The final 11 days of September were quite the comedown for an Everton squad that were starting to convince themselves that Champions League qualification was a realistic target in Ronald Koeman’s first season in charge.
Five games and four wins into the Premier League campaign, the Toffees trailed only Man City, yet a trio of disappointing results – a 2-0 home EFL Cup exit to Norwich, a 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth and a 1-1 Goodison Park draw with Crystal Palace – have damaged the anything-could-happen vibe.
There was a positive in the latest points spill against the Eagles though and that was Romelu Lukaku’s first ever strike direct from a free kick.
It wasn’t like the Belgian needed any more strings to his goalscoring bow, having hit double figures in his four complete Premier League terms, 15 or more in three of those and 20-plus across all competitions in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but it is another reminder that the 23-year-old is still to peak.
The former Chelsea forward didn’t start either of his club’s opening two top-flight assignments after contributing to Belgium’s run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, yet has caught up quickly with five goals in his most recent four appearances.
That tally is one more than he had after week seven last year – which was his most prolific to date – three more than in 2014-15 and one more than in 2013-14, while it puts him level with Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa and Michail Antonio in first place.
Despite that, Lukaku is a distant 8/1 fourth favourite, trailing Aguero at 11/8, Costa at 6/1 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 8/1. He has an advantage over each, being injured less than Aguero and suspended less than Costa – playing 31 or more league matches in four straight seasons – and being more Premier League-acclimatised than Ibrahimovic.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.