Everton's season so far - Oumar Niasse comes in from cold, Sandro the major disappointment and the player who impressed so much the Blues bought him

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IT’S been a season many Evertonians would already prefer to forget - but there have been moments to savour.

Few and far between admittedly, but there have been some plus points.

And the final international break of the year seems like as good a time as any to take stock.

We’ve asked our writers to give us their highlights and lowlights of the season so far, including the surprise of the season, the best opposition player the Blues have faced and where they believe side will be on New Year’s Day with a busy few weeks coming up.

First up is David Prentice.

Favourite Moment of the Season

Okay slim pickings, but there have been some standout moments.

The moment Oumar Niasse completed his Alec Leamas moment - the spy who came in from the cold - with a sublimely finished waft with the outside of his right foot against Sunderland, was up there.

So too was the ‘did he really just do that?’ strike from Gylfi Sigurdsson in Split.

The ball boy nonchalantly playing keepy up while Split fans tried to battle with the Park End was also memorable - but the highest point, so far, came off the pitch.

Six months ago Oumar Niasse was an afterthought, an irrelevance, a player without a locker - or a suit.

Half-an-hour after the most emotionally intense afternoon Goodison Park has witnessed this millennium, he was introduced into a sponsors’ lounge at the ground like a conquering hero.

It underlined the power of perseverance, hard work and dignity in the face of hardship.

Worst moment of the season

The 20 minutes before half-time in Atalanta.

Evertonians had looked forward so much to being back in European competition - but in a truly abysmal performance in Italy they as good as undid an entire season’s hard work in 45 minutes.

The Blues were lucky to go in at half-time trailing only 3-0, as an Atalanta team playing almost 80 miles from their own stadium looked completely at home.

Coming just five days after the 3-0 capitulation to Tottenham - and three days before the trip to Old Trafford - it firmly suggested that this wasn’t going to be the season Evertonians had hoped and anticipated.

Best surprise of the season

Tom Cleverley’s inaccuracy from 12-yards.

A truly remarkable final 23 minutes against Watford - plus 12 additional minutes - looked like being undone by Jordan Pickford’s rush of blood.

Then Cleverley clipped his penalty wide.

Relief, delight - and surprise - all wrapped into one.

Everton's Jonjoe Kenny celebrates after Watford's Tom Cleverley misses a penalty

Biggest disappointment of the season

The most fiercely contested category of the lot.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gana Gueye’s form, the Europa League campaign, the failure to replace Romelu Lukaku, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s performances and Kevin Mirallas’ demeanour are all in there.

But the biggest disappointment has to be one of the new signings.

And the one who the most was expected from was Sandro Ramirez.

We spoke to a Spanish journalist in June and he told us: “He’s a bargain. Last season was his first year playing regularly in Spain’s top flight and he came up with 16 goals in 31 appearances. He scored all types of goals, too: free-kicks, headers, tap-ins. Without his goals, Malaga would have been in a relegation scrap and his former club Barcelona might have won the league - he scored one of the goals which contributed to them missing out on the title.

“He’s not tall, but he’s strong and looks and plays like someone who is much older than 21. He can play with his back to goal and is a good outlet to hold up the ball and bring others into play.”

Fast forward a few months and Sandro has showed none of those qualities.

He has struggled with the physicality of the Premier League, never looked like scoring a goal - and has looked overpirced even at £5.2m.

A major disappointment.

Best Everton player (apart from Jordan Pickford)

The goalkeeper has been the only standout performer this season.

Oumar Niasse has scored goals - but still lacks overall quality, Wayne Rooney has shown a few flashes of class, while Beni Baningime and Ademola Lookman have given a few glimpses of quality.

But Dominic Calvert-Lewin has shouldered the responsibility of being Everton’s only recognised centre-forward manfully.

On the occasions he has been asked to play in that position - right wing-back and left wing? Really? - he has been excellent. Magnificent at Manchester City, he created the first Premier League goal of the season for wayne Rooney against Stoke - and added four others in cup ties.

He has been very, very good.

Best opposition player

Far too many opposition players have enjoyed sparkling afternoons and evenings against Everton this season. But one player was so bright Everton went out and bought him.

Nikola Vlasic impressed in both legs for Hajduk Split - so much so that his next appearance in the competition was for Everton.

Where will Everton be on New Year’s Day?

After, officially, the toughest start to a season in Premier League history, Everton have a run of fixtures which offer the opportunity for points.

Sure Palace away and Southampton at home won’t be easy - but without the distractions of the Europa League, games against Atalanta and Apollon Limassol are now officially dead rubbers - whoever is in charge of the Blues can plan properly for them.

David Moyes’ Goodison return with West Ham before the end of the month should be lively - then Huddersfield come to Goodison.

The Anfield derby will return what it usually does - nothing - but Newcastle away and Swansea at home also offer the potential for points - before Chelsea at home and West Brom away become a little tricker.

Then it’s the long trip to Bournemouth before you know who come to Goodison on New Year’s Day.

But by then I expect Everton to be jostling for mid-table mediocrity.

Which given what’s gone before will do just fine thank you!