The second international break could not have come at a better time for Everton, hurting as they are from injuries over the last few weeks. The fortnight will allow up to half a dozen regain fitness even as the playing squad takes the time to catch their breath.
Between the first and second breaks, the Blues started a mini-slide with their first two losses of the season, before bouncing back with a win and then coming from behind to draw at Old Trafford too.
Everton currently sit in fifth place after seven games, amongst a clutch of teams. The Toffees are only two points off Chelsea at the top of the table, and four clear of tenth place. The crew here at RBM got together to discuss some early season thoughts; the roundtable is broken into two parts, looking at the team’s performances today and the manager Rafa Benitez tomorrow.
Rate Everton’s start to the season out of 10
Pat: 7.5/10. The loss to QPR really, really hurt.
Kevin: 9 out of 10. I’m a hard taskmaster (like Rafa!). Loses a point due to the collapse vs Villa and the cup exit.
Trent: I will give the season a 6 out of 10; we have played well and look a better complete unit than last year, but that QPR Carabao Cup loss still pains the heart.
Geoff: I rate it as a 9 out of 10
Ian: League: 8/10 - A 4-2-1 record with 13 goals scored is a pretty solid start. The only bad game came against Villa, and we didn’t even have our best XI. Cup: 0/10 - Losing to QPR is unacceptable.
Pete: 8/10 – Only really complaints can be the last 30 mins of the Villa game and our performance in the EFL Cup.
Geno: 8/10. The blemishes for me come against Aston Villa and QPR. Both games we could have won, but gave away. Other than that I am not sure we could have asked for much more considering our injury situation.
Calvin: 8/10 for me. Considering how shorthanded we’ve been, I think it’s pretty admirable we’re sitting where we are in the table after nearly one-fifth of the season.
Highlight of the season so far?
Pat: Having the pleasure of watching Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend every week. Honorable mention for Townsend’s worldie against Burnley.
Kevin: The draw against Man United at Old Trafford. Everything against us, but we got a point and were ultimately unfortunate not to get all three.
Trent: I believe that Townsend curling strike from way downtown was truly a remarkable goal, and given the timing of it in putting the team ahead, that is my choice.
Geoff: Got to be the Townsend screamer of a goal against Burnley and the next shot he had in the same game which nearly broke the keeper’s arm.
Ian: Townsend hitting Ronaldo’s SIIIUUU celebration in front of him and them getting his jersey after the game. First thing Cristiano does when he returns to Manchester is frame that Everton kit.
TacticallyEv: Getting a point away at Manchester United with the injuries we had and the fact we went a goal down.
Pete: I’d say the opening day of the season when we actually managed to win a game that we were losing at half-time for the first time since 2015. It was an early signal that this Everton team is mentally tougher.
Geno: I’m sure a lot of people will pick the Townsend goal specifically, but for me it was the sequence of goals against Burnley. Just the fast-paced play, scoring in quick succession, the atmosphere. As a whole I’m not sure there is anything that beat the euphoria of that night so far this year.
Calvin: The comeback in the second half on opening day at home against Southampton. It really set the tone for the rest of the season with that start, and that self-belief.
Biggest disappointment of the season so far?
Pat: QPR loss. Such a let-down.
Kevin: The James Rodriguez saga. I was hoping that Benitez could get the best out of him, but it wasn’t to be.
Trent: Certainly that aforementioned loss to Queens Park Rangers in the Carabao Cup third round was brutal. The team fought but it just felt like a match that wouldn’t ultimately go our way.
Geoff: The Aston villa game which featured several below par performances namely Lucas Digne, Asmir Begovic and Ben Godfrey.
Ian: Losing in a sudden death penalty shootout to QPR in the EFL third round...
TacticallyEv: The cup exit. A great chance for us to go on a decent cup run and maybe get a trophy and to fall at the first hurdle is disappointing
Pete: Crashing out of the League Cup unnecessarily.
Geno: I said it earlier, but I think QPR has to be the biggest disappointment. Yes there were injury problems, but even with that it was there for the taking and we botched it. I think the EFL Cup is our best chance at a trophy each year at the moment and we are already out.
Calvin: Shame how James Rodriguez left the club, like a thief in the night, especially after his much-heralded arrival here.
Which player has surprised you most?
Pat: Towsend for sure! Gray obviously with the very honorable mention.
Kevin: Townsend. Close with Gray, but we kind of knew that he had unfulfilled potential. Townsend has been shockingly good and his personality is a massive boost to the team.
Trent: Townsend and Gray are the two obvious answers to this question, yet Yerry Mina, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure deserve mentions themselves. Rafa has them all believing in themselves and the team, while playing at really high levels.
Geoff: Undoubtedly Townsend, when he broke through for Spurs and England six years ago I was a big fan but thought he’d lost his way/mojo.... Wrong!
Ian: It has to be Gray, right? He’s in the early running for signing of the season after three goals and one assist in seven fixtures.
TacticallyEv: Has to be Townsend. I had a feeling Gray would do well but with Townsend I didn’t expect him to even do half as well as he’s done so far.
Pete: Gray. I’ve always liked him and was surprised he didn’t kick on at Leicester, but I didn’t appreciate quite how good he was until he was with us. Unbelievable value.
Geno: Doucoure hands down. We knew he had it in him, but this? He has been on a whole other level and when he is on, this team is on. The big man has been the most important cog in this year’s system for me and I am so surprised at how good he has been.
Calvin: Like many others, Townsend. An ageing free agent whose best days are behind him, I was well-prepared for Fabian Delph the Second here, but turns out he’s a gem of a player and a wonderful personality as well.
Chime in below in the comments section with your thoughts on these questions too -
1. Rate Everton’s start to the season out of 10
2. Highlight of the season so far?
3. Biggest disappointment of the season so far?
4. Which player has surprised you most?