By the time Wayne Rooney scored that stunner from halfway to complete his hat trick against West Ham, a sense of calm and relief had spread through every single Everton fan. Potentially the start of a strong uphill push, the situation is looking good for the blues since Big Sam took charge. Four wins and a draw in the Merseyside derby- Allardyce just couldn’t be asked for more. Currently sitting safe at ninth, we take a look at Everton’s, what might be termed as weird, 17/18 season.
When Farhad Moshiri brought in Ronald Koeman, the man who said even Barcelona wouldn’t lure him away from Southampton, to take over, much was expected. In a decent first season, Koeman took Everton to seventh and Europe, but at the same time it should be noted that Everton never challenged top 6 and neither did the teams below them challenge for top 7. Either ways, a massive budget was allocated to the Dutchman for his second season and Lukaku’s big money sale only added to it.
But fast forward four months into the season, Everton sat near relegation zone, had made a disaster out of the Europa League group stages and rightfully so, Koeman was sacked. And to avoid a wastage of time and space, let’s skip the Unsworth part, poor guy was thrown into proper chaos.
Everton spent more than £130m in the summer, forcing the media to shower praise on their ‘win’ in the transfer window. Some even went lengths predicting Everton to finish above rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. Here we try to establish the opposite: Everton’s summer window was a failure. Money was spent, but they just couldn’t place it on the right names.
Let us start from the back. There is no denial on the fact that £26m for Jordan Pickford is a coup. An area where Everton has always struggled, Everton were right to go for the young man rather than someone like Hart, even though Pickford has a lot to mature into. To add to an ageing defence lead by Jagielka, Michael Keane was brought in for £26m. Though he looked like a decent addition in July, Keane hasn’t been able to replicate his form from last season which earned him a call up to the national side raising questions whether his performance was a result of Sean Dyche’s brilliant defensive system. Although he is likely to turn into a valuable addition at the club, he certainly did not repay Koeman for the trust placed on him. And just to give an idea of a smart business, Leicester City signed Harry Maguire for half the money in the same window.
In midfield, Everton spent a combined £70m on Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea and Davy Klaassen from Ajax. Koeman eyed his compatriot to be his side’s creative midfield presence, the man to transition defence into attacks without spending too much time on the ball. But so far he has proven to be Everton’s biggest mistake in the summer. Klaassen’s performance has been nowhere near the form that lead Ajax to the Europa League finals. A bit harsh but in truth, a transfer flop.
Now the big man from Iceland who has been carrying Swansea on his shoulders for the past few years, Gylfi Sigurdsson. No doubt a valuable addition to any side in England let alone Everton. But to have the audacity to spend £45m on a 28 year old midfielder at a mid table club like Everton, Ronald Koeman took it a bit too far. The move would have been reasonable at a club with massive financial backing. But its Everton we are talking about. Sigurdsson, even though ‘the man’ for set pieces, does not come near the best in other aspects of the game either. If Koeman and the board had a better vision for the club, they would have saved such a huge fee for a marquee signing, someone who can elevate the club to the next level. Mohammed Salah was signed for £37m in the same window, Bernardo Silva for £45m. And Tom Cleverley who Everton let go for just £8m is enjoying his game under Marcos Silva.
In Koeman’s defence it is arguable that he planned Wayne Rooney’s return as the arrival of a playmaker, a number ten to play behind the striker. But the biggest question of all is why didn’t he replace his 25 goals striker who was shipped out for a massive £75m? Sandro Ramirez for one definitely does not look like a smart buy, neither does Nikol Vlasic, at least for the time being. Calvert Lewin is the only bright side but he is not enough to guarantee goals. At one point, Koeman was so badly desperate for goals that he turned to Oumar Niasse, the player he banished even from having a locker in the dressing room.
Everton also seriously lack creativity from the wings. Only Bolasie can promise consistent quality, but he has spent almost the entirety of his Everton career sidelined by injuries. Kevin Mirallas and Aaron Lennon are definitely not the players to look up to for consistency.
The board is more at fault than Koeman himself. As a team aiming for the top, they should have had a better vision for the club, better ideas and a better scouting system. Above all, they should have been patient. Success can never be bought overnight. Either way, they are justified in the appointment of Sam Allardyce. Big Sam has been an underrated manager for his entire career and is the right man to take Everton past the season and he has already taken Everton to the top half.
It is amazing what a change of manager can do to a team. Everton, West Ham and Palace all look completely different teams to what they were prior to their new appointments. Hodgson especially, to take over a potentially hopeless Palace team and make them show great character.
— Football Bloody Hell (@fbhfootball) December 16, 2017
Allardyce has been one of the few managers who has replaced an outgoing manager and lifted the team up since. Everton are performing much better under the experienced veteran and look more like the team which reflects the quality they possess. They find themselves in the top half of the table and have put together a series of commendable results. Most notably, their form under Allardyce has been really good due to the fact that they have tightened up at the back. Whether they can sustain this form and keep racking up the points and finish higher remains in question, as they somehow seem to lack a proper game changer in their squad.
January will be a very testing time for Everton as they would definitely need more reinforcements if they are to stay where they are in the table right now. Big Sam has done an incredible job of bringing a side that was lingering around the relegation zone to the top half of the table.