Giant Leap Or Just Forward Steps?

With a newly reinforced spine, Everton look as though they could be a stronger outfit than last season, even without the departed Lukaku. Is it enough, however, to crack the top six or four?

Five or six years ago there was a website — a single, simple page — that encapsulated Everton's predicament as it then was and illustrated the shackles against which the club was straining in its protracted attempt to return to football's “top table” since the decline that had set in during the 1990s.

The ever-lengthening period of time since the Blues had paid money for a first-team player after the deadline-day acquisition of John Heitinga in September 2009 was chronicled by this Everton transfer clock, one that was pertinent until January 2012 when the arrivals of Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic ended 28 months of enforced austerity which had deepened Evertonians' frustration and their sense of stasis in the post-Kirkby atmosphere.

Fast-forward through the Roberto Martinez era, where the mushrooming Premier League broadcast bonanza and the ability to cash in on his predecessor's astute transfer dealings like Marouane Fellaini allowed the club to spend a combined £41m on just two players in the form of James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku, to the present day and Everton are in the throes of a rapid and far-reaching revolution under Farhad Moshiri.

After nearly three decades of neglect, mis-management, regression and false dawns, supporters could have been forgiven for their scepticism at the British-Iranian billionnaire's ambitious talk when he purchased a 49.9% stake in the club in February 2016. In what has been a somewhat dizzying 2017 so far, however, Moshiri has quickly been dispelling doubts and putting the foundations in place for what could be the genuine renaissance of Everton Football Club.


Consolidation of the club's outstanding debts under one interest-free loan, significant, tangible progress towards a new stadium on the waterfront, noticeable movement in the commercial sphere with lucrative new sponsorship deals and the bankrolling of more than £95m worth of incoming talent (before Lukaku's sale redressed the bank balance somewhat) has announced the Toffees as serious players in the Premier League as the kick-off to 2017-18 looms. A far cry from the bitter talk of “other operating costs”, the price of lawnmowers at Finch Farm and murky offshore lenders in the British Virgin Islands…

If Blues fans were prone to agonising over the fact that the majority of the recently established “big six” — Arsenal and Tottenham to a lesser degree but especially Chelsea and Manchester City and United — could drop jaw-dropping sums on top-class players while Everton could only watch on with their noses pressed against the proverbial window then the change ushered in by Moshiri has been beyond expectation.

And yet, despite “owning” the summer 2017 transfer window for a few weeks, breaking the club's previous transfer record, setting a new one for a British goalkeeper, and adding six new players to the first team in total so far, Everton will kick off the new season as very much the unfinished article.

That, in itself, is neither unique — Tottenham have barely spent any money in their attempt to go one better than last season and finally win the title again and Liverpool fans are gnashing their own teeth at their clubs relative inactivity — nor anything new. Successive regimes at Goodison have sometimes used almost every available minute at the end of the transfer window to advance or finish their squad-building plans.

But having demonstrated such massive ambition in the early weeks of the summer, been so effective at landing so many of Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh's top transfer targets and spent sums of money that Blues fans never thought they would see their club spend in their lifetimes, Everton are under a heavy imperative to start the new campaign strongly, particularly given how challenging the early part of the schedule promises to be.

From Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane at the back to Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez in midfield and attack, the spine of the side has been fortified to an encouraging degree and, with an average age of 23, very much with a long-term time horizon in mind. Wayne Rooney's return, meanwhile, offers vast experience and the potential for goals from someone other than the centre-forward.

Long term, there are reasons to be very optimistic about Everton's prospects as perennial challengers in the right half of the Premier League table. It could be argued, however, that the vital ingredients when it comes to taking the next step and cracking the top four this coming season remain elusive and with no direct replacement for last season's top goalscorer having been signed, Everton don't currently look fully equipped to deliver on the promise of and desire to finally qualify for the Champions League.

Goals. Creativity. Flair.

If there was a missing dimension to Everton's play in the second half of last season, once Koeman had got his feet under the table and fully assessed what he had inherited from Martinez, it was what was dubbed on these pages as “the creativity gap”.

While the Blues were able to press home their self-confidence, drive and sense of purpose on home turf, losing just once at Goodison Park in the league between the turn of the year and the end of 2016-17, they struggled away from home where energy alone can't deliver consistent results.

Lacking reliable presences offering guile and the ability to beat a man or pick opposition defences apart, Everton struggled to pick up points on the road last term. While over that same period from the New Year to May they were racking up nine home wins, they won just once away from Goodison Park… and even that solitary victory needed a late goal from Seamus Coleman to narrowly claim the points

Ross Barkley occasionally threatened to provide the solution and his on-field relationship with Lukaku and Mirallas flattered to deceive as a counter-attacking threat but a general lack of pace and flair in the side made Koeman's Blues a fairly one-dimensional outfit in away games. Had Barkley been able to dictate games and routinely provide goals as the early promise of his career suggested then things — not to mention his relationship with the manager as it relates to his own future — might have been very different.

The two performances in the Europa League against Ružomberok— even with the caveat that it's still effectively pre-season taken into account — served to underscore the need for a “difference maker” in the No.10 role and outright pace and skill in wide areas.

Is Koeman, Barcelona legend and product of Holland's famed era of Total Football, going to be content with a team based largely on pressing, fitness, energy and direct passing or has he taken heed of the his side's shortcomings last season? The management's transfer activity to date and the Dutchman's rhetoric over potential targets doesn't suggest that that problem is going to be solved any time soon.

And where are the goals going to come from now that Lukaku has finally got his wish to move to greener pastures? Everton's moves in the market this summer thus far suggest a desire to spread the goals around a lot more than was the case last season. In Rooney, England and Manchester United's all-time top goalscorer and Davy Klaassen, Koeman and Walsh have added the potential to score more from midfield or deeper-lying areas.

