Everton head to Arsenal on Tuesday with the Champions League places firmly in their sights, and it is probably time for a mea culpa from yours truly.
Much like Neil Ruddock, I don’t mind being the bigger man and I’m going to admit that I have had the Toffees all wrong this season.
Everton go to the Emirates sitting on 55 points, just three shy of Chelsea in fourth place, and with Rafa Benitez’s side still to play, David Moyes knows that his Champions League destiny is in his own hands.
And I have to say, I did not expect Everton to be fighting it out for a top-four position come mid-April.
The blue half of Merseyside broke the habit of a lifetime by getting off to a great start to the season, winning their first two games for the first time since Bill Kenwright was in Coronation Street.
Yet despite their explosive beginning to the campaign, I maintained a stance that the Toffees would fall short of the Champions League places, often in the face of some criticism.
To be honest, much of what I said is true. My main points were that Everton don’t win enough games and would concede too many goals, and I still maintain that is the case: the Blues have won just 14 of their 32 league matches and have kept only seven clean sheets.
I also thought that Everton lacked quality in certain areas and the strength in depth to compete at that level for a whole season.
But what Moyes has done brilliantly, and this is where 11 years at a club reaps such dividends, is to build a close-knit squad, well versed in their roles.
And with as much quality in the attacking third as he has ever been able to boast, the Goodison boss has made Everton a side that nobody wants to face – it is to Moyes’ credit that he has done so on such a comparatively paltry budget.
I still believe they will eventually fall short of the top four, but they have given it a much better go than I thought they were capable of and I have a sneaky suspicion they can go to the Emirates and get a result that will keep the dream going a little while longer.
With that in mind, the preference is the draw at 14/5 as opposed to the 3/1 about Everton or the 4/5 on an Arsenal win.
Arsenal are having what is becoming their usual kind of campaign: perform with frustrating inconsistency, bow out of all the cups (often in ignominy) before rallying late on to secure Champions League football, and 2012/13 looks set to follow the same pattern.
Seven wins in their last eight league matches have lifted Arsene Wenger’s side to third place, but even though their form is good I’m not going in on a 4/5 shout.
None of those wins have come against top-class opposition. Far from it: the Gunners have beaten Stoke, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Swansea, Reading, West Brom and Norwich, all either at the wrong end or already on the beach, and Everton present a completely different test.
With Arsenal only picking up one clean sheet in their six most recent league matches, Everton will fancy their chances of scoring at the Emirates, where the hosts have managed a mere four shut-outs all campaign.
After all, Moyes’ side have failed to score just four times all year, but I can’t go into that 3/1 when the Merseysiders don’t win enough games.
Their return of 14 victories is at least three fewer than the teams above them in the table, and only four of those have come away from home – and only one to a top-half side (Swansea in September).
But Everton have lost just five times all season – only the Manchester clubs can boast a better record – and I think they can make sure they don’t get beaten at the Emirates, too.
Only Norwich have drawn more games than Everton’s 13, while no team have drawn more than the Blues’ seven games on the road.
Those seven games include stalemates at Manchester City and Tottenham, and I reckon Everton can add Arsenal to that list – so the 14/5 on the draw looks like the best call.