said to me, ‘Arsenal simply aren’t capable of scoring goals like that’. And he’s right. The explosion of power Barkley showed for his goal was Thierry like. Incredible. Our FA Cup chances feel in danger now. We’ve been rumbled. Teams know how to play against an Arsenal with no pace or power. Our top four chances are under threat. Because we have two very hard games coming up that are against form teams. Why isn’t Wenger blooding Gnabry? Why has he stopped blooding Sanogo? ‘When you go through a difficult period like that, you need a bit of experience. To put young players under massive pressure at the moment like we are… It is easier said than done.’ As someone said on Twitter, ‘says the man who debuted Sanogo in the Champions League against the best team in Europe’… If we don’t make top 4 and win the FA Cup, can the manager stay on? I’d like to think not, because that’s an utter shambles. Harry Redknapp was sacked for a far lesser offence, because his Spurs side were never contending the league. If Wenger goes, it’ll be because of inaction. Failure to address his squad deficiencies over two windows, failure to address his old fashioned approach to fitness, failure to manage his starting 11 and total failure to address his embarrassingly weak approach to tactics. Lay it all on the table, outside of sentimentality, why would you keep him?

  2. Anonymous

    Sorry buddy I admire your optimism but If you analyse the state of the club then Arsene has become a specialist in surrendering winning situations. No break us down if you can, no collective defence, no hard running, no tackling, no leadership, no true gladiators, no mental strength, not up for the fight. Players being indulged and allowed to play as they see fit. And remember once again what Fabregas said when he went to Barca. ‘At Arsenal we were allowed to do what we wanted on the field but at Barca I have had to learn about strict defensive organisation when we don’t have the ball’ And that’s the most attacking team on the planet with some of the best players in the world. Absolutely floored by our lack of organisation and character overseen by an experienced and previously successful manager. This is the way Arsene’s reign ends ,not with a bang but a whimper.

  3. Anonymous

    thanks gooners for a great read, good to know you guys are feeling so good about facing us! if this is your mentality now, how will you feel after Saturday when City demolish you again? at the rate your going you'll be lucky to stay top 5! see you next Sunday xoxo

  4. Anonymous

    JonIn a prior blog you discussed the team milling about after the Swansea first goal. That, IMHO is a reflection of Arsene as much as the team. There is no leadership from the top down. The smirking, never loses-his-cool AW is what may be the problem. He sits in his overstuffed coat, wrenches his hands, possibly rolls up his team roster and never seems to display the fire-and-brimstone needed to push this team.What actually occurs at half-time? Does anyone here know? Does he rant and rave or is there fifteen minutes of calm, cool Arsene with his half-smile and “not to worry” demeanor?Not to worry, we have a great roster? Not to worry, the players are all fit and able to withstand a long season? Not to worry, next summer we will buy more great players? etc., etc. etc.Until yesterday, he could sit back and be assured of top four. Now vthat too is a serious threat. If that possible scenario occurs, forget about two more years. You are correct. a lesser name would be ousted. Roman would have tossed him in mid-January, but then again, Roman would never give him the power to screw things up so badly during transfer period (nor entrust him with the money). This weekend will be “doom and gloom” and now we are forced to spend every week hoping someone (other than Arsenal) can topple Everton. Where once we hoped for top three, as a previous poster hinted, now it might not be top five. BTW, I thought Ramsey, Ozil, et al would be ready for this week's matches. Are none of them able to face the future?

  5. Anonymous

    another thought…..Many, if not all of us, have probably conceded the MC match this weekend. Thus, rather than ensure that your best side is there to take the pitch when odds are against you, why not throw everything you can against those sides you should and MUST defeat, such as Swansea, et al. My point is that, if some of those that did not see action on Tuesday were “simply” rested for the MC match, did it cost us 2 precious points needlessly?My greatest fear now, is that AW now faced with staying in the top 4 and winning the FA cup may also play those odds as he has in the past and manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  6. Anonymous

    It's telling that many of us rejected out of hand Mourinho's comments earlier about ” specialist in failure” as almost a knee-jerk reaction against most things that come out of his mouth, but it's becoming prophetic. Swansea was a side that we really should have defeated, if not easily, at least comfortably. If we are marshalling resources, we should have thrown everything at Swansea, sent out a B-squad against City, and gone from there. Sadly, we seem to have taken tried to split the difference, sending out a half-strength squad against Swansea (partly out of necessity due to injury) but without keeping all three points. Now, we risk three negative results in a row, two at home, before visiting Everton for what could be a huge symbolic and strategic match. If we fail to stay in the top four, that could very well spell the end of Arsene's tenure. Some will applaud this; I'm not ready to say I'm one of them. Yet.

  7. Anonymous

    Everton are starting to scare me. They're fresh, they're ambitious, they've got momentum, even if we beat them last time in the FA Cup playoffs, that feels like a world away and ages ago. we're coming apart at the wrong time (as if there's ever a right time)!

  8. Anonymous

    JonThis is precisely my point. Arsene seems to have lost the ability to look into the future and plan beyond the next one or two matches. Jose seems to be playing the long game and recognizes that all that matters is who it is that is still standing at the end. There is no question that long-range views might not have used the best of those available versus City this weekend and thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Swansea let alone a few of those other, now forgettable draws or losses this year. Being ahead of the BPL in December means nothing if you are 4th or 5th in May.In hindsight, most of us already anticipated that the second BM match was bot going to produce a 3-0 result against that side (unlike the match that saved Moyes for a time) and that, maybe, the choice should have been to avoid injuries and save your troops for the only fights left.Hopefully, AW does not take your thoughts and play a B-squad in the next FA match, hoping to rest players for the PL. Clearly, he needed to recognize that Everton was coming on, Spurs are not yet dead and that a win yesterday might have shut those doors sufficiently to be able to concentrate on the only bit of silverware left to win.Even if he wins the FA (can the path be much easier?), falling to 5th is a disaster and could harm chances of bringing true stars to the Emirates next year. If he fails at both (and maybe one failure is enough) then he should be (voluntarily) packing his bags for Spain or France.This would, IMHO, be very sad, if not tragic. One might then hope the successor can retain the “Beautiful game” but also recognize what AW may have forgotten: “You cannot just dazzle your opponents forever by brilliant one-touch passing and hope that they will then let you waltz in for the perfect goal”. If you believe that that is possible, let me remind you and other readers of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is confronted by a scimitar-wielding villain who waves his weapon around making acrobatic flourishes and moves until, Indy, tired of it all, pulls out his pistol and shoots him.


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