Imagine a preseason where transfer business is done early, tonnes of money is spent on world stars and promising talent, while on the field the team goes unbeaten ahead of the new season.
Well, that’s what happened at Goodison Park in 2017 and just look how last term panned out.
This summer we’re doing things differently.
We’re selling in vast numbers, can barely sign a player and have failed to beat a single professional opponent in six attempts.
So, in the twisted world of football, this will surely be our year, eh?
A Year of Contrast
Some could argue that the 2017/18 season could have been very different had the fixture computer spat out a more favourable opening programme. Playing both Manchester City and Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in your opening five games is never going to leave you in a great position early on. But it was the manner of those defeats which drained the players’ and fans’ confidence, meaning Koeman simply had to depart L4 following a 5-2 surrender at home to Arsenal on 22nd October.
And, just like this Blues’ preseason has come in stark contrast to its predecessor, so have the club’s opening fixtures. Everton won’t face a top four team in the upcoming campaign until a trip to Old Trafford on 27th October.
This “easy” start could prove a blessing or a curse to Marco Silva. On the one hand, there’s a great opportunity to head into November at the right end of the table and build confidence from there. However, if the preseason form continues into the season some may well be calling for another clear out by Christmas.
What’s Needed at Everton?
What had seemed like the start of a new exciting era at Everton Football Club turned into nothing more than an epic false dawn that began with un-Everton-like levels of hope and somehow ended with Sam Allardyce.
And those now in power at Everton made no bones about what to expect this summer: mainly a gutting of the team. Ripping out the plentiful deadwood and adding some new beams of light in much needed positions.
Many will point to the huge fee that was splurged on Richarlison to say the Everton transfer committee haven’t learned their lesson, but he’s been one of Everton’s only promising performers in the preseason fixtures and looks like a considerable upgrade on Yannick Bolasie out on the left wing.
A new left-back was supposedly a top target last summer too, but Everton finally have a legacy for Leighton Baines in Lucas Digne. Maybe things are changing after all?
With a few days of the window still to go, more reinforcements are still desperately needed, especially at centre-half. But whoever comes in, this looks set to be a year of transition.
The Goodison Transition
Transition is a dirty word in football. Many see it as a substitute word for “lack of ambition”. But a year of transition is exactly what Everton need as they figure out how they can close the gap and the make the “top 6” a “top 7”.
The Blues need to stop chasing their tail, and instead sit back and think. How can we return to the top?
We tried throwing money at it, poorly mimicking the spending antics of other new-money clubs. But we were worse off for it.
Now is the time for an alternative attack. We simply can’t outspend the top six. Nor can we attract the top players they can. So, we clearly need to think differently if we are to put the blue cat amongst the fat pigeons.
Marcel Brands alluded to this in his first press conference. He wants to build on one of the country’s greatest youth academies and put faith in youth – just as he did with great success at PSV. That, combined with shrewd (if unfashionable) signings, is surely Everton’s best bet to end the trophy drought and re-emerge as one of the country’s elite.
Some may call me unambitious, but, for me, a successful season would see us establish a youthful spine playing with a clear tactical blueprint – even if that means finishing seventh or eighth again.
Ahead of the season opener against Wolves, we have two undoubtedly “top” players: Jordan Pickford and Seamus Coleman. Come May 2019, hopefully we can say the same about Mason Holgate, Tom Davies, Richarlison, Ademola Lookman and Cenk Tosun. That’s when we can think about the next level.
Are Pre-Season Woes a Bad Thing?
The change in mood and circumstance at Goodison Park between the summers of 2017 and 2018 is really quite remarkable. But after failing with high expectations, maybe the rediscovered low expectations can be used to build the foundations for New Everton.
Maybe the manager with a point to prove having been sacked by Watford has the greater drive to make Everton a success than the man hoping to improve his handicap with an eye on the Barca job.
Pete Reynolds has signed on at Royal Blue Mersey during this transfer window - please join us in welcoming him to the crew! #WelcomePete