7th in the league, and never really aiming for more, and even the Golden Boot lost by their player in dramatic fashion, it never was a ‘dream season’ for Everton. There were no memorable cup performances, neither any huge upsets caused, barring the 4-0 win over Manchester City, and neither was there any real challenge for Champions League football.
Everton have come a long way from that glorious run in the 2013/14 season, where they nearly pipped Arsenal to 4th place under Roberto Martinez, and were doing miles better than the most optimistic of Evertonians could hope for. Having lost a godfather of a manager, and their best performer in recent years, both to Manchester United, came as a severe blow to the Liverpool club. The way they responded was astounding. David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini were reeling at 7th position and Everton were eventually finishing 5th at the end of the season.
Three seasons have gone by, and Everton are nothing close to the club their supporters prayed it’d be in three seasons. Instead, they’ve gone deeper and deeper down. Roberto Martinez is no more the manager, with the Spaniard now in charge of the Belgium National Team. Young sensation John Stones is no longer at the club, having forced through a move despite having a couple of transfer requests rejected. It has all changed drastically.
However, they have finally had a season which could be very, very important in the long run, though it looks far from glamorous on paper. New manager Ronald Koeman hasn’t quite set the stage on fire, but he has steadied a ship that was sailing aimlessly in vast stretches of mediocrity. Everton were headed towards continuum. Perhaps, now they see light.
They finally look like the club in English football after the big 6, and the simultaneous downfall of West Ham United, Leicester City, and Southampton, has only helped their cause.
There is misery, though. There is pain. There is uncertainty… They’re about to lose their messiah in Romelu Lukaku, someone who broke the club’s goalscoring record without even trying his best. They’re also about to lose a gem of an English playmaker in Ross Barkley, someone for whom Everton rejected bids of around £50 million not long back. They’ve already lost an iconic goalkeeper in Tim Howard, and the constantly ageing Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, and Gareth Barry won’t make the Merseysiders happy.
However, it looks like the club has a vision now, and it seems pre planned. A club that is set to lose its best player could very easily have pressed the panic button. But Everton have acted wisely. They’ve made signings of intent, and signings that makes the unit better.
Idrissa Gana Gueye is the infamous version of N’golo Kante, and alongside him, the technical quality of Morgan Schneiderlin gives them a solid, yet creative midfield, which can be very tough to get past.
New potential signings all look promising for Koeman and Co. as the possible arrival of talismanic Icelander Gylfi Sigurdsson to replace Ross Barkley looks set to be completed. A brilliant move, which at £25 million looks like a bargain for a player who can do it all. Call him Dennis Bergkamp if you may!
The toughest player to replace is, of course, Romelu Lukaku, who has been their top scorer in every season he’s played with them. Kelechi Iheanacho is a player they’re chasing, and at around £20 million, a player that carries with him a jaw – dropping strike rate, looks like another smart move. Young, and ambitious, Iheanacho looks like the perfect replacement for a side desperately in need of a goalscorer.
Another young prospect they have in their ranks is Anton Donkor. He has shown his quality in Wolfsburg, and the club look set to recall him. Aston Villa failed to sign him in January, and their loss could be Everton’s gain. He could learn a lot playing alongside the mercurial Yannick Bolasie, and the two could create havoc down the right wing.
Add to that list, the potential signing of Southampton right-back Cuco Martina, and you have a defence with quality and depth, and they could really prosper under a rigorous and tight system.
Joel Robles isn’t a goalkeeper who would make the Toffees forget about their hero Tim Howard, but talking of heroes, Everton eye an even bigger one in Iker Casillas, and the Spaniard would be more than keen to trade the Primiera Liga with the Premier League. Though they sound the same, we all know which one Casillas would prefer, if given the option.
Also, youth seems to be the key to success for Ronald Koeman, as he has emphasised on the importance of young blood in his team. The presence of Ademola Lookman, Dominic Calvert-Lewis, Tom Davies, and Mason Holgate in the squad confirm the manager’s vision.
It’s indeed a plain looking season for Everton, but it’s a season of great importance, and if things so their way, this is the season they would look back at and claim – “This is where we got it right.”