Coming out of the international break there were a number of questions asked of Everton after the slow start to the season. The team responded with a resounding 3-0 win over Aston Villa at home. Here is what we learned:
Can Ross Barkley return and have an impact?
Surprisingly, Barkley started the game. His presence made an instant impact, and it was easy to see the difference with him in the team. Barkley managed a few shots on goal and had the assist on Romelu Lukaku's goal. The 20-year-old played 66 minutes and Evertonians will be relieved to see him back and playing well.
How will the defense hold up with so many injuries?
Everton's defense and injury woes were the two main contributing factors to the slow start. Seamus Coleman, Sylvain Distin, and John Stones have all gone down to injury this season.
Everton really put things right on defense today. Tim Howard kept a clean sheet and won the battle of American goalkeepers. Two defenders scored, with Phil Jagielka opening things up and Coleman putting them out of reach. Antolin Alcaraz started and had a key header to shut down an Aston Villa scoring chance. James McCarthy had an excellent tackle to keep the Villans away from goal. Distin didn't make the team, but the starters played well in his absence.
When will the Romelu Lukaku of old show up?
Today. Lukaku put in the performance that everyone was waiting for. He won the ball numerous times, showed his strength, and held the ball up. While his goal wasn't one for the highlight reels, and Brad Guzan probably should have stopped it, he did well to control the ball and get the shot off. This is encouraging news for Everton supporters.
Can Everton get a lead and keep it?
Too many times this season Everton has impressed early in the match, only to give up a devastating late equalizer or game-winner. Today was a different story. Finally, the Blues put in a complete performance. The defense was strong and the team continued to attack throughout the game.
Now that Everton have those first three points in the Premier League at home they will go on the road for the next two matches. Europa League starts back up on Thursday at Lille and the team travels to Burnley next Sunday.