Three Everton forwards walk into a bar. Generally the punchline to that particular joke is that one of them leaves, one of them is rubbish and one of them has bones and muscles that are less sturdy than a warm brie.
So how odd that we find ourselves stood in a puddle of bubbling, envious dribble as we gaze in to Goodison Park at the most impactful attacking trident in the league.
Romelu Lukaku is brutish and precise in front of goal, Gerard Deulofeu looks exactly like a player only slightly not good enough to play for Barcelona and, thankfully, everyone seems to have stopped trying to strangle Ross Barkley with the length of rubber hose commonly known as ‘Being The New Gazza’.
Between the three of them they have contributed 17 of Everton’s league goals and 15 of their 24 assists. Ross Barkley has already equalled his best ever league goals tally, Lukaku has 5 goals in his last 4 league games and Deulofeu is regularly quivering the collective anuses of some very competent Premier League full backs.
But what is perhaps so striking about the productiveness of their relationships is that, last year, all 3 had seasons that were worse than watching an angry tramp do a poo in your gran’s hat.
Deulofeu spent the season loaned out to Sevilla, scoring a single goal in 17 games and doing a fine job of pouring cold and bitter sick onto the enthusiasm about his prospects. Barkley spent his campaign losing the ball, losing his place and losing those deeply unhelpful comparisons with the most dynamic midfielder England has ever seen.
Lukaku, meanwhile, was doing all he could to make Jose Mourinho look like a master of binning off uninterested forwards – scoring 10 league goals in 36 and often looking like his boots had been sneakily filled with angry crabs.
Credit then to Roberto Martinez, a man with football ideas so poetic and pure the very mention of the word ‘Cattermole’ makes him weep into his tapas. As up and down as Martinez’s influence seems to be (even this season Everton are yet to win back-to-back league games) he has constructed arguably the most balanced, exciting and productive forward line in the country. Lock yourself in a cabinet and whisper it, but there is perhaps even a droplet of comparison to be made with Barcelona’s front three.
Will Palace be throne to the lions when they visit Goodison on Monday?
Ok, that was just silly, but if you witnessed those three players gnawing greedily at Aston Villa’s fleshy, vulnerable thighs you’d be forgiven if that particularly lofty comparison flashed across your mind for just a second. This is, after all, early days in an as-yet-uncertain campaign for Everton. Sitting a little idly in the very middle of the league, Everton have delivered two of the most eye-catching pummellings of the season (against Sunderland and Villa) but have been just as likely to get tipped over like a podgy flamingo.
This unpredictability is evident throughout what should be one of the league’s better squads. While the front three have hit delicious form – and John Stones and James McCarthy remain key to their defensive game, – the likes of Seamus Coleman, Tim Howard, and Kevin Mirallas haven’t been as consistently influential as we’re used to. The new signing of Ramiro Funes Mori has been surprisingly assured, while Tom Cleverley has struggled to win over what we all assumed was the only manager who would appreciate his tidily boring contributions. Perhaps what best illustrates the strangeness of Everton’s campaign is that Arouna Koné and Steven Naismith have scored entirely surprising hatricks. Both of them. In football matches.
Everton face Crystal Palace on Monday night, another side that seems undecided about whether they’re going to smash a load of goals past you or contrive a strange, shabby loss. If the Toffee Trident can continue with this darting, decisive inter-play then it’s easy to imagine Alan Pardew, post-match, sat naked in a bungalow, sadly munching down a Christmas tin of Quality Street and then being sick on his own feet.
But, because it’s Everton, we really, really, really can’t be sure.