Everton were hoping for a season of improvement and perhaps even a Champions League challenge after Ronald Koeman spent a whooping £149 million in the summer transfer market, second in England only to Manchester City, and fifth in Europe behind City, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea.
The Merseyside heavyweights sold Romelu Lukaku for £75 million to Manchester United and brought in Wayne Rooney from Old Trafford and Sandro Ramirez from Malaga as two of their many arrivals. Despite shelling out an eye-catching sum on Gylfi Sigurdsson, however, they've lacked a spark so far this season, losing three of their opening five games, winning only once.
Saturday’s comeback 2-1 victory over Bournemouth was Everton’s first since the opening day 1-0 win against Stoke City and arguably their best of the campaign. All was made possible via the brace of substitute Oumar Niasse, a player who is emerging as a very unlikely hero for the Toffees.
The Senegal international was a £13.5 million addition from Lokomotiv Moscow on February 1, 2016 while Roberto Martinez was in charge at Goodison Park, but when Koeman took over in the summer, after the Merseysiders finished a disappointing 11th on the log, the Dutch tactician made it clear that he didn’t see Niasse as part of his plans, telling him he needed to find another club if he still wanted to play football.
The 27-year-old went out on loan to Hull City for the second half of the 2016-2017 season, but despite netting four times in the Premier League, he was unable to help the Tigers avoid the drop.
Niasse had been banished to the Everton U-23 squad for the new campaign, and he did well, scoring three times in three apperances. Koeman subsequently added him to the squad that played Sunderland in the EFL Cup third round on Wednesday.
The West African repaid the manager's reluctant faith by coming off the bench to score the final goal and his first for the club with a sublime effort as the Toffees ran out 3-0 victors.
The former Akhisar Belediyespor man would prove to be the hero against the Cherries as he replaced Rooney on 55 minutes and prevented Everton from getting their fourth league defeat on the bounce.
His determination to make an impact was evident as soon as he stepped onto the pitch, with the forward demonstrating the kind of aggression Rooney - and the rest of the Everton team - hadn't shown to hassle and harry the Cherries defenders.
He linked well with another substitute, Tom Davies, a player he'd worked alongside in the U-23 team, to net the equaliser, with the two men combining well before the young Scouser played in Niasse for the forward to finish with aplomb.
Everton's team of big-money new signings have appeared to lack cohesion and a mutual understanding so far this season - particularly in attack - and the connection between Davies and Niasse was a rare positive sign of teamwork in the final third for a team apparently lacking a coherent plan.
Without Lukaku, Everton have also lacked presence in attack, with the ageing Rooney struggling to impose himself, and new signings Davy Klaassen and Sigurdsson failing to demonstrate their creative capabilities at Goodison Park.
Niasse provided presence immediately. He's no Lukaku, but at six foot, he relished the physical battles with the Bournemouth defenders and also offered an aerial threat - as he demonstreated with a back-post header for the second.
Perhaps most important, however, was that Niasse's pace and movement appeared to revitalise Everton in attack, forging openings for his teammates and raising the hitherto emotionless crowd. It was the same kind of effect that youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin had in midweek - taking players on and seeking to stretch the play, a riposte from the lethargy of Rooney, Sigurdsson and Klaassen.
With Koeman apparently unwilling to place his faith in speedsters Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas, and with Leighton Baines now 32, and Seamus Coleman injured, the Toffees desperately need pace and dynamism - Niasse could be the man to provide it.
On the evidence of Saturday, Niasse surely has a part to play for Everton this season and Koeman must not hesitate to involve him more. The former Southampton manager gave credit to Niasse for taking his chances, but privately, he must surely be relieved that his team were let off the hook...albeit by this unlikeliest of heroes.
Even before Bournemouth's visit, the Senegal international had earned the respect of Everton supporters for the dignified way he dealt with Koeman's desire to move him on. Now, he's fast becoming a fan favourite!