When Rafa Benitez was handed the Everton job, it understandably caused controversy and toxicity among the Goodison Park faithful.
This was a coach who had labelled the Toffees a ‘small club’ during his days with Liverpool and his relationship with the red part of Merseyside clearly hadn’t gone down well with Blues supporters.
Key to Benitez getting the fans on board was a quick and promising start to the new campaign.
Fortunately, the opening few weeks have provided supporters with nothing but thrills. Heading into their clash with Aston Villa on Saturday evening, they sit in fourth on the same number of points (10) as Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
This has been a flying start to the season and, under Benitez, Everton look like a force to be reckoned with.
However, there has been a negative; the fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
He was absent from Everton’s win over Burnley and his situation hasn’t improved according to the manager.
The Toffees secured a 3-1 win last time out with Richarlison leading the line but his performance didn’t captivate too many onlookers. During the course of the match, the exciting Brazilian had just one shot and managed a measly pass success rate of 64%.
He was always going to struggle against a robust Clarets backline but his inability to hold up the ball could lead to alternatives being considered on Saturday.
That doesn’t mean that Richarlison has to be dropped – he could just fall back into an attacking midfield role. However, what it could provoke is Salomon Rondon’s first start in an Everton shirt.
The powerful Venezuelan forward, who was previously described as “unbelievable” by Jim White, was signed on transfer deadline day, adding to a cost-effective window for Marcel Brands and co.
Given Calvert-Lewin’s injury, Rondon’s arrival is actually quite an important one. He has never been a rampant goal scorer but Benitez knows him well and is capable of getting the best from him.
He has netted 26 times in 62 games under the Spaniard and could offer the Merseyside outfit a different threat when they face Dean Smith’s side.
He has proven that he can hold the ball up and link the play, just as Calvert-Lewin does. For example, the £4.5m-rated former Newcastle forward has won 2.8 aerial duels per game throughout his career.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Toffees manager unleashed him this weekend.