[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter a summer with limited transfer activity and a draw at home on the opening day of the new season to newly promoted Watford, Everton fans could be forgiven for having slight concerns over what 2015-16 held for their team.
However, a convincing performance and impressive 3-0 win over Southampton yesterday will have put the Goodison Park faithful’s collective mind at rest, with the Toffees showing a clinical edge in dispatching Ronald Koeman’s men away from home.
Defensively, keeping John Stones at the club will be a major facet in ensuring the Merseysiders are solid, while James McCarthy appears to be coming of age in midfield.
In the final third there is reason for real optimism though, with Roberto Martínez’s men hitting five goals in their first two games and looking like the dangerous side that delighted onlookers in the Spaniard’s first campaign at the helm in 2013-14.
Much of the attacking impetus is based around Belgian powerhouse Romelu Lukaku and rightly so given his club record transfer fee and the considerable reputation that the former Chelsea striker carries.
The uncompromising centre forward has shown in recent years that when he is in the mood he is one of the most difficult opponents for Premier League centre-halves in the division; Everton fans would contest that these purple patches need to be more prolonged.
Last season Lukaku, like most of the Everton team, struggled to find the form of the previous campaign and was guilty of drifting in and out of games.
With Martínez trying to get the most from a team that was struggling with juggling the demands of European football with domestic duties, the former West Brom loanee even found himself in a wide position on occasion in an attempt to freshen up the Toffees’ attack.
There is no doubting though that Lukaku’s pace and power make him a supremely dangerous centre forward – especially when the opposition play a high defensive line like Southampton did yesterday.
The Belgian repeatedly picked the ball up facing his own goal and turned, beating opposition markers with his pace and was unlucky not to have been awarded a first-half penalty at St Mary’s after a barnstorming run from his own half.
Lukaku won the ball back in the build-up to his second goal, with his movement and strength too much for Southampton centre-halves José Fonte and Maya Yoshida to handle.
The Belgian was also involved in Ross Barkley’s strike, with a clever layoff to marauding full-back Seamus Coleman playing a part in the visitors’ third goal.
A player that has unparalleled potential, Lukaku needs to deliver this season – and the balance of Everton’s attack suggests that he has the supporting cast to enable him to do so.
Along with Koné and Barkley, the trio have real speed on the counter attack that will be a decisive feature of the side’s play away from Goodison Park; opposition defences will be severely tempted to drop deep to avoid being exposed.
Ivorian forward Koné has had an injury played time of it since signing for the Toffees in the summer of 2013, but has started this season showing why he scored goals consistently at his last two clubs, Levante and Wigan.
Importantly, the veteran African appears to have an excellent understanding with Lukaku, with the pair having all the weaponry to tear apart opposition rearguards.
Barkley, like Lukaku, was another that went off the boil slightly in 2014-15, but is an undoubted talent and someone who looks keen to prove a point.
The England international has not been flawless by any means in either of Everton’s games this season, but importantly has shown superb technique in scoring goals in both matches.
Martínez seems to have got the balance of his forward line right with this dangerous trident and with the likes of the intelligent Steven Naismith and versatile Kevin Mirallas options from the bench, the Merseysiders are looking dangerous.
With no European distractions this time round and Lukaku and co starting the season in ominous form, Everton fans will hope their very able attack can fire the side back to the vintage of 2013-14 and push for a top six finish this season.
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