Everton were not expected to be very busy during the January transfer window, and did not do their finances much harm either by spending cash they don’t have. Both Director of Football Kevin Thelwell and manager Sean Dyche had mentioned that the cash-strapped club were unlikely to be able to swing many deals, and that did indeed come to pass.
The impending doom of sanctions from financial malpractices imagined and real hangs heavy over Everton Football Club. On top of that the Toffees could be days away from administration if reports are to be believed that 777 Partners are pumping in big cash loans every other month to keep the club afloat even as the decision over their purchase attempt is being dawdled over. Heaven only knows what would happen if the powers that be decide the embattled Florida-based investment group are not worthy owners.
So when 11pm GMT came around on Thursday night, there were no announcements of incoming players to report, no deal sheets dilly-dallying about. On the flip side, a threadbare squad was not further ransacked for a few million quid either, so that can be considered a positive of sorts.
The only somewhat significant piece of business on deadline day was the futile loan spell of Mason Holgate at Southampton was finally cut short, and he was instead shipped of Sheffield United. Likely this swap was of greater financial benefit for the Blues.
Two youngsters from the Under-21 side were sent out on loan - defender Elijah Campbell moved to League One strugglers Fleetwood Town, and midfielder Sean McAllister to Scottish Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
There were rumours about rejected loan deals - Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Jakub Moder turned down a switch to Merseyside, and Watford similarly declined an approach for their young Colombian Yaser Asprilla. But in the end the widely expected loan cancelation of Arnaut Danjuma and subsequent move to Lyon didn’t come to pass so the Blues don’t enter the second half of season short a winger.
The appeals process for Everton’s ten-point deduction is underway, with a judgement to come in the following weeks. Meanwhile both Everton and Forest have been charged with a second breach of profit and sustainability regulations for this season, and those hearings hinge on the results of the first accusation.
But back on the pitch Dyche has to focus on stacking up points quickly. The Blues have only one win in their last nine games in all competitions, but conversely they have also managed four clean sheets in that spell too. Poor finishing and general lacklustre play in the final third have both resulted in missed scoring opportunities. With Luton Town going on a recent tear and the Blues facing two difficult games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, there is a genuine risk that Everton could find themselves somewhat adrift at the foot of the table and facing further points sanctions in just a matter of weeks.
Keeping the players’ attention focused on the pitch and a visibly restless fanbase settled are two Herculean tasks resting on the broad shoulders of Dyche, and so far he has done well to carry that load. There remain questions about some of his tactical choices and his insistence on sticking with a settled lineup to its own detriment, but by and large he has shown that he can keep the Blues at a midtable level, were it not for the draconian punishments the Premier League has cooking up for Everton.
Could the Toffees have been helped in their caused by bringing in a new face or two to refresh Dyche’s tired roster? Certainly, but it is the club’s off-the-pitch January addition of super lawyer Laurence Rabinowitz KC that could end up saving the Blues from relegation. In a season where more often than not it has looked like the Premier League have a vendetta against Everton that has nothing to do with footballing matters or sporting advantages, it is idly ironic that the club’s future could get settled in the courtroom, far away from the homely confines of Goodison Park.