New season, new players, same old Everton.
The Blues once against demonstrated their consistent inconsistency with a shambolic defensive performance against Bournemouth last time out to ratchet up the fume levels amongst the supporters.
Seven points from five games is a bang average start, made worse when you look at the relatively kind fixture list we enjoyed to open the campaign.
Yes it is early in the season, but the fans’ frustration is understandable given we have seen this all before, and the prospect of yet another campaign flittering between encouraging wins and deflating defeats is not an appetising one.
But also, as fans, we have to show a degree of patience as Marco Silva continues to rebuild the side.
Our away form is a concern, but that stretches way back beyond Silva’s tenure, suggesting it is a deeper-rooted problem that will take longer to shake off.
Mercifully, our next two league games are back at Goodison Park, where Everton are an altogether different beast.
The Toffees have won their last six home games on the spin and haven’t lost since early February. While they continue to struggle away it is vital they maintain that home form to underpin their season, meaning games like Saturday are simply must-win.
Sheffield United are back in the Premier League after a 12-year absence, capping a whirlwind few seasons for the Yorkshire club.
The Blades were left enraged after relegation in 2007 because West Ham, who stayed up at their expense, were only fined rather than deducted points for the third party involvement in the signing of Carlos Tevez.
The Hammers eventually agreed to pay £20m compensation to United, but did little to stem the feeling of injustice.
On the pitch, a play-off final defeat in 2009 seemingly sent them into a tailspin and the club were relegated to League One two years later.
United spent six seasons in the third tier, with the appointment of boyhood United fan Chris Wilder the turning point in their fortunes.
They won the title in his first season in charge before finishing a credible 10th in their first season back in the Championship.
Last season, the Blades edged ahead of a much-fancied Leeds side into second place to earn a place back in the top flight.
The challenge now for the Bramall Lane side is to try and stay there. United were founder members of the Premier League, scoring the first goal of the new league against Manchester United in August 1992.
However, following relegation in 1994, the same day Everton beat Wimbledon to avoid the drop, they have spent just one season back in the top flight.
They have made an encouraging start, taking five points from their opening five games including away draws at Bournemouth and Chelsea.
Stretching back into last season, the Blades have lost just once on the road since early November.
Though the club bought in 10 players over the summer, Wilder has generally stayed loyal to the side that earned promotion last season, while much has been said about their 3-5-2 formation featuring overlapping centre-backs and a midfield three that rotates to suit the flow of the game.
The game will also, of course, see the emotional return of Phil Jagielka, who returned to his boyhood club in the summer after 12 years at Goodison Park. There will also be a Goodison return for academy graduate John Lundstram, who scored the winner in Sheffield United’s victory against Crystal Palace last month.
Everton 3-1 Sheffield United – Carling Cup second Round, August 24, 2011. (match report)
A then-League One Sheffield United took a surprise early lead in this Carling Cup third round tie through Richard Cresswell. However, Everton would soon level when Cresswell deflected Jack Rodwell’s shot into his own net. Victor Anichebe then put Everton in front with Mikel Arteta sealing the victory.
Bournemouth (A) Lost 3-1
Wolves (H) – Won 3-2
Lincoln (A – Carabao Cup) Won 4-2
Aston Villa (A) Lost 2-1
Crystal Palace (A) Drew 0-0
Southampton (H) Lost 1-0
Chelsea (A) Drew 2-2
Blackburn (H - Carabao Cup) Won 2-1
Leicester (H) Lost 2-1
Crystal Palace (H) Won 1-0
Everton will again be without Andre Gomes with the Portugal midfielder struggling with a rib injury.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin will be sidelined for several more weeks with a thigh problem.
Sheffield United will be without the suspended Billy Sharp after his red card against Southampton last weekend. On-loan Toffee Mo Besic is ineligible against his parent club.
What they said
Everton boss Marco Silva: “We understand why [the fans are frustrated after Bournemouth]. We were too.
”It’s something we are working on to change, but it’s not just us, it’s really tough to play away in the Premier League.
”We have to look at ourselves and what we can do better, but for other teams it’s normal for it to be tough to get three points away.
”We improved last season on the away form the season before. In my opinion, it’s not good enough, and we want to improve this season again.
”It’s up to us to work and learn from the things we didn’t do well and in the next away game to reach and achieve a different result.”
Sheffield United defender and former Everton captain Phil Jagielka: “The fans were fantastic with me and I would like to think they could see I gave my all for the Club from day one.
“For me to retain my place in the team for so long at a club with a fantastic history makes me so proud.
“I never, ever took it for granted and it’s something I am immensely proud of.
“To captain the team was just another level. I never imagined that I would do that but as the years went on, I took more and more responsibility.
“That’s the way it’s happened for Seamus now. He has grown naturally into a leader.”
The Bournemouth defeat has placed even greater importance on Everton’s home form and the looming presence of Manchester City next week makes this fixture doubly significant. I fear the reaction of a frustrated crowd if the team makes a poor start, with the fans still stinging from last week’s dire display. This will be a lot tougher than may people expect, but an early goal to settle everyone down would be most welcome.