by Daisy Cutter

It is common knowledge to the point of cliché that Everton are not strong starters to a league campaign. Indeed it’s usually only when the New Year hangovers clear that a collective spirit is forged, everything clicks, and they become the formidable force born from David Moyes’ character.

In each of the previous seven seasons the Toffees have ultimately improved on their Jan 1st league position by an accumulative 21 placings with a consistent pattern emerging of early under-achievement and ‘crisis’ (with at least one blue calling into 606 and claiming that Moyes should go) followed by a sustained, storming finish. Perhaps they should consider scrapping Z Cars for Auld Lang’s Syne? Or ban autumn from the training ground by spraying fake honeysuckle onto the surrounding trees.

Whatever the reason for their seasonal Jekyll and Hyde this time there’s no need for such measures because Everton have sprung like spring hares from the off, and even more encouraging for blues is the slick haughtiness of their performances. These are not victories achieved through physical dominance and a siege mentality but rather fizzing, flowing exuberance. Two weeks ago they comprehensively outplayed Swansea at the Liberty which always takes some doing. They also completed more passes than the home side over the 90 minutes. Nobody does that.

Last Saturday brought a different challenge, one that was arguably more onerous than their opening day destruction of United. A home encounter with a Southampton side destined to flirt with the drop represented a game Everton were expected to win and how often do we see such expectations flounder from an in-form team? Moyes’s men romped it comfortably.

It has often been imagined by frustrated supporters what Everton could achieve were they to eradicate their strange habit of stuttering from the blocks. The last occasion they did so was in 2004-05 and a Champion’s League qualifying place was secured. Assuming they do not fall victim to sod’s law and now endure a flat latter-half to their campaign we can surmise they’ll firmly be in contention to do so again. But such is their commanding displays some are even suggesting a genuine punt at the title. Jokingly of course. For now at least.

Yet perhaps behind the self-deprecating chants there is a nugget of belief. After all, since Big Ben chimed in 2012 Everton have only lost three league games and that is a protracted period of excellence deserving of respect. That is staying power that transcends mere form or fixture quirks and usually lends itself to champions.

Furthermore Moyes has enjoyed the rare opportunity to strengthen his squad in two transfer windows adding not only a greater variance to his team selection and tactical options but finally some quality on the bench to influence late-on.

As always with Everton the answers to their fortunes lie in their lack of it but it is not simply that the Scot has been permitted to spend but rather he has been afforded time to put together bids for long-term targets instead of panic-buying bargains to compensate for yet another costly – in every sense – sale.

Last summer saw the highly influential Arteta sold to Arsenal with minutes to spare. The magical Spaniard offered an elegance and artistry amidst the high-tempo bombast and was desperately missed. At least though they still had Cahill, Everton’s driving force of nature. Yet bafflingly, after several seasons of magnificent service and corner flag punching, the Australian lapsed into a series of anonymous ineffective performances.

Any team in the world would have substantially suffered from losing two such integral figures and Everton duly stumbled. In January however the luring back of Pienaar and cut-price purchase of Gibson reignited the engine room which in turn fired back up the faith. Then of course there was Jelavic, the ten-goal cutting edge prolificacy the team had lacked for far too long.

This summer it was Rodwell’s turn to help off-load the debt and fund a rebuild. As good a prospect as the England midfielder is he was nowhere near as influential a cog as Arteta so his departure has been easily dealt with. In addition Moyes has been able to permanently secure Pienaar and head-hunt Mirallas, two players extravagant in ability and scope.

Crucially too this window demonstrated a statement of intent with the retention of the never less than brilliant Baines – his partnership with Pienaar is as devastating as you’ll find anywhere – while the beast Fellaini is prowling and growling with a point to prove and a big-money move in his sights.

I write this as a Man City fan who directly blames David Moyes for the Lescott farrago that temporarily resulted in ill-feeling between both sets of supporters. I write this as someone who just cannot stick the fella. He has played an absolute blinder.

And now that Moyes has sprinkled some stylish adventure into the bedrock of granite that has always made Everton so difficult to break down his team are a delight to watch.

So how far can they go? Already the obsession with topping their city rivals seems old hat – done and dusted, for the present at least – and a Champion’s League spot is being vigorously sought. Beyond that who knows but one thing is for sure, there will be no disgruntled calls to 606 anytime soon.