Slow and steady is the pace at which Everton have moved throughout this summer, carefully assembling the necessary parts off the pitch in order to begin remedying issues on it. But recent events points to a change in tempo as the visit of Tottenham on the opening day draws near and manager Ronald Koeman continues to plug the noticeable gaps in his squad.
Player recruitment so far suggests a studious approach toward assembling a balanced squad; new arrivals will be expected to make an immediate impact, with each of the three new signings (Maarten Stekelenburg, Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye) boasting Premier League experience. Additions appear designed to target weaknesses in the squad rather than serve as marquee names to appease anxious supporters.
Koeman may have shocked supporters with his assertion that from a physical point of view Everton are at "70 percent" for Saturday's season opener, but it's not a surprising assessment. Successive seasons defined by the concession of late goals and players seemingly running on empty well before the final whistle requires a considerable fix. Rebuilding this squad mentally is just as important as the physical aspect, and recent transfer dealings imply a conscious effort to turn Everton into a stronger and more aggressive unit.
Improvement when not in possession is vital and Koeman has rightly highlighted the importance of the work his players do without the ball. One such player recruited with this in mind is Gueye, signed from relegated Aston Villa for £7.1 million. Despite featuring in one of the worst Premier League teams in recent memory, the aggressive central midfielder ended last season second only to N'Golo Kante in tackles won and interceptions. Only Norwich made fewer interceptions than Everton in 2015-16.
Along with fellow new signing goalkeeper Stekelenburg, Gueye looks set to make his debut this weekend and can add steel to a team Koeman has already declared too nice, but £9m centre-back Ashley Williams is not match-ready after an extended summer break following Wales' Euro 2016 exploits.
Another player who will not feature this weekend is John Stones, the player whose No. 5 shirt Williams has taken: the highly rated defender has finally completed his £47.5m move to Manchester City. After resisting Chelsea's advances throughout last summer, a Stones exit felt inevitable this time around; keeping an unhappy player for a second successive season benefits nobody. Such a fee for a player who cost £3 million and still has only 77 Premier League appearances to his name is excellent business.
In swapping the laid-back approach of Stones for the no-nonsense Williams, Koeman seems to have found the type of player this defence has craved for a few years: an experienced leader who prioritises the basics above all else. Williams averaged more tackles, blocks, interceptions and clearances per game than the departed Stones and current senior centre-backs Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori last season.
As Williams adjusts to his new surroundings and reaches match fitness, the immediate concern for Koeman is finding a way for his team in transition to overcome an impressive and settled Tottenham side looking to build on last season's title challenge. For the Everton players, this is the first real test showing how well (or not) they are adapting to Koeman's methods thus far.
Koeman's first Everton XI will consist largely of players inherited from Roberto Martinez although doubts over Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman highlight how thin this squad remains at right-back and centre-forward. This imbalance is sure to be a factor behind Koeman eyeing another three or four new players before the close of the transfer window.
Should Lukaku recover from a heel injury sustained in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Espanyol, the Everton No.10 will be keen to halt the 10-game goalless run that ended his otherwise impressive 2015-16 season, but options are limited should either Coleman or Lukaku miss out. The promising but untried Mason Holgate could make his first-team debut at right-back, while the underwhelming Arouna Kone or the experimental option of Gerard Deulofeu could start up front.
With the spectre of the fewest home points in a league season hanging over them, Everton are out to halt a run of three consecutive 2-2 draws on the opening day and earn just a second first-game win since 2007.
Frustration is foreseeable ahead of a tough opening fixture and a seemingly unprepared squad, but the most reassuring aspect is having Koeman in the dugout. Supporters already value his honest appraisals, and his high standards and gradual rebuilding of the squad paint a brighter long-term picture even if there may be a few hiccups along the way.