On his day, Kevin Mirallas can also chip in and there are, of course., high hopes for Sandro who netted 16 times in La Liga last season, outscoring even Neymar who became, by some considerable distance, the world's most expensive player this month.

It would be unwise to expect an ageing Rooney, an untested Sandro and the frustratingly mercurial Mirallas to adequately replace Lukaku's strike-rate and the quest for Gylfi Sigurdsson and reported interest in Olivier Giroud suggest that Koeman doesn't expect to.

There is a danger, however, that the pursuit of the Icelandic midfielder and that other striker will consume the remainder of the club's budget at the expense of other areas of the team and, perhaps, that much-needed No.10.

”It's not my money”

Everton may have rivalled Manchester City in the swiftness and effectiveness of their early summer transfer business but the optimism engendered by that spending spree has been tested by the seemingly interminable situation regarding Sigurdsson.

A target of Koeman and Walsh for the past 12 months — the Blues reportedly tried to sign him for £25m last summer but were rebuffed by Swansea City as they have been consistently ever since — the Iceland international was again installed near the top of Everton's shopping list for the current transfer window.

The amount of money that will be needed to prise Sigurdsson away from the Liberty Stadium has climbed to uncomfortable levels as the close season has worn on, however. What looked as though it might be a club-record £35m deal would now be closer to £50m — or two thirds of the base fee that Everton will receive from Manchester United for Romelu Lukaku.

It would be unreasonable, of course, to expect every transfer to go through as smoothly as the those involving Klaassen, Keane, Pickford and, to a lesser extent, Sandro. While it's clear that the groundwork for those deals was laid months in advance, there is also an argument to made for the fact that Everton, backed by Moshiri's significant resources and a new £60m credit facility with a Chinese bank, have paid what was required (or over the odds, perhaps?) to get those deals done quickly.

Where Sigurdsson is concerned, the number required to get the transfer over the line is a difficult one to swallow but it's one that the club look likely to force down, grin and bear in order to get a key target into the team before the transfer window closes. With each passing week, however, the deal makes less and less sense at such exorbitant levels.

Following Lukaku's sale, one which could eventually see Everton realise a profit of £62m, the club clearly has the money and on that basis, many fans are just baying for them to pay what is needed to sign the player. “It's not my money — what do I care?” goes the refrain.

The concern among many Evertonians, however, is that £50m is a massive sum to pay for a 28-year-old whose skill-set doesn't appear to address the team's biggest remaining weaknesses — again, flair, pace and creativity. The price tag and the time it has taken in pursuit of him would make sense if Sigurdsson were the last piece of the jigsaw but, again, the Blues are clearly in need of further additions even beyond a winger and creative types.

Ramiro Funes Mori's extended lay-off coupled with Ashley Williams's iffy form would seem to make another top-class defensive addition a must but speculation over who might be brought in as cover in that area has centred around more makeshift options like Thomas Vermaelen and Winston Reid rather than more youthful, longer-term options.

Left-back cover for Leighton Baines has been a source of concern for a long time now and while he has finally publicly acknowledged the need to draft some in, Koeman appears focused on signing a centre-half who can cover that position as well, echoing the acquisition of Cuco Martina. Is that a reflection of his preference or is the “eggs in one basket” chase for Sigurdsson swallowing up the bulk of the money that could be used on signing a natural left full-back who could be groomed as Baines's long-term successor alongside Antonee Robinson?

Likewise on the right where Martina has the look of a temporary fill-in option rather than a natural fit at fullback while the club waits to see how soon — and, frankly, if — Coleman can return to the peak of his powers following his double leg break earlier this year. If Jonjoe Kenny, whom the fans really want to see given a go, isn't going to be handed the role of deputising for the injured Irishman then budget should be retained to sign a player who can properly fill the role.

As with the uncomfortable deployment of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Barkley as wide players, Koeman appears happy to play players out of position rather than go out and sign options that are naturally suited to the role. Normal Everton protocol is that such measures have been enforced due to a lack of funds but that doesn't appear — or at least doesn't appear to have to be the case this summer. If a better allocation of the transfer war chest is what is needed, most fans would surely prefer the management do that if it means a more well-rounded squad.

Top-Six Ceiling?

Surveying the summer transfer activity of other clubs often engenders envy and an air of pessimism that vies with the usual pre-season optimism that comes with a new campaign, a fresh start and hope before a ball has been kicked in anger. Layered on top of that these days is the sheer strength from which Everton's rivals in the top six were starting from in terms of personnel when the close season began.

In that sense, there was more than just that yawning eight-point gap that separated the Blues from the clubs above them in 2016-17 and Manchester City began the summer by enhancing their portfolio of stars with the targeted acquisitions of goalkeeper Ederson (potentially solving a problem position from last season), fullbacks in the form of Kyle Walker, Bernard Mendy and Danilo, and a midfielder in Bernardo Silva.

Add in a fit Gabriel Jesus — the Brazilian had the look of a big-impact signing last term — and the fact that Pep Guardiola will be working with the benefit of a year's experience in England under his belt and City look a formidable proposition in 2017-18.

As do the defending Champions, Chelsea, who have drafted in a classy striker in Álvaro Morata, replaced the outgoing Nemanja Matic with Tiemoué Bakayoko and covered John Terry's departure with Antonio Rüdiger. Apart from Antonio Conte's reported dummy-spitting over not getting Lukaku, there don't appear to be any indications that the West Londoners will falter in their defence of their crown like they did two years ago.

Arsenal and Manchester United, meanwhile, have addressed specific needs that will stand them in good stead in the coming campaign. Both splashed out big on potentially reliable strikers; Lukaku's Premier League credentials are there for all to see in his goalscoring record at Everton while Alexandre Lacazette comes to England with a rich pedigree of his own, although Arsene Wenger will have no guarantees he will settle as hoped.

In the long-serving French manager's favour, however, is the manner in which he and his team shrugged off the severe turbulence that followed their humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the clamour for Wenger's resignation after two decades at the Arsenal helm, and the retention thus far of Alexis Sanchez.

