The first game of pre-season isn't too good a time to form opinions but the game at Swindon Town ended in one of the better Everton pre-season results of recent years. So, let's form some early opinions.
It's the little things
The gap between the Premier League and League One didn't seem to much in the first half. Swindon are noted for being one of the better footballing sides outside the top tier and their confidence on the ball caused Everton issues in at times in the opening 45 minutes. Inside 30 seconds the Robins had an excellent chance to score, from a sloppy James McCarthy pass, not the only one from the Irishman in the opening period. Despite their comfortable nature on the ball, playing out from the back with confidence, a neutral could tell the Premier League team. It's easy-ish to pass the ball around but it's the small things that make the real difference in quality: awareness, on and off the ball; speed of thought, with and without the ball; a sharpness and accuracy to the passing; and a noticeable difference in pass, with and without the ball. Everton were top on all counts.
It's probably too early for a definitive statement on the young Englishman, but could 2015/16 be the season that the reset button is pressed on expectations? Heresy it might be but could Barkley not be the next great England player but just a solid midfielder who occasionally does something really special? He played well at the County Ground, in a central midfield role, looked comfortable on the ball and played the passes he needed to. But he still has a lot to learn, too conservative against lower level opposition, and still lacking true awareness of the game around him. The youngster is an imposing size, but needs to really start grabbing games by the scruff of the neck, something he didn't do on Saturday. Still, early days.
If there was ever any doubt how important Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas should be for Everton that was swept away in 45 minutes in Swindon. A quickfire double for Mirallas and a double assist and goal for Lukaku showed the quality that the pair possess. Both players are quality, but also need to be more consistent. When on fire, like Saturday afternoon, they're unstoppable, let's hope this is the season they show their excellence on a regular basis.
The new boys
The first chance to see new signings is always an interesting time and Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley didn't disappoint. The Spaniard played the opening half and showed exactly what the Blues have missed at times, pace and penetration. There's not always an end product but there's no doubt Deulofeu is the most exciting thing in a blue shirt and has the potential to be in the top tier of players. Cleverley on the other hand wasn't exciting in the same sense, he was terrific on the ball, not wasting a pass, showed good running and directed the game from the central area. Much the same as Darron Gibson, you can see the former Manchester United man forming a key part of the central midfield area, getting the ball and giving it to Mirallas and Deulofeu. A very promising start from both.
The young lads
Conor McAleny has had a tough time. Injuries have blighted his young career but if Saturday was anything to go by he's in the mood to make up for lost time. Despite his diminutive appearance his impact was the most immediate and telling, having a hand in the three opening goals and scoring the fourth. Direct running and great awareness of Lukaku were the highlights. Brendan Galloway also looked promising, very pacey and positive from the left back area he was a touch naive at times but will only improve. And Ty Browning? Well he had nothing to do. Oh, and wee Jonjoe Kenny had a really solid game at right back when he came on in place of the hobbling Muhamed Besic.