When a team is embroiled in a relegation fight and has won one out of their last eight league matches, a decisive goal and three points can be priceless. If the term ‘priceless’ seems like an exaggeration, we can at least agree that such a goal might be worth the millions of pounds which the club could forfeit were they to be demoted to the Championship.
Though they may now have risen as high as ninth in the Premier League, it would have been a mistake to assume Everton were out of relegation danger when they hosted Crystal Palace at Goodison Park this weekend.
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Seven points above the relegation zone was still too close for comfort as far as Everton fans were concerned, with plenty of grumbles in the stands after a goalless first half against Palace. Had Roy Hodgson managed to mastermind a win against Sam Allardyce’s side, the gap between the two teams would have narrowed to a single point and the distance between the Toffees and the drop zone to a mere five.
As it was, Everton ran out 3-1 winners at Goodison. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s opener early in the second half changed the game, forcing Palace to open themselves up and allowing Oumar Niasse and Tom Davies to put some gloss on the scoreline. Signed from Swansea for a club-record fee of £45m in August, Sigurdsson has been one of the most disappointing players brought in during Everton’s massive summer splurge. Prior to his goal against Palace, he had racked up three goals in 23 league games, with another three assists to his name.
While Sigurdsson might have justified some of his fee with his decisive intervention against Palace – as well as his role in helping to set up Davies for Everton’s third – he still has a long way to go to justify Everton’s summer expenditure. There may have been enormous inflation in the transfer market in the last few years but, nonetheless, £45m was meant to buy Everton a midfielder who could help them compete for a Champions League place.
Step up for Sigurdsson
In that sense, we may have to wait until next season to see whether Sigurdsson can live up to expectations at Goodison. From now until May fans will be satisfied if he keeps up the level of his performance against Palace, but next term the 28-year-old will have to step things up again.
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Still in the prime of his career, this season can still be remembered as underwhelming interlude as opposed to Sigurdsson’s defining moment – even if he has popped up with a few vital goals in the slog to avoid relegation. Having been joined by Theo Walcott in attack and with the Toffees likely to strengthen again this summer, 2018/19 will give Everton fans a better idea of whether Sigurdsson can be the hero they so crave.