When Liverpool and Everton met in the Merseyside Derby two weeks ago, it was billed by some as a relegation six-pointer. The blue side, having stumbled badly out of the gate yet again this season, was in 17th place, while the red side, having just ousted one of the most hated club owners in club ownership history, was stuck in the drop zone with the Kop calling for Roy Hodgson’s head and wondering if their club would end up being the next Newcastle — or worse, the next Leeds United.
When Everton came away with a 2-0 win, the Kop was aghast. “Hodgson must go!”, they shouted. “He’s in over his head! We’ll never survive the season!”
Has anyone noticed where Liverpool and Everton are now?
Two straight wins have moved the Reds up to 12th place, and guess what? They’re only five points behind 4th-place Manchester City, a club that spent an oil baron’s mad money like it was going out of style and still couldn’t win at Wolverhampton.
As for the Toffees, they’ve taken 10 points from their last 12 after only getting 3 points in their first six games, and look! They’re in 8th place — only four points behind Man City.
You can talk all you want about relative quality of lineups and injuries and missing pieces and what have you, but the point is this — it’s early yet, people. Calm down. We’re 10 rounds into a 38-round season, and the gap between 4th place and 18th place is eight points. That’s it. There’s a ton of sorting out left to be done this season.
Should supporters be concerned? Sure. You can’t win a league title in August and September, but you can definitely lose one. The league title, however, is far from the only prize on offer in the Premier League. That oddly mystical fourth place spot is very much up for grabs once again, and right now, all it would seem to take is 2 or 3 wins in a row to jump from relegation fodder to European hopeful.
You want panic and despair? Go be a Dallas Cowboys fan right now. They’re 1-6 with only 9 games left, and their starting quarterback is out 6-8 weeks. Even the mid-point of the Premier League season isn’t time to panic. Everton managed only 22 points in 19 games before New Year’s Day last year. Then Landon Donovan stopped by and Mikel Arteta (among others) healed, and the Toffees claimed 39 points in their last 19 ties and missed a Europa League bid by 2 points.
Perhaps it’s just easy to get caught up in the media’s week-to-week soap opera. Crisis! Panic! Horror! Doom! The story changes from one result to the next. The bottom line is that both Liverpool and Everton have quality players and quality managers, and there are plenty of beatable Premier League clubs to be played between now and May 22. Neither side is headed for the drop. Not while clubs that start with W are still in the top flight.
So settle down, Merseysiders. You probably won’t catch Chelsea this year, but you have no reason to give up on Europe just yet.