Derby a true test of Everton credentials

As the hours and minutes tick down to a hugely anticipated Merseyside derby, the game at lunchtime will be a massive test of how far this Everton team have progressed this season.

Since the start of the campaign, almost everything the Toffees have done has gone well, indeed better than could have been expected by everyone but the most optimistic Everton supporter.

The new arrivals; midfielders Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure and forward James Rodriguez have all settled in remarkably swiftly and the team’s performances on the pitch have been transformed.

Now after four straight Premier League wins, the Blues sit on top of the embryonic table with the only 100% record in the league.

With that, the football Everton are playing is so fundamentally improved from the sort of dross that Toffees fans were served up all too often in recent years as to be almost unbelievable.

We are so used to seeing limp, laboured and frankly embarrassing performances especially last season, that it does seem as if this is a totally different football club. I’ve asked myself a few times recently is this actually Everton I’m watching?!

The transformation is not just in the quality of the side’s attacking play but also in the mentality of the players and squad as a whole.

Gone for the moment, are the lacklustre, inconsistent and frustratingly indifferent efforts from so many individuals that marked past campaigns with players seemingly simply going through the motions to pick up a pay check.

Now those same players like Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Davies and Alex Iwobi are responding to the challenge of their new team mates and upping their own game considerably.

This is important because while the Blues can now field a first-choice eleven that will give anyone a game, critically to sustain that improvement throughout the season, they still need a squad of players who can come in to replace those who are starting, without the level of performance dropping off markedly.

We saw how important that was before the international break when the Toffees injury problems returned and a succession of first-choice starters were getting hurt.

Then some of those players did have to step up and maintain as much as possible the level of performance that we’ve now come to expect.  They did so when Everton beat Brighton in their last match before the internationals.

However, it could legitimately be argued that Everton haven’t played anyone who can be considered top drawer yet, with the opening day win over a slightly rusty Tottenham side the only game against a genuine top-four contender.

This match today is another level up and a much truer test of how far this Blues team has come. Although Liverpool were soundly beaten last time out, we all know how good a side they are and so must expect a considerable reaction this afternoon.

It looks as though Carlo Ancelotti will have all his new signings fit and available to play but several are coming back from injury or from international fixtures played thousands of miles away.

So will all those players like Allan, Rodriguez and Richarlison be able to give a full ninety minutes and if not can the other squad members step up again?

Well by roughly 2.30 pm today we should have a better idea of whether this Toffees team can really take on and challenge the best in the country and take a realistic shot at the top four or even a trophy this season.