A week ago, Everton were celebrating their best start to a season in a decade, the horror show of the Roberto Martinez era was long forgotten and only the rampant Manchester City stood above the Toffees in the table.
However, back-to-back defeats against very beatable opposition in Norwich City and AFC Bournemouth has cast doubt over Ronald Koeman’s side.
Friday sees Everton welcome Crystal Palace to Goodison Park in what is now a fixture of the highest importance. Martinez’s downfall last season was an inability to learn from mistakes. Having conceded some soft goals and suffered a number of lapses in concentration in the last two matches, Koeman needs to prevent the same from happening.
If Everton are sloppy again on Friday night, then all the good work that the new boss has done will mean nothing. The Everton players cannot accept they are a side that makes the odd mistake, an inevitability which they seemed to surrender themselves to last term, as that will start a very slippery slope.
Thankfully, the Toffees seem aware of this. Skipper Phil Jagielka was quoted this week saying, “It is a massive game before an international break. It is important to get back to winning ways.”
Hopefully Koeman has been whipping the players back into form at training this week and has made it clear that careless mistakes are not acceptable anymore.
It is also vital that Everton maintain their solid form at home. During their must successful seasons under David Moyes and Martinez, the side were unbeatable at Goodison Park. So far this season, Koeman’s players have only conceded two goals at home and have taken ten points from a possible twelve.
If the team were to lose concentration and, ultimately, the match on Friday night, then fans will stop cheering, start moaning and the players’ heads will drop. A toxic Goodison Park must be avoided in order to have a good campaign this year and ensuring that doesn’t happen starts against Palace.
It isn’t just the team as a whole that must impress on Friday. The match is make or break for Ross Barkley. The midfielder has endured a well-documented poor start to the season and the hype over his lack of form is growing rapidly.
An underwhelming performance against Bournemouth was the latest to make headlines, especially given that Jack Wilshere played so well. With an international break on the horizon, if Barkley doesn’t prove that he is still a force to be reckoned with, then his frustration is likely to worsen over the break, especially given that he hasn’t been selected for the national squad.
There is a lot of pressure on Everton on Friday and they must perform. The start to the season was exciting, but it means nothing if the Toffees suffer a third straight defeat against a side they should be beating. Another loss could subject manager Koeman to the exact downfall that Martinez suffered.