Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughCan Everton qualify for the Champions League? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Can Everton qualify for the Champions League? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Can Everton qualify for the Champions League?

Everton continued their superb start to the Premier League season by dissecting a far too open Southampton side at Goodison Park to move above Manchester United into second place in the table, just three points off league leaders Chelsea. Indeed, if the Blues had fallen to defeat at Arsenal earlier in the day, then the Toffees remarkably could have been sitting pretty at the summit of the Premier League after six games.

Talk of competing for the title is of course premature in the extreme but there definitely seems to be a wave of optimism rising that the Toffees could make a genuine challenge for Champions League qualification for the second time under David Moyes. Aside from Everton’s own performances, which bar the defeats at West Brom and Leeds in the League Cup have been nothing short of quite magical, it is the early displays of their rivals for Champions League qualification that has given their supporters hope. Chelsea have been impressive but the two Manchester clubs have both endured shaky starts to the season. Elsewhere, Arsenal have had an inconsistent start while Tottenham, despite their victory at Old Trafford last night, remain a work in progress under Andre Villas-Boas. As for Merseyside rivals Liverpool, the focus at the moment is to get into the top half of the table let alone challenge for the top four.

However, even if the league’s big guns were firing on all cylinders, Everton have already shown this season that they are capable of mixing it with the best, showcased by that balmy night at Goodison Park where the Toffees and Marouane Fellaini overpowered Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to claim a famous victory. Indeed, since then it’s arguable that David Moyes’ team have gone up a notch in terms of their performances. Their displays in wins at Aston Villa and Swansea saw them rack up six goals that should have been closer to 60.

Fundamentally, Moyes at last seems to have a squad that is well balanced in all important areas. Often, Everton have had a solid defence and goalkeeper but lacked a potent striker. Or they’ve had the goalscorer but lacked the creativity to supply him. However, look through this Everton team and ask yourself: where is the real, genuine weakness? In goal, Tim Howard has been outstanding for many years now while the defence contains the likes of Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and the irrepressible Leighton Baines influencing matches like no other left-back in the world. The Toffees’ midfielder sees Darron Gibson partnered by the monstrous Fellaini while Steven Pienaar, an inspired re-signing from Tottenham, provides the flashes of inspiration and creative nuance for the predatory Nikica Jelavic to score goals galore up top. That does not even the mention the likes of Kevin Miralles, Phil Neville, Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman or Seamus Coleman.

Full credit to Moyes for finally, after 10 long years, assembling the best squad of his time at Goodison Park. However, he will know better than anyone else that this is an opportunity that is unlikely to rear it’s head again. Aside from the inevitability that their rivals are sure to improve, his squad is unlikely to improve beyond this point, certainly while the club remain under its current ownership. Rather, Fellaini has already signalled his intentions to leave at the end of the season while Jelavic and Baines are sure to catch the attention of the bigger clubs if their form continues. Elsewhere, Jagielka, Distin, Neville, Pienaar and Osman are all ageing. They are now at the peak of their powers and one has to say that if Champions League qualification was not achieved this season, you would struggle to think that Everton will get a better opportunity.

So will they? It has to be said that it is still very early days in this Premier League season which is only six games old and bar their home clash with United in their opening game, Everton have yet to be truly tested. The clashes with Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham lie ahead and it is these matches which will tell us where Everton are challenging this season, rather than wins against struggling Aston Villa, Swansea and Southampton sides. What is clear however is that at the moment, the Toffees are arguably playing the most attractive football in the Premier League and that in itself, is an achievement in itself for Moyes and Everton, who have for so long been attributed as a side of pure perspiration, rather than real inspiration.

Adam Mazrani