For the past several seasons, Everton have gone into each opening day brimming with confidence.
Buoyed by summer after summer of significant investment in the squad, each of the last three campaigns have seen the Toffees tipped as the side most likely to break up the established ‘big six’.
Without exception, this early optimism has been extinguished by lacklustre performances and terrible results. However, this time things may be different.
Something certainly felt different about their 1-0 away win over Tottenham on Sunday – and it wasn’t just Richarlison’s fresh new trim. This Everton team looked organised, controlled and competent. Each of their marquee signings impressed, though none more so than James Rodriguez.
There hasn’t been this much anticipation to watch an Everton signing since Wayne Rooney returned to his spiritual home back in 2017. Midfield duo Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan also both made their Toffees debuts.
It was the main man who shone early on. Operating in a right wing berth, the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner was mesmerising, shimmying his way past Spurs players with ease. At times, he resembled a salsa dancer. Fitting, considering his Colombian heritage and snake like hips.
Constantly cutting on his favoured left foot and switching the play, Rodriguez was Carlo Ancelotti’s creative focal point – even amid concerns about him not being match fit. He broke the lines with incisive passing, functioning almost as number ten.
The 29-year-old also put to bed any questions about his lack of commitment, snapping at the heels of the opposition and rolling off several strong tackles.
Doucoure and Allan were similarly impressive. Although the latter was caught several times in transition, he kept the ball circulating extremely well. Doucore, meanwhile, was typically dominant, pressing with an intensity that gave Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg very little joy in the opening 45 minutes.
The Toffees’ new boys continued to catch the eye after half time, though this time it was the midfield’s turn to steal the limelight. After Everton took a deserved 1-0 lead through Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Allan’s ability to screen the defence became more important.
Although Spurs did look jaded and uninspired, Allan made it hard for the hosts’ three man midfield to gain a foothold in the game. The Brazilian charged around like a rabid terrier out of possession and did not put a foot wrong when he inevitably won the ball back.
Dynamism was the buzzword of Doucoure’s performance. A Premier League stalwart, the Frenchman is considered one of the best box-to-box midfielders outside of the Big Six and lived up to that reputation.
The former Watford man chipped in with several important tackles to stop Spurs breaking forward and also offered a great deal going forward. The pair together complemented each other extremely – just as we predicted a few weeks ago.
Rodriguez also continued to impress in the second half. Every time he got the ball, Everton found themselves in a better position seconds later. Exhibing razor sharp close control, probing passing and an ability to draw fouls, Rodriguez’s performance will have got the Goodison faithful purring.
In fact, all three of Everton’s new arrivals will have earned a glowing reviews. Their displays were encouraging and hinted that the club may finally by building a group of players capable of competing with the big boys.