A strong start — they've struggled to achieve that before and they kick off against Leicester on Friday without the injured Sanchez — and any lingering unrest among Gooners will no doubt subside, likely ensuring that they will be strong candidates to return to the top four after last season's uncharacteristic failure.

For their part, United and Jose Mourinho should be a tougher proposition in 2017-18 simply by having a reliable goalscorer leading their line who might turn last season's slew of draws into wins. The Red Devils went on an impressively long unbeaten run between October and May which suggests that if they are able to improve on 2016-17's glut of draws, they, too, could be a force to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's big summer signing to date, Mohamed Salah, will add yet more potency and pace — are you watching, Mr Koeman? — to an already dangerous attacking unit. Their defensive frailties will likely persist this season if they can't get top target Virgil van Dijk (the Dutch centre-half will need time to get back up to speed following injury regardless) and there are big question marks over Philippe Coutinho.

Alongside Sadio Mané, the Brazilian is arguably the Reds' most dangerous player and if or when his proposed move to Barcelona goes ahead could dictate how much time Jurgen Klopp has to replace him before the transfer deadline. Expect Liverpool to be in the mix but unlikely title contenders despite their fans's perennial and premature proclamations.

If there is to be a reverse wildcard this coming season, it could come in the form of Tottenham who will be playing their home games in the comparatively unfamiliar environs of Wembley Stadium this season. Spurs struggled there in European competition last season, winning just one of their Champions League group games and drawing 2-2 against Gent in the Europa League which ensured they exited the competition 3-2 on aggregate.

Saddled with spiralling construction costs for the new White Hart Lane, the North Londoners have yet to make a signing this summer which could add another negative psychological dimension to the new season if nothing else. Even without the departed Walker, they remain a very strong side but the “Wembley factor” could play a crucial role in their Premier League campaign; should it become a hindrance rather than a home away from home, it's not hard to see Mauricio Pochettino's men being the team to fall out of the top four this season, thereby offering Everton a way in.

Unfinished business

There's no question that the seemingly endless and increasingly questionable Gylfi Sigurdsson saga, combined with the gaping hole left by Romelu Lukaku and the glaring lack of pace in the side exposed by the two legs against Ružomberok, has taken a lot of the gloss off Everton's transfer blitz in June and July.

The impressive efficiency and money's-no-object manner in which the club began the close season had Evertonians purring in anticipation of 2017-18 but there are plenty who feel that in order to be in with a genuine chance of following through on Moshiri's ambitious rhetoric, more quality signings will be needed before the deadline.

For the first time in the 1980s and very early 1990s, Everton appear to have the means to go out and compete for some of the best players around. To date, Koeman and Walsh have opted for solid acquisitions that have strengthened the spine; the task now is that tack on a genuine match-winner or two. A Kanchelskis-type who can provide pace, power and goals; a silky early-Everton Arteta-esque magician in the centre of the park who can dribble and pick a pass; or a Pienaar-like visionary who can revive Baines's attacking prowess and rid Koeman's side of their over-reliance on the right flank as an attacking avenue.

Yet players of that ilk don't appear to be high on Koeman's wish-list and with stars like Riyad Mahrez on his CV, this was an area where many hoped Steve Walsh would prove his weight in gold. There has been nothing concrete to suggest the pair aren't considering flair players as a matter of urgency but the media speculation and credible “in the know” chatter (such as it exists these days under Moshiri) hasn't been throwing up many names.

Where the Toffees' competitors have prioritised players who can turn matches — Willian, Hazard and Pedro at Chelsea; Jesus, Silva and De Bruyne at City; Mané. Salah and Coutinho at Liverpool; Cazorla and Ozil at Arsenal; and Eriksen at Tottenham — Everton under Koeman have a very workmanlike look about them while the likes of Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell are still learning their trade, Gerard Deulofeu has moved back to Spain and Ross Barkley appears to be in limbo.

A Barkley living up to his billing and early flourishes as a teenager with consistent performances week in, week out could fill part of that unresolved brief at Goodison Park. It doesn't look as though Koeman is convinced he can, however. Should he move on before the deadline or flit in and out of the side while he winds down his contract, the hope is that the manager and director of football will move decisively to fill the void but, regardless, a game-changer in the final third of the park should be the top priority along with a striker to match. Is that Sigurdsson? Should they succeed in landing him, time will tell if he can be more than just a dead-ball specialist.

Even if the transfer window slammed shut tomorrow, Everton would still be a tough proposition for all comers this season and an unquestioned member of the new top seven that emerged last season as Leicester's flash in the pan burned out. Given the curious statistic that the Blues would have finished seventh even without Lukaku's goals and the additions of Klassen, Rooney and Sandro, Koeman's side would also be regarded as dark horses for the top four. Again, however, you sense that it would require two or three of the teams who finished above them to falter rather than Everton genuinely being their equal unless further headway is made in the transfer market over the next three weeks. The same goes for the club's chances in any of the cups, you feel.

The addition of the impressive-looking Keane in defence and the reliable-looking Pickford in goal, a solid rearguard protected by the likes of Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin, should ensure, though, that the Blues will be as as hard to beat at home as they were after the turn of 2017. That will provide an indispensable platform on which the other newcomers further up the pitch can bed in and set about the business of creating and scoring goals.

Away from home, however, where the weapons of pace on the counter and creativity in midfield are so much more vital, is where Everton could continue to struggle with the current personnel. Given that the Toffees must travel to the Etihad Stadium, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford within the first five games, it's hard not to feel beneath the excitement of a new season a measure of dread and disappointment that the team isn't closer to being the finished article.

Thankfully, the transfer window remains open and the funds should be there, even if Sigurdsson arrives. Aware that another window of larger context, the one in which Everton can still realistically break back into the elite, could be all too narrow, Moshiri has spent big trying to quickly assemble a strong team that is better than the one that finished last season.

