Carsley - the Championship's most effective player?
There are undoubtedly many reasons why Everton have struggled so far this season but you could do a lot worse than point to the absence of one player - Lee Carsley.
The 34-year-old left Goodison Park for Birmingham City at the end of the last campaign after six-and-a-half happy years as an Everton player.
And on the evidence so far Everton's loss has been Birmingham's gain.
Blues might have suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday evening - in doing so surrendering top spot in the Championship - but they have nonetheless made an impressive start to the season after a summer of turmoil following their relegation from the Premier League.
And it is no surprise that with Carsley an ever-present so far, Blues have not conceded more than one goal in any of the 14 Championship fixtures they have played.
Carsley is a holding midfielder and as such one of those players whose worth is harder to define than, say, a striker, who can be judged on the goals that he scores, or an attacking midfielder with an eye for a spectacular pass.
His craft is more subtle, less eye-catching, but of immense worth.
Watching him against QPR on Tuesday it was easy to see why the opposition have found Blues so difficult to break down. Time and again Carsley snuffed out a move before it had time to mature or covered for an out-of-position colleague, in the process ensuring that his team's defence held its shape.
Within seconds of the match starting, an awful pass in front of the Blues defence by Mehdi Nafti gifted possession to the opposition in a dangerous area. But no sooner had the Rangers player controlled the ball than Carsley had relieved him of it. It was typical of his contribution.
When Birmingham were in possession Carsley usually occupied the territory between his defence and the half-way line and when the opposition attacked down the flanks he headed for the area between full-back and central defender, often blocking crosses before they reached their target.
Very little he did was spectacular but it was the role that served Everton well for many years - witness how they struggled when he was out with a knee injury early in the 2005-06 season - and one that he is now relishing at his hometown club.
"I am loving it," Carsley, whose entire family support Blues with just one exception, told me. "The role I have is the same as I did at Everton - it is just the personnel that are different."
Carsley - who has skippered the side this season in the absence of Damien Johnson - reckons it took him a few games to settle in. He had to adjust to new players and a different league. He also had to come to terms with a drop in quality but a more physical division than the Premier League. With a wry smirk Carsley told me: "I'm not getting any younger so I have got to use my experience a bit more."
If he found it a struggle at first then there was scant evidence on the pitch to suggest this, while off the field he quickly became involved in community work. Morale was low after relegation and he wanted to do his bit to "lift the spirits" of the supporters.
He strikes me as being a very honest professional. Carsley was the victim of a particularly nasty tackle from Mikele Leigertwood on the stoke of half time on Tuesday evening. It was high and late and the sort that could cause serious injury.
Other players with a different attitude might have milked the situation for all it was worth but Carsley seemed more intent of climbing to his feet and hobbling around than writhing in agony. It did not stop the referee from issuing a red card but Carsley seemed almost to be doing his utmost to ensure he did not influence the referee to send Leigertwood from the field. Afterwards Carsley said: "I never like seeing a fellow player get sent off and although I have a cut on the thigh where he caught me I did not think it warranted a red card."
Carsley, who started his career at Derby before spells with Blackburn and Coventry, is probably at his final club before retiring. As such it was important he made the right move after deciding to leave Everton.
He had been out of contract at the end of last season. A one-year extension was apparently offered by Everton but with the club having secured qualification for Europe the 34-year-old felt it was a good time to move on. However, it was by no means a dead cert that he would move to St Andrews.
Carsley readily admits that several clubs expressed an interest in signing him and that he was not going to join Birmingham on the strength of purely emotional reasons. "It might be my hometown club but I had been away for several years so another couple would not have hurt," remarked Carsley.
The clincher was a meeting with boss Alex McLeish, who explained his ambitions for the club and persuaded Carsley that he should be a part of it.
The ties with Everton remain - theirs is the first result he looks out for, while he is still in contact with several Toffees players and has watched a couple of their games on television.
I asked Carsley whether they were missing him, an idea that he instantly rejected. I suspect that even if he believed it to be true he would not say so in public. He chose instead to suggest that Everton will start to climb the table and eventually finish in the higher reaches of the Premier League. "Are you sure?" I asked. "Well, I hope so," came the reply.
But although Everton will always remain dear to him, it is now a closed chapter and he now has his mind set on a new goal. Carsley might have made more than 400 professional appearances but he has yet to win a promotion medal of any kind. It is something he desperately wants and an aim that he believes Birmingham have the quality and belief to achieve.
Whether Blues do bounce straight back might in part depend on whether Carsley stays fit. He might not be the youngest, fastest, most spectacular or skillful player in the Championship but I cannot think of any who are more quietly effective.