Scrolling through various forms of social media and media in general, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from fan reactions to the start of Everton’s season. Apparently, the Toffees are no good whatsoever. Everton might as well pack it up, because they’ll finish below West Bromwich Albion, Southampton, and probably even Stoke City. In three years time the Blues will be playing in League One.
Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration of the reaction, but overall the operative word after Spurs dismantled Everton on Saturday has been “panic”.
I’m here to say everyone needs to calm down immediately. Look, we knew going into the season what these first five games were going to be like, especially after Ronald Koeman and company missed on a few of their transfer targets at the end of the window.
Now, I can see the smoke coming out of your ears, so bear with me. I’m not promising that everything is gonna be sunshine and rainbows in two months. I’m saying that we just don’t know yet what we actually have, and here’s why.
Players have run into complications
Gylfi Sigurdsson had basically no preseason. Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen have been hurt, while Morgan Schneiderlin has spent time away with a red card suspension. Wayne Rooney moonlights as an idiot.
These guys need time to find fitness and get used to playing with one another, and that is very hard to do against top competition like what Everton have been facing.
Speaking of top level competition
For Pete’s sake - look at Everton’s last three games. They had to go into the Etihad - where a point was earned against Manchester City - by the way, then the Blues had to go into the den of the defending champions, followed by home against Tottenham Hotspur.
City has a strong case for having the best attack in the league. Spurs and Chelsea have the two best starting XIs in the whole of England, and frankly there isn’t a team on earth that would breeze through the four game stretch that Everton are going to wrap up against Manchester United this week.
The Toffees did not play well for large stretches in these last two games, especially against Tottenham. As someone who called for faster wingers against the Spurs’ fullbacks I have follow up questions with Koeman about his tactics on Saturday, but taking advantage of mistakes and punishing opponents is exactly what title-contending clubs are supposed to do, and that’s what we’ve seen the last couple weeks.
The real test hasn’t happened yet
After Manchester United, here’s what Everton have coming down the pipe:
Sunderland (H) - League Cup
AFC Bournemouth (H) -EPL
Apollon Limossol (H) - Europa League
Burnley (H) - EPL
Brighton & Hove Albion (A) - EPL
That is EFC’s schedule between September 20th and October 15th. If the sky is still falling at the end of that little run then yeah, the Blues are probably in deep trouble. However, I refuse to hit the panic button before then. Coming out of this stretch of games, my expectation is for Everton to have at least 12 league points. Frankly, they can do better than that, but let’s keep it modest.
The night is darkest just before the dawn
With Manchester United having just dropped points for the first time all season, the emotion of Rooney being back in Old Trafford, and Romelu Lukaku looking to stick it to his old team, it’s very possible that Everton’s league situation is not going to improve this weekend.
Just hang in there though. Everton has bought well, not perfectly, but well. It takes a good long while to overhaul a club and we’re really only just past phase one of that project. I think we have reason to hope the Blues’ season will get on the right track by mid-October.
One last thing. There will be times this season where Everton pull points off the top five teams in the league.
There’ll be times where they give us a piece of their minds and it doesn’t turn out pretty, but as a fan base, we need to be real about our expectations for this season. Everton could finish 7th again this season, excel in the cup competitions and this year still be a significant improvement over last season.
The Toffees could also, in my opinion, finish 6th. Remember, Arsenal’s season looks like this: beat Leicester City in a game with no defense, lose to Stoke, get embarrassed by Liverpool, beat an awful Bournemouth team.
That’s not nearly as difficult as what Everton have seen so far and yet the Gunners are only two points ahead of us. The Toffees get to face Arsenal right after the stretch mentioned above, and I think that’s a winnable game. Everton’s season will take shape, but it hasn’t yet. No reason for hasty conclusions.