How Everton have not addressed any real issues in the transfer market
£140 million being spent doesn’t get you much these days. Or at least, that’s the case if you’re Everton.
They currently find themselves in the bottom three of the Premier League, this coming after it was largely expected Everton would aim to kick on and potentially challenge for top four this season. This, however, was something that irked Ronald Koeman, who when goaded by Jose Mourinho over Everton’s ambitions, suggested a top seven finish would suffice.
“If there’s anybody in this room and outside and sees this (a top-four finish) as something realistic for us, please comment. Be realistic. I’m not happy how we started the season, but please be a bit realistic about Everton. We need time, but it’s difficult in football.”
Koeman is, perhaps, wide of the mark if he thinks a club can spend those sorts of sums, despite losing a player of Romelu Lukaku’s status, and float along at the same level. There has to be progression, but ultimately there are few signs of that at Everton and more worryingly, the money they received for the Belgian has not been wisely spent.
Before getting on to who came in, it’s more relevant to look at who didn’t. For one, and most important of all, a replacement for Lukaku. The Belgian plundered in 25 goals last season yet rather than making replacing this a priority, Everton shuffled around elsewhere in the market an ended up paying exorbitant fees.
Spain Under-21 striker Sandro was brought in for a bargain £5.2m from Malaga but would always need time to adapt, and he has never been a prolific striker - more a hard worker who supports the attack. Wayne Rooney made his return meanwhile, and his best days are clearly behind him. Finally, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, England's match-winner in the under-20 World Cup Final against Venezuela, is a promising player but one who is a work in progress.
No genuine goal getting striker was signed and while efforts to sign Olivier Giroud fell flat, a ‘Plan B’ was seemingly nowhere to be found. Instead, most of the summer was spent on a series of failed bids for Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea. Eventually the Icelandic midfielder was signed, but came at a premium - £45m - a club record.
Koeman himself acknowledged the lack of a striker, and his words made worrying reading for Everton fans with a ball barely even kicked.
"We need productivity. We lost 25 goals – that’s a lot. We need to find that between a number of players and that is difficult.”
The embarrassment was complete when Koeman turned to striker Oumar Niasse. Exiled by the Dutchman after only 45 minutes of the first pre-season friendly following his arrival as manager, he is now seemingly back in the fold after a startling goal against Sunderland in the EFL Cup - desperate times, call for desperate measures as the old adage goes.
There’s also the issue of behind the attack, and while they overload in the creative department with Sigurdsson, Rooney and Davy Klaasen, none of them have been convincing in the position and offered the sort of support that Ross Barkley provided last season.
Barkley was second top scorer behind Lukaku with six goals, but importantly, eight assists. As much as he’s fell out with the fans at the club, his spark and vibrancy can lift the team. None of the new boys appear even close to doing what Barkley did.
There is another problem that is as concerning as the failure to facilitate for Lukaku’s loss however, and that’s in defence. An ageing, deteriorating Ashley Williams has already produced a series of gaffes this season, highlighting the obvious need for a replacement.
Despite the signing of Michael Keane from Burnley, who is still adapting to Koeman’s specific system, more strength in depth is needed in defence. Ramiro Funes Mori’s long-term injury has hit Everton hard, and while the former River Plate man at times plays on the edge and has questionable discipline, he is a presence at the back. Williams was at one point but is clearly not capable of being a regular in the Premier League anymore.
There is plenty for Koeman to think about if he remains in the job, and January might once again see the chequebook open - if there is any money left that is. That’s a number of if’s there that's one too many but Everton only have themselves to blame for being in this position.
Everton expected bang for their considerable buck over the summer, but so far they look as though they’ve been short-changed.