It was another up and down match for the Toffees this weekend, so here we'll take a look at the good news and bad news from the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
Good News: Everton can clearly operate in the 4-3-3 with Romelu Lukaku as a faux right winger if the need arises.
This tactical move worked incredibly well against Arsenal at home last season, and Roberto Martinez utilized it excellently for 70 minutes again Saturday. Steven Naismith is playing some tremendous football at the moment, and the 4-3-3 gets him closer to the front of goal, where he has been dangerous thus far.
Additionally, it allows for only one true winger to be on the pitch, which is a position that the Toffees will still be looking for some consistency from, having gotten a solid if unspectacular performance from Kevin Mirallas on Saturday, and an unimpressive shift from Aiden McGeady off the bench.
Bad News: The tactical change was forced by an injury to Steven Pienaar.
The South African was forced out of the match within the first ten minutes, and his status going forward remains unclear. He was one of the men of the match against Leicester, so his absence is disappointing, particularly after he missed so much of last season through injury as well.
Good News: For a half, Everton's defense looked to be in control.
Through the first 45 minutes, Arsenal failed to create consistent scoring chances, often looking as though they hit a wall once 20 yards from goal. The only chances the Gunners found consistently in the first half came from outside the box, a responsibility that falls more to the midfielders than the defenders.
Bad News: Once the Gunners introduced a strong target striker, things got more complicated.
When Arsene Wenger brought on Olivier Giroud for Alexis Sanchez, it brought a change in approach for Arsenal. Unfortunately for the Toffees, it was a change that has caused the back-line issues in the past. In the second half of last season, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin often struggled to deal with big, powerful strikers such a Giroud, and those struggles reappeared last week against David Nugent and Leonardo Ulloa.
Arsenal quickly started causing more problems in the Everton defensive third, and could have pulled one back earlier if not for some spotty finishing from the French striker.
Distin, generally known for his strength, found himself in the perfect position to defend Olivier Giroud on the equalizer, and was simply overpowered. Could we be seeing the beginning of the end for the Guadeloupean center-back?
Good News: Seamus Coleman looked at home on the attack in his return.
Coleman scored a goal from a lovely ball by Gareth Barry, and looked confident roaming forward in his full return from injury, a positive sign for Everton's attack.
Bad News: Coleman looked uncomfortable defending.
The Irish right-back had a couple of horrid giveaways at the back and failed to close down Santi Cazorla in anything resembling an acceptable time before the Spaniard put in the cross that led to the equalizer.
Coleman improved his defensive play last season, and missed a good chunk of this preseason through injury, so there's plenty of reason to think it was just an aberration, but there will be concerns if a trend emerges.
Good News: The season is still very young, and there have been plenty of positive signs.
With no Ross Barkley, an (and this may be generous) 80% Romelu Lukaku, an 80% Kevin Mirallas, and Steven Pienaar and Seamus Coleman only having an impact on one match each, Everton has scored four goals through two matches, and led for the majority of their 180 minutes thus far.
I doubt there's an Everton supporter in the world that would have turned down four goals in two matches given those limitations.
Bad News: If this team is going to compete for a Champions League place, every point matters, and there are still problems that need to be sorted out.
Last year, Everton missed out on fourth place by seven points. The team dropped six points in their first three games against teams that finished 17th, 18th, and 20th in the Premier League. These early matches don't often get talked about when the season starts to wind down, but every point counts, regardless of when it is picked up.
With West Brom and Crystal Palace on the horizon next month, the Toffees need to find top gear consistently if they want to start accruing points in the way a Champions League qualifier must.
The main obstacle to that at the moment is the defending. Everton will face Chelsea and in-form striker Diego Costa next weekend, and Costa is exactly the type of striker that has given the back four fits. If Roberto and co. want to pick up their first victory of the season this weekend, the defending will have to be better, even if it means a change of tactics or personnel.
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- Instant Reaction: Everton's defense fumbles away full points
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- Everton at Leicester City - Q&A with 100%LCFC