As we continue to look back at the 2018-19 season and how Everton fared, we got the crew here at Royal Blue Mersey together to get their thoughts on some questions around the team.
We’d love to hear from you readers, so please feel free to chime in in the comments section below with your answers to the questions as well.
How did Marcel Brands do in the two transfer windows?
Brian F - Brands did pragmatic work that sets the Toffees up for long term success.
Matt - Amazing. He identified areas this team could improve in, and signed good players to fill those needs. He didn’t spend too much money and was pretty shrewd with loans as well.
Pete - In terms of the personnel he brought in: pretty much spot on. He’s taken a horrendously unbalanced, aging squad and brought in some young, talented and hungry players in all the right positions.
The only area for improvement would be to get the business done at the start of pre-season, rather than deadline day. Although he was obviously handicapped in this regard last season due to the summer of change and a World Cup.
Adam - It’s hard to classify Brands’ work in the transfer windows as anything short of an unmitigated success. He brought in four senior-team players on permanent deal -- two of them were probably Everton’s best two players of the season, Bernard became a regular after arriving on a free, and Yerry Mina looked decent, though his injury history could wind up derailing that move. The incoming loanees impressed as well -- and that’s all before remembering that he found loan homes for several dead-weight players. Another few windows like this season’s could legitimately push Everton into a top-four discussion.
Sean - Brilliantly. He addressed 90% of the issues in the squad, brought the overall age down and shipped out a tonne of deadwood in the process.
Tom - I don’t think Brands could have done much more given the mess he inherited and the short time he has had to begin unravelling it all. I’m excited to see what he can achieve now he has his feet under the table.
Matthew - Brands did a fantastic job. The dead wood has started to be cleared, and more will surely follow this summer. All of the signings were arguably successful, particularly Richarlison and Lucas Digne, who have particularly spearheaded Everton’s change in fortunes on the pitch.
Geno - I think Brands did a terrific job in his first two windows. He addressed a lot of needs and hit on almost, if not all, of his transfers. On top of that, he didn’t overspend needlessly in January when the team was faltering and instead stayed calm, which is encouraging because of past people in his position and their panic spending in the winter window.
Rachel - I think he built a wonderful foundation for the team to start thriving.
Calvin - For the first time since I can remember, I feel secure that there is someone who knows what he’s doing in charge of the asylum. Trust in ‘Papa Marcel’.
How did Marco Silva do managing the team?
Brian F - Silva did a good job of growing the team through the season and overcoming rough patches.
Matt - That losing spell in the middle of the season didn’t help him by any means. But I think as the season went on, he got better. The attack was fun and the defense was impressive at time. Excited to see what he can do next year.
Pete - Showed plenty of potential in a year of transition. Started and ended the season very well, only the middle part hampered us in terms of position. When the team is confident, we are superb to watch and it’s great to see us go toe-to-toe with the top teams.
Obviously December and January were very disappointing, but the fact he could turn it around and also fix the defensive set piece situation shows me that he is capable of adapting when needed. If we can add some consistency, I can see Marco Silva guiding Everton to success.
Adam - Silva’s track record -- both upon arriving at Everton and after his first season -- is a little spottier than Brands’. It’s hard to ignore the results he achieved in the final two months of the season, and the scoreless draw on Derby day costing Liverpool the title will earn him substantial goodwill with the supporters for a long time. But the mid-season lull in form was alarming, and there was really a period when I thought he wasn’t the man to move the Toffees up the table long-term. I’m still not 100% convinced, but he’s more than earned patience based on what we saw at the end of the season.
Sean - Well for the most part. He instilled a much more attractive style, got the team playing on the front foot and helped several players develop well. He even proved he can handle himself under pressure and turn things around drastically when the side needed it.
Tom - I think it has been a learning curve for Marco Silva as much as it has been for his players. It took time to figure out his best team and the right tactics to suit the players at his disposal. But after a difficult winter things seem to have clicked, with Everton and Silva better for the experience.
