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Everton: 2017/18 Season Preview

With the Premier League starting this weekend, we assess Everton's strengths and weaknesses and consider their expectations for the upcoming season.


2016/17 Season Recap

Ronald Koeman’s first season with Everton was a successful one. He picked up the pieces from Roberto Martinez’s disastrous last two seasons, which saw the club languish in mid-table mediocrity. 

Koeman took the reins and guided Everton to a seventh-place finish, several points ahead of eighth and at times challenging the clubs above them. The cup runs were poor however, with third round losses to Norwich and Leicester in the EFL and FA Cups respectively.

Ronald Koeman shored up a very leaky defence inherited from Martinez, with Koeman’s Everton conceding 11 goals less. He also re-established Goodison Park’s reputation as a fortress, with the Toffees having one of the best home records last season. As far as transition seasons go, Koeman’s was a success.

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However, the season was not without its faults. While the home record was fantastic, Everton’s away form was very poor last season, with several very disappointing results. A lack of options off the bench and a lack of a Plan B stopped Everton from replicating their home form away.

Draws to Hull and Middlesbrough, and losses to Bournemouth and Burnley stopped the team from challenging for the top four. If they had taken more points against those teams the season could have easily panned out differently.

Transfer Activity

Incoming

Michael Keane, CB (Burnley, £30 million)

Jordan Pickford, GK (Sunderland, £30 million)

Davy Klaassen, CM (Ajax, £23.6 million)

Henry Onyekuru, ST (K.A.S Eupen, £7 million)

Sandro Ramirez, RW/ST (Malaga, £5.25 million)

Wayne Rooney, CAM/ST (Manchester United, Free Transfer)

Cuco Martina, CB (Southampton, Free Transfer)

Outgoing

Romelu Lukaku, ST (Manchester United, £75 million)

Gerard Deulofeu, LW (Barcelona, £10.2 million)

Tom Cleverley, CM (Watford, £8 million)

Aiden McGeady, RW (Sunderland, £250,000)

Tyias Browning, RB (Sunderland, Loan)

Brendan Galloway, LB (Sunderland, Loan)

Matthew Pennington, CB (Leeds, Loan)

Henry Onyekuru, ST (Anderlecht, Loan)

Kieran Dowell, CAM (Nottingham Forest, Loan)

Antonee Robinson, LB (Bolton, Loan

Arouna Kone, ST (Released)

Conor McAleny, ST (Released)

Most Important Player: Morgan Schneiderlin

Morgan Schneiderlin signed from Manchester United for £23 million in January of last season, much to the excitement of the Everton fans. The French international did not disappoint and was a step above the other players around him, slotting into an all-covering midfield partnership with Idrissa Gana Gueye.

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He played the defensive midfielder role perfectly while also being able to control the tempo of the game with his ability on the ball. This season he can make himself a key player in the starting XI and show the Premier League why he was one of the most highly rated midfielders when at Southampton.

One to Watch: Ademola Lookman

One player that could really be involved this season is 19-year-old Ademola Lookman, signed from Charlton Athletic in the January transfer window. He has already impressed at times, with his goal against Manchester City on his debut a particular high point. 

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With Everton (hopefully) in the Europa League this season, Lookman should be more involved. Squad rotation will be majorly important with midweek fixtures and, to add to this, Lookman will inject serious pace out wide, a weakness of Everton’s (as mentioned below).

Biggest Weakness: Lack of pace

What Lookman brings to Everton there is not enough of, and that is pace. While Everton’s transfer window has not doubt been a success, from the signings made only Sandro is expected to add mobility and speed to the squad. This will be a particular problem for the first half of the season, with the likes of Seamus Coleman and Yannick Bolasie suffering with long-term injuries.

Everton have an over-abundance of technically gifted players, with signings like Klaassen and Rooney. However, the worry is that unless Everton sign a young, quick player, there could be matches where their attack looks laboured and lethargic.

