Crystal Palace vs. Everton: 5 Thoughts

Bryn Lennon

It remains difficult to draw conclusions from Everton's start to the season.

1. There are two sides to Everton this season.

It's still difficult to know quite what to make of Roberto Martinez's Everton. Under David Moyes last season the Toffees were extremely tricky to defeat, losing just seven times, but were ultimately undermined by a joint league high of fifteen draws. Frequently these results came about due to an inability to break down weaker sides, especially away from home, and there are signs of a similar trend already this year.

The draw against Crystal Palace this weekend was Everton's fourth 0-0 of the season, and second in succession, a fact that would seem to confirm the notion that the Blues are struggling going forward. But take those games away, and Martinez's side have scored an average of two goals a game - a stat that suggests quite the opposite. What are we to make of this? Well, not much really, apart from the fact that this year's Everton are nothing if not unpredictable.

2. Possession means little against a counterattacking side.

Having possession is great and all, and Everton had an awful lot of it at Selhurst Park (72%), but without an element of incision it means very little, especially against sides that are happy to invite pressure as Palace did this weekend. This Toffees side, for all its qualities, is short on players that can unlock a defence, and when those few individuals who can - Steven Pienaar, Gareth Barry - fail to perform, the ball tends to be recycled continually in the middle third, with no real offensive threat.

Darron Gibson is one player whose expertise would have come in handy on Saturday, but in his extended absence Roberto Martinez may be forced to consider a viable Plan B for dealing with more defensive opponents. That Gerard Deulofeu threatened more in thirty minutes than Kevin Mirallas did in twice that time hints that the young Catalonian could provide that option.

3. Palace were unlucky.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Everton deserved to win at the weekend. For all their aforementioned possession, the Blues created next to nothing, whilst at the other end Crystal Palace could consider themselves unfortunate not to have converted one of their several clear-cut opportunities.

Were it not for another outstanding save from Tim Howard, and the profligacy of Marouane Chamakh and Jerome Thomas (the latter admittedly aided by a poor offside call), the Eagles would have snatched only their second win of the season. Troublingly, there could have been few complaints.

4. Lukaku's off day demonstrates the significance of Kone's injury.

Romelu Lukaku may have set himself up for a fall after his electric first month as an Everton player. The Belgian forward was lethargic and ineffective for the second week running against Palace, and his poor hold up play stifled his side's attacks on more than one occasion. Granted, the Chelsea loanee only turned 20 in May, but as the Toffees' primary striking option it's vital that the young man remains consistent.

Indeed, it was telling that despite his poor performance, Lukaku remained on the pitch for the duration of Saturday's game, whilst Nikica Jelavic sat as an unused substitute. Had he not just been consigned to the treatment table for the best part of the season, one suspects that Arouna Kone would have been introduced at Selhurst Park, but until January at the earliest it appears Lukaku will have to lead the line virtually unaided.

5. The international break comes at a good time.

Two disappointing performances on the bounce have put a halt on the early season optimism at Goodison Park, but favourable results elsewhere have meant that Everton remain in a promising position in the league. With that in mind, a two-week break probably isn't the worst thing for the Blues right now - a chance to take stock of what is and isn't working, as well as to dispel any nagging senses of frustration that might have built up over the last fortnight.

With a bit of luck, those players on international duty will return rejuvenated and injury free, just in time to hit peak form ahead of the next Premier League game... which just so happens to be the Merseyside Derby.

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