Expectations are a funny thing. Too often we generate unrealistic expectations based on what we perceive rather than reality.
Earlier this week we had a few discussions going about what Everton’s summer transfer window really means. And the takeaways were rather varied, and when you think about it does beg the question: “What are reasonable expectations this year?”
To answer that, we have to go to the ultimate goal. With the arrival of new ownership, and more importantly a lot of money, the new goal has to be to compete for a Champions League berth. But is that necessarily the goal for the upcoming season?
It would be nice to see, but to expect that immediately is a bit unrealistic. Instead, a Champions League berth is part of the long-term strategy.
Getting there is not a simple exercise. As Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and even old Everton can attest, the consistency needed to achieve a top-four finish is hard to find. It requires a certain level of talent, but it also requires depth, something that Everton has had in short supply.
All of this comes around to what exactly this summer means for Everton. The truth is that it is the start of a new era — Everton is beginning the process of building a deep and talented squad. The club has spent nearly £100 million in the window while bringing in over £100 million, mainly thanks to the sale of Lukaku. While last summer was also a decent spending spree, before that Everton had been hard-pressed to even hit £50 million in expenditures on transfer fees.
The other component to spending money is salary. Yesterday we detailed the drastic changes Everton is making to its wage structure. The important thing about this is that it shows a desire to compete. It is the first step along the path to building a squad with the quality needed to compete. Detractors will be quick to point to a club like Tottenham and their nearly fanatical adherence to a wage structure — but even now their structure is changing because of players like Harry Kane.
Yet again though, this is only a start. Changing the wage structure for new players does not mean Everton can immediately challenge, but it begins that process. Great players will want to get compensated appropriately and Everton is showing a willingness to do that. It allows them to go to star players in the upcoming transfer windows and shows a desire to not only pay appropriately, but compete for trophies properly.
But there is a downside to all of this, and it’s simple — none of it is guaranteed to work. Everton already do exceedingly well most seasons, finishing around 7th for nearly the past 15 years. In that time the club has finished outside the top 8 only a few times.
But that next step is the hardest part. It requires money, it requires time, and it requires a bit of luck. It isn’t going to be easy, but Everton has to start the process in this summer window. The important thing is that the club is now showing ambition and has a plan to go along with the desire of Champions League football.
Just because that ambition is there though doesn’t mean expectations should be unrealistic. We should expect Everton to be better this year. We should even expect them to challenge for the top 6. But expecting a trophy and expecting Champions League football is just unrealistic. It will require another summer or two of squad improvement like this summer to really build a Champions League team — and that’s before we factor in the other 6 teams above us improving.