Predicted XI

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Last season Koeman liked the 4-3-3 and he will most likely stick to the same formation. Unless another centre-back is signed, the pairing of Keane and Ashley Williams will not be challenged. Leighton Baines is a mainstay in the squad, and with Coleman’s injury Jonjoe Kenny, an academy prospect involved in pre-season, should be considered the favourite to replace him.

The full-backs play a vital role for Everton, offering the width that the team sacrifices by not playing wingers.

The midfield is Everton’s strongest position, with options to switch it up. Gueye and Tom Davies will be rotated depending on the match, as Davies offers more of an attacking threat, whereas Gueye plays the ball-winning midfielder role exceptionally.

Schneiderlin is a mainstay, sitting deep and picking up the ball from the defenders. Klaassen will most likely have competition from Gylfi Sigurdsson this season, whose signing seems almost guaranteed.

While a 4-3-3 usually uses wingers, expect three out-and-out forwards to be played at times, with Sandro cutting inside to support Rooney from the left, and Kevin Mirallas from the right, who has displayed his capabilities of playing as a striker. However, Mirallas may not be a mainstay this season, particularly if another striker is signed.

First Five Games

Stoke (H)

Considering Everton’s rough start to the season, this has to be considered a must-win game. Stoke are known to struggle early in the season, and they haven’t done much to strengthen the squad, having not replaced Marko Arnautovic. Everton need to put on a confident performance and take all three points.

Manchester City (A)

The nightmare run begins with Manchester City at the Etihad, a side that has added quality to their squad in the summer transfer window. Everton managed to take four points from their two fixtures against them last season, with a 4-0 win at Goodison being Everton’s best performance. This season City are expected to be much stronger, and Everton will have to be at their absolute best to get anything from this game.

Chelsea (A)

A trip to the reigning champions follows the Manchester City game, a team which Everton have historically struggled against. Last season Everton took a thrashing, losing 8-0 over the two games. While Chelsea have not strengthened as much as some of their title rivals Everton’s previous in this fixture suggests that there isn’t much to hope for, but who knows?

Tottenham Hotspur (H)

While a difficult fixture, Everton fans can at least be relieved to see their team back on home turf, with their opposition being last year’s runners-up. While also not the best tie for Everton having been unable to win any of their last nine against Spurs, five of these have at least been draws, including the opening game of last season.

Manchester United (A)

The tough fixtures end with a game against Manchester United. This is a team that can be difficult to judge, one that on paper could certainly win the league, but can at times fail to impress. Mourinho will need to prove that he is still up there with the best managers, and Everton can expect an incredibly tough match. Fans can take solace in last season’s performance at Old Trafford, where they almost managed to hold on for a win, only to be scuppered by a late penalty.

Season Expectations

Everton will have to, at the very least, continue to solidify themselves as the ‘best of the rest’ as they did last season. Finishing any lower than seventh would be a major disappointment, especially considering how much money the club has spent.

Cup competitions offer a great opportunity to win silverware for the first time since 1995. An FA Cup or Carabao Cup (formerly the EFL Cup) victory would delight the fans, and they will expect the team and staff to take these competitions seriously to finally break the trophy-barren run.

Everton would be expected to at least qualify from their group in the Europa League, and perhaps go even further. They first must navigate a play-off round against Hajduk Split to make the competition proper, but this is a match they would expect to win.

RealSport Prediction: 7th 

On paper, the league position is easy to predict. Everton are far above the teams below them, and not quite on the same level as the top six. However, the Premier League has shown that it is very rarely predictable.

While the writers at RealSport have predicted seventh place, Everton will certainly hope to challenge the top six, and perhaps even sneak into the top four.

Where The Toffees could shine this season is in domestic cups and the Europa League. In the case of the Europa League, there is a strong argument to be made that winning the competition is easier than breaking into the top four in the Premier League, while also offering Champions League football. This is an exciting season for Everton fans, with silverware a real opportunity.

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Daniel Korolev

A student living in Ireland, born in Russia. Big fan of the Premier League and Everton FC, these are my two main topics. Also write about the Serie A occasionally.

Everton: 2017/18 Season Preview

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