I didn't see the game so can't really comment on the performance today, general consensus seems to be that it wasn't very good.
On the back of the Old Trafford result and their recent form it has to be seen as a disappointing outcome . We don't yet have any level of consistency, which is perhaps to be expected at this stage of the season given the changes in personnel and various absences.
I do think a little too much has been made of player absence, all teams have players absent at times as Everton did when they faced us which was to our benefit, so it goes both ways.
I have to be honest, I don't really understand our recruitment in the summer we signed good players but I'm really not sure we knew exactly how we were going to use them. That is to me at least concerning, it has felt so far this season we are trying to work out how to use them and what system works best to get the best from them. That to me isn't really how I want to see us operate. I guess this stuff would normally be ironed out more in pre-season and ours was clearly heavily disrupted but its a concern.
Flexibility and options is great and we have them now, we have depth particularly with the young players coming into the mix but I'm not at all convinced we've improve the starting 11. We lost 1 player in the summer and spent £95m on good players but haven't improved the starting 11 (even with all players available) and that is going to make improving on last season difficult.
Right now I'm not convinced we can improve greatly on last season although I can see Bailey may just be the kind of wild card that could really change that such was his impact against Everton in his little cameo.
The step up from mid table Premier League to top 8 is a huge one, I'm not personally sure that given the exit of Grealish we've spent enough/well enough to expect to progress significantly. Looking this those who finished above us last season I think there are only 2 or 3 we could hope to overhaul this season at best.
So I think those critical of Smith need to be realistic but I also think those who refuse to listen to criticism need to do the same. Far too often justified criticism or concerns are met with pointers to what has been achieved to this point. On the one had that is valid, huge progress has been made but I'm not sure it is really relevant to a debate about where we go next. Nobody questions what Smith has done they question if he can push us on again but those that do need to temper that with a realism about the challenge that step poses.
Personally I've long found it really hard to judge Smith right back to the Championship days, we were poor in Grealish's absence only to become unstoppable on his return. Our time in the PL has been defined by the same players time in or out of the starting 11 which has made it so hard to asses Smith.
In many ways this season is Smith's biggest challenge yet and one I think where he will come under more scrutiny and pressure than ever before, it remains to be seen if he will come through it. I actually have some doubt.
A lot will depend upon the ambitions and expectations of the owners but a lot will also depend on the patience of the fans. I get the sense the later is fraying a little we've no indications on the former.
I get the feeling much will depend upon his ability or otherwise to find a way for Watkins and Ings to work, right now it doesn't but that isn't to say it can't.