Matthew - He did well from August to November and late February to May, but the period in-between he seemed incapable of lifting Everton after their heartbreaking last-minute derby defeat at Anfield on December 2. His stubbornness with his team selection also cost the Blues points during their miserable run, I felt. That said, for much of the first and final third of the season, Everton were a pleasure to watch, and Silva deserves as much credit for this, not least for rectifying the team’s defensive issues.
Geno - I think Marco did a solid job managing the team and showed improvement throughout the year. Obviously, the big problem throughout the season was on set pieces, which seemed to solve itself. Also, he showed a real plan for the team and towards the end everything started working out and showed promise for next season.
Rachel - He instilled a sense of hope and positivity for the future which is great for players and fans. The team was much more entertaining to watch, thankfully!
Calvin - It really looked like he’d lost the team in the cold winter months, but during the international break reined it all back in. He’s certainly showed that when he has time with his players he can turn them into a well-drilled unit.
How do you feel about the 2018-19 season?
Brian F - It could have been much worse. How we progress next year will color this season differently.
Matt - Honestly, it’s better than the half-season of Sam Allardyce, but this result is kind of what I expect every year. Between 6th and 10th, maybe sniffing the Europa League. But never actually going anywhere.
Pete - Ultimately disappointed. In terms of results, it was another forgettable one: average league performance and disappointing early exits in both cups. However, as I’ve already mentioned, this was always going to be a year of transition and the club seems to be, finally, all pulling in the right direction.
Adam - The final period of the season both makes the 2018-19 season easier and more difficult to swallow. The uptick in form has me feeling optimistic about next season, but it’s hard not to think about this season as one of lost opportunity as well. This is a team that finished three points out of a potential Europa League spot -- and one that lost to already-relegated Fulham and Newcastle United after taking a 2-0 lead. Win either of those matches and Everton’s a Manchester City victory in the FA Cup away from competing in Europe next season.
Hell, the Toffees only finished 12 points behind sixth-placed Manchester United -- take six points from the Fulham and Newcastle matches, hold on to one of the early season blown leads, and beat friggin’ Huddersfield Town on matchday 4 and Everton could have legitimately had a top-six claim. Now that’s a lot of “what if”, but based on what we saw at the end of the season, it’s hard not to think that way.
Sean - Ultimately this season will go down as something of a missed opportunity. Had it not been for that defeat at Anfield late on, Everton could have seriously pushed for a top six finish this year. Instead, the horrendous patch that followed that last-minute horror moment ruined those hopes.
Tom - Given the mess of the previous year this was always going to be a transitional season so I was prepared to give the side a free pass as long as I saw signs of improvement. My patience was sorely tested during that horrible mid-season run but there is no doubt Everton are a better team at the end of the season than they were at the start, so I’m left feeling excited for the future.
Matthew - A marked improvement on last term despite finishing in the same position of eighth, but a sense of what might have been still lingers. That said, the absence of Europa League football next season could prove a blessing in disguise. 7/10 for me.
Geno - I feel good about the 2018-2019 season. In the middle of the season, things looked doom and gloom, but the ending of the season showed great promise and was encouraging. I can say that, with a manager and Director of Football with a solid and easy to see plan, this is the most encouraged i have been in a while. Now, let’s hope Brands follows up his first summer window with another stellar job.
Rachel - It feel a little dead inside but not as much as last year.
Calvin - With a new manager and many new faces, it was always going to be boom-or-bust. I’m not as worried as many others that we’re out of Europe, more time for the leadership to build and consolidate this squad and really challenge the top six next season.
How does Everton get better next season?
Brian F - With young signings and players taking the next step (ie DCL becoming a 15 goals scorer)
Matt - Let the youngsters continue to grow, and get better in weak areas. Clearly Brands is going for youth, which I think is smart. But areas like forward still need adressing.
Pete - Continue to ship off the deadwood and add two or three more exciting young players to the squad. It would also be good to see more young players given a chance, especially in games where there is little to play for.
On a similar note, we should rest key players, like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison from time-to-time in order to keep them fresh and hungry season-long. Favouring Ademola Lookman over Theo Walcott also wouldn’t hurt.