In the context of this being the second year of Koeman's initial three-year project, there isn't necessarily any imperative for him to go significant further towards finishing the job before the end of the month even if there's a sense that it's simply a wasted opportunity otherwise. If he doesn't, you feel that year two of the Dutchman's reign will be another season of consolidation and progress with just the potential rather than the likelihood of improving on last season's seventh place finish.

Final Postion: 6th
Key Player: Still to be signed?
Top Scorer: Sandro Ramirez

Reader Responses

Selected thoughts from readers

Rick Pattinson
Posted 10/08/2017 at 07:42:00
Judging by the Europa League games it looks like a foot backwards. Let's hope we gel and quick.
Andy Meighan
Posted 10/08/2017 at 07:53:48
Great piece and a couple of statements really stood out for me: One being when talking about 'them'. Salah will bring potency and pace. "Are you watching, Mr Koeman?" No, Lyndon, I'm afraid he's not.

And the other telling bit: Koeman is filling the side with industrious workman-like players. Spot on. His signings don't excite me one little bit. Keane I've no doubt will become a colossus; Pickford possibly may become a great keeper. Good young signings those two.

But there's not one player in that squad that can get you off the edge of your seat with a bit of magic a few times during a game. I don't know about cracking the top 6 under this fella – we'll be lucky to crack the top 8. The lack of pace and flair in the side is worrying. Rant well and truly over...
Mike Kennedy
Posted 10/08/2017 at 08:25:00
I agree with most of the article. I believe 7th is realistic as we have the Europa League to contend with this season and the loss of Lukaku.

I can't see us get many points from our first 5 games and that could effect confidence. We were 8 points adrift of Man Utd last season and 14 from 5th place Arsenal. Yes we tailed off but who is to say we won't again with all the extra fixtures.

Get Giroud and Mahrez and things may be different.

John McGimpsey
Posted 10/08/2017 at 08:32:06
Well said Andy Meighan, I also see a hidden story in this piece and that is that Koeman is looking at the wrong stuff. The key has been looking at us in the face and that is Ross, but it's like any work place if you don't like your manager and he choses to leather you in front of the staff when all around are tortoises then you have to consider your job.

Me, I would sign a 5 or 7 year contract as I know my boss will have legged it by then to sunny Spain. Just a thought and we save 50 mill and go buy a striker. Puts on tin helmet and waits...!
Jim Potter
Posted 10/08/2017 at 08:42:33
Great piece Lyndon.

Despite Lukaku's exit we are stronger than this time last year. He was always going to leave and all we could do was get the most we could.

The window is still open. The dealings have not finished. None of us know who we are still trying to entice. They may prove to be the game changers.



Liam Reilly
Posted 10/08/2017 at 08:45:00
Harsh to say that Calvert Lewin is being played out of position, because if he wasn't played there he wouldn't be on the field.

Koeman rates him clearly, but rightly can't ask him to carry the weight of lukaku's absence.

Koeman appears to favour a workmanlike as opposed to a side built on pace, which may (with a couple more additions) place us in good stead as all of the other top 6 challengers tend to play the same way.

Steve Woods
Posted 10/08/2017 at 08:46:16
Thank you Lyndon, that is a fantastic article and I agree with all your points and share your concerns. Our need for a top quality, big, fast target man is there for all to see, the side as it stands today, without that direct Lukaku replacement up top, has a gaping hole in it with no focal point for the team. Genuine pace and flair in the final third is also missing again and I do wonder who is, or how, we are going to un-pick those hard to break down teams and turn matches.

The early transfer season started off so very well but, since then the progress and rebuilding has undoubtedly stalled and so we go into the first game of the season and a very tough run of games, lacking at least three players in key areas. Pickford and Keane are fine long term signings with which we should all be delighted. However, Koeman and Walsh surely need to prioritise bringing in at least two (preferably three) more players in forward positions who have pace, flair and creativity who pose a genuine threat or I fear it could be a long, dour, uninspiring, workmanlike season with us doing no better than retaining seventh place.

Dave Abrahams
11 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:07:37
The next three weeks will tell us all we want to know regards to where we finish in the table next season. We surely can not stay as we are, players must be added, if no more players are added then the hopes of the fans will take a massive nose dive and another season of mediocrity will be added to the last twenty two seasons.

I refuse to believe that all the improvement on and off the field since Mr. Moshiri joined the club will be allowed to come to a full stop now.

Paul Mackie
12 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:07:39
I'd quite like to see a front two of Sandro and (World Cup winner) Calvert-Lewin. I don't understand why Koeman even bothered buying the latter if he's just going to play him out wide all the time.
Dave Horne
13 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:12:57
Excellent article Lyndon, and I wouldn't argue with anything that you have written.

However, I personally am in no doubt that unless we sign a striker who is capable of scoring anywhere near the number of goals that Lukaku scored we will have NO chance of improving on last years league position.

Giroud doesn't exactly excite me but would be acceptable. Some of the other rumours are potential disasters :

Welbeck – you can't score goals off the treatment table.
Benteke – tainted.

We should not be two days away from the first game of the season without a real No 9
Steve Bell
15 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:42:27
Without sounding too sycophantic, I always look forward to these season preview pieces – they are very well written and fair. Kudos to you, Lyndon. Spot on analysis, as always.

We may as well buy some 'match-winning guile' now, as it's obvious we need it!

Jon Withey
16 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:47:15
Good article thanks Lyndon.

Losing Lukaku was always going to be a challenge and we haven't replaced him which is disappointing .

I'll take Lookman over Deulofeu but we need to replace Bolasie too.

Strength in depth is a problem without Funes Mori and Coleman.

I kind of feel that Rooney and Klaassen could do emergency No 10.

Koeman has identified a lot of that publically so it seems a bit harsh to nail him just yet.

Gary Edwards
18 Posted 10/08/2017 at 09:50:16
Metaphorically and on the field we are still playing it around the back with no great skill or progressive movement.

