Everton fans, players and staff alike could have been forgiven for being optimistic about their side’s chances this season. Key players such as Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell and Leighton Baines had signed long-term contracts over the summer and manager David Moyes could now finally begin a campaign without any injuries to his squad.
However, now five games in to the new Premier League season, Everton find themselves in an all too familiar position for this time of year. For the third consecutive term, the team finds itself in the relegation zone in September as a result of the club's worst start to a league season in more than 15 years.
An embarrassing Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Brentford made matters worse for Moyes, as hopes of a cup run ended on penalties against the League One side.
The Blues have yet to win a league game despite a relatively comfortable looking run of fixtures and this poor start has led to questions from fans regarding the system and tactics played by Moyes.
An opening day defeat at Blackburn followed by a dull performance at home to Wolves in a 1-1 draw quickly revealed a lack of goalscoring options. New signing Jermaine Beckford, a free transfer from Leeds United, has struggled to adapt to life in a higher division, whilst Louis Saha, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe have each failed to find the fitness and form that they are capable of.
A tricky away trip to Aston Villa did see the Blues rediscover a greater level of performance, although a game in which they dominated ended in a disappointing 1-0 defeat which was again put down to their inability to find the net despite having far more possession.
Moyes’ lack of faith in his forwards was evident in Everton’s next match at home to Manchester United, where he opted to start midfielder Tim Cahill as a lone striker, dropping Beckford to the substitutes' bench. This tactic appeared to have worked with a spirited comeback from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 thanks to two stoppage-time goals from acting striker Cahill and Arteta.
Many fans would have seen the result at home to United as a catalyst to spark the team into getting their season off the ground. A game against newly-promoted Newcastle followed, but Everton put in a performance that boss Moyes deemed to be one of the worst he had seen from his players, as they again went on to lose 1-0, leaving the pitch to a chorus of boos.
Everton have yet to keep a clean sheet this season, and none of their strikers have scored in the league. The Blues currently lie in 19th position, with two tough away games at Fulham and Birmingham next, ahead of the Merseyside derby at home. Moyes continues to frustrate Evertonians by starting players out of position and playing defensive formations in home matches against teams they would be expected to beat.
The problem could be that Moyes has never had the luxury of having a fully-fit squad to choose from in his time at Goodison, and therefore does not yet know his best starting line-up. However, this is an issue that the Scot will have to address quickly if Everton are to climb the table to again trouble the European contenders and challenge for domestic success this season.
By David Downie, Sports Reporter
More JMU Journalism stories
David Moyes has had little to smile about so far in this campaign after poor results Pics © Trinity Mirror