We are almost 1/3rd of the way through the season with 11 matches played, and with the international break we thought we'd go around the horn and leave our impressions of Everton through these first 11 games. Though the old adage of nothing is won in September and October still holds true, you can certainly lose things early on. Thankfully Everton has managed to avoid that as well. Leave your thoughts on the season so far below.
To me, the biggest thing that jumps out so far this season is the play of the offensive-minded midfielders. McCarthy and Barry have done well to control matches, and Baines and Coleman have created from the full back position, but Osman, Pienaar, Mirallas, Barkley, and Deulofeu have all failed to put in consistent performances. Osman took over the Villa match off the bench, but has done little else, and Pienaar netted the winner with his first touch against Hull, but injury and inconsistency have plagued his campaign. Mirallas has been a shadow of what we saw from him last season, Barkley has been unable to continue his positive performances from the first month of the season, and Deulofeu, though obviously talented, isn't creating enough to overlook his apparent lack of interest in defending or passing regularly. With Kone's injury, the Toffees will already be overly reliant on Lukaku, so now more than ever these players must find ways to create chances for the big Belgian, as well as score some goals to take the burden off of him.
The best part of the season so far has to be Roberto Martinez. My biggest concern heading into the season was if the former Wigan boss was going to try and force his favored 3-5-2 on a squad that is not built to play that way. Thankfully the Spaniard has adapted his beliefs to the squad he has, and Everton hasn't lost a step since last season. Fans may be shocked to know that the club's pace is the same as last year, but that is a testament to the strength of the squad. The Champions League is still a possibility, but like last year the Europa League is still going to be a more likely option for the Toffees.
We all knew it'd be a season of transition with a new manager and new philosophy, and new players. Despite David Moyes playing a more attaching game last season it was a much more direct game that Roberto Martinez is introducing. Overall sixth is a satisfying positions, very close to the leaders and with a little luck in the opening three games we'd be top(ish). Some great additions (Barry, McCarthy, Lukaku) and a willingness to adapt from current players set my expectations high for the rest of the season. Yes there'll be hiccups along the way but in Roberto we trust.
It's difficult to know what to make of Everton so far this season. Sitting 6th in the Premier League table, above the likes of Tottenham and Manchester City, with just a solitary loss in eleven matches points to an excellent start under Roberto Martinez, but the reality is slightly more mixed than that. Great results against the likes of Chelsea, Newcastle and Aston Villa have been tempered by disappointing performances in games with West Brom, Spurs and Crystal Palace, amongst others, and a tame exit to Fulham in the League Cup also rankles.
The Toffees defense has been solid as ever, and the new-look midfield of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley has also worked superbly at times. Likewise Romelu Lukaku, when on form, has provided a much-needed threat in attack, although the issue remains that when the Belgian misfires, there are few viable options to replace him from the bench. With a tough run of fixtures coming up (beginning with this weekend's Merseyside derby) Everton will do well to maintain their current position into the New Year, but some shrewd investment in January could yet see the Blues challenge for a European place.
Roberto Martinez came into Everton full of optimism and promising to provide Champions League football. However after the first three games that promise seemed years off from being fulfilled and it was clear that the Toffees were lacking goals from the Spanish-style football Martinez had installed. Before the transfer deadline day predictions were being re-evaluated to a stalemate mid-table finish. Then in the final hour of the transfer window came the turning point in the early stages of the Martinez era. Marouane Fellaini made his way to Old Trafford and in response Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku made their way to Finch Farm to complete last minute deals. The following game at home to Chelsea, Gareth Barry turned in a man of the match performance for his debut. The next game, Romelu Lukaku was available and completed the second half - scoring the eventual winner and getting knocked out for the cause against West Ham. Lukaku then scored twice in his home debut against Newcastle and a win against the Toon meant that Everton were the only unbeaten team in the league.
That unbeaten record was taken away by Manchester City when they beat the Blues convincingly 3-1 at the Etihad. In the subsequent four games Everton were undefeated, however two draws consecutively leave it a good time to have an international break. The last game against Crystal Palace in a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park leaves the Toffees in 6th place. With a long way still to go in this campaign, sixth would be considered a good start in a transitional season under Martinez but with the start that has been made and the history of finishing strong it would leave some disappointment with Evertonians if European football was not secured.
I'm not entirely sure how to feel about Everton after eleven games. Sometimes the football has been brilliant to watch, such as in the win against Newcastle, whilst the defence hasn't done as badly as I'd feared it would. However, last week's draw against Crystal Palace has muddied the waters for me a little, because top teams do not draw those games. Arsenal had a similar game against the Eagles before us, yet they went on to win it. I can appreciate there are always going to be games like that one, but a few times now Everton have been a little bit too much possession and not enough penetration. I can however see where this is going, and I am excited about it, though I am reserving my praises for now.
It's hard not to be pleased with how Everton have begun the season given the changes that took place over the summer. The appointment of Roberto Martinez left many fans wondering whether such disruption would see an early drop-off in results. Thankfully those fears were not realized.
The fine start has definitely been underpinned by a superb transfer deadline day. Martinez and Kenwright played a blinder in squeezing £27million out of Manchester United for Marouane Fellaini while the loan signing of Romelu Lukaku was equally inspired. What followed was pretty much the dream scenario - the team playing a more attractive style of football than under David Moyes but still picking up decent results. It is only a start though and the dour draw at Crystal Palace last week highlighted the weakness of Martinez's ‘possession first' system when playing lower ranked sides content to sit behind the ball. The squad also remains thin and one or two injuries away from a major crisis, especially if anything should happen to Lukaku.
Overall though there is little for Evertonians to grumble about so far.
Had I known at the beginning of the season that we would be 6th at this point, I'd gladly take it. After all, with a new manager and a new philosophy, things could have been much worse. However, I look at the table now and see the likes of Southampton above us, which leads me to believe we need to be higher up the standings as well.
Starting from the back - Howard has been excellent in what is a bounce-back season for him. Whether Robles' signing had anything to do with it or not, the American netminder has been solid so far. The defence has looked frazzled at times as Martinez insists on playing out of the back. There is still the odd miscommunication or two here and there, but for the most part they've held. Baines has been less than his irrepressible attacking self while Coleman has curbed his instincts a little too.
The midfield has been the mainstay of the team, with Barry and McCarthy leading fans to believe that we have an upgrade on Gibson. The pair really control the game in the middle of the park, with pass distribution when attacking and closing down opponents when defending. Pienaar, Osman, Mirallas and Deulofeu have been the epitome of inconsistency and need to be better. Barkley has been a revelation for the team with his early season performances, but has been underwhelming in more recent times.
And then there's Lukaku. Difficult to figure him out really, because when he's into it he's simply unstoppable, otherwise he tends to fade out of games and looks like a one-half player. Unfortunately, with Kone's injury Martinez' only other option is the still out of form Jelavic.
Good start from Martinez, but we'd like to see more consistency from the team.