Adam - Forget about getting better for a second -- Brands and Silva need to ensure that Everton doesn’t get worse. Getting Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes back is far from a sure thing, and if those players don’t return, replacing them becomes priority number one this offseason. The Toffees could probably use additional help at striker, as well as depth at right-back and the No.10 (assuming Nikola Vlasic never plays for Everton again). Those are doable things based on the budget Everton seems to be operating with and the success of Brands’ first summer -- but focusing on those needs before shoring up the center of defense and midfield would be a mistake.
Sean - They look to improve on the road and pick up points against the sides at the bottom half of the table. It was in those games where they really struggled this season, often taking their foot off the gas and getting ahead of themselves, a stance that regularly cost them dear.
Tom - Too many points, particularly early in the season, were thrown away against sides they should be beating. They improved in the final third of the season but the Fulham game was depressing a reminder that lessons have not yet been learnt.
Matthew - Firstly, by signing Kurt Zouma, so the settled defence we saw in the final stretch of 2018-19 is still intact at the start of next season. Other additions in central midfield - ideally André Gomes - are needed, as they are at right-back, on the wing, and up front, but not the sort of drastic overhaul we have seen in recent years. I would also like to see Everton show a stronger mentality on the road - five away wins in the league will never be enough to sustain a serious challenge for the Champions League.
Geno - I think Everton get better by bringing in a right back that can challenge Seamus for his position and a striker that can improve the team’s finishing. The biggest problem offensively all year was not being able to put the ball in the back of the net when given an opening and i think that improvements there will drastically change the outcome of some fixtures that we didn’t end up getting a result in this year.
Rachel - They proved they can beat Top 6 teams so now they get to show everyone that they can do that on a more consistent basis in 2019-20. How? Play every game like they did when they beat Manchester United 4-0. Easy peasy!
Calvin - Signing Zouma as many have pointed out is important so that we don’t spend another half-season with Michael Keane developing a relationship with another new centrehalf.
Meanwhile Brands & Silva can continue to pull out whatever transfer window magic they want like they have done last summer.
Your favourite thing about Everton this season?
Brian F - The new faces (Mina, Digne etc...) seemed to genuinely embrace the Everton family and seem motivated to move the club forward.
Matt - Seeing new signings arrive and then actually perform well. Made me think back to Martinez’s first season with Lukaku, Barry etc. But hopefully this story has a better ending than that one did.
Pete - The home form and atmosphere at Goodison from the Derby onwards.
Adam - There’s an old adage in American sports that “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” Well, in the final 11 matches Everton played this season, eight ended with a big fat zero in the GA column. It was a culmination of a lot of different factors -- Everton’s press keeping the ball away from its own net, set piece defending finally getting sorted out, and stellar individual play from all of Everton’s center-backs.
I anticipate that most of this summer will be spent focusing on how Everton can add another goalscorer, and maybe a creative player as well. But that can be the focus (especially if Zouma returns), because the defense was so damn good at the end of the season. That solidity is far and away what I’ll remember most fondly about this campaign.
Sean - It’s a split between their performance against the top six sides and the ambition they showed in those games and the revival of Goodison Park. The latter has been particularly impressive and as a result of a real, concerted effort by the fans to make the the Old Lady a fortress again.
Tom - The bond between the team and the fans being restored after the trauma of last year. I’d never known such a disconnect between the club and the fanbase than during the Allardyce era. It was such a sorry, dispiriting mess. So to actually enjoy going to the match again is a blessed relief.
Matthew - That after the chore that last season quickly became, watching Everton became a mostly enjoyable experience again. The squad is now richer in both quality and work ethic - it just needs more players like this to supplement it next term.
Geno - My favorite thing about Everton this season was the improvement and resilience. They could have folded when everything was going wrong in the winter, but instead, they put in the work and got better and i think that helped all Everton fans feel good about the upcoming season despite no European competition or trophies from the past season.
Rachel - The Andre Gomes Hug-a-Thon!
Calvin - The transformation at Goodison over the last couple of months has been huge, really happy to see the fortress (aka ‘bear pit’) return.
Also the black cat that invaded the pitch during the Wolves game made me happy, even as we watched the Blues get buried by the team that’s basically snatched the Europa League spot we were gunning for.