Nickname: The Toffees
Home Ground: Goodison Park
- 9 English Premier Division Titles
- 5 FA Cup Titles
- 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup Title
Manager: Marco Silva
Everton is entering the 2018/19 English Premier League season with high ambitions, expecting a top 7 finish and a qualification for either UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League club competitions. The new man in charge is Marco Silva, who has taken over for Sam Allardyce in the offseason.
The Toffees have survived a poor start to their previous English Premier League campaign and the firing of their manager Ronald Koeman. Under the guidance of Sam Allardyce, Everton made a run in the second half of the season which saw them finish a respectable 8th position in the English Premier League.
I have prepared an overview of main Everton storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
Everton entered the 2017/18 English Premier League season with high expectations under manager Ronald Koeman. The Toffees had finished 7th in the 2016/17 season and secured the qualification to the UEFA Europa League for the following season.
Even though Everton have lost striker Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United in a GBP 75 million blockbuster deal, they have provided Ronald Koeman with the largest transfer budget in the history of the club to strengthen the squad for the season.
Koeman wasted no time in the transfer market and spent more than GBP 180 million on new additions to the team. Gilfy Sigurdsson was brought in from Swansea City, Michael Keane from Burnley, Jordan Pickford from Sunderland, Davy Klassen from Ajax, Theo Walcott from Arsenal, Cenk Tosun from Besiktas and Nikola Vlasic from Hajduk Split.
What unfolded in the first two months of the season came as a shock to all Everton fans, as their club found themselves in the relegation zone after the first 10 games. Everton was in 18th place, winning only 2 games, drawing 2 and losing 6 during that period. Everton Board disappointed in the team results decided to fire Ronald Koeman.
For the next month, Everton was led by caretaker manager David Unsworth while the board was looking for Koeman’s replacement. Finally, on November 28th, Sam Allardyce took over Everton in a bid to bring the club back to respectable league position.
The Toffees immediately bounced back and went on a 7-game unbeaten run, winning 4 of those. Securing draws against Big 6 clubs Chelsea and Liverpool gave the fans and the board a sense of optimism for the rest of the season. Everton was back to playing quality soccer.
Since the mid-season, Everton has been back in the middle of the Premier League standings and starting to play better. The Toffees did manage to climb to the 8th spot in the table, barely missing the UEFA Europa League qualification. They were beat out by Burnley for the final spot in Europe.
Everton has disappointed in the several areas as a team. Their defense has fallen to the 5th worst in the Premier League, something that used to be their trademark in the past. The offense didn’t help much either. They did finish 11th in the league but the gap between them and the Big 6 teams was huge (they were outscored on average by 28 goals by the Big 6 clubs).
Despite the resurgence under Sam Allardyce, Everton’s failure to finish Top 7 in the English Premier League and secure the qualification for Europe can be attributed to their away record. Away from Goodison Park, Everton won only 3 games, drew 6 and lost 10 with a -30 goal difference. This was by far the worst away record among the Top 10 teams in the league.
Key Additions and Departures
Despite Sam Allardyce’s rescue campaign last season, Everton have decided to start the season with a new manager. Marco Silva was brought in to take the reins, after being scouted by Everton during the previous season at Watford.
Silva wasted little time after being hired and decided to bring in left winger/forward Richarlison, who he has already brought to Watford when he was coaching them. 21-year-old Richarlison was signed for a GPB 40.5 million fee, in the effort to finally find a scoring threat after Romelu Lukaku’s departure from the club.
In addition to that, 3 players have returned to Everton after their loan contracts have expired. Forward Kevin Mirallas returned from Olympiacos, striker Sandro Ramirez returned from Sevilla and left-winger Ademola Lookman returned from a loan spell at RB Leipzig.
In terms of departures, Wayne Rooney has left the club on a free transfer move to DC United of MLS. In addition to that, midfielder Davy Klassen was sold to Werder Bremen after only a season at the club for a GBP 12.5 million fee. Center back Ramiro Funes Mori also found a new home at Villarreal for a GBP 9 million fee.
Everton is a sure bet to stay active in the transfer market, as multiple areas need rebuilding. The Toffees have already been linked to left-back Lucas Digne from Barcelona since Leighton Baines is 33 years old and can’t seem to stay healthy or produce like he used to.
