Arsenal’s next three Premier League fixtures will tell us a lot as to whether they are worthy of a European place or if it’s a bridge too far for Mikel Arteta’s charges this season.
As a proud Everton supporter, the words “Everton, that” come with a particular sense of dread and worry.
And as we approach the re-start of the Premier League season after its March postponement, a period of excitement to see football back is once again overshadowed by that phrase.
The phrase has come to symbolise the wacky, weird, mystifying, cursed, odd and down right strange moments that seem to follow Everton, with this season taking it to a whole new height.
This season has been a strange one for Everton fans. From the highlights of signing Andre Gomes, Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean at the start of a season that promised so much to the lowlights of a thrashing at Anfield by Liverpool, which led to the dismissal of Marco Silva, it has been a season of emotion and more often tears then cheers.
Even with the temporary appointment of Everton legend Duncan Ferguson as caretaker coach and the full-time appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, and wins over Manchester United and Chelsea along the way, these great moments have been mixed with “Everton, that”.
Ferguson substituting Moise Kean 17 minutes after bringing him on as a sub against Man United, inexplicably conceding two goals in the 92nd minute against Newcastle to draw 2-2 after dominating the game for 90 minutes, losing to a reserve Liverpool side in the FA Cup third round (I won’t mention VAR either!)… it has been a season of redefining the term “Everton, that”.
Everton fans have seen leads slip away to players barely in first team plans of other clubs, club legend Leighton Baines score a trademark goal against Leicester City but then miss a penalty in the same game despite being one of the English game’s most consistent penalty takers, and Jordan Pickford go from the hero of the summer to the clown of the winter with a number of erratic displays.
Oumar Niasse is banished to the under-23s then inexplicably gets 16 minutes against West Ham due to injuries and loans, despite the fact he has refused loans away from the club under four different managers. In fact, he has more game time as a Hull City player than as an Everton one.
Meanwhile, forgotten striker Cenk Tosun joins Crystal Palace on loan, finds his shooting boots and then when it looks like he may join Palace permanently, he is ruled out for the next six months due to an ACL injury. You really couldn’t make this up!
Jean-Philippe Gbamin is the latest in a long line of “Everton, that” moments from this season and the season hasn’t even resumed yet. Signed as a replacement for the PSG-bound Idrissa Gana Gueye in the summer, Gbamin seemed like the long-term replacement as the main defensive midfielder.
However, after only two league games, he went down with a major injury, and just when it seemed he was getting closer to a return in December, he was ruled out once again for a few more months with what was then a season-ending injury, with not one but two surgeries to fix the issue.
The COVID-19 crisis hit, and with the season extended, it emerged that Gbamin could potentially be available for the postponed games and naturally excitement in the fan-base rose once again to see a player who promised so much in those two games come back into a squad rejuvenated under Ancelotti. Gbamin even revealed he was closer to being fully fit and was looking forward to playing and training under Ancelotti.
And then on the first day of contact training since the league resumed training, in an innocuous, non-contact incident, his season was ended with an Achilles injury.