Over the dozen or so games that we have played so far this season, it is clear to see how much more balanced our side is under new boss Marco Silva. There’s still work to do until we’re ready to challenge for top 4, but we are beginning to turn the screw and become a side that is tough to beat in all aspects.
Crucially, our summer signings have all fitted into the side more or less without a hitch. As I’m sure most Everton fans will know, though, that hasn’t always been the case. While the signings made by Everton Football Club over the last five years or so have been ambitious, the majority have been totally underwhelming when it comes to their performances.
Thinking back to this time last year our team was in complete turmoil, with almost no standout performers or a key figure uplifting the team. The signings of Europa League finalists Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney, speed merchant Yannick Bolasie and seasoned veteran Ashley Williams were supposed to add a newfound dynamism and steel to the side, but instead it enhanced existing issues.
We failed to replace £100 million star Romelu Lukaku, starved the team of pace, and started players ludicrously out of position. Last season was my first as a season ticket holder in the Gwladys Street, and it has to go down as one of the biggest wastes of money in my entire life.
Despite such a rough period last term, I confirmed my season ticket for this season in a heartbeat. I knew it could only improve from where we were last year and thankfully I was proven right. The Silva-Brands partnership has been a revelation – poaching top-class players from the world’s best sides has shown real intent, more so than any of our signings in previous years.
Despite that fact, I would encourage you to take a look through the squads that have been involved in our last few games.It won’t take you long to notice that a few stars brought in during the darker days remain in the starting eleven and continue to make an impact. Those players who’ve been with us for a little while longer have seen Everton at their worst and continue to ply their trade for us in calmer seas.
It goes without saying that Jordan Pickford was our main man last season, and he would have been forgiven for moving to one of the world’s best teams following a stellar World Cup campaign with England. But our star man thankfully stayed put, committing himself to the Everton project.
A few uncharacteristic performances early on in the season seem to be a thing of the past as Pickford seems to be back to his very best, stopping several shots in style at Stamford Bridge recently. He certainly seems to be benefitting from a more solid back four in front of him, and the added movement up front makes his stunning distribution all the more worthwhile.
Moving into defence, Michael Keane got off to a horrendous start in an Everton shirt, looking a mere shadow of the commanding, composed young defender that starred for Burnley two seasons ago. It has recently come to light that he was plagued with a potentially career-ending foot injury last season, so it was easy to forgive him for some rather dire performances. This season has been a different story, and he is paying back Everton fans for their patience with him. Alongside the towering presence of Yerry Mina, Everton looked defensively stronger against Chelsea and Cardiff than they’ve looked in years.
Our experienced midfield anchor Idrissa Gana Gueye was one of the few Ronald Koeman signings that still serves his time in the Premier League, let alone with Everton. Gana was brought in to replicate the role of now Chelsea starlet N’Golo Kante, who famously ran the engine room in Leicester’s fairy tale 2015-16 title-winning side. Evertonians will know that, in every game he plays, he shows his obvious similarities to the classy Frenchman and continues to prove his £7.1m fee was a complete bargain.
Alongside his current central midfield partner in new recruit André Gomes, they complement each other’s strengths and mitigate their weaknesses almost perfectly. Fellow Koeman recruit Morgan Schneiderlin now seems a forgotten man, whereas Gueye seems to be taking his game to the next level. Recent links to Paris Saint-Germain may seem a little far-fetched, yet Everton know they could demand anywhere around the £40 million mark for their midfield maestro, but acquiring Gomes permanently and retaining Gana must be their top priority for next season.
Throughout the Koeman era we struggled for pace, particularly after losing Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United and Yannick Bolasie to injury. Sam Allardyce’s reign as Everton manager was short-lived and tedious, but the first of his two January signings in Theo Walcott looks set to be a fixture in our side for years to come. Walcott was touching 30 when he was brought to Goodison Park, but he looks as sharp as he’s looked in years. He’s come under fire recently due to some second-rate performances, but the truth is we knew he’d show some inconsistency when we bought him. What Walcott brings and what we miss when he’s not playing is searing pace, intelligent runs, and ability to demand the ball around the pitch no matter how he is playing.
With Koeman’s young recruit, Ademola Lookman, also pushing for a start, it is good competition for one of England’s most prolific wingers and competition that will push him to perform at his best week in week out. He is a true professional, and while he can be frustrating sometimes his commitment and contributions to our team cannot be questioned.
Record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson was always expected to slot in seamlessly and provide playmaking ability we’d not seen since Arteta in his prime. I’m sure I won’t be the only Everton fan that thinks Sigurdsson’s performances in the first half of last season left a lot to be desired. In his last 10 games before his season-ending injury, however, Iceland’s finest started showing us just why we invested so much money in him.
This season, he has been a complete revelation. It’s never been a secret that Sigurdsson has an eye for goal, particularly from range. But playing this season in his favoured number 10 role instead of last season’s less familiar left-wing, he has shown Everton fans just how dynamic he really is.
