What exactly has gone wrong at Goodison Park this season?
Having spent close to £150 million on players this summer. With new investors at the table funding this overhaul, and a highly knowledgeable manager in Ronald Koeman, it almost felt like Everton were finally in a position where they could begin to step out of the shadow of their Merseyside rivals.
A blend of experience, youth, and known quality, there was reason for optimism.
How quickly that hope has faded. After last weekends humiliating 5-2 home defeat to Arsenal, the board reacted and removed Koeman from his position as manager. Leaving David Unsworth in temporary charge of the club.
With yesterdays 2-0 loss away to Leicester, and ten games played, Everton sit 18th in the league. Two league wins to their name, with only Crystal Palace who can boast a worse goal difference this season.
— Everton (@Everton) October 29, 2017
So where has it all gone wrong?
Failure to find a replacement for Lukaku:
Romelu Lukaku was as good a striker as Everton have had in the Premier League, and with 25 goals in the league last season, it was always going to be a challenge bringing in a player to replicate that form.
— Franjo (@WT_Franjo) October 27, 2017
The return of Wayne Rooney, the savvy acquisition of young Sandro Ramirez from Malaga, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin fresh from U20 World Cup triumph, Everton seemingly had players that could score goals.
But when you look at it a bit closer, you have a an aging Wayne Rooney, who struggled to find minutes, let alone form over the past few seasons, and two young strikers lacking in Premier League experience.
Where Rooney has scored 4 of Evertons 7 goals this season, but overall his performances have been poor. He lacks that burst of pace, and even the small passes, and quick one twos seem to be a challenge for the former England striker.
Wayne Rooney: “I returned to Everton to take them to another level.”
It’s now clear that ‘level’ is the Championship 😂 pic.twitter.com/WKeiVy57Av
— Football Stuff (@FootbalIStuff) October 30, 2017
Nor should it come as any surprise that Calvert-Lewin and Ramirez have failed to light up the Premier League. With Oumar Niasse making a return to the squad, seemingly coming out of nowhere to score 3 league goals for the Toffees, it shows they are struggling to find faith in their goalscorers.
It was reported that in the summer they had made moves to sign Olivier Giroud from Arsenal, with Koeman speaking shortly after his sacking, saying he had all but agreed the deal with the player, just for him to change his mind and stay in London.
The failure to sign Giroud could perhaps have been the start of where things went wrong for Koeman.
In the purchase of Sigurdsson, the club had purchased a player known for exceptional delivery from dead ball situations. However, without a target man Everton offer next to no aerial threat to their opponents. Sigurdsson has yet to register an assist this season, and this weekend their record signing found himself resigned to the bench.
An aging defence:
Michael Keane was brought in this summer to add some youth and quality into Evertons aging back line, solid and reliable for Burnley last season, with transfer links to Tottenham and Liverpool, it seemed like a shrewd move for Everton to get a deal done for the ex-United player early in the window.
It could only be assumed that the long term plan was for Keane to build a partnership with Mori, with both at a young age, they would have had this season to steadily build an understanding, but with the Argentine out with a long term injury, he has had to suffice playing alongside Williams and Jagielka.
Jagielka at 35 years old, hasn’t been blessed with the healthiest of careers, with a strong history of injuries, it would be unfair to expect consistently high performances on a regular bases for Everton. He has been a loyal servant to the club, but needs to be used in an as and when scenario, much like John Terry was for Chelsea.
Williams at 33, who replaced John Stones last summer, should have only been looked at as a short term fix, he has failed to replicate the consistency he showed at Swansea. Frequently showing his frustrations, none more so than in home defeat to Lyon in the Europa League.
“It’s football. It is what it is.”
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 20, 2017
The pace of opposition has continuously left them defensively exposed.
The one bright light has been Jordan Pickford, in him they have found a long term goalkeeper. Paying a reported £25 million for the English shot stopper, they have found a talent. He has all the potential to be a future England number one, and if he can improve at the rate he has since his Sunderland debut, it won’t be a surprise if big clubs coming calling in the future.
Is it simply a case of too much change:
When Tottenham sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013, they embarked on a very similar approach, and as time came to show, it didn’t work. Some players didn’t suit the league, some players weren’t of the standard their reputations suggested, and Andre Villas Boas failed to make it click.
Of that overhaul only Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela remain, and in three or four seasons time, it will be interesting to see how many of Evertons new recruits remain.
The issue with a mass overhaul, and mass spend, is the expectation that comes with it. Critics will always look at the money that has been spent and your position in the league, and if they don’t match up then scrutiny will be instant.
A club can go out and spend £150m on 10 players, but then you are left with the problem of learning those 10 players, what they need to get the best out of them, where are they best suited to play, what are their personalities like. Sometimes it creates more problems than solutions, but the expectation will still remain.
This is what looks to be the case with Everton, and unfortunately for Koeman the results he produced didn’t allow him the breathing room to find a system.
If you look at Manchester United, Mourinho has taken two seasons to turn United back into a force. He took his first summer, spent a similar amount to that which Everton have spent this summer, but it was only on 4 players. Four players of real qualiy, players that he could trust to bring in and set a high standard, and lead the club in the right direction. Then he went back out this summer and improved again, but only brought in three players, again players he believed he can trust. (Lindelof still has a question mark hanging over him)
Are Everton in a relegation battle?:
It would be extremely naive for Everton to believe they aren’t in a relegation battle. We’ve seen Newcastle go, Leeds, Aston Villa, clubs of Premier League pedigree, clubs who have spent a lot of money. It would be sheer arrogance to suggest they are too big to go down.
A lot of how the season pans out will come down to who they bring in as their manager, Sam Allardyce is rumoured today, who would certainly lead a team with this quality to safety. Then start fresh next season, perhaps look at someone like Carlo Ancelotti.
Sam Allardyce on the vacant Everton manager job: “I’d have to consider that if that phone call happens, but there’s no point speculating.” pic.twitter.com/l0VBbMIvBK
— Everton Blue Army (@EvertonBlueArmy) October 30, 2017
Tuchel has been mentioned, but they could then end up with a De Boer situation where the manager doesn’t understand the league, and they dig themselves a deeper hole.
Will David Unsworth hold his position to the end of the season, untested, no experience as a Premier League manager. It would be a massive gamble for him to stay on as manager.
Big decisions will need to be made by the Everton board over the next couple of weeks, with the International break coming up, a huge decision will need to be made. However, as it stands Everton are in a dogfight.