The new signings are in improvement but are negated by the bottleneck in the middle of the pitch. No width, no pace, predictable and 'thug teams' like Stoke will exploit our lack of height.

Clive Mitchell
20 Posted 10/08/2017 at 10:02:00
Very well written and measured, Lyndon. In my view your piece is too optimistic though. This side has lost Lukaku and Barkley, both of whom would make the starting 11s of some of the top 6. We've not replaced them with the same weight of player. While Keane and Pickford look like good additions, it seems possible Sandro will be too lightweight for the Premier League; and it seems probable that Klaassen will be too slow and too small to cut it at all at this level. We scored 62 goals in the league last season; I'd bet we won't reach 52 this.

I'm not convinced by Koeman, or his judgement of a player. He ditches McCarthy, Deulofeu, offers a special kind of contempt to Barkley, yet judges Stekelenburg, Martina, Klaassen and Williams people he wants. He needs to deliver at least 65 points this season to be able to say he's cracking it. I don't expect us to finish above 8th.

Mike Kennedy
21 Posted 10/08/2017 at 10:18:06
I agree with the majority of the article but 7th for me. We have lost Lukaku and have added games and travel with the Europa League. We were 8 points adrift of Man Utd and 14 further back than next placed Arsenal. A whopping 25 off Spurs.

We have a new team with a horrendous fixture list to start it could make or break confidence but either way it may take longer to gel as an attacking force.
Ken Buckley
22 Posted 10/08/2017 at 10:20:48
From what I can make of the Koeman-led Goodison brigade is that we have made a giant leap, and had to, just to take a few steps forward.

I believe our first job is to make 'The big six' become recognised as 'The big seven' If that can be achieved in the next two seasons then we can attract players of the quality to enable us to remain there and be in the mix for cups and medals on a regular basis.

We are not there yet but signs on and off the pitch leave this fan more optomistic that it can be done rather than just hoped for.


Kevin Gillen
23 Posted 10/08/2017 at 10:30:51
Sums it up rather nicely. I'm disappointed with the transfer window. I don't see much progress overall and would like to see us achieve a lot more progress in the transfer market before it closes. Like all Evertonians I will be roaring them on come Saturday and I live in hope but I'm surprised at the lack of numbers and at the farming out of promising youngsters to the Championship.
Tony Everan
25 Posted 10/08/2017 at 11:36:44
I think they see Sigurdsson as the key to picking up more away wins. He will be playing in a 5-man midfield away and home against the top 6. Koeman will be keeping those games as tight as possible. All the team will be industrious and workman like. Sigurdsson will be there waiting to score or create the goal that sneaks us the win. He is by no means the final piece of the jigsaw, and much more is needed to challenge top 4.

A quality left-sided centre-half is massively important signing to make. It won't be long before this weakness is exposed. A striker of Giroud's quality too. If we can get these 3 positions signed up quickly I think anything is possible this season, especially with the young players biting at the bit and improving all the time.

Leaving the signings late creates much more uncertainty, especially with our tough opening games. I would like to see some progress this week if possible. Even if it means spending a few million over the odds, In the scheme of things it could be a very shrewd move. Over to you, Farhad.
Kevin Tully
26 Posted 10/08/2017 at 11:45:18
I find it incredible that we have known for months in advance Lukaku would be leaving, and here we are starting the season without a recognised, proven, Premier league striker! Sandro may well step up to the plate and get off to a flyer, but without our two top scorers from last season, Lukaku and Barkley, our initial business looks to have fallen way short for the big kick-off, especially when you take into account the money received for outgoing players. I am also concerned at the lack of any 'flair' players in our squad, such as a Riyad Mahrez. We do seem to have stocked up on workmanlike midfielders. I am hoping Ademola Lookman can find his feet and fill that particular requirement.

That's not to say we won't come up trumps by August the 31st, but it does seem as if we have stalled badly in the transfer market. I don't think Koeman will be at all happy at this point, but we are in a far better position than last summer, when the new manager had to pick up a broken and disjointed squad of players.

My choice foe best signing of the summer is our new 'keeper, Jordan Pickford. I really think this guy will earn us an extra 10-12 points this season. Anything less than a Champions League challenge will be a failure in my eyes. My guess is that we will spend up to £180m this summer, so I don't think we should be making excuses for the manager or players if they fall short.

Dennis Stevens
27 Posted 10/08/2017 at 11:50:22
I think Koeman may just be looking to continue where he was successful last season and improve where he wasn't – i.e. win, for the most part, at home and try not to lose, which we did too often, on the road. A season of home wins and away draws gives you 76 points which means a top four finish, 2013-14 being the exception to the rule.

Clearly, this approach is based on building a solid defence and having the stamina for the high energy pressing that seems to be all the rage. How entertaining such an approach may prove to be is open to debate.

Sam Hoare
28 Posted 10/08/2017 at 11:57:48
Forward steps. And even then only just. I don't think we'll crack top 6 this season unless something goes very wrong with one of the sides above us. We have lost one of the best goalscorers in the league and will also have the Europa League to contend with.

I think we'll be hard to beat but not easy on the eye. I see 7th-9th with some decent but fruitless cup runs. Anything higher than 7th would be impressive in my book and anything lower constitutes a step back so could be an emotional season...

John Hammond
29 Posted 10/08/2017 at 11:57:52
Not getting another forward and winger in for the start of the season is baffling unless Koeman has targets in mind that he thinks we only have a chance of signing should we progress to the Europa League group stages? If so it looks like we'll be waiting until the week before transfer deadline day...
Kunal Desai
31 Posted 10/08/2017 at 12:39:45
Forward steps, but steps not sufficiently big enough and making strides to challenge that top 6. I think we'll finish 7th again.
Robert Leigh
32 Posted 10/08/2017 at 13:02:20
Great piece Lyndon, thank you for a good read.

