Do you feel that? That strange, foreign feeling deep in your heart?
There’s hope at Everton again after a strong summer transfer window that has brought several talented players to Goodison Park days before the start of the 2018-19 season.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the raw talent in at Everton (and there is a fair bit of it), each player acquired fits an obvious, well-defined need. This was not a summer of throwing around money simply because Moshiri allowed it — this was a clearly defined plan to target the major problem spots within the roster, bringing in players at each position that can contribute both now and in the future - all are 25 or under, fast and skilled.
The big upgrade came on the backline, which leaked goals throughout the preseason. Marco Silva and Marcel Brands already brought in Lucas Digne as the long-term replacement for Leighton Baines at left-back, but they left their biggest coup for the final day.
Everton managed to acquire two starting caliber center-backs in Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma — shoring up a position previously occupied by one old player getting bad and two young players who weren’t improving.
Now, you’d suspect that Mina, Zouma, and Keane will fight it out for the starting positions at center-back, while Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate serve as rotational players. Neither Mina or Zouma are superstar defenders, but both represent a significant upgrade over what they replaced.
Things were more quiet in the midfield, with only Andre Gomes making his way to Goodison from Barcelona on loan. He’s been absolutely atrocious with Barcelona since moving there from Valencia in 2015, but at one point he was among the most highly-touted prospects in the world.
He represents a low-risk, high-reward proposition. If he rediscovers his potential, he could be an absolute steal and lobby for a permanent move to Everton next season. If not, he still represents a better backup option to Idrissa Gueye than Tom Davies, as well as being a better ball-carrier.
The other area of major improvement was out wide, where the Toffees added Richarlison and Bernard, while still holding onto Ademola Lookman as well. Add those three into the rotation with Theo Walcott, and the Toffees are looking at a lot of speed, goals, and potential from the wide areas — and options to spare if one or more of the players slips out of form.
You could pretty easily argue at this point that Everton has a quality player at each position, and is at least two-deep across the board, which is what Brands would have set out to do.
Just the addition of these new players to the club is an enormous cause for celebration, but this window is even more interesting than that for the Toffees.
Consider the biggest moves of some of their theoretical top six competition:
- Jorginho from Napoli
- Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid
- A net loss of £36,000,000 to get worse at goalkeeper
- Goalkeeper Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen
- Center-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund
- Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria
- Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus
- No one, which is a first in the history of the transfer window.
- Fred of Shakhtar Donetsk
- Full-back Diogo Dalot
- No center-back, despite being linked with both of the Blues’ CB additions (???)
Each of these teams entered the transfer window with substantially more talent than Everton, and I won’t try to claim that the Toffees’ positive summer has completely closed the gap.
But...surely at this point they’ve gotten much closer, no? Chelsea has a wantaway star in Hazard, Arsenal is still a mess at center-back even after adding Sokratis, Tottenham literally didn’t do anything and seems constantly on the verge of a player revolt over wages, and Manchester United has exactly one good center-back heading into a third season under Jose Mourinho.
It certainly wouldn’t be impossible for one or more of these teams to struggle relative to their performances last season, especially with sides like Everton and Leicester City entering the season improved, and two promoted sides in Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham (first promoted team to spend over £100m) looking ready for the big time.
If we can say that Everton are demonstrably improved and the consensus 3-6 teams in the Premier League heading into the season are essentially stagnant (if not worse — looking at you Chelsea), is it really that outlandish to say Everton could squeak out a spot in the top six?
As I’ve said, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it likely, but it’s certainly a goal that becomes potentially attainable with the way the final week of the summer transfer window went down.