By Alison ChinFollow @@AlisonChin9
To fervent followers of England's top flight, the Premier League table has a slightly unfamiliar look. While the fierce title chase involves usual suspects Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, the fight for fourth is currently between Everton and West Brom - not exactly your household names.
After their seventh place finish last season, there were murmurs of the Toffees being a team on the rise. However, David Moyes' side were quickly forgotten over a summer of Euro 2012 action and transfer sagas involving the likes of Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie.
The best way for the team to remind observers of their quality was to pull off an upset against Sir Alex Ferguson's squad in the opening fixture of the new season and Everton did just that, via a thumping Marouane Fellaini header.
The Belgian's name has been on the lips of most Everton fans, and reportedly in the mind of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, after getting six goals and three assists so far.
Nevertheless, it would be grossly unfair to award the recognition for the Toffees' good start entirely to Fellaini's magical form. As a club, Everton have been the epitome of resilience, and Moyes' side are poised to reap their rewards.
Wings to help them fly
Tim Cahill's decision to leave Goodison Park for the New York Red Bulls in the summer was met by disappointment from the Toffees support, as was Jack Rodwell's departure. Once again, fans looked yet again to the redoubtable Moyes to work his magic with limited resources.
In true Moyes fashion, the Scot took the money obtained from the sale of the midfield duo to purchase three new players. Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas need no introduction to Everton fans at this point in the season, but it was old boy Steven Pienaar who received the warmest welcome from Goodison Park.
The winner of Everton's Player of the Season in 2009/10 slotted back into his creative berth in midfield seamlessly, but more importantly, he resumed his telepathic understanding with left-back Leighton Baines.
The basis of their success story is stunningly simple. Encouraged by Moyes to drift inwards in support of the central striker, Pienaar's movement often opens up the expanse on the left flank for Baines to run into. The pair is also quick to exploit potential two-on-one situations with opposing right-backs to carve open defences.
Mirallas and Naismith alternate to take their place down the opposite flank for Everton, turning a team that was formerly so reliant on the central thrust produced by Cahill into a side powered by intelligent play down the wings.
Meanwhile, in direct contrast to the all-action style of Rodwell and Cahill, Phil Neville and Leon Osman are more tactically gifted and possess the vision required to pick a pass to a team-mate in space. The result? Quick switches of play from one flank to another which often leaves opposition defences scrambling.
What happens after is a sight all too familiar to Toffees' opposition. With their speed and guile down the wings, these players send crosses that are either headed in by Fellaini or pounced on by Nikica Jelavic. The unconventional attacking duo are responsible for 11 out of 21 Premier League goals for Everton so far, with another half a season yet to play.
Bang for their buck
Without mega-rich consortiums and foreign sugar daddies to call upon, Everton lack the financial resources afforded to the teams they are seeking to challenge, but that is hardly an unusual scenario for Moyes. The Scot has been forced to sell his stars for year now, just to offset the club's debt, but his resolve to take Everton forward was finally rewarded this summer.
Given more freedom to spend, Moyes and his team meticulously scouted personnel that would represent value for money. As a result, the club broke even in the transfer market despite bringing in seven new faces.
Not content to sign players simply based on their skills, the Everton manager also sought versatility from the new Toffees. Mirallas and Naismith are as comfortable down the flanks as they are upfront, while Bryan Oviedo can play as a left winger or left-back. Thomas Hitzlsperger brought invaluable Premier League experience and the ability to play anywhere in midfield to boot.
Moyes has never been one to shy away from shifting players out of their comfort zone either, successfully turning Neville from a full-back to a central midfielder, while Fellaini now lines up just behind Jelavic despite starting out as a defensive midfielder.
The versatility on offer at the Toffees brings with it a sense of unpredictability, as the manager can easily shift several players around to take up different positions on the pitch or switch formations with ease during a game.
Just one loss in the Premier League so far has propelled Everton into Champions League contention and the team could reach the promised land for only the second time in their history if form does not desert them.
It might be premature to predict Moyes' squad succeeding in their bid to fend off the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and surprise package West Brom, but unlike former seasons in which they were forced to toil, the Toffees can now count themselves well and truly in the mix.