As the dust settles on a largely positive 2016/17 Premier League campaign for Everton, a campaign that has led to a return to European football after a two year absence, what’s next for a club very much in the midst of a major rebuilding job?
Ask any Everton fan and the majority will tell you that this season went how they expected. A season of a few memorable highs mixed with the inevitable lows that comes with a new manager arriving and shaping the playing squad to fit his image.
Given the circumstances and uncertainty around Everton when Ronald Koeman arrived for pre-season in July 2016 after consecutive 11th place finishes and just 6 home wins all season, to finish 7th and to do so comfortably in a season of transition isn’t something to be taken lightly. Add to that a return to European football, partly due to the two cup competitions working in our favour means this season certainly wasn’t a disappointment. The summer ahead is undoubtedly huge and gives Everton the opportunity to fix the mistakes of last summer.
Everton were quite clearly the best of the rest this season finishing 15 points clear of 8th place Southampton but also 8 points off Manchester United in 6th. Bridging the gap to the so called “Big Six” is harder than ever thanks to numerous reasons from financial fair play restrictions to the size and attraction of the big six clubs.
Evertonian’s may argue that there isn’t a huge size difference between Spurs and Everton but a dose or realism is needed when you consider Spurs are a season away from a new 61,000 seater stadium and have been the best team in the league for the past two seasons, as well as having Champions League football to offer whilst Everton can offer a back way into the Europa League and in reality are still selling potential signings a future image of what we want to be.
Without doubt the Spurs image is what clubs like Everton should be aspiring to. It was only 10 years ago that Everton and Spurs were regularly trading blows for 5th and 6th place but the difference between the clubs now is huge. The obvious thing to do is to go out and spend big, something that many thought we’d do last summer. Whilst improving a squad and making it capable of challenging the current top six is a big challenge not to mention an incredibly pricey one, improvements can and have been made by promoting from within. The emergence of Tom Davies was one of the biggest positives of the past season and show that Everton are still capable of producing quality young players.
Improving the quality of the squad is obviously the number one factor that’ll get us closer to the top six but abandoning some of the principals that have been gathered by the club over the past 25 years may be needed.
We’re not even a week past the end of the season and already, some papers are reporting a deal has been agreed with Swansea for Gylfi Sigurdsson although these reports are very much premature. One rumour suggested that a snagging point of the deal was Everton’s reluctance to meet the player’s wage demands which just screams classic Everton. For decades we’ve been getting by with make shift loans, cheap buys and selling our best players whilst haggling every penny possible off transfer fees and player wages. With the arrival of Farhad Moshiri and his investment (which is already nudging £90million) has the time come for Everton to step away from some of the principals of the past 25 years?
Whilst getting players for as best a price as possible is not a bad thing, in a market place that we share with numerous clubs that can offer bigger and better things than Everton currently can, why don’t we just pay what they want? This doesn’t mean paying £40million for a player that clearly isn’t worth it but why potentially miss out on a player that would definitely improve us for the sake of a few thousand pounds a week? It’s an age old story with Everton, missing out on key targets because we either couldn’t afford their wage demands or were unwilling to pay it. If we really want to become a force in the Premier League and turn the big six into a big seven then the days of haggling every little bit off a transfer fee have to come to an end. Many fans will disagree with this and love the fact that we don’t get dictated to by players or other clubs but there comes a point where without having better players playing for us, we won’t ever get to where we aspire to be.
The summer ahead is again being billed as the biggest in Everton’s history and hopefully this time around the club gets it right. Last summer was without doubt disappointing with Gana Gueye being the biggest success and Ashley Williams being the only other addition to get regular starts although hopefully his game time will decrease hugely next season if we get things right this summer. The Ross Barkley situation is threatening to turn into a saga and with Lukaku seemingly set on a move away this summer, things could look very different when we return for the start of another Premier League season in August.