The season, so far

Ninth place is probably where most would expect Everton to be come the end of the season, so the team’s current standing in the table, occupying the aforementioned spot, could constitute an average start.

It merits some degree of progress. After the dreary 2014-15 term, Roberto Martinez has made positive strides as manager this season, despite questions lingering about his own pedigree and that of a squad which is talented, young, but has yet to fully click. The Toffees certainly seem to be on the right track again.

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And despite only occupying ninth, a more detailed delve into the opening weeks of the season yields some positive signs for the Goodison Park club. A corner hasn’t been completely turned, by any means, although with some minor refinements, bolder decision-making and more fortune with injuries, there are signs this term could be a prosperous one.

The road ahead

Upcoming Fixtures: Nov. 21 – Aston Villa (H), Nov. 28 – Bournemouth (A), Dec. 1 – Middlesbrough, League Cup (A), Dec. 7 – Crystal Palace (H), Dec. 12 – Norwich City (A), Dec. 19 – Leicester City (H), Dec. 26 – Newcastle United (A), Dec. 28 – Stoke City (H)

After facing last season’s top eight sides in the opening 10 games of the Premier League season, the upcoming run of matches looks a lot more favorable. However, it was against supposed lesser opposition last year when Everton struggled, as they lacked the inventiveness and incision to break through packed defences.

Admittedly, this season Martinez’s men do seem better placed to cope with this challenge. Romelu Lukaku is maturing at the point of the attack, making enhancements in all areas of his game, while Ross Barkley is a young man who, despite tailing off a little in recent weeks, is more willing to take responsibility on the ball.

The team’s key figure is Gerard Deulofeu, though. Having signed permanently from Barcelona in the summer, the Spanish international took some time to get up to speed, but he’s been tremendous in recent matches. Deulofeu offers Everton a direct presence, a major threat from crosses and someone who can thread the ball through into tight spaces, bringing the best out of Lukaku in the process.

At the back, Everton should be boosted before the end of the year by the return of the long absent Leighton Baines, although Brendan Galloway has deputized superbly. If the Toffees can get the England international back to his creative best down the left flank, it’ll be another big asset coping with sides who seek to frustrate them.

Many Evertonians will tell you the match against Middlesbrough is the most important of the lot. Into the quarterfinals of the League Cup, Everton have a fine chance of making it to the final of a competition in which they’ve endured a torrid time throughout their history. Twenty-one years on from their previous piece of silverware, winning at Wembley must be a priority for Martinez’s men.

Corresponding fixtures against Palace, Newcastle and Stoke last season saw Everton suffer disappointing defeats. Whether they can take points from these fixtures and put together a strong run of form from  will reveal a lot about just how much we should expect from this squad in the months to come.

Come January

There are two major issues in this Everton squad which need solving in January: the goalkeeping situation, and the lack of a player to do a Steven Pienaar-esque job.

Despite Martinez’s unshakeable loyalty to Tim Howard between the sticks, it’s clear Everton need a new goalkeeper. The United States international has failed to improve after a shoddy 2014-15, making a string of errors which have cost his side dear in the Premier League this season. Now 36, it’s vital the Toffees look to the future.

The left side has been peculiar position for Everton this year. Both Arouna Kone and Steven Naismith have notched hat tricks from that role, and while the former seems to bring the best out of Lukaku and Deulofeu, the team does lack a little bit of balance when the Ivorian starts.

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Although he remains on Everton’s books, the Toffees have struggled to replicate the intricate influence of Pienaar, who has been riddled with injury problems. Finding a player with comparable qualities to the South African would add a new dimension to the Everton attack, although these types are tough to acquire in January and typically pretty expensive.

If a quality goalkeeper and a player such as Andriy Yarmolenko, who Everton have been strongly linked with in the past, bolster these two spots, this is a squad capable of pushing towards the top four. Without those admittedly fanciful signings, attacking inconsistency and goalkeeping errors will likely limit Everton to a battle for a Europa League berth.