Goodison's Feel-Good Factor

by Adam Clark

“That’s something that you like for the fans - they go, most of the time, happy to home.” 

That it was in slightly broken English, didn’t matter. You knew exactly what Ronald Koeman meant. 

Even without the words, the smile said everything. 

And it’s true. Of late, Evertonians have been flooding away from Goodison Park satisfied, victorious - entertained. 

As Koeman reflected, Romelu Lukaku’s eighth goal in five home games - his 10th in 10 fixtures home and away and 20th of the season in all competitions - had only half an hour earlier put the seal on Everton’s 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

Far from just adding the three points that, with 10 league games still to play, saw Koeman’s men equal the final total managed in each of the past two seasons - 47 - it was a fifth straight Premier League victory at Goodison and extended a stretch of form that has seen the Blues suffer defeat only once at home in the league under the Dutchman. And that was to a goal in the 94th minute.

Indeed, starting with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Koeman’s former employers Southampton on 2 January, Everton have put together a league run at Goodison that now reads: played five, won five, scored 18, conceded three. And all three of those came in a game where the Blues scored six. 

After Southampton but before the 6-3 demolition of Bournemouth came the season’s best performance, a 4-0 triumph over Manchester City (Pep Guardiola’s biggest ever league defeat as a manager no less), while since then both Sunderland (2-0) and now West Brom have been put to the sword. 

It’s exactly what Everton needed - and exactly what Koeman demanded. The barricades are up. Goodison is fast being restored as one of the Premier League’s most impenetrable fortresses. 

In fact, a record of nine wins, four draws and that sole, late defeat against Liverpool in December, sees Everton sitting in fourth in the home form table, above the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. Only White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge and Anfield have been tougher places to visit this season than Goodison. To put the improvement into greater perspective, in 2014/15, Everton finished 11th in the same standings, last season 15th. 

Last year’s final home points tally of 23 has also already been toppled (we’re up to 31), with five L4 outings still to go - four against teams currently placed 12th in the Premier League table or lower.

Further evidence of the renewed confidence on home turf comes when you look at where the goals are coming from. Yes, Lukaku has netted eight of the 18 amassed in 2017 but the other 10 have come from nine different scorers. 

Adding to that of Kevin Mirallas, which has appeared twice, the names of Enner Valencia, Leighton Baines, Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman, James McCarthy, Ross Barkley, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin have all featured on Goodison scoresheets since the turn of the year. Long since met then is Koeman’s challenge for other players to chip in more regularly and ease the burden on a number-one goalscorer who, regardless, seems driven to make Tottenham’s Harry Kane somehow up his game if he wishes to retain his Premier League golden boot this term. 

The next test of Everton’s own-patch omnipotence comes this weekend against a Hull City side who, while themselves rejuvenated under new manager Marco Silva, have racked up just five points on the road all term.

Should the Toffees add a sixth successive Goodison victory it will lift them up to sixth in the table and above Manchester United, who travel to Middlesbrough on Sunday. 

Last weekend’s FA Cup results mean seventh is now likely to secure Europa League qualification for next season. If Koeman’s charges achieve that - or even better - the Goodison feel-good factor will certainly have played its part.

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