Everton currently have the best team in terms of talent seen in a generation and are playing the best football seen at Goodison Park since the 1980s – yet, we´re drawing, not winning.
It´s an intriguing parallel. There´s been some very interesting stats of late, such as the Blues being the most attacking side in Europe in terms of shots and going so long with barely a defeat to speak of.
Yet our recent result reads as a who´s who of abject failure against lesser clubs, combined with combative, creditable performances against the big guns. But what´s common throughout is the final result – by and large, a draw. One point gained or two points lost, it´s a common pattern.
We are seemingly incapable of putting away smaller teams (with respect to sides like Reading; I´m not calling them a “small club”, in the fashion of a fat Spanish waiter, but just… “smaller” comparatively, if you get me!). Yes, there´s been a few “dubious” refereeing performances, but whilst we´ve flew forward with style and verve, we haven´t had the substance to break down defences and destroy sides by two or three goals consistently.
We get the plaudits for the performance, but not the results. This is in stark contrast to Manchester City and United, to give just two examples. Both sides have had fairly underwhelming starts to the season, yet they´re leading the way with comfort at the top of the table.
Because the Manchester clubs have something that Everton don´t – aside from money and higher quality players! They have an intimidation factor; a feeling the opposition team and fans have when playing them that they´re never quite finished; the history of United and the financial muscle of City an ever-present factor, even if the opposition is leading going into the last 10 minutes.
It´s not just at the upper end of the scale either. Liverpool, nowadays an upper mid-table club with what is largely agreed to be the most threadbare squad in memory, can still grind out results.
A visit to Anfield for the opposition is an awe inspiring experience. Everywhere they go and look is filled with memories, designed to scare the sh** out of the opposition. The badge in the tunnel is one obvious example, but it starts in the dressing room. The away dressing room at Anfield is liberally decorated with the achievements of the past, right in the face of the visiting team, with more memorabilia on show than the home dressing room.
This is psychological warfare, and it´s something Everton don´t do. You´d think it wouldn´t work, but amazingly it does. No matter how highly paid a professional footballer is, they´re still human, and a visit to an in-form Everton at Goodison Park is still not as frightening a prospect as a visit to an out of sorts Liverpool at Anfield.
On the pitch and in terms of tangible talent, the Everton starting eleven is a match for most teams in the Premier League. However, perhaps the mindset isn´t in the same league.
We need to stop taking a knife to a perceived gunfight; instead, we need to believe we have an even bigger gun – that we can blow away the opposition. That mentality needs to permeate through the club itself first.
To get to the next level, and to truly challenge the Champions League elite, Everton need to ditch the underdog tag, the “plucky little Everton” persona we´ve developed and is regurgitated over and over again by the Sky Sports press pack, and start making Goodison Park a top flight fortress, home to one of the best and most dominating sides in the division, where the opposition feel they´d thank their lucky stars to escape from with a point.