Merseyside is swinging to the rhythm of the Blues. Everton are calling the tune, and extended their current edge in the charts over the Reds from across Stanley Park by beating Liverpool 1-0. Never mind those European Cup exploits, that's history; today belongs to Everton. Lee Carsley's swerving drive gave them a victory that lifted them into second place behind those other Blues, from west London, Chelsea, who take on third-placed Arsenal this afternoon.
Carsley, who swung in the free-kick that salvaged a point at Newcastle two weeks ago, deserted his defensive midfield duties again midway through the second half to place his beautifully struck shot beyond Chris Kirkland and settle the 200th Merseyside derby with his third goal in six games. Bass player switches to lead guitar, now there's versatility.
But it comes with modesty, too, even if Carsley did give his side bragging rights in the city for the first time in their last 10 attempts. "It means a lot to us," the former Republic of Ireland player said. "The fans are buzzing and it's a big day for us all. Everyone's waiting for us to fall over, but we have a great team spirit here at Everton and everything's going really well."
Thomas Gravesen, his fellow midfielder, underlined just how much it meant to the club when he said: "The fans are always really involved here, they are really behind the team and everybody is together at this club at the moment. There was a lot at stake out there today."
More even than a claim to the throne on Merseyside. What Everton want is to muscle in at the top table, where there sometimes seems to be room only for Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. That almost seems to provide the inspiration for David Moyes, the Ever-ton manager, as he pondered his team's position, 12 points clear of Liverpool.
"This win is very, very satisfying," he said. "This was our first derby win in five years and our first home derby success in seven years. That surely shows the progress this club has made with a tremendously committed bunch of players who are really working for each other. That is a big thing for us to say, they are a fantastic bunch of lads that I am proud to manage. It is a massive jump to the big boys, but by hook or by crook we are doing all we can to bridge it without having the finances."
No club can match the finances of Chelsea, but that is not why they are top of the table. As Jose Mourinho, their manager, said: "For Chelsea on Sunday, it's not to be first or second. It's to be first - or first." The winning mentality is what makes the difference. Chelsea have found it after a slow start, while Arsenal no longer seem sure they have it in the League.
But if Arsenal really have been in "decline" since their 49-game unbeaten run ended at Manchester United, slipping five points behind Chelsea, then tell that to West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies are 29 points off the pace, and their 1-0 home loss to Charlton Athletic leaves them facing the prospect of testing a troublesome fact of Premiership life - that the team who are bottom at Christmas are always relegated. They must thrash Birmingham City next Saturday and hope that Southampton suffer at Tottenham Hotspur if they are to avoid feeling another kind of blues.Reuse content