The ECHO’s football writers are reviewing Everton’s so far.
Here in our second installment, Chris Beesley has his say on the Blues ups and downs throughout 2017/18 to date.
That half-a-second before Leighton Baines’ penalty against Watford hit the back of the net but you knew it was going in.
Given the high-pressure stakes and the circumstances around the spot-kick, which would produce Everton’s first Premier League win at Goodison after trailing 2-0 since ‘that’ game with Wimbledon in 1994, you’d have thought it would have been a nerve-jangling moment.
But in truth who else would you have trusted more than the ever-dependable Baines to slot home from 12 yards out.
It’s easy to say now but for me it was never in doubt!
You can’t say the same for Tom Cleverley’s penalty miss at the other end even later on though.
One of the most disgusting scenes I’ve ever witnessed at Goodison Park and something which thoroughly shamed and embarrassed the club’s name was the appalling sight of a so-called supporter charging his way to the front of the Gwladys Street and attempt to land a blow on a Lyon player – all while carrying an infant under his arm.
Taking your child to the match should reinforce a special bond for a parent with their youngster but what a sickening example this was.
The whole incident encapsulated the chaos the club was in at the time and their terrible European campaign.
At least Blues bosses, who are dedicated to making football affordable for junior fans to encourage the next generation in the match-going experience, took swift action to slap a lifetime ban on the culprit.
There have been precious few on the pitch so I’ll go for David Unsworth’s decision to take part in the Goodison sleepover despite the fact he has stepped up from being Under-23s boss to caretaker manager.
Perhaps given the measure of the man though we shouldn’t be too shocked by his admirable call to still lie under the stars and raise awareness for a charitable cause that is close to his heart.
Unsy is an inspirational leader and anyone who has seen the way he conducts himself at Press Conferences since landing the top job on a temporary basis cannot help but be impressed.
Is that enough to steer a Premier League ever-present through six months of the season though?
I’m not so sure and it appears that the board are torn over the issue too.
Rousing team talks and a once-in-a-generation dramatic comeback aside, for over an hour against Watford, the Blues were still as wretched as they’ve been throughout the campaign.
Surely everyone knows it’s Sandro Ramirez but his plight was covered in detail yesterday and given that he only cost a relatively modest £5.2million fee I’ll turn my attentions to Davy Klaassen.
The Dutch international cost a cool £23.6million – more than four-and-a-half times the amount the Spaniard commanded – so in many way his struggles are surely a much bigger issue.
Klaassen also arrived with the reputation that comes with being Ajax captain but so far at Goodison he has struggled to show the kind of pedigree that made him a leading light with one of football’s biggest names.
Like Everton’s team as a whole so far this season, Klaassen appears to be struggling for an identity.
Is he a playmaker? Is he a ball-winner? Is he a box-to-box midfielder?
From what we’ve seen he doesn’t seem to be overly-blessed with great skill, power or pace.
He was also a regular scorer in the Eredivisie but the Premier League is proving to be a different level completely.
Klaassen seems to be an extremely likeable guy – just look at the hero’s welcome he got back at Ajax in September – but unless he can find his feet in England sometime soon you fear he could be heading back to the Dutch League, presumably at a hefty loss for the Blues.
Best Everton player (apart from Jordan Pickford)
Excluding the goalkeeper makes this a tough one but given the tough circumstances he’s faced it’s got to be Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Ridiculously starting the season at right wing-back at home to Stoke City, the youngster has manfully tried to do a job wherever called upon.
He’s still learning the game – particularly at the highest level – but looks like the closest thing Everton have got to a genuine number nine right now.
Best opposition player
In truth for most of the match between Manchester United and his former club at Old Trafford, the Belgian was scuffing his chances – almost like he was too eager to bite the hand that used to feed him.
However, he ultimately produced his most assured piece of play with a measured pass to lay the second ‘killer’ goal on a plate for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
He then got the moment he wished so much for and bundled in the Red Devils’ third goal in what would end up a 4-0 drubbing and while there is obviously no problem in him doing his job, his ear-cupping gesture celebration was petulant and in poor taste.
It all just went to show what Everton are missing now that their most talented marksman of the Premier League era has moved on.
While fans would probably point towards Lukaku’s loose talk throughout his time at the club for mitigation of their booing, what a lamentable shame that both parties can’t be more sensible about the whole situation and conduct themselves with a bit more dignity.
Where will Everton be on New Year’s Day?
Given that so much remains up in the air right now, that’s really quite difficult to say.
Talent-wise this squad is still top half of the Premier League and shouldn’t be anywhere near the relegation zone.
However, the lopsided nature of personnel, lack of shape and draining of confidence ensures they’re still in a mess.
Next Everton manager search
The heady days of the summer spending spree quickly made way for a stormy autumn and a bleak mid-winter could yet be on the way.
As thrilling as Everton’s last two 3-2 comeback wins in the Premier League prior to Watford were (the aforementioned Wimbledon game and The Hawthorns in September 2015), they were far from being examples of teams in control.
Both managers who presided over such matches (Mike Walker and Roberto Martinez) were gone within a few months with the stirring one-off results unable to prevent an overall downward spiral.
Despite all that, I’ll say 13th.