Andy (#3) I'd agree with you, there's little flair and pace at the club, apart from young Lookman; who I'm worried seems constantly linked with a loan move away.

John Raftery
33 Posted 10/08/2017 at 13:18:12
Thanks Lyndon for very accurate description of how the squad looks two days before the start of the new season. While it is statistically correct to say we would have finished 7th even without Lukaku's goals it is also statistically correct to say we would have finished 7th with the points total (47) achieved in each of the previous two seasons by our last manager. I doubt very much that fans would have been any more content with that level under Koeman than they were under Roberto.

My worry is that while most of the top six teams have strengthened up front we have become weaker following Lukaku's sale. Replacing him ought to have been a priority. Instead we seem to be chasing someone, in Sigurdsson, who will feed chances rather than someone who will feed off them.

For me despite the excellent signings of Keane and Pickford which should strengthen our defensive play we have glaring weaknesses when we attempt to move the ball forward into the opposition's half. One would imagine Koeman and Walsh are both seized of that and the issues of pace and goals as well as creativity will be addressed in the next three weeks. As things stand though we look ill equipped to challenge in four competitions.

Kim Vivian
36 Posted 10/08/2017 at 14:20:21
Consolidation and progress - mmmm.

A transparently veiled critique of our dealings and current position succinctly presented, Lyndon.

On the evidence of what I have witnessed this so far which is two televised Europa qualifying games and attendance at the Sevilla friendly I believe even consolidation will be a challenge. Reiterating what you have said above and many have said elsewhere, Pickford and Keane seem to be a nailed on improvement. Of what appears to be Koeman's preferred starting 11 Sandro clearly has the potential to light things up but remains something of an unknown quantity and the remaining lot have shown about as much flair or excitement as a damp squib so far.

Apart from the first 30 seconds against Seville we were soporific while remaining reasonably secure in defence until the last 20 minutes or so after the introduction of what I perceive to be his second string players. Even Martina was not at all bad and I am a big critic of his although I dread to think what those three big away games you mention are likely to do to him so no way should he be starting. And therein lies the crux of our problem. The energy and competitiveness shown by Besic, Gueye, Lookman, and Mirallas gave the game some much needed impetus and, to wit, offered a bit of entertainment. Indeed we could have nicked the result but for a good save to keep Lookmans netbuster out. I like the look of C-Lewin but clearly he is not ready to pick up where Lukaku left off despite Koeman’s evident grooming, and the need for a quality target man is blindingly obvious. We are probably going to be seeing a pretty dour defensive setup being deployed in order to try and 'consolidate' our position.

Insofar as the Sigurdsson saga goes, whilst initially quite excited by his potential arrival the longer it goes on the less I feel that is the best use of some £40 - £50m (choose a number) in the light of the attacking void.

If 'progress' is to be defined by an improved league position we are not going to progress this season. Compared to all the top 6 except for Spurs and Liverpool we appear to have gone backwards, and those two are lucky to be blessed with a considerably more potent armoury than we finished with last season.

So, I hope Ron has done enough to 'consolidate' our position although at the expense of entertainment but for my part, if we are not going to ‘progress’ and break into that top tier - and I am convinced at this time we will not - I would rather see us consolidate and at the same time provide some good entertainment please. At the end of the day isn’t that what we watch football for?

Amit Vithlani
37 Posted 10/08/2017 at 14:23:12
The start of the season before the transfer window has closed has always created an element of uncertainty, whereby the preview for a new season such as this is tinged with question marks over the completeness of the squad.

All the signs point towards unfinished business in the window - be it the firepower the club appear to have as far as funds are concerned, the need for players as clearly stated by the manager, or how close we are to obtaining Sigurdsson.

If there is to be a criticism of the transfer strategy this summer it is the apparent failure to have a replacement for Lukaku lined up. Sigurdsson's transfer saga is a distraction.

If Sandro or Rooney are meant to be the replacement, with Koeman and Walsh preferring to spend the readies on Sigurdsson, then that is an awfully risky strategy given that Sandro is unproven and Rooney is still short of fitness.

If a like-for-like replacement with a proven record in this league has been identified, it is mystifying why a deal has not been concluded in time for a new Centre Forward to bed in.

I am personally bored of the Sigurdsson saga and do not care if we do not sign him. I do care however if the window closes without a proper, fit striker to lead the line.

All the sell to buy nonsense that is being churned out ignores the fact that the club's wage bill has mushroomed, we have made significant acquisitions for our U23 squad and transfers were made before the Lukaku money arrived - meaning someone had to put their hands in their pockets and pay up.

Stan Schofield
39 Posted 10/08/2017 at 14:45:36
The recent signings are in themselves encouraging, if not exciting. They would have been exciting if we had either kept Lukaku and Barkley, or ensured replacements were in place.

On the original question of giant leap or small steps forward, it's arguably neither. I'm surprised and concerned that Lukaku was sold without ensuring an adequate replacement first, and that we seem no closer to finding a replacement for Barkley. And with regard to Lukaku, I'm accounting for the fact that he wanted out, given that Everton could have decided he was going nowhere just yet. But we decided to cash in.

We now look to have a squad of fairly ordinary players at the senior level, with some potentially outstanding younger players. Although Rooney was world class, he's obviously past his best. Standing back, it doesn't now look much better than the Everton of the last two decades, even accounting for the talk of a new era and moves towards a new stadium.

All that said, if we sign a top established striker and playmaker, things might start getting exciting. But not until then.

Jay Harris
40 Posted 10/08/2017 at 15:13:37
Great summing up of where we are at Lyndon.

My perspective can be summed up as a top 4 defence, a midtable midfield and a bottom half attack.

We should be boosted by the eventual return of Bolasie and Coleman but I get an uneasy feeling about the Sigurdsson/Barkley affair with Koeman now saying Barkley may stay and be part of his first team squad.

