Everton could be this year’s top-four dark horses

9/1

TOP BET

Everton to finish in the top four

David Moyes spent a large portion of his pre-match build up for Sunderland’s game against Everton suggesting he was one striker short of challenging for the Premier League with his former club.

Hours later, as he watched the one man he was perhaps alluding to down his new Black Cats outfit with an 11-minute hat-trick, the Scot may have wished he was still in the opposite dugout.

Romelu Lukaku – a calibre of goalscorer Moyes felt he sorely missed during his tenure with the Toffees – is the poster boy for a new era at Goodison Park; one in which the top four doesn’t look too lofty an ambition after four games.

The striker remains the club’s record purchase in a time when weighty investment made by majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri in February saw the club fork out £46m on new players this summer.

Two of those new arrivals – Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye – provided assists to Lukaku as he caught fire in the second half and sent the Toffees into third place, with only goal difference keeping them from second.

On a three-game winning run since an opening-day draw with Tottenham, the early signs for Ronald Koeman in his first campaign with the club look extremely promising.

Everton have had the most shots on target in the Premier League thus far. Their 31 is four better than Chelsea and last season the top three in that category – Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City – all qualified for the Champions League.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Koeman’s men have faced the fifth-fewest total shots with 43. Just 11 of those have hit the target, which makes Everton the third-best outfit in the division for that category.

Again that is a positive omen, as two of the best three teams at limiting opponents’ shots on target last season (Spurs and City) landed in the top four last term. The other side on the podium, Manchester United, finished fifth.

With games against Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace to come in the next three game weeks there’s every chance the Toffees’ current streak extends. By that time, our 8/1 for a top-four finish will look a lot less appetising.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.