At the end of last season, Everton’s disarray led to a pessimism around the club that belied their position.
The reality is that they have the core of a good team and a lot of money for future investment. If they do get rid of John Stones and Romelu Lukaku then they’ll do so for an obscene amount of money.
With a Ronald Koeman at the helm and with a lot of money to give him, Everton don’t look to be in such a terrible position.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, but Everton’s players seemed to lose interest in playing for Roberto Martinez last season. Yet they still managed to get to two cup semi finals – losing to both Manchester clubs and eventual winners both times.
11th place in the league, however, simply wasn’t good enough, especially when you see how the league went – with Chelsea and Liverpool finishing outside the European spots and the Manchester clubs underperforming, Everton really should have been pushing not just for Europe, but the Champions League. If only they could defend.
Shoring up the defence and allowing the forwards to attack with the same freedom and flair as last season is probably the aim for Ronald Koeman. But if he does that, Europa League qualification isn’t beyond the realms of what is possible.
Nor is domestic silverware, given their two semi finals under a manager whose side conceded 105 Premier League goals over two seasons. Just making Everton competitive at the top of the table again would be success for this season, though.
For all the money around Everton; for their investment, the TV money in the Premier League and the very real possibility of at least one – probably two – of their star youngsters leaving the club for a shedload of cash, the Toffees have yet to make a major signing.
With almost a month still to go before the end of the window, Koeman still has time to bring in new recruits, and is perhaps waiting until the sales of their own players are completed before moving for big replacements.
Ronald Koeman’s biggest charm as a manager is getting the most out of the players he has at his disposal, and at Everton, there are quite a few good ones who have been underperforming for a while. Ross Barkley is one of those players.
He’s very young and clearly a top attacking midfielder in the making, but he needs a run of consistent performances to kick start himself and his club. It is probably unfair to judge him on the end of last season: Everton’s players certainly weren’t giving their all for their former manager, and Barkley’s creativity and ability to drive forward were surely stifled by that lack of interest from the squad.
Still, form isn’t like turning on and off a tap. Barkley will be Koeman’s main creative force, but he does need a good start to get the season up and running.
Whilst James McCarthy is undoubtedly an energetic central midfielder capable of protecting Everton’s back four and giving them a platform on which to build their attacks, McCarthy can go missing in games – and his Euro 2016 performances proved that.
It’s worth remembering that McCarthy has played his entire career in England under Roberto Martinez, and it will be a new experience for him to play under a new manager this season. If Ronald Koeman is able to add more grit and nastiness to McCarthy’s game, he could be a top defensive midfielder in the Premier League.