Sunderland were terrible. Their defending was appalling all game, most obviously on Everton’s third goal. Who the hell is marking Romelu Lukaku here?
For the first two goals of Lukaku’s hat trick, both headers at the far post, he was also given far too much space. Sunderland have one point from four games, sit in 19th place, defend like a Sunday League side, and are a prime candidate to be relegated.
But with that throat clearing out of the way, maybe Everton are going to put in a real challenge for the Champions League spots? After an extremely disappointing 2015-16 season that saw Everton finish 11th, manager Ronald Koemen was lured away from Southampton. Koemen and the Everton board splashed in the transfer market, spending a seemingly absurd £25 million for Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie, as well as signing former Swansea center back Ashley Williams, Aston Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye, and Fulham keeper Maarten Steklenburg. All this, and more, was financed by selling John Stones to Manchester City.
Against Sunderland, all four of these new signees started. But even though Everton were clearly the better side, they couldn’t find the back of the net in the first 45 minutes. Rather than wait and hope something would happen, Koemen made it happen by replacing Ross Barkley with Gerard Deulofeu.
Deulofeu was immediately the most dangerous man on the field. In the 60th minute he led a counterattack that ended with Gueye picking out Lukaku at the far post. Eight minutes later Bolasie crossed to Lukaku for his second, and three minutes after that Sunderland’s shambolic defending led to the goal seen above.
Everton have won three of their first four games, with the fourth a draw with Tottenham. It wasn’t the most stellar of competition, but still, they have 10 points and sit tied for second, with the demolishing of a League Two side in the League Cup on their resumé too.
Last year’s disastrous campaign means no European distractions, and the growth of Deulofeu and addition of Bolasie has made for a more dynamic attack. Steklenburg has only conceded two goals, Williams is a solid defender to replace Stones (or back-up Ramiro Funes Mori), and Gueye has perhaps been Everton’s player of the season, shielding the back four effectively.
Of course, Everton haven’t qualified for the Champions League in 13 seasons, and have even only qualified for the Europa League once in the last seven. But with Leicester (and to a lesser extent) Southampton’s success last season, and a number of the bigger clubs integrating new managers and implementing new systems while trying to remain competitive in four different competitions, who’s to say Everton isn’t capable of a surprise finish?