By Jack Malone

Everton’s start to the Premier League season has been nothing short of fantastic.

Yes, they suffered a 2-0 loss to Norwich in the League Cup on Tuesday, but that result was their first defeat in an otherwise excellent opening couple of months.

In the league, the Goodison Park side have looked a real force, in no small part down to manager Ronald Koeman’s realisation that the spine of the team needed major surgery.

Predecessor Roberto Martinez had assembled a squad of talented individuals, but there was no glue down the centre of his team to hold them all together.

The Spaniard’s replacement has pulled off some tidy transfer window dealings to address this issue, with three in particular catching the eye.

In goal, Maarten Stekelenburg has been drafted in to replace the ageing Tim Howard, who joined Colorado Rapids over the summer.

The former Manchester United stopper struggled for form in his final two seasons in England and even found himself benched in favour of Joel Robles late in the last campaign.

Stekelenburg has made an assured start to life on Merseyside, his early form convincing Koeman not to chase after England number one Joe Hart when he became available in August.

The Dutch stopper is obviously someone his manager trusts as his number one, as they have previously worked together at both Ajax and Southampton.

At centre-half, Koeman has added Premier League stalwart Ashley Williams to what was a shaky backline last season.

The Wales captain finally severed ties with Swansea in the summer, eight years since he first joined them on loan from Stockport County.

After years of speculation linking him with the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, Williams’ arrival at Goodison must be viewed as something of a coup.

The Wolverhampton-born centre-half is a natural leader and alongside fellow veteran Phil Jagielka provides a wealth of experience at the back, coupled with a steely, no-nonsense approach.

Giving cover to the back four in front of the centre-half pairing is former Aston Villa man Idrissa Gueye.

The Senegalese international’s defensive stats last campaign were comparable to those of title-winner N’Golo Kante, yet with Gueye playing in a woefully poor Villa team, many overlooked his performances.

However, his signing has proved instrumental in Everton’s unbeaten start to the league season, demonstrating Koeman’s ability to spot cheap talent in an otherwise hugely inflated market.

In fact, the fees Everton reportedly paid for these three barely total more than £20 million – less than a quarter of the fee Manchester United shelled out for Paul Pogba.

Allied with the presence of Romelu Lukaku up front, proven Premier League full-backs in Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, as well as the flair of players such as Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas, Koeman has quickly assembled a team capable of challenging the upper echelons of English football.

The only question is keeping the bulk of that side fit for a whole season; if that can be achieved, then European qualification is a very realistic ambition.


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