After looking poised to crack into the upper echelon of the Women’s Super League last season, the hype surrounding Everton Football Club turned into end-of-the-year despair; the Toffees had a forgettable nine months that saw the team win just three league games after Oct. 3.
Let’s compare the results from the last two seasons to see just how much Everton fell down the table. The Blues scored less than half as many goals and let in 11 more, which led to a five-place drop.
Final Position: 5th
Record (wins, draws, losses): 9-5-8
Goals For/Against: 39/30
Final Position: 10th
Goals For/Against: 18/41
A quick note on cup competitions: Everton went 2-0-1 in 2020-21 in the Continental Cup and 2-0-2 in 21-22 and failed to qualify for the knockout stage both times. In the FA Cup, the Toffees fell to Chelsea in the fifth round last year and made it to the quarters this season before losing to Manchester City.
Former head coach Willie Kirk had a busy summer recruiting big names while parting ways with players he deemed surplus to requirements.
Only four of the 11 players who left Merseyside in the summer logged decent minutes, but none had a future at the club. Of the other seven, one retired, one was the backup goalkeeper, one had been a perennial loanee, and the other four were young players who failed to impress.
The last player to depart was striker Valérie Gauvin, who swapped Liverpool for North Carolina in the winter transfer window. Kirk then signed nine players, one of whom spent the season on loan with KIF Örebro and Bayern Munich.
Here’s what Kirk’s recruitment looked like: winger Kenza Dali (West Ham), forward Toni Duggan (Atletico Madrid), forward Anna Anvegård (Rosengård), forward Hanna Bennison (Rosengård), defender Nathalie Björn (Rosengård), right-back Leonie Maier (Arsenal), goalie Courtney Brosnan (West Ham) and central midfielder Aurora Galli (Juventus).
The summer transfer window was supposed to help Everton compete against the top teams. In 2020-21, the Blues won nine of 14 matches against teams lower in the table. But versus the four top clubs — Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United — the Merseyside outfit lost eight of eight.
This year, Everton lost all but one of its eight matches against the top four — it tied United — and went 5-4-5 versus the rest of the division.
After taking over at Finch Farm in 2018 and guiding Everton to safety, Wilie Kirk took his side from 10th to sixth before landing in fifth last season. But after a splashy transfer window, Kirk was on a short leash.
Kirk was sacked in October following blowout defeats to Chelsea (4-0), Manchester City (4-0, 5-1 in the Conti Cup) and Arsenal (3-0). This season, Everton managed two victories under Kirk — Birmingham City (3-1) and Reading (3-0) — but his inability to pick up results against the best clubs cost him.
Everton then turned to former-Lyon coach Jean-Luc Vasseur, who had a stellar track record with the most dominant side in Europe. But the Frenchman lasted 10 games and was relieved of his duties after picking up just one win from six league fixtures.
And while interim managers Chris Roberts and Claire Ditchburn saw the Toffees through the end of the season, the brass appointed Brian Sørensen in April. Sørensen recently coached Danish Women’s League side Fortuna Hjorring. He won two league titles, advanced to the knockout stages of several Champions League competitions and earned a domestic cup in two separate stints with the club.
Tinja-Riikka Korpela (backup - Tottenham) and Anna Pedersen (third-string - London City) were replaced with Courtney Brosnan and Cecilía Rúnarsdóttir (loaned). For most of the season, Brosnan played second fiddle to Sandy MacIver, who started 18 of 22 league fixtures the year prior.
And while MacIver again featured 18 times in the WSL, Brosnan got the call in the team’s final two games. MacIver’s volume of minutes skews any statistical comparison. Still, Brosnan’s run of form in May might make for an intriguing goalie competition this summer.
Kirk brought in right-back Leonie Maier from Arsenal to replace Ingrid Moe Wold, who retired. But after Kirk left, Danielle Turner, a natural left-back, was preferred on the right to Maier, while Poppy Pattinson got the runout on the left side.
Then there was Megan Finnigan, who logged the most minutes of any outfield player last season but was on the fringes of the rotation for much of the year. She did feature in the later matchweeks and seemed to steady a leaky defense. Finnigan and Gabby George finished as the preferred center back pairing, with Björn also earning minutes.
Injuries cost the Blues their top defender from a year ago; Rikke Sevecke picked up an injury during training and played just half of the team’s league fixtures.
The biggest statistical drop-off in midfield came from Izzy Christiansen, Kenza Dali and Lucy Graham. Here are their league numbers from the past two seasons:
Christiansen: 2020-21: six goals, six assists. 2021-22: zero goals, two assists
Two of her six goals last season came from the spot, but Everton did not win a single penalty in the league this year, according to fbref.
Dali: 2020-21 (West Ham): three goals, four assists. 2021-22: zero goals, two assists.
Graham: 2020-21: five goals, three assists. 2021-22: zero goals, zero assists
However, all the blame shouldn’t go to Christianen, Dali, and Graham. Everton’s six midfielders scored two league goals and five assists collectively. It was a challenging year all around in the center of the pitch. Still, Hanna Bennison should improve after a difficult first season, and Aurora Galli looked comfortable in her defensive midfield position. And one of Christianen, Dali, or Graham should bounce back if not all three.
What the Merseyside club missed most was the play of its wingers, primarily Nicoline Sørensen, who tore her ACL in September. With Hayley Raso leaving for Manchester City in the summer, Everton lost seven league goals and five assists between the pair, production the team failed to replace.
Goal-scoring fell off a cliff this season. Three forwards couldn’t replicate their success, and two new signings didn’t do enough to offset the imbalance.
In 2020-21, Simone Magill, Valérie Gauvin and Claire Emslie combined for 14 goals and seven assists in the SL. This year, the trio managed just four goals and one assist.
Anna Anvegård earned the team’s golden boot, but her four league goals — seven in all competitions — and one assist plus Toni Duggan’s two Super League goals and one assist still saw the Toffees score at a lower rate.
Everton went from the fifth-highest scoring team to the fourth-worst in nine months. And with Magill leaving the club after more than nine years, Gauvin already in the United States and Emslie’s departure imminent, Brian Sørensen will need to beef up his forward unit before the start of next season.