I see Billy boy's hand in this and while some supporters will welcome a Barkley stay I would not want it to be at the expense of signing Sigurdsson and a top quality goalscorer.

Why we don't appear to be in for Mahrez and Van Dijk I don't know but these two would transform our optimism and squad.

We can only hope for a rabbit out of the hat but given Bill is still in charge of transfers expect smoke and mirrors.

Alan Bodell
41 Posted 10/08/2017 at 15:23:26
The piece about our lack of a 'difference maker' is totally where it's at and we haven't had one since Arteta, Koeman is plugging gaps but this is where we have no-one so with 2 days to go it looks unlikely we'll have a creative player to go to war with.

Spain and Italy are full of them so Walsh, get your finger out soon as.
Mike Gaynes
43 Posted 10/08/2017 at 15:54:52
Well done, Lyndon.

My feeling is that Koeman has focused on the spine of the squad in order to, first and foremost, provide us with the depth and strength in numbers required to compete in Europe as well as the league. But I agree that "workmanlike" players, crucial as they may be, are not the ticket to the top four. The problem is that flair players tend to gravitate towards flair sides, and glamour is not our brand.

My prediction is 7th again. I fully expect that we'll be in the relegation zone after the first five games (likely setting off mass "Koeman out!" panic among the congregation here on TW), and it'll be a long way back to contend for the top 6 from there. I reserve the right to tweak my prediction if we make a couple more splash signings in next three weeks, but that's how I see it now.

However, I also predict that we'll again be among the best in the league in the new year, with Bolasie and Coleman returning and Klaassen fully bedding in to his new environment.

No, there's been no giant leap yet, but forward steps are a good thing too.

Steven Jones
44 Posted 10/08/2017 at 16:02:46
It all depends on the three targets we are trying to get in.

Striker – will give shape and presence and act as a foil for the likes of Sandro, Rooney and Klaassen to ghost into goal scoring space.

This could be a big big season for Lookman who did get everyone off their seats on Sunday – Calvert-Lewin will get his minutes in the League Cup and Europa League.

And the biggest surprise maybe if Ross stays and explodes with 10-15 goals – Koeman was complimentary in his Media Conference today

Here's hoping and thinking wishfully!

David Currie
45 Posted 10/08/2017 at 16:53:25
Andy, good points about the lack of flair, Lookman is exciting and has to play more and think Sandro will bring pace and movement to the team. Hope Bolasie can get back before xmas as his pace will help us. We need speed in the last third and players that can run at the opposition defence.
Jim Wilson
46 Posted 10/08/2017 at 17:16:00
Unfortunately I have big doubts about the manager.

Bad tactics. 3 at the back which I hate (remember Chelsea 5-0, Liverpool 3-1), constant team changes and no continuity. The nonsensical picking on Barkley, two Derby defeats, out the cups early made last season very Moyes like and I feel the Europa distraction will not help us in the league.

We have had really good players for a while now but we have not had a manager who can do the right things to make it all come together on the pitch.

Here's hoping I am wrong.
Frank Wade
47 Posted 10/08/2017 at 17:23:12
Great summary of where we're at Lyndon. You headline with the question 'Giant leap or just forward steps' - My answer is Forward Steps. It begs the question, how big an overhaul can successfully be made to any team over a 3 month period? Tottenham tried and failed miserably with the Bale money. It is widely expected that we will have 5 new players in the side v Stoke in Pickford, Keane, Klaassen, Rooney and Sandro. Can any team afford to take the Giant Leap? What is the limit for team integration over such a short period or could we integrate more than 5 in a starting line-up?

Team spirit and togetherness are key to any successful team. Throw in the unfortunate Barkley impasse and the absence of Seamus Coleman, who would provide an element of team foundation glue, along with characters like Jags and Baines. I think we may struggle in building up that spirit in the short term. I would still like to see a new striker as a priority, as I don't think the promising DCL is quite ready, in preference to our pursuit of Sigurdsson.

The Europa matches and the friendlies have shown up a lack of punch in attack, which is worrying. It looks to me as if players like Rooney and Klaassen are feeders, who need willing clever runners to be effective. Sigurdsson is a similar player. When I was young(er), these players were called schemers. We don't see that term used these days. If we do have 2/3 schemers in the attacking half, we must have a bit more offensive thrust from the central midfield or attacking full back. As things stand it looks as if only Davies from midfield and Kenny from full back can provide this thrust.

Mike Hughes
48 Posted 10/08/2017 at 17:42:25
With the inflated transfer market, I think it's a case of having to run to stand still rather than giant leaps or forwards steps.

We look solid rather than exciting. And, after the two Euro qualifiers, "solid" might be being optimistic.

I'm hoping for a couple of game-changing signings via our DoF's network / research.

Mike Oates
49 Posted 10/08/2017 at 17:55:20
Good article which states it as it is. I don't see a major attack on the Top 4 places this season. Its going to difficult to get there, unless you buy top quality players, players who have been there and done it. They wont come to us unless we show that we can win things and compete in Europe at the Europa Cup level.

We need to concentrate on winning one of the 3 cups we are in - FA, League or Europa. Win and will attract the better players. But be ready Mr Moshiri and Co., as next season it will be players costing ridiculous amounts of money £50-80m. The world will have gone crazy!
Rob Dolby
50 Posted 10/08/2017 at 20:11:00
We are neither making baby steps nor giant strides. The pattern remains the same even though we are in a better financial situation. We have sold our best player and are now using the money to paper over cracks. Treading water like we have done for 20 years.

Paying massive amounts for a goalie and centre back lulled us into thinking that we are back with the big boys only to then see Man U and Man City dwarf our massive spend.

I can see us being near the top of the 2nd group of decent teams outside of the big guns. I just hope we buy a striker before the window closes as replacing Lukaku's goals should be the highest priority.


