Everton: 2018/19 Premier League Preview
It’s been a busy summer at Goodison Park, but are the Toffees in better shape this year than last?
Action Images via REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Despite an eighth-placed finish, Goodison Park was shrouded in negativity. It was a campaign that saw three different managers take charge, a transfer policy that was seriously questioned and an embarrassing early exit from the Europa League.
As far as Everton fans are concerned, things can surely only get better. An eighth-placed finish wasn’t a concern in its own right, but there was more to the 2017/18 season than met the eye.
There’s been a lot of change in the blue half of Merseyside over the summer, but are Everton ready to make a serious improvement?
2017/18 Season Review
Everton only finished one place lower last campaign than in the 2016/17 season, but the respective records show they made no progress. They lost four games more than in the previous season and won four fewer, meaning they had earned 12 more points the campaign before.
The real alarm bells, though, will ring in the goal difference column. Everton scored 62 goals and conceded 44 in 2016/17, finishing with a goal difference of +18. Last season, the Toffees scored only 44, but shipped 58, giving them a goal difference of -11, which was a 29-goal swing on the season before.
Everton had spent big before last season began, but their investment didn’t pay off. Then-boss Ronald Koeman spent a huge sum of money to bring in Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane, and perhaps only one of those four purchases can be justified so far.
Nikola Vlasic, Sandro Ramirez and Henry Onyekuru also arrived at Goodison Park last summer, costing a further near-£25 million combined. Wayne Rooney returned to his boyhood club, and Cuco Martina arrived on a free transfer from Southampton.
Given the amount of money spent last summer, Everton hugely underachieved and went backwards. They spent a further £40 million on the recruitment of Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun in the winter window, both of whom made a positive impact upon their arrival.
After the failure of a heavy spending spree last time out, many wondered if the Everton wallet would be much tighter this time around. Although not quite hitting the numbers of last summer, the board have splashed the cash to right last season’s wrongs.
Fee: £35 million (potential to rise to ~ £50 million)
Everton will begin the new campaign with another different manager. Marco Silva’s long-rumoured arrival at Goodison Park became a reality in the summer after he left his previous post at Watford. It was under Silva that Richarlison played his best football.
Considering the fact that the Brazilian hasn’t scored since the 12th game of last season, there are doubts over his arrival for the fee Everton paid, but he did initially hit the ground running and this is the form Silva will hope to rekindle.
Fee: £18 million
At only 25 years of age, Lucas Digne has already put together an impressive CV. Having played with Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, and most recently Barcelona, Digne will bring a whole new skill set and dimension to the Everton defence.
Digne, though, was a bit-part player with the Catalan giants, and featured only 29 times in his two seasons at the Nou Camp, with only 22 league starts. His arrival could spell bad news for Leighton Baines, though the move may also show that new boss Silva has a new approach and style to implement.
Davy Klaassen’s introduction to English football is over before it got started, as the Dutchman penned a new deal with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Everton, though, have only recouped half of the money they spent on him.
Henry Onyekuru, Luke Garbutt and Shani Tarashaj are preparing to spend the campaign away from Goodison after they sealed loan deals with Galatasaray, Oxford United and Grasshoppers, respectively.
Ramiro Funes Mori is the only other sale in the window as the Argentine moved to Villarreal for an £8 million fee.
Wayne Rooney and long-serving goalkeeper Joel Robles will also join new teams, as Rooney heads to DC United in the MLS and Robles to Spain with Real Betis, after both players’ contracts ran out.
Silva has always tried to implement a fast-paced direct style of attack in his previous posts, but the Portuguese hasn’t neglected the need for a tight, organised defence, either.
The purchase of Richarlison shows that Silva still intends for his new side to play his way, at least when they have the ball. Richarlison joins Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie and Ademola Lookman in a list of pacey wide players at Everton’s disposal.
Ashley Williams is wanted by Stoke City after an underwhelming campaign, and Everton are still in the market for a new centre back to partner Michael Keane – the Toffees are rumoured to be keen on Yerry Mina and Marcos Rojo. Without a new addition, Mason Holgate could start.
Idrissa Gueye will assume his role as the holding midfielder, with his main responsibility to break up play, which could give Tom Davies a chance to shine as the ball-playing midfielder needed to transition play quickly on the break.
Tosun started life in England brightly after his winter window move from the Turkish Superliga, and Everton fans will hope he can pick up where he left off once the season gets underway, supported by Walcott, Sigurdsson and Richarlison.
The Key Question: Will the spending bear fruit?
The biggest question that the Everton board and players will have to answer this year will be whether the money invested will see returns. With lots of off-field speculation and changes in the dugout, it somewhat took the spotlight off the likes of Sigurdsson, Klaassen and Keane, whose performances throughout most the campaign were not at the standard expected.
The Toffees now need time to gel properly as a team and find their feet under Silva and his style of football. The consistency will help those on the pitch, and fans will see likenesses in their sides’ play to that of the Ronald Koeman-led team that began the last campaign.
Last season Everton went from a possession-based, technical approach with creativity under Koeman to a direct, long-ball style under Sam Allardyce, with a spell under David Unsworth in the middle – and it was the lack of identity and constant change that complicated issues.
Silva will bring a much-needed stability and philosophy to the players this season, though his arrival will add pressure onto the players yet to perform. The safety net of the off-field dilemmas will have gone, leaving them with nowhere to hide.
After spending another large amount of money on Richarlison from Watford, Silva will be in the spotlight, and fans will expect him to get the most out of his players early on.
The new manager effect of having Silva at the helm won’t last the entire season, but a good start – they only play one side that finished in the top half in their first six matches – will put the Toffees on course for a top-seven finish. The squad needs to gel and perform to its full potential, however.
More of the same from last season. A slow start and the wheels come off Silva’s reign before it’s even begun, seeing the Portuguese sacked and Everton sucked into another scrap to finish in the top half.
Everton have addressed the problem areas in their squad and have a new manager at the helm to inspire the side, but breaking the top six seems a stretch. Seventh is the best they can get.
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