In his performances this season he shows great strength, silky skill, impeccable work rate, and a stellar range of passing in addition to the outstanding finishing we’ve become accustomed to already. We may have had to wait a year for it, but now we’re seeing one of the Premier League’s best midfielders start to shine brighter than ever.
There has to be a few honourable mentions from last season, too, because those I mentioned above aren’t the only ones who remain in our thoughts. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse have each contributed crucial goals over the past 18 months; without their efforts we could be in a much worse position today.
Perhaps a forgotten man in the Everton squad is Stoke loanee, Cuco Martina. As much as he was criticised during his time in the starting eleven, Cuco filled in at left-back for a large portion of last season and never failed to give 100%. Sadly for him, he never had any great ability but, as with the others things, could have been much worse had he not have accepted the challenge of playing in what was a very unfamiliar position for him. He probably won’t play for Everton again, but he stepped up and helped us out when we were in dire straits.
A lot has been made of Everton’s new signings this season and how they’ve turned around an ailing team. I can’t disagree with that, because the likes of Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes have transformed this team instantly. But the truth is that our improved performances are equally down to the players we already had. Perhaps all it needed was a few more additions to the squad to ease the burden on the earlier arrivals.
It may be too late for some to prove their worth now, but football is a cut-throat business unfortunately. I like that Silva was ruthless in his transfer strategy and as a club we seem to be reaping the benefits of his reign already. We’ve been through a lot as Everton fans over the last few years, so all I care about now is that we get back to playing good football, and finally it looks as though we’re on the up.
Reader Comments (9)
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1 Posted 29/11/2018 at 15:03:38
Thanks for taking time to relay your thoughts, and I hope you are proven correct on the direction of the club.
Just need the spades digging in the dockland and we will be set to rise like the sun to a new dawn.
2 Posted 29/11/2018 at 19:34:09
One thing, though: would love to hear your thoughts on Bernard and the impact of Richarlison!
3 Posted 29/11/2018 at 20:48:13
As for your question, Wesley, I've been quietly impressed by Bernard so far. He is similar to Walcott in that he frustrates as much as he impresses, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he adapts to the league's style over the coming months.
I think it goes without saying that Richarlison has been our stand out performer this season. However, moving him to a Number 9 role just points out a massive weakness rather than exploiting a strength.
He's a natural winger, and, contrary to many people's beliefs, I don't think he'll follow in Henry's footsteps and become a number 9. In my opinion, he's played his best football out there so far, so once we have a striker worthy of starting he should return to the left wing.
4 Posted 29/11/2018 at 00:05:25
The fact is that we needed to get younger players in this season to take the pressure off the board as we look to finance the stadium. And finally, replacing the ageing defence and finding a midfield balance, something that Walsh completely failed to do (even though some signings are now looking like they are part of our future).
So yes, Matthew, things are looking up. But I'd prefer you waited till after the derby to post this. :)
5 Posted 30/11/2018 at 10:11:46
6 Posted 30/11/2018 at 11:05:08
We do still need a proper centre-forward.
Richarlison is the best we have and he's done well for that position at present but when the only other options are Calvert-Lewin, Tosun and Niasse, that's not saying much.
If we are going to move on to the next level and beat the top six, then we need better than our current squad striking options.
7 Posted 30/11/2018 at 11:28:12
The fact we are playing Richarlison upfront out of position is a damning indictment of Tosun, Niasse and Calvert-Lewin.
Compare our strikers to the top 6 sides and its laughable. We need £100M spent on this position, easy.
8 Posted 30/11/2018 at 12:48:44
Richarlison wants to be the main man, you can see the determination and belief in the boy. He wants to be the league's top scorer and believes he can be.
He hasn't done a lot wrong up front, in fact, he's done a hell of a lot right. I don't recall him missing many chances. Nobody scores every game, and when he doesn't score or get a chance, he's working tirelessly to unsettle defenders.
Everton have won more ball in the opposition's third than any other team this season. That's due to Richarlison and Sigurdsson working their arses off.
He is the striker we need. We just need to improve the final ball into him, and he needs time to continue learning the role.
9 Posted 01/12/2018 at 00:59:38
I think we need a striker who can, and is prepared to do that target man role to lay it off to Richarlison, and let him shine.Notice that this is what Benzema does well for Ronaldo I still think that Tosun can play that role.
Bernard is probably our most skillful player. He has been inconsistent, in my opinion, primarily because he is playing in the wing, and our players are not on his wavelength. He makes spaces for himself, but our players are not playing the ball early enough to him.
Also, see the way he brings the ball down and then evades players on the move. There is a lot of skill and intelligence in those movements. He is prepared to work for the team, and that's good.
I hope we can accommodate both Bernard and Gylfi centrally, much like how City is able to accommodate the two Silvas.
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