Being ‘streetwise’, ‘winning ugly’ or whatever you want to call it, is often the difference between being good and being great. For Everton it could mean the difference between the Champions League and the Europa League.
Manchester United, the 12 time champions, have made winning in such a way a habit and they were back up to their old tricks at Villa Park on Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, Everton enacted something similar at Goodison Park when Sunderland threatened to end the Blues’ run of four consecutive draws with a deflating defeat. But the home side overturned a half-time deficit and victory not only maintained their position in the top four but went some way to answering a question posed by their manager earlier in the week.
Such has been the quality of the Blues’ start to the season that David Moyes has been asked if this is the best side of his reign. However, he has been unable to offer a definitive answer. Comparing them to the Champions League qualifying team from the 2004/05 season was difficult, he said, because there remain question marks in certain areas about this crop. Everton are averaging nearly two goals a game and are keeping Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur out of the top four but the manager still feels they have underachieved. After 10 games of the campaign in which they qualified for the Champions League, Everton were five points better off than the current side were at the same point. And Moyes wanted to know whether today’s side had the ability to “grind out results” and squeeze maximum points out of ordinary performances like that top four team had done so well. Everton were far from average in their 11th game of the season on Saturday afternoon but when the going was getting particularly tough, they found a way to win.