There were five draws on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, three of them goalless, which suggests a league evenly matched outside the extremes of the very top and the very bottom. For Sunderland to travel to the other side of the city and hold big-spending Liverpool is not only a feather in Steve Bruce’s cap, but, combined with the goal-free outcomes at Newcastle and Stoke, both with title challengers, indicates that once again a well-drilled and resolute side can hold their own in games they are not expected to excel in, something Moyes’ Everton have made a reputation out of. Last season the Toffees came from two goals behind to draw with Manchester United, took four points from Liverpool, six points from Manchester City and went unbeaten in four games – two in the FA Cup – against Chelsea.
Snap judgements from one round of fixtures are not something to base a season’s worth of predictions on, but the early signs are that if Everton can remember how to take points from the teams populating the lower reaches, a top-six finish is not unrealistic. Last season, Everton failed to beat the relegated pair of Birmingham City and West Ham United, as well as taking only two points from imperilled Wigan Athletic, drew at home with Wolverhampton Wanderers and lost twice to West Bromwich Albion, including an embarrassing 4-1 routing at Goodison Park. Raising your game when the glamorous sides come to town but failing to beat the strugglers is a recipe for mid-table mediocrity, exactly what Everton experienced last term save for a late and unlikely, push towards the Europa League, eight points behind Tottenham in sixth, despite beating Spurs at home and drawing away.
Correcting the flaws that led Everton to drop so many points in such disappointing circumstances has not proven easy, however. The well-documented financial constraints under which Moyes is forced to operate have thus far hamstrung his attempts to bring more pace to the midfield and more dynamism to the attack, the two areas most prominent when trying to break down the kind of organised defence that foiled Everton last season. With funding for a new striker very much dependant on at least one and most likely both of Yakubu and Joseph Yobo moving on before the close of the transfer window, Moyes cannot be guaranteed of an extra forward coming his way. And with Seamus Coleman suffering an ankle ligament tear in a pre-season friendly, arguably the only Blues midfielder capable of attacking an opposition full-back with speed has been ruled out for at least a month, all of which leaves Everton looking doomed to repeat last season’s heroics, but also last season’s failures.