Have Everton got what it takes to be Champions League-ready?
Everything looks to finally be going in the right direct for the Toffees. A new stadium’s on the way, there’s a world-class manager at the helm, and Everton finally seem to be signing the right players.
The present Goodison Park residents enjoyed a blazing start to the season, winning the first four matches and sealing an impressive 2-2 tie in the Merseyside Derby. Despite slipping off before the international break, Everton stood just one win away from a Champions League spot.
Another good run of games and some favourable results elsewhere could quickly see the blue side of Merseyside slip up into the top-four again. So, is the club Champions League-ready yet or not?
What it takes to be Champions League-ready
The Premier League is, undoubtedly, the most competitive European top-flight. While that makes it tough to qualify for the Champions League, it also works as the perfect proving ground for European hopefuls. As shown by the UEFA Champions League odds, those who make it from the English league tend to have a strong enough team to also compete in Europe.
At the halfway point in the group stages, all four of the Premier League’s representative led their groups and expected to remain on top. Manchester City stood at 1.04 to win Group C, Liverpool’s dominance gave them 1.08 odds to win Group D, Chelsea were tipped to stay on top of Group E at 1.74, and Manchester United’s 2.00 saw them favoured to win Group H.
As such, if Everton can work their way into a Champions League spot by the 38th game of this season, they’ll almost certainly be ready for the competition.
Are Everton up to the challenge?
Given his history as the manager of teams like Juventus, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, it was a bit of a surprise when Carlo Ancelotti accepted the call from Everton last year. As reported by The Guardian, Ancelotti just sees it as another challenge for him to take on, and he’s certainly moving the team in the right direction.
His managerial skills and tactics naturally put the squad in a better place than before he arrived, but his impact on recruitment has also been key. In recent windows, the club has wasted huge sums on players that either weren’t up to scratch or don’t fit the system of the manager. There appears to be a greater sense of direction and purpose when it comes to transfers.
Under Ancelotti this summer, all three of the first-team-ready signings have had a tremendous impact, with Abdoulaye Doucouré, Allan, and James Rodríguez combining for 28 appearances, three goals, and five assists. The two younger signings, Ben Godfrey and Niels Nkounkou have also impressed when called upon. He’s also been able to get the most out of the talents available, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s eight goals in as many games being the prime example.
However, there is still a glaring area of need that, should it be addressed, would likely bring in more consistent results. So far, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, and Séamus Coleman have all performed well enough, with Allan doing a job to cut out attacks in the middle of the park, but Jordan Pickford has continued to struggle in net.
Last season, Pickford made 94 saves and conceded 56 goals in 38 Premier League games, finishing with a save percentage of 62.7 and nine clean sheets. This season hasn’t started any better for the 6’0’’ goalie, stopping 20 shots and allowing 12 to breach his coverage in seven games, holding a save percentage of 62.5 with one clean sheet. To become more competitive in the league, these statistics need to improve.
Everton have a top-class manager and have been adding the right pieces to the team to enable progression. That said, there are still areas that need to see improvements to enhance the club’s shot at making it into Europe.