It has been a pretty difficult start to the season for Everton Under 23s. As they begin a transitional period, they have failed to hit the ground running, finding themselves second bottom of the league with just one win to their name after seven matches.
The Blues are currently on a five-match losing streak in all competitions, boast the second fewest goals in the league and have already crashed out the Premier League Cup with a 3-1 home defeat to Sheffield United.
However, there are many factors at play that mean there is not as much cause for concern as there would usually be. It was a summer of upheaval with many U23 regulars departing on permanent deals including Matthew Pennington, Josh Bowler, Beni Baningime and Nathangelo Markelo, as well as highly-rated left back Thierry Small, who refused a professional deal to instead join Southampton.
This has the left the squad without a recognised left-back and on top of long-term injuries to star players in both midfield, Tyler Onyango and attack, Ellis Simms, a huge element of what led to a relatively successful campaign for the young Toffees last year is now missing.
In addition, Simms’ deputy, 18-year-old striker Lewis Dobbin has been flirting with first team football, making two senior appearances off the bench, as a result of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s absence and Salomon Rondon’s patchy form.
Being without two of their main strikers for almost the entirety of the season so far has been an issue, but it has allowed Charlie Whitaker to step up and chime in with three goals in six appearances, a spell of form so impressive it earned him a place on the bench for the first team’s trip to Old Trafford on 2 October.
There have been results which have no doubt raised alarm, most notably the 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United, which saw the Toffees exit the Premier League Cup to opposition in the league below as well as losses to Leicester City, Crystal Palace and a Merseyside Derby defeat.
However, it is still a side of undisputed quality and potential with the likes of 18-year-olds Reece Welch and Luke Butterfield both now regulars in defence and midfield respectively. Alongside Welch in the backline, 17-year-old Eli Campbell has impressed in his four appearances so far while the aforementioned Charlie Whitaker has no doubt been the star player of the season so far in his attacking midfield role.
There is definitely still cause for optimism amongst all the doom and gloom surrounding the U23 side at the moment and the Blues will look to turn around their poor form, starting with a home clash to Leeds United on Monday 18 October.