Can Everton Exceed Pre-Season Expectations for Their Premier League Performance?
With plans afoot for a new 52,000 capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock and record revenues in the latest set of accounts there’s plenty to be optimistic about off the pitch for Everton as we hit the midway mark for the 2018/19 season. How are things looking on the pitch, though?
Last season the club finished 8th in the Premier League after a troubled season. Back in August The Guardian was predicting a finish in 7th place for 2018/19 and with the team in 8th going into the weekend before Christmas that’s looking fairly reasonable.
A dip into the odds for Premier League betting tells a similar story. Unsurprisingly, the odds on winning the league are extremely long at 1500/1, but as you get to the team’s chances for finishing in the top six and the top 10 you get 7/1 and 11/50 respectively, broadly lining up with pundits’ predictions at the start of the season.
A deeper story
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, though.
When manager Marco Silva signed on as manager for the club over the summer, he inherited an embattled team, struggling thanks to a revolving door for management, a high wage bill and an oversized squad.
While he’s yet to produce the results and scorelines fans would like to see, he has been lauded for the team’s bolder approach through the first half of the season. Performances like the recent match against Manchester City might not have produced a win, they came close and had Richarlison not missed a good early chance they might have really given City a run for their money.
Challenges up front
Arguably what Everton really needs is a striker. In particular the team’s recent performances against Chelsea and Liverpool were strong but yielded only a single point despite the team creating a number of opportunities.
A year and a half after his departure the club is still feeling the absence of Romelu Lukaku. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a contender as a replacement – with Richarlison to anchor him as he wanders across the line his style of play can deliver – but he hasn’t had the proper opportunity to show his leadership up front and needs more time to develop.
Lookman is a potential candidate to up the ante out front. He’s been pushing Silva hard for a place in the starting XI recently and he has a lot of support among fans. He performed well against Chelsea in a hard-fought 0-0 draw and followed up with a similarly impressive display in the Merseyside Derby.
Another option might be to move Richarlison back out wide. His initial position on the left hand side of Silva’s front three saw him instantly become one of Everton’s top players, bagging goals against Southampton and Wolves. Following his move into the centre he performed well against the Foxes but has gone a little quiet since. Many think a move back out could herald a return to form and leave him better positioned to support Calvert-Lewin.
Despite all that, as the Blues' most successful captain Kevin Ratcliffe put it in a recent column, "While we haven't yet achieved the kind of results we'd have hoped for away at the division's top sides I think most fans do see it as a work in progress and we've seen an improvement in the style of play."
An interesting second half
As Silva looks to continue improving the team, fans will be watching the run of matches into 2019 hawkishly to see whether the Toffees can turn out the kind of win that will turbo charge his tenure. Their odds of victory against Tottenham this weekend are 23/10, against Burnley on Boxing Day they’re 19/5 and against Lincoln City on January 5th they’re 1/9.
It’s going to be fascinating to see whether Silva can turn Everton’s current promise into real results through the second half of the season.