Everton’s “atrocious” fixture list could see their long stay in the Premier League come to an end, says Paul Merson, who also casts his eye over the rest of the relegation candidates – and makes a bold prediction regarding Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Toffees suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Wolves on Sunday – they’re fourth successive loss in the top flight – and Merson questions whether Frank Lampard could be doing more to help his side pick up valuable points.
Everton only sit above the drop zone on goal difference and are four points behind 16th-placed Leeds following their win at home to Norwich, while they still have to face Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal – a daunting run of games that leaves Merson wondering where their next win is coming from.
Read on for the Magic Man’s latest skysports.com column…
‘Everton are in big trouble – they must beat Newcastle’
Everton host Newcastle on Thursday and that’s going to be a hard game. I was at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Newcastle are better than I thought. They parked the bus but they parked it in a way where they did it very well. Chelsea never looked like winning the game.
Everton’s remaining Premier League fixtures
- Newcastle (H), March 17
- Crystal Palace (A), March 20
- West Ham (A), April 3
- Man Utd (H), April 9
- Liverpool (A), April 23
- Chelsea (H), April 30
- Leicester (A), May 7
- Brentford (H), May 15
- Arsenal (A), May 22
- Watford (A), yet to be arranged
- Crystal Palace (H), yet to be arranged
Everton have got to go and win that game now – a draw’s no good. They’ve had some injuries in key places. They need Dominic Calvert-Lewin back firing. But they’re sort of in that situation where it’s Everton, never been relegated, so they go out and try to play entertaining, attacking football. Frank Lampard, when he was at Chelsea, always tried to play on the front foot and have a go.
I don’t know if Everton think they’re too good just to go and get a point somewhere, because points mount up. At the moment they’re chasing their tails. Wolves at home wasn’t a good day at the office, so just get a point – you’ve got to start a run somewhere.
I’m looking at Everton’s fixtures and the way they’re playing and I think they’re in big trouble. I think they’re the ones to go now. You’ve only got to look at their fixtures – they’re atrocious. I just can’t see how they stay up.
They’ve got games in hand, but where do they get points? You look at the Brentford game but that could be too late. I think they’ve got to beat Newcastle.
‘Brentford are safe thanks to Eriksen and Toney’
Christian Eriksen comes into the team and Ivan Toney plays further up the pitch and he scores five goals in two games – it doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out.
Toney was coming back trying to do what Eriksen was doing because he wasn’t getting the ball, but now he’s playing further up front.
You’re asking teams to win three games in their last 10 when some have only won three or four in their first 28, so Brentford are safe now.
‘Big win for Leeds; Watford getting out of trouble’
Leeds won on Sunday and are four points above Everton. Four points is a lot of points at this stage of the season. They win one more and it’s seven – that might be enough. Everton have got to win three matches, but where do they win the three?
That was a big goal from Joe Gelhardt to beat Norwich – an outstanding goal, I would say. Unbelievable by Raphinha. At that time in the game, with that much pressure on, to do what he did honestly takes some doing. He’s gone round the ‘keeper when a lot of people would have just shot. But he just played it in and the lad’s there to tap it in.
Burnley have got Manchester City next, so you write that off and start concentrating on your next game against Norwich. They’ve also got Watford away and Newcastle at home on the last day – Newcastle look like they’ll be up by then. So they’ve got a couple of games there.
I wouldn’t say they were unlucky at Brentford because I don’t think anybody should have won – I think it was a 0-0. But I thought, if one team was going to win it, it was going to be Burnley.
They should have blown Chelsea away in the first half last week, but the next thing they know it’s 4-0. They’ve got to put their chances away.
Watford have got Leeds at home, Brentford at home, Burnley at home – they’ve got winnable games. Watford look like the team I would expect to get out of that. I just think Watford have got a result in them, like they did when they won at Southampton.
I see Burnley have got that in them, like when they went to Brighton and won 3-0. I don’t see that with Everton at the moment. I don’t see Everton going somewhere and getting a ‘wow’ result and that’s the problem they’re going to have.
Look at Norwich’s fixtures: Brighton away, Burnley at home, Newcastle at home, Tottenham on the last day of the season when they might have nothing to play for. It’s ridiculous really. If they go and beat Brighton and Burnley then they could be out of the bottom four.
‘Managers have been soft on Ronaldo – he’ll go in the summer’
You never know what Manchester United team’s going to turn up.
I always thought the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t great. He gets a hat-trick on Saturday and everybody’s going mad, but put the ball in the box and Ronaldo will score goals. It’s simple.
The header didn’t shock me one iota. He’s the best header of the ball in the world. He hangs in the air, but you’ve got to put the ball in the box. He’s not going to do two footovers, beat two players and then smash the ball in the top corner – those days are gone. But put the ball in the box and the man is the best finisher there’s ever been. You can’t score that many goals if you’re not a good finisher.
Do I think he’ll still be there next season? No, absolutely not. I’d be shocked if he was still there. I don’t think the manager who’s coming in is going to be as soft. I don’t think it’s going to work with him. If you want to win the Premier League, that isn’t happening.
I thought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was weak, I think Ralf Rangnick is weak with the way it’s happened. Someone who’s coming in has got to be majorly strong. You’re not going to win the league with a 37-year-old up front in my opinion.
The worrying thing for Man Utd is he’s their best player and top scorer. You can’t say he hasn’t been a success – he’s the top scorer at Man Utd, the biggest club in the world, and he’s 37. But you’ve got to put it in perspective – Man Utd are there to win trophies, not just make numbers up and try to get fourth.
He’s probably done his job but him doing his job hasn’t helped anybody else. It might sound silly because he’s done well, but that means no one else has done well.