By James Nalton, Football Whispers
It was a flamboyant transfer window by Everton’s standards. They spent well over £100million on new players and there were transfer rumours linking them with many players they wouldn’t even have considered looking at in the past.
Despite Romelu Lukaku’s exit, the club looked in good shape going into the new campaign. Their pre-season ambitions were to challenge and break into the Premier League’s big six and maybe even have an eye on the top four come the run-in.
Wayne Rooney returned to a grand Goodison Park welcome while the club found a long-term solution to their goalkeeping problems in the shape of Jordan Pickford, who arrived from Sunderland for £25million.
They were actively on the lookout for a striker to replace Lukaku right until the end of the transfer window and even with no-one arrived it looked like the addition of Sandro Ramirez, to complement talented young forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman, would be enough until January.
Gylfi Sigurdsson eventually joined to create chances for these pacy attackers while Michael Keane added some much-needed youth to the centre of defence and Davy Klaassen bolstered an already impressive midfield.
But despite the signing of a number of impressive individual players, their manager, Ronald Koeman, has so far struggled to fit them all together. And their woes have come to a head in the Europa League.
Our friends at Football Whispers ask what next for the Toffees.
The group looked fairly impressive in pre-season and even Rooney appeared to have recovered some form after declining rapidly towards the end of his time at Manchester United.
England and United’s all-time leading scorer was getting in good positions and creating space for his team-mates as well as looking dangerous in front of goal himself.
But this was short lived, and even the introduction of Sigurdsson couldn’t lift the gloom that set in during a tough run of fixtures following their opening-day win at home to Stoke.
A draw against Manchester City was perhaps the best result of the bunch. But there were heavy losses Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, as well as a galling 3-0 defeat at Atalanta in the Europa League.
They responded with a League Cup victory against Sunderland, and a win in their most recent league game against Bournemouth, but the manner of their performances recently have provided little hope of a way forward.
The draw at home to ten-man Apollon Limassol in Thursday’s Europa League tie summed up the side’s play. Speaking after the game, Koeman described his players as “scared” and “afraid of playing”.
There is a huge imbalance in the side currently, and the declining form of Ashley Williams in the heart of their defence isn’t helping.
The Toffees have plenty of slow, considerate creative outlets, but the players with pace to penetrate opposition defences seem to be either out of form or out of the team. Lookman hasn’t got a look in, Sandro is in and out of the side and Calvert-Lewin is struggling for consistency.
Koeman’s apparent inability to drop one of Rooney or Sigurdsson isn’t helping and the Icelander is occasionally being use wide to accommodate others when he should be at the heart of their creative hub, even if it means dropping Rooney.
Tom Davies is a rare bright spark, but never completes ninety minutes, while at right-back Cuco Martina is inexplicably preferred to Jonjoe Kenny.
Koeman has the tools at his disposal to turn this around. The one thing in Everton’s favour is that their league fixtures during the next couple of months are a little easier on paper — a home game against Arsenal aside.
In Europe they face a double header against Lyon which, by the end of it, could see them dumped out of the competition at the group stage and able to concentrate solely on domestic matters.
They’ll be hoping that this isn’t the case, and come January they will be back in for Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal striker wants first-team football having almost moved to Merseyside in the summer but is now behind Alexandre Lacazette at the Emirates Stadium.
Regardless of potential reinforcements, Koeman needs to start getting more from his current bunch. His public disappointment with his players following the Apollon draw may have been a deliberate tactic to motivate his players to improve their performances.
The Dutch boss will just have to hope they don’t turn the other way, else he could have an unhappy dressing room on his hands, and no manager can survive such unrest and tension – something the recently sacked former Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti can attest to.
To avoid going the same way as the Italian, Koeman needs a win at home to Sean Dyche’s Burnley this weekend. But the Lancastrians have already taken five points back to Turf Moor from games at Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs. Getting something against the Clarets will be easier said than done and could lead to further unrest if the result does not go Everton’s way.