Three down, 35 to go.
It may still be early days for Everton in the 2014-15 Premier League season, but the break for international fixtures provides a perfect opportunity to review what we’ve already witnessed in the first three games of the campaign.
So far, so frustrating.
The Blues are still waiting to record their first win, having been held to draws by Leicester City and Arsenal before losing 6-3 to Chelsea in their last outing. A leaky defence has been the main problem, but there have been flashes of last season’s fine form – and scoring goals hasn’t been a problem.
So, what have we learned so far?
The stats don’t lie – the Blues need to tighten up
Ten goals conceded in three games. Therein lies the problem for the Blues, the reason why they have taken only two points from a possible nine.
Leads were lost late on against Leicester and Arsenal. Against Chelsea, it all started to unravel from the 34th second of the match when Diego Costa fired the visitors into the lead.
Roberto Martinez later found himself trying to explain how the third tightest defence in the Premier League last season had become so porous over the space of a summer.
“Everything went around Tim Howard and ended up in the back of the net,” said the Blues boss. “That is not down to the technicality of how you defend or the balance of the team. It is more of a psychological aspect that we need to get restructured very quickly.”
That restructuring needs to start at the Hawthorns this Saturday.
Naisy is becoming a key man
Steven Naismith began the transition from bit-part player to key component towards the end of last season, forcing his way into Martinez’s starting line-ups on a more regular basis as the Blues chased down a place in Europe. Slowly, his doubters were won over.
He finished the season with 31 Premier League appearances to his name, 18 of those coming from the bench. This season, Naismith has started all three games – and got on the scoresheet in every one.
His Blues teammate Gareth Barry rates him as the hardest working player in the Premier League.
He said of the Scot: “He knows his role and is a very clever player. He is doing exactly what is asked of him and his work-rate is second to none – there are not many players out there that puts in the shift he does.
“Not only that, he is scoring goals and helping the team. He is doing both brilliantly.”
With Ross Barkley out injured, even more responsibility has been placed Naismith’s shoulders – and he has risen to the challenge admirably.
Class is permanent…
Samuel Eto’o took just six minutes to show Blues fans why he was regarded as one of the greatest strikers of his generation.
The 33-year-old came off the bench and buried a magnificent header at the Gwladys Street end in the 6-3 loss to Chelsea. Hopefully it will be the first of many.
Teammate Leighton Baines is in no doubt as to Eto’o’s enduring class.
“He’ll always have that goal-scoring instinct,” said the Blues left-back. “His movement will always be good. We’ve seen bits of it so far in training and then against Chelsea that he can make an impact.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
… but some signings will take time to settle
Not all of Everton’s summer signings have hit the ground running.
The ever-reliable Barry has slotted straight into place, carrying on from where he left off at the end of last season’s loan spell. But record signing Romelu Lukaku has been troubled by a toe injury and will take time to rediscover his best form having been given an extended break following his World Cup exploits with Belgium.
Patience will be required.
The same applies to Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu.
After exciting fans with some fine pre-season displays, Besic marked his competitive debut with a ghastly mistake within seconds of coming on against Chelsea. Loan star Atsu has been seen only fleetingly so far (in one brief appearance from the bench against Arsenal) so is still an unknown quantity when it comes to Premier League football.
Once the Blues’ cup commitments kick in, expect to see more of them both.