- Everton sit in the relegation zone after another summer of spending.
- Lacking a clear identity since David Moyes’ 2013 departure.
- Transfers have been inconsistent and sometimes erratic.
- In danger of being leapfrogged by likes of Leicester.
Everton are one of those unpredictable teams. In the 21st century they’ve gone from top-half stability under David Moyes to a more potent Wigan under Roberto Martinez to this current curious Marco Silva-inspired incarnation, with Marcel Brands as Director of Football. Since taking over the club in 2016, British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri has invested millions, as the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison have joined Everton for record fees. Yet, at the time of writing, they sit in the relegation zone, having lost four straight Premier League matches. Just what is wrong at the club?
Constant flux since Moyes left
For a decade, David Moyes was virtually synonymous with Everton. We’ve seen the problems that can occur when a club parts ways with a long-serving manager at Manchester United, and to a lesser extent at Arsenal. Although not one of the ‘big six’, Everton have had to deal with the same sorts of issues. The Everton of old is gone. Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman – all retired, barring Jagielka, who has returned to Sheffield United this season, now 37. What identity do Everton really have anymore?
Moyes was known for his solid Everton sides, consistently one of the biggest threats to what was then the top four of Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and local rivals Liverpool. When he was replaced by Roberto Martinez, the Spaniard inherited a team with an admirable defensive record. This, combined with his more possession-oriented philosophy, led to their 5th place finish in Martinez’s first season in charge. But of course, his success didn’t last as the defensive solidity left over from the Moyes era began to disintegrate.
In terms of squad overhaul, there’s been a worrying lack of consistency. Martinez brought players he knew well from Wigan to the club. But for a team aiming to challenge for the Champions League places, Arouna Koné, Antolin Alcaraz and Joel Robles simply weren’t good enough.
Puzzling – or underperforming – signings
Transfers since then have been very much a mixed bag. Oumar Niasse, a £13.5m signing from Lokomotiv Moscow, was frozen out by Martinez’s successor Ronald Koeman, who was also guilty of buying his fair share of dross. Yannick Bolasie hasn’t done much. Davy Klassen did even less. And Cuco Martina, albeit arriving on a free transfer from Koeman’s old club Southampton, offers flashbacks to Martinez signing his old Wigan underlings. After the club’s ill-fated 2017 summer transfer window, then-Director of Football Steve Walsh lost his job as he failed to replicate his success at Leicester City.
If we look at the team under Marco Silva at the moment – take the XI starting against Burnley in their last league defeat – it suggests a team disconnected, disjointed and disengaged:
Jordan Pickford (joined in 2017 from Sunderland)
Séamus Coleman (2009, Sligo Rovers)
Michael Keane (2017, Burnley)
Yerry Mina (2018, Barcelona)
Lucas Digne (2018, Barcelona)
Morgan Schneiderlin (2017, Man United)
Fabian Delph (2019, Man City)
Richarlison (2018, Watford)
Gylfi Sigurdsson (2017, Swansea City)
Alex Iwobi (2019, Arsenal)
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (2016, Sheffield United)
The current squad
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, although a trier, can’t lead the line for a team with Everton’s aspirations. His best return in a league season is six goals. But what other options do Everton have? They’ve failed to replace Romelu Lukaku. Moise Kean might be highly-rated, but at 19 he’s three years younger still than Calvert-Lewin, and will doubtless take more time to adapt to England and the Premier League after his summer move from Juventus.
Kurt Zouma is clearly another loss. The Toffees can consider themselves victims of Chelsea’s transfer ban, as the French centre-back is clearly required at Stamford Bridge. Michael Keane has all too often flattered to deceive, two years after his £25m move from Burnley.
Rumour has it that Séamus Coleman is still being described somewhere as a ‘promising young prospect’ but he’s just turned 31, and was sent off against Burnley, which allowed them to capitalise as Jeff Hendrick scored the winner for the Clarets. As good a servant as Coleman has been for Everton, he’s not getting any younger, and will eventually be gradually phased out as is happening to Leighton Baines, 35 in December, now.
There are reasons to be cheerful for Everton fans, however. Jordan Pickford is England’s number one at 25, while with Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Kean, there are the makings of a good side. But then, spending at least £30m on Alex Iwobi is surely not the sort of signing a team with top four aspirations should be making. And then Theo Walcott for £20m a few transfer windows prior. Signing Arsenal squad players is not going to turn anyone into serious challengers.
Then there’s the issue of the manager. It seems odd that, on his third Premier League team, the jury is still out on Marco Silva, but his lack of longevity at Hull City and Watford has perhaps masked issues that are beginning to show with more time at Everton, judging by their current struggles.
Everton’s issue is that they’re becoming stale. Perennial ‘best of the rest’ candidates, they’ve failed to kick on in the way of, say, Tottenham. In contrast, a team like Leicester City can arrive back in the Premier League and essentially leapfrog them. But Liverpool and Man City aside, every team has their frailties. Were Everton to really get their act together over the next couple of years, those top four finishes envisaged by Moshiri in 2016 could become a reality.