The situation is not much better at center-back either. Captain Phil Jagielka is a 35-year-old throwback center back that has trouble keeping up in the modern game. Same can be said about 33-year old Ashley Williams. Outside of Michael Keane, there are no center backs that can keep up in the modern game on the roster. I expect that Everton will make a move there as well. The primary target would be the Colombian World Cup hero Yerri Mina, who is keen on leaving Barcelona.
Despite adding Richarlison, Everton are still missing a classic striker to play up front. Danny Welbeck is unhappy at Arsenal and might be looking for a new team this offseason. The Toffees have expressed interest in him before so he will be on their radar this offseason as well.
If Everton is able to fix their defensive issues on the roster and add a forward/striker that will score goals on a consistent basis, they will have the roster capable achieving the lofty goals they have set for themselves in the upcoming English Premier League season.
Style of Play
Marco Silva belongs to the new school of managers that utilize heavy pressing schemes to disrupt the opponents and gain possession. While coaching at Olympiacos and Watford, Silva has mostly relied on the 4-2-3-1 formation as the base of his tactics, with seldom transformations into 4-3-3.
The staple of Silva’s teams has always been the counter-attack. 4-2-3-1 is the perfect formation for quick transitions from playing defense, to leading the counter-attack. It offers flexibility both on defense and in the attack.
A heavy pressing scheme is something that characterizes the play of most top teams in Europe nowadays, but the pressing systems are not all alike. While the likes of Manchester City with Pep Guardiola and Liverpool with Jurgen Klopp tend to press the ball and players all over the pitch, Marco Silva’s approach is a bit different.
Silva likes to press the space where the ball is going to be passed into. 4-2-3-1 formation transforms into 4-1-4-1 when defending. In the effort to crowd the space and use zone press schemes to take the ball away from the opponents. This is the system the most similar to what Diego Simeone is employing at Atletico Madrid.
Silva’s system doesn’t require a lot of pace and athleticism from the defensive line, unlike Klopp’s and Guardiola’s. This is key to Everton’s success since the majority of their defensive line isn’t built for a quick pressing game all over the pitch.
A lightning quick transition from defense into counter-attack is key to Silva’s system and Everton will look to implement it by spreading the field and using with to create space for the counter-attacking moves. At the center of this is the No. 6 central midfielder.
It will be interesting to see how Everton will adjust to Silva’s system and how the roles will be split among the players. As it stands now, Morgan Schneiderlin is set to play the crucial No. 6 spot in the formation, which should give the other midfielders more space to operate in the attack.
2018/19 Season Expectations and Predictions
Everton is entering the 2018/19 English Premier League season with high expectations. They have invested almost GBP 200 million into players the previous offseason and they have again been active in the transfer market.
A terrible start to the previous campaign doomed Everton’s chances to secure a top 7 finish and Europe qualification spot. Marco Silva is seen as the long-term solution at the manager position, that will find a delicate balance between the attacking flair that used to be the staple under Roberto Martinez and the defensive toughness of Ronald Koeman.
It is extremely difficult to break through the barricade that the Big 6 clubs have built at the top of the Premiership. Budget constraints, squad depth and experience are usually all on the side of Big 6 clubs. Still, this year might leave some of them vulnerable to a top 6 finish.
Chelsea is under new management, as Maurizio Sarri begins his spell at Stamford Bridge. The rumors of a rebuild and the departure of key Chelsea players are floating around and it might leave Chelsea vulnerable in the short term.
A similar situation has befallen Arsenal, who begin the Post-Wenger Era under the leadership of Emery Unai. Arsenal’s roster is full of question marks that still need to be answered. A transition year, while new additions are settled, might be in store of Arsenal.
Everton has the advantage that they will not play in any European competitions this season, leaving them more focused on the English Premier League. The first two months of the season bring a favorable schedule for the Toffees.
During that period, Everton will face Southampton, Huddersfield Town, West Ham and Fulham at home, with away games at Wolverhampton, Bournemouth and Arsenal. It is a manageable schedule that should allow Everton to get off to a hot start, with just a single Big 6 opponent, Arsenal, on the schedule.
I believe that Everton have enough talent to get back into Top 7, where they might even spring a surprise on Chelsea or Arsenal. Still, there are a few pieces missing at the moment and I find it difficult to pick them over either of the London sides. As it stands, Everton should finish 7th in the English Premier League.