THE BLOG

Are Everton All Hype and No Substance?

11/09/2014 17:04 BST | Updated 11/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The talk at the start of the season was that Everton had done the best summer business they possibly could have done - possibly the smartest in the league. They were, it was said, serious top four contenders and they'd trouble the best sides over and over again.

After three games, they've reached the lofty heights of 17th in the Premier League. The third best defence last season has already conceded 10 goals. It doesn't make for pretty reading. To be fair, they are challenging a 'big team', sitting behind them only on goal difference, but that team is Manchester United and they have troubles of their own.

So, where has it gone wrong for Everton? Or, before getting to that, has it gone wrong for Everton?

The numbers make ugly reading, just as the Leicester match made ugly viewing. Nearly £33million was spent in the summer, most of that going on bringing Romelu Lukaku back to Goodison. But Lukaku has looked tired and jaded since his return from the World Cup; it's clear to see that he needed more of a break. Problem number one.

Ross Barkley was a driving force in the midfield last season and he's been out injured since the season started. Problem number two.

They've started their season off with a pair of high-pressure home games against Arsenal and Chelsea - tricky at the best of times, but made even harder by the absence of Barkley and the form of Lukaku. Problem number three.

But as painful as the Arsenal and Chelsea matches were, for different reasons, the worrying result came in the game against Leicester. A home draw against Arsenal is understandable. A home loss against Chelsea will sting, but they're big favourites for the title. Letting a lead slip against Leicester twice is unforgivable. So yes, something has gone wrong.

There have been promising signs in all of the games so far, especially the draw with Arsenal which the Toffees dominated for about 75 minutes and ultimately, should have won.

They also put up a good fight against Chelsea, although it eventually came to nought. The side's spirit, especially under the steady hand of Roberto Martinez, has never really been in question. But whether or not they're good enough to back it up is another matter.

And therein lies Everton's problem. They're greater than the sum of their parts, but when the teamwork isn't enough they don't have the individual quality to drag them back into games. No club's going to pay £15million for Steven Naismith. The prospect of facing Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin wouldn't even put fear in a 12 year old, as long as he was fairly quick.

Everton are, as the old cliche goes, a couple of players short of having a really good team. But with the Europa League to deal with as well this year, the deficiencies are going to become more and more obvious as the squad gets stretched thinner and thinner.

As painful as it might be for Everton fans, this could be a good year to settle for 6th place behind the likes of Arsenal and Spurs, spend the summer continuing to strengthen the side and then make a real go of a top four challenge next year.

There's been a tendency in Everton's recent past to go boom then bust - one season of massive overachieving followed by a crash back down to earth. Champions League qualification in 2004/05 followed by 11th place in the league. 5th place and an FA Cup final followed by 8th place in the league and no cup run to speak of.

Consecutive Europa League qualifications will not only cement Roberto Martinez's place in charge of the club, it will also help the squad get used to the extra strain of the competition for next season.

But will they live up to the hype this season? Don't bet on it.