It’s early. We know.
But after five games, the signs for Ronald Koeman’s Everton appear very, very good.
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Their squad and spirit has the feel of some of the better upstart seasons we’ve seen in Europe: Grizzled veterans, ambitious additions, and young players who don’t know any better.
Start with adding three players who were arguably the brightest spots on their team’s dark 2015-16 campaigns: Swansea’s Ashley Williams, Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie, and Aston Villa’s Idrissa Gueye. Point of fact: starting a PL team with this trio from scratch would feel like a victory. Adding it to a corps is impressive.
One more time, for the road, how good is Gueye? Good enough that this feels accurate.
Toss in a mix of still growing young stars, whether established (Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley) or raw and fresh (Mason Holgate). Keeping Lukaku is huge and refusing to sell Barkley looks good right now, while taking the profit from John Stones and replacing him with a back in Williams who is -- at this point in time -- a decided improvement in actual defending.
Now add that to a proud and experienced base which understands the passion of the region -- Phil Jagielka, Gareth Barry, Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, et. al -- and there aren’t any glaring holes in Everton’s early season (aside from schedule strength).
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Following an Opening Day draw against Spurs, the Toffees have reeled off five-straight wins. Four of those have come in the Premier League.
No, the competition hasn’t been strong. It won’t be for a while, either, with Bournemouth and Palace up next for the Toffees.
Everton so far...
Toffees 1-1 Spurs
West Brom 1-2 Toffees
Toffees 4-0 Yeovil Town (EFL Cup)
Toffees 1-0 Stoke City
Sunderland 0-3 Toffees
Toffees 3-1 Middlesbrough
The potential for pain is there come December, with features four of six matches against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Leicester (the first three at home). April has a similar fear factor to it.
That’s why manager Ronald Koeman is stressing not just winning, but style.
“You see the reaction of the fans, they like it,” he said after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough. “The team is more aggressive but they need to run more and press more.”
As for Boro boss Aitor Karanka, he knows it could’ve been worse.
“I can be happy with the attitude of the team because other teams would have lost five, six or 7-1. We were battling to the end.”
It seems foolhardy not to notice that a well-built club that doesn’t face European competition congestion is looking lively early and, given the expectation of further investment around Goodison, there’s enough to believe the Toffees are on the verge of something quite decent.