Sitting 16th with seven points, and ahead of the 243rd Merseyside derby, members of the ECHO sports desk give their assessment on Everton’s season so far.
With Premier League teams away for a second international break of 2023/24, members of the ECHO sports desk have been assessing Everton’s season so far and their thoughts ahead of the return to action.
That return comes on Saturday at Anfield as Everton travel across Stanley Park to face Liverpool in the 243rd Merseyside derby. The Blues will go into the game in 16th in the table, with seven points from their opening eight matches, with the Reds sitting fourth having taken 17 points from a possible 24.
However, Sean Dyche’s side will be buoyed by the performance they produced before the international break. Beating Bournemouth 3-0, the impressive victory ended their wait for a first home home win of the season and ensured they have now won three of their last four fixtures in all competitions.
So how do you rate the campaign so far? Our writers have had their say…
Joe Thomas – Frustration, but signs of progress
The victory over Bournemouth was crucial heading into this break. It broke the Goodison win drought, boosted confidence in the dressing room and in the stands and, for the time being, pushed the spotlight elsewhere. Seven points from this opening period does not represent success, this was a period through which Everton needed to build up a buffer to other clubs who could end up embroiled in a relegation scrap. Yet success in the context of the club’s current predicament is doing better than at least three others and the emphatic win over Bournemouth offers the suggestion that another club that survived last year could be in the mix with the promoted sides in the battle for survival.
Everton’s performances do offer some hope. Sean Dyche is justified to point to chance creation and underlying displays as indicative of some progress, though whether that is sustainable as Everton start to face much better teams is as a question we wait to learn the answer to, while the chances conceded to the lesser opponents already faced is also of concern.
The next few games will be tough and this is where the losses to Fulham, Luton Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers may bite. Liverpool, Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United are all clubs in better positions that the Blues, all in good form, and each provided Everton with some of the lowest moments of last season. That being said, the wins over Brentford and Aston Villa offer signs of positivity and one thing this side can do is overwhelm and overpower teams that are either not prepared for Dyche’s side or not quite on the top of their game – all three league opponents have European fixtures in mind during this run.
This break has given Dyche his first opportunity to work with his full attacking front five after their arrivals and returns to fitness, and the Carabao Cup game with Burnley is a useful match. That cup tie could offer a helpful boost if things turn difficult and should Everton win, there will be at least two Football League opponents in the quarter-final draw – attention may be focused on the league but a win at Goodison and a draw against Mansfield Town, Exeter City, Middlesbrough or Port Vale for a place in the semi-finals would offer some positivity.
So of the season so far? Disappointing on the face of it but there are signs of positivity and a platform for progress is there if Everton can find some good underdog performances in the coming weeks. As ever, external factors will bite though – the commission over the club’s alleged breach of financial regulations is another distraction looming large.
Chris Beesley – No quick fix but Dyche methods should bring less fraught season
There’s no two ways about it, Everton don’t have as many points at this stage of the season as I’d have hoped and I dare say, Sean Dyche would have hoped for either.
When we made our pre-season predictions for the Blues’ first eight games of the campaign, I’d just got back from the team’s training camp in Lake Geneva and suggested I might have been suffering from sunstroke when tipping them to have a healthy 16 points in the bag by now. If that had been the case, Everton would be sitting pretty in the top six but instead they have just seven and are only three points above the relegation zone.
There have of course been a fair degree of mitigating circumstances, particularly in the manner of the home defeats – well the first three before Luton Town – with the number of chances squandered by Dyche’s side. But now with the Blues boss enjoying something approaching close to a full-strength squad, the hope must be that the team can start picking up. As disappointing and seemingly avoidable the Goodison Park reversal to the Hatters was, Everton went into the international break on the back of three wins out of four and have finally put an end to their alarming home slump.
They also finished with a first clean sheet of the campaign and at the other end of the pitch, there are some genuine options now in the attacking areas. Nobody – including Dyche – is expecting a quick fix but even though there are difficult games on the horizon, with a bit of patience and trust, his methods should be able to bring about a less fraught season overall after back-to-back relegation near-misses.
Matt Jones – Work still do despite Bournemouth springboard
While the win over Bournemouth was huge, there’s no denying that seven points from a relatively favourable opening eight games represents a poor start for Everton.
Sean Dyche will feel vindicated in his references to xG and the points total being a harsh reflection on performances though. The 3-0 win over the Cherries highlighted the significance of getting an early goal to build from, especially at Goodison Park where the mood can shift quickly.
Nevertheless, Everton spurned golden chances to pick up points from home games against Fulham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Luton – even a point at Sheffield United looks increasingly poor as the weeks go on and their dreadful form continues.
With the fixture list looking tougher in the run up to Christmas, the hope is that teams more willing to open up the game against Everton will aid Dyche’s blueprint of winning back possession and springing quickly into open space. However, the top of the Premier League is packed with quality outfits who will be wise to such tactics.
The Merseyside derby at Anfield represents something of a free hit given the longstanding woes across the park and the chasm in quality between the sides, while games at West Ham United and at home to Brighton & Hove Albion see the Blues as second favourites too. If the Blues were to take a meagre points haul from that trio of fixtures, then we could quickly be at panic stations again and maintaining perspective over performances could be tricky as the days get shorter.
Still, Everton have sprung some surprises under Dyche in his short tenure. A few more look like they will be needed for the Blues to reach a ‘par’ total before the festive decorations start going up.