An influx of new players to incorporate, the loss of Romelu Lukaku, and a tricky run of games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United: it has been a difficult start to the season for Everton.
It was always going to be a test for a new-look team to keep their composure when results dipped but what is worrying – and damning for manager Ronald Koeman – is how badly they appear to have lost their way following defeats in the bulk of those matches.
Even when they ended a four-game winless run with victory over Bournemouth it was a match they had looked like losing for a long time.
They got of jail but then failed to build on that boost. A 2-2 draw in the next match at home to 10-man Apollon Limassol was indicative of their brittle confidence, which Burnley dented further in a 1-0 win on Saturday.
Right now, my old team look a mess. The players brought in haven’t settled into something resembling a team and there doesn’t seem to be any continuity of style or selection. Each match feels like a long 90 minutes and a scramble to get a result. Supporters are exasperated.
There is a long list of problems: Cuco Martina doesn’t offer the dynamism of regular right-back Seamus Coleman; Morgan Schneiderlin has been hugely disappointing; Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson do not look the key components that they were at Ajax and Swansea respectively; Sandro is not an out-and-out centre-forward; Ademola Lookman has not had a look-in.
Then you have the Wayne Rooney dilemma. I don’t think Koeman has given him long enough before dropping him. At least when Rooney played Everton had more of a style; he acted as a bit of glue in midfield.
Tom Davies, whose energy and commitment make him a fan favourite, should be playing every game to build up his confidence. Instead he – like Rooney, Klaassen and Sandro – have been tampered with and the confidence of all the players has been rattled.
When you are on a poor run you need a consistency of selection, or at least shape. Koeman has not got it right and it looks like he doesn’t know how to fix it. Some of the signings have been criticised but I think Koeman got the players that he wanted so the buck stops with him.
The current international break could have a positive or negative effect, but I believe a break from the scrutiny and pressure is more likely to help the Everton players. Arsenal were in a similar slump before the last international break; since then they have won six and drawn one of their seven games.
It will also give Koeman time to think about how to end a slump that is threatening his job.
Everton desperately need a result at Brighton when the Premier League resumes. It’s the only one of their next six fixtures that seems a likely win so it’s as big a match as any they have played in the last two years. I fear for them though.
If we don’t see a real turnaround in form then the club could be looking for a new manager by November.