ToffeeDan offers his view on the comings and goings in the pre-season
Three weeks. Until it all kicks off (unless you count the Big Dunc Festival where, incidentally, Villarreal may well try to make half our first choice starting XI inactive for a couple of months) and what do we have to look forward to?
Well, the garden was looking a shade rosier than in May – at least until a few days ago. That is until Chelsea came knocking for Bobby Moore II and West Ham started sniffing around Kevin “I want Champions League” Mirallas. I was quite looking forward to the new season – buoyed by the optimistic efforts both in the transfer market (Cleverley for nowt, Gerard Deulofeu for a small fee and nothing worth worrying about exiting Goodison) and on the pitch where decent performances against Swindon and Stoke were quickly forgotten as Everton B succumbed in no time at all to a vastly superior Arsenal.
I wouldn’t say we’re a million miles away from the side we need to put out to challenge for a realistically decent finishing position. We’d all love to win the PL wouldn’t we, but that’s just not going to happen with the present regime and the massive advantage that at least four or five sides enjoy over us on the uneven financial playing field that is the Premier League. So let’s settle for realism. This means we have to challenge for a top six finish – 6th to 8th is going to be about as good as it gets and yet, there are ever more contenders for this less than splendid title of best of the rest – Southampton, Stoke, West Ham to name but three more top half contenders to add to the omnipresent half dozen we all know.
No longer Cheerful – a little bit Fearful – with the potential loss of John Stones (add one or more from McCarthy, Mirallas, Coleman, Barkley, Baines, Jagielka, Lukaku and the prospect of watching England struggle in the Ashes doesn’t seem quite so bad). When it comes to Everton I’m usually a glass half-full supporter – yes, I know, we’re always unlucky, I know we don’t do trophy wins but what we do do is at least give a decent account of ourselves – shouldn’t we be half-grateful we follow a team that has both a storied history AND, at least for the past decade or so, have been consistently decent. Maybe I do hanker for a few more trophies – a few less cup final and semi-final heartaches but it could be worse – we could be Leeds or Wolves or Forest – other sides with great-ish histories and a lot less to look forward to.
However I was keen to see if Roberto, armed with a fistful of dollars, could at least bring in 2 or 3 Game Changers. Perhaps a decent or, at the very least, an upcoming keeper to challenge Howard. A second striker to help (or threaten) Romelu instead of the self-evidently confidence torn Arouna. And, most importantly, a desperately needed midfield general with ten goals in him. The last one could be Ross Barkley but, so far, he hasn’t lived up to the billing. Maybe if he tried to be more of a team player – learn to pass a bit more instead of trying for the heroic – he’d develop the sense of when to do the right things more often. It seems that the buys have been solid but not totally thrilling but at least we can’t be accused of suffering from the Boom and Bust Cycle which is being played out with ever increasing intensity year-on-year on the other side of the Park.
I’ll be back in a few days with a more rounded view of the players we are likely to go into the new season. Until then, COYB!