It's been mostly good news at Everton this season. Here's our half-term report.
Prediction at the start of the season
Overall HITC predicted that Everton would finish in 7th place this season, though the more optimistic pundits amongst us had Everton pushing for a Champions League place.
Performance so far
Everton have been incredibly difficult to beat, having only lost two games so far this season. The team is over-achieving this term (again), and a Champions League berth isn't out of the question.
9/10. Everton manager Roberto Martinez has combined the solid element his predecessor's defensive play along with the slick, high tempo possession football going forward that now troubles every side in the league.
Best game Everton have been involved in
Everton 3-3 Liverpool. One of the most pulsating Merseyside derbies in years. Everton came from behind twice, and even led late on, before Liverpool equalised in a game full of twists and turns that was incredibly open.
Everton's stand-out player
Ross Barkley – and he’s beaten off some great competition. Barkley looks the real deal, and is popping up with some important goals at critical times, as well as providing a lot of creativity in the middle of the park. Honourable mentions also go to Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry for their contributions.
New signings (loan or otherwise)
We haven't seen much of Wigan signings Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcoraz, because of injury. James McCarthy, however, has made a good start to life at Goodison Park - very comfortable on the ball and hard working. Gareth Barry has provided some good experience and control in the middle of the park, whilst Romelu Lukaku is Everton's top scorer and a handful for any defence. Gerard Deulofeu has also shown some great promise.
Most significant win of the season
Manchester United 0-1 Everton, ending the 21-year hoodoo - and against Everton's old boss too. This was a real signal of how far the Toffees have come Martinez.
Everton's low point so far
Everton 0-1 Sunderland. The home defeat to bottom club Sunderland was a sucker punch, just when it looked as if the Toffees were building up a head of steam and might even mount a title challenge.
Strengthening in January
Everton will want another striker to cover for Lukaku, with Kone out for the season and Jelavic likely to leave in the transfer window.
The rest of the season
A resilient team driven by a creative and ambitious manager. A top four finish is not out of the question.
image: © Ben Sutherland