Why Everton can still be hopeful despite devastating ten-point deduction
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In 12 Premier League matches this season, Everton have won four times, drawn twice, and lost exactly half of their outings. For their efforts, they now have just four points to their name, and languish one place above the foot of the table.
On Friday morning, it was confirmed that the Toffees had been hit with a ten-point deduction from the top flight for breaching its regulations on profit and sustainability. Perhaps they should have spent less money on players and infrastructure, and more on securing representation from the same lawyers that Manchester City use. Facetiousness aside, this feels like a particularly cruel blow to absorb for the Merseyside club, who have reacted to the punishment by stating that they are both 'shocked and disappointed'. It is understood that the charges brought against Everton relate to interest payments on the cost of building the Blues' new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.
Speaking to Sky Sports News about the alleged breaches, football finance expert Kevin Maguire said: "Everton are very aggrieved. It's arisen over a couple of accounting points in respect to the new stadium. Everton borrowed money and they felt that interest should have been taken into consideration in respect of their PSR calculations. The Premier League disagreed so that has resulted in the points deduction. There are reasons due to Covid. Everton felt, given the softening of the transfer market, they should have been given a bit more compassion to take into account the harshness of the penalty. Covid has been disregarded to a degree in terms of their inability to sell players for prices they felt they would have achieved otherwise."
Never before has a Premier League team been hit with such a considerable points deduction. Indeed, this is only the third time in the history of the division that such a punishment has been doled out, and neither Middlesbrough's three points for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn Rovers in 1996/97 or Portsmouth's nine points for entering administration in March 2010 eclipses Everton's double-figure tally.
But after plummeting into the bottom three, how likely are the Toffees to survive from here on out? At first glance, things certainly don't seem too bad. At the time of writing, they are just two points behind Luton Town in 17th, and it must be said that rarely in Premier League history have three teams looked as simultaneously knackered as the Hatters, Sheffield United, and Burnley. (Bournemouth, with two wins in their last three, just about escape the same level of ire.) In fact, you could argue that if there were ever a season to suffer a 10-point deduction and just about get away unscathed, this might well be it.
Let us for one second put that pervasive uselessness to one side, however, and assume that this, somehow, will turn into a normal relegation battle of normal proportions. Over the course of the past decade, the average number of points, not accounting for goal difference, needed to definitely survive in the Premier League has been, if we round up to the nearest whole number, 35. There are, of course, statistical outliers within that mean, from the 29 required in 2020/21, to the relatively inflated 38 in 2015/16, but on average, 35 points will see you right.
Everton, as we have already covered, are currently on four points, meaning that they will need 31 from their remaining 26 fixtures to cross that threshold. Or, in other words, they will have to maintain a point per game ratio of 1.19. Prior to their deduction, the Toffees had 14 points from 12, yielding a PPG of 1.16. It is, diplomatically-speaking, very bloody tight.
Recent history is not on the Toffees' side either. No Everton side has surpassed that average since 2020/21, and in each of their past two campaigns they have barely scraped their way to survival.
That being said, there is a different vibe around Goodison Park this season, one that is - whisper it - almost functional. Just one defeat in five had dragged the Blues to a position of relative comfort before Friday's meteor struck, and if they can, in spite of the setback, continue that kind of form over the next few weeks they could well be fairly clear of this palaver by the end of January. Regardless, there are reasons to believe that this deduction, while it feels like a hammer blow right now, will become nothing more than an inconvenient footnote in Everton's long and storied tale.