Eye on the Opposition - Everton (30.09.2016)

Written by Jack Pierce

Palace play an Everton side with a familiar winger. But it's not all about Yannick Bolasie, says Jack Pierce.


Bolasie Arms Spread

Everton vs Palace. The fixture destined to never be played at 3pm on a Saturday.

Our first Friday night fixture since the first leg of the play off semi final against that lot by the sea three and a half years ago isn't such a local affair. I'm not sure who selects which games are played when for television purposes but for each of the three Friday nights games so far this season, the fans of Southampton, Liverpool and our own travelling faithful haven't been at the forefront of their thinking.

That said, two teams who have started the season steadily under the Goodison lights should be a good watch for those present or those watching through the magical lens of television.

After six games of the season, both Everton and Palace have played exactly the same sides in the league. Given the rhetoric being chucked at Everton prior to defeat last time out at Bournemouth, Palace are only three points behind The Toffees which has to be seen as a good start to the season; not a sentence I thought I'd have said at the end of August.

Having finally secured the significant financial injection the club had longed for in the guise of Farhad Moshiri, there was an expectation that Everton would be huge spenders during the transfer window. They were linked with a number of Europe's more high profile players including Juan Mata, Axel Witsel and William Carvalho but no 'marquee' signing was to arrive.

There were attempts to bring Moussa Sissoko to the club right at the end of the window and the club appeared willing to meet Newcastle's £30 million asking price. Eventually, Sissoko turned his phone off and only wanted to engage with Spurs. Most sensible people looked on thinking Everton had got away with one and were astounded that two established Premier League clubs were willing to pay such a fee for a player who did practically nothing to aid his then club's efforts to avoid the eventual drop into the second tier last season.

What their pursuit of Sissoko proved was the club wanted to make a statement. £30 million on one player, regardless of how good he is, would've made an impression on a lot of people but if it had been Moussa Sissoko, I think it would have been the wrong one.

They did however manage to spend some cash.

I won’t go on about Yannick and the threat he poses to us on Friday evening. Rob’s done a good enough job of that in his ESPN piece but we all know Yannick upped sticks and left for the North West but we also know that we did very well to secure £25 million-plus for him regardless of how much went to Bristol City. The Everton board perhaps found out that it's not always a benefit for everyone to know you're minted. Parish and co drove a hard bargain but then again so did Liverpool with us for Christian Benteke.

While the additions of Yannick, Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye, a player who is defying his £7 million fee in a very good way, have added quality to the squad Ronald Koeman inherited, some of the Everton faithful were left disappointed by the the window. Nonetheless, the Bournemouth defeat aside, there are indications that Koeman has enough to work with and get far more out of a talented pool of players than Roberto Martinez was towards the end of his tenure. Before last Saturday, there were even questions bounding about as to whether Everton might do a 'Leicester' this season. Perhaps a little early to be suggesting Koeman's side mounting a title challenge but given the quality of player, pedigree of manager and financial muscle to invest in the squad come January at the club, who would be surprised by Everton pushing hard for the top six, or even four, come the end of the season?

They might not have beaten any of the sides anticipated to be at the top end of the table come May but wins at The Hawthorns and The Stadium of Light have highlighted a grittier side to Everton; a side completely disowned by Martinez last season. The positivity that was bouncing about the blue half of Merseyside during Martinez’ first season could be about to return with Koeman steering the ship.

Keeping Romelu Lukaku took some effort although how many clubs were willing to pay the £70 million asking price wasn't clear. The Belgian had, normally during international breaks, made noises that he'd like to leave Goodison but Koeman was determined not to lose him. As displayed against Sunderland, when Lukaku wants to know, he's lethal. It's perhaps that he doesn't want to know often enough that is the problem. You'd be hard pushed to say he's in the same league as Sergio Aguero is but he's definitely, on his day, up there with Diego Costa and Harry Kane. Lukaku started last season like a train but his form throughout the backend of the season epitomised the end of Martinez' reign. It fell off a cliff.

Koeman has certainly improved his new side defensively since taking charge and in the guise of Ashley Williams, he's bought one of the best 'defenders' to the club. Not the most lavish with the ball, Williams prides himself on clean sheets and ensuring his goalkeeper has as little work to do as possible. Swansea have lost their bedrock, a player so vital to them over the last eight season but their loss is certainly Everton's gain. His partnership with Phil Jagielka looks very impressive and given last season's generosity from Martinez' side, the Goodison faithful must be delighted.

Unlike Sunderland, I can't envisage Everton's back line giving our no. 17 a five yard run up to meet a set piece in the last minute. I dare say we might have to be a little cuter than that on Friday but we can go there with the confidence that we haven’t been beaten at Goodison in our three previous visits since promotion.

Avoid defeat again this Friday and I think we can claim it to be a successful Friday night out.

Jack is our regular Eye on the Opposition writer. You can follow him on Twitter.