Tony Hill
51 Posted 10/08/2017 at 20:32:41
Here we are again, rummaging around for good reasons why it won't quite happen this year, but persuading ourselves that we're somehow moving forward by staying 7th or thereabouts. Is that what it now means to be an Evertonian? Perhaps so, but as a minimum I would like to see our side trying to entertain rather than induce a coma.

I am worried about this season and about the manager. I will not judge defeats harshly if we have shown courage and style but we should all be alarmed if we see the same sort of paralysis that marked much of last season (and, in truth, the two seasons before). The final game at Arsenal stands as one of the most disgraceful Everton performances I have ever seen. Let us have no more of it and try to honour our best traditions.

Paul Tran
52 Posted 10/08/2017 at 20:50:02
Good piece, Lyndon. We've made forward steps, the giant leap is going to be if/when we buy the quality striker and playmaker.

Everything we've done as a club in the last year has been about consolidation. Not very exciting, but overdue and necessary. The next step, the hardest step, is to turn that consolidation into excitement and trophies.

I always expect top six, I'm predicting 7th, I'm praying for a cup, any cup.

Don Alexander
53 Posted 10/08/2017 at 23:03:20
Sixth will be my minimum expectation. I'm not sure the FA or League Cups will lure better players but recognise either or both would be nice for us fans. I'm expecting nothing from the Europa League. It plays havoc with the league campaigns of just about every English club in it.

In Koeman's first season at Southampton he improved them from eighth to seventh despite losing Lambert, Lallana, Lovren, Shaw and Chambers before they kicked off and integrating Mane, Long, Forster, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Pelle and Tadic, replacements who had little or no Premier League experience. To me this shows he can handle instantly integrating a lot of new players, and more than we've signed in this window as yet.

In his second season he lost Boruc, Clyne, Schneiderlin and Alderweireld but improved them to sixth having integrated Van Dyke, Romeu, Clasie, Soares and Austin. He did nowt in either Europa League campaign though and won no cups.

Last season saw the start of him dismembering the Martinez circus and, I hope, the introduction of a new work ethic. It's always been a three year project" for minimum fourth. Hopefully we're on course with the three-ish additions he still wants.

Rick Tarleton
54 Posted 11/08/2017 at 06:09:43
An excellent piece. Very little to argue about. I hope the latest news about Barkley means he'll be integrated into the new set-up.Davies's position is also ambiguous with Schneiderlin and Gueye seeming to be first choice defensive midfield pairing.

Wilshere and Barkley are mysteries to me. No-one seems to want them, yet both are talented,attacking link men. Wilshere's injury record is terrible, but no-one seems to want to take a chance on him. Sigurdsson too is wanted by Everton and Swansea want him, but Spurs got rid and noone else seems to be pushing for his signature.

Behind the scenes issues that we know little about must be in play. I expect Everton to finish sixth or seventh, pleased to see Pickford and Keane in our team, Klaassen looks neat, though I'm not sure he's quite got the physical presence that is needed, Sandros has a great record and was remarkably cheap, which is again mystifying.

Could Besic play in the back four along side of Keane? Could Burnley be persuaded to let Mee go? Rooney I'm afraid is a token and a P.R. symbol, we urgently need another striker, but not Giroud who needs wingers.
Kieran Fitzgerald
56 Posted 11/08/2017 at 07:10:31
We still have a new stadium to pay for. There is a figure of 30m needed to buy the site and then we will need to have cash to hand to start the build. It is wishful thinking that we will have the cash for both the stadium and all the players we need to bring us up to being top four contenders.

All we can hope for this season is that the players we have spent money on do well and that enough of the young players make the grade. I would take this and any type of top seven finish if it meant we were making proper progress on all fronts.

Ian Hollingworth
57 Posted 11/08/2017 at 07:46:06
Definitely steps forward but no giant leap. It is going to take time to bridge that gap but we have signed some better quality players and our media presence is slowly improving.

Results have to improve to get people to stat taking notice of Everton and to continue attracting the better quality players.

We have to be realistic and accept that it will take time but we do need to be bolder in the transfer market as in continue to spend big as we still need a top quality striker (I think we did even if Lukaku had stayed).

A minimal net spend will not be acceptable if we still have glaring gaps in the team.

John Raftery
58 Posted 11/08/2017 at 10:13:32
Kieran (56) You are right that the club will not be able to invest the money in both a stadium and a squad capable of climbing into the top four. We appear to be seeing a tightening of belts at Spurs just as we saw at Arsenal during their move to the Emirates and might see at Chelsea as they plan the new Stamford Bridge. The difference between them and us of course is they were already in the top four whereas we are starting from a lower base. I will be very happy if we can stay in the top seven, compete in the cups and move into a new iconic stadium by 2021.

Oh, and perhaps play some entertaining football along the way!

Tony Everan
59 Posted 11/08/2017 at 11:46:27
At the moment (Friday). I would say we are better equipped than last season. BUT at the moment I can't see us better than 7th again. With the additional 3 signings we need, Sigurdsson, Giroud or similar and someone of Sakho's ability and strength I think we can do 6th or better.

So as far as Giant Steps forward or baby steps, it is currently all up for grabs. We will see if the necessary investment is deployed and whether the Koeman / Walsh can land the striker and CH targets as well as Sigurdsson.

It is boring and exciting both at the same time. Roll on the new season!

Bob Parrington
61 Posted 11/08/2017 at 15:38:49
Don't need to use too many words on this subject. Ken Buckley hit it really well. Giant steps for today's Everton but just a few steps forward. The six above us are not going to relinquish their status lightly!
Adrian Townsend
62 Posted 11/08/2017 at 19:11:31
Spot on article, Lyndon, and many valuable contributions from all. My biggest concern, voiced by a few, is the distraction of the Europa; my greatest optimism stems from Ronald's track record at Southampton as well articulated by Don Alexander (#53).

I too was unimpressed by the Europa performances so far but am willing to hold off judgement until we see how we shape up against the bread and butter opposition in the Premier League.

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