Everton are likely in good spirits at this point, early on in this new season. All things still remain possible, from placing high up on the league table by the end of the campaign, to winning a trophy or two in domestic competition. As the second run of matches has begun with a 3-1 victory against Burnley, it is worth taking note of the unfortunate schedule that many clubs, the Toffees included, are going to be dealing with leading up to the second international break of the year.
For long periods of the first half Everton struggled against Burnley. That first goal by Ben Mee just as the second half got underway seemed to ignite something. Rafa Benitez would later further capitalize on that when he substituted Andre Gomes into the match right after Michael Keane brought the Blues level on the hour mark From then on, the Toffees thoroughly outclassed Burnley on their way to a victory and three points.
Keeping a good thing going
While the Blues were unlucky to lose Dominic Calvert-Lewin for a few weeks, they did have club captain Seamus Coleman return from an injury that caused a scare during the first international break. James Rodriguez was not available for the match despite having trained fully, and yet it did not matter at all. Andros Townsend’s magnificent strike from way downtown electrified Goodison Park and provided the energy that would quickly lead to Demarai Gray’s counterattacking goal just seconds later.
Last year the Blues were without Dominic Calvert-Lewin for five Premier League games and only managed five goals in that span. Scoring three without DCL will likely provide the team with confidence that moving forward they will be capable of scoring enough in the upcoming matches too.
Next up this Saturday will be a trip to Villa Park to face a retooled Aston Villa team with plenty of talent to replace Jack Grealish. Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, all add creativity, innovation, goal scoring, and experience. Everton have struggled with Villa since they returned to the top flight, losing twice and drawing twice, so Rafa Benitez will have to come up with a solid gameplan to come away with three points. At home, Dean Smith’s side have beaten Newcastle comfortably but were held by newly-promoted Brentford and will be looking to keep Everton’s futile run at Villa Park going.
Three days after that the Blues have another away game, this time at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the Carabao Cup. The Mark Warburton side sit in seventh in the Championship and will pose a sterner test for the Toffees than Huddersfield Town previously.
The following Saturday Everton return to home comforts, welcoming the freshly re-promoted Norwich City who have four consecutive losses to start the season and are looking certainties to go back down (again) despite talent in the form of Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, and even Billy Gilmour who will have more chances to shine with the Canaries than at Chelsea.
Old Trafford looms at the start of October
Should the Blues go into the game at match in Old Trafford with another four points from the two league matches, with no losses across the season and progress earned in the Carabao Cup, that will have been a solid and constructive run to begin the season. The controversial nature of Benitez’s appointment was only going to get forgotten if the Toffees got off to a fast start and at least fourteen points from six games would certainly mark that.
With Carlo Ancelotti in charge the Blues were finally able to break a number of top six side hoodoos they had carried for decades, though the empty stadiums also helped that. For Benitez, replicating those results from last season especially at Old Trafford, Anfield, Emirates and the Tottenham Stadium will become his next biggest challenge.
If the Blues could avoid defeat against Manchester United to go into the second international break still unbeaten, then it will have been done through a high-pace schedule without a large player investment in the summer transfer window, and some shrewd game management by Benitez.