It seems like only yesterday that the curtain came down on what can only be described as a miserable season for Everton. The Europa League aside, the performances in general were nothing short of dire, and we well and truely succumbed to the age old mantra of “second season syndrome.” With the new Premier League season just days away, and after the disappointments of last season, Evertonians everywhere will be buzzing with the anticipation of getting back to the Grand Old Lady and watching the blues kick start their season. Or will they?
It has been well documented over the past few weeks that so far Everton have invested the least amount of money in their squad of any team in the league, having brought in Tom Cleverley on a free transfer and Gerard Deulofeu for £4.3 million – spending which has been dwarfed by the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Ham. Not only that, but there are still large clouds looming over the futures of Stones, Mirallas and McCarthy and with injuries already suffered by Pienaar, McGeady, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Gibson et al, the squad is looking rather thin, to the point where we face going into the first game of the season with only two recognised first team centre backs. We will of course bring more players in, but with games against Watford (H), Southampton (A), Man City (H) and Spurs (A) before the 1 September deadline, we could already be some way behind before the new signings get a chance to make an impact. On the pitch, although pre-season results and performances are never the greatest indicator of how the season will pan out, the defensive frailties that were evident for much of last season do not appear to have been completely eradicated, with individual errors seemingly the cause of the vast majority of goals conceded.
Having said that, there is plenty for Evertonians to be excited and optimistic about in the build up to the new season. Up to now, while only two players have been brought in, no players of any significance have left the club, meaning the strong spine of Howard, Jagielka, Stones, Barry, McCarthy, Barkley, Lukaku has been kept intact. Add to that the attacking prowess of Baines and Coleman, the flair of Mirallas and Deulofeu (when fit) and the eye for a pass of Tom Cleverley, who has looked particularly sharp in pre-season, and Everton could be a real attacking force. Of course, Everton’s spending is by no means over, with Roberto having been quoted as saying he is looking to bring in another centre back, a no.10, and now for the first time this summer a striker (perhaps unsurprising given big Dunc posed more of a threat against Villarreal than the unfortunate Arouna Kone). In traditional Everton fashion we may have to wait until the eleventh hour of transfer deadline day until we see which players will be brought in, but once they are the squad will look a lot stronger, and with no European competition to contend with this season, there will be no excuses for not being fresh and ready for every Premier League game. It must also be noted that after last year’s pre-season debacle, lessons appear to have been learnt and fitness levels should be up to the required height. Here’s hoping the lads have enough in the tank to close out the games that we really should be winning in the early stages of the season as we failed to do so often last year (Arsenal at home springs to mind!).
There is no doubt that Everton have a difficult start to the season, with 7 of the first 10 league games coming against last year’s top 7 clubs. However, home games against Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and United are mouth-watering prospects for fans and players alike, and in recent seasons have yielded not just great games but also great results. If Everton can come out of the first 10 games established in the top half of the table, the platform will be there to push on towards the upper echelons of the table and European football once again.
One thing is for sure, we need to make Goodison once again the fortress it always has been. And so to Watford on Saturday. Up the toffees.
About the author:
I am a lifelong Evertonian (since the early 90s) and season ticket holder. You will find me in the lower Gwladys every week singing songs and cursing referees. If we win another trophy in my lifetime I will die happy.