History repeats itself at Everton as optimism turns into malaise

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History has a curious knack of repeating itself at Everton. Just as it seems a new dawn is appearing, the Toffees walk over the horizon only to find themselves standing exactly where they were before.

Already, the nervous excitement surrounding Marco Silva’s second season in charge has transitioned into fears of further plight. But this is just the cycle of malaise the Merseyside club never seem to quite escape – it’s all starting to feel eerily familiar.

It is August 2017 and something that had been thin on the ground for quite some time along one side of Stanley Park had seemingly returned: optimism.

At the helm is Ronald Koeman whose stock is high after guiding the Toffees to seventh in the Premier League that May, their highest placing since Roberto Martinez’ inaugural season. It used to be fairly common for the grand old team to come seventh or higher during the latter half of David Moyes’ tenure. Now were those vibrant and encouraging days back again?

Yet it wasn’t just results on the pitch that brought back belief. That summer, bolstered by the financial muscle of businessman Farhad Moshiri who had bought a 49.9% stake in the club a year earlier, Everton had endeavoured to furnish Koeman with a significantly strengthened squad, £135m spent on nine new signings. It meant that only four clubs across Europe had shelled out more during that transfer window and this after a sustained period where practical parsimony had left the side ill-balanced and lacking in substantial quality.

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The thinking then in August 2017 – despite learned behaviour telling them to be wary – is this: If Koeman can coach a team that is distinctly average on paper to a European spot what heights will be reached with Jordan Pickford in sticks, Michael Keane bossing the back-line, and the elegant Gylfi Sigurdsson scheming behind the returning Wayne Rooney?

The answer was as dispiriting as it was surprising. Koeman lasted until October before he was dismissed and with Everton languishing near the drop-zone, survival specialist Sam Allardyce was drafted in to very little fanfare. Presiding over sterile, unadventurous football, Allardyce got enough out of this collection of expensive flops to ensure a mid-table finish until he too was dispensed with.

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It is August 2019 and Everton have again been busy in the transfer market, bringing in exciting young striker Moise Kean from Juventus, as well as Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Manchester City’s Fabian Delph – players with big pedigree. Now of course Silva is in the hot-seat and after steering the Blues to a respectable eighth in 2017/18 the feeling is that everything is in place for the Portuguese coach to take them higher.

Granted, the giddy predictions that accompanied Koeman’s second campaign have been absent but still the general perception is that Everton have a genuine chance of breaking up the top six clique, or at least as genuine a chance as anybody else who finished in mid-table last season.

Fast forward to the here and now and the Toffees have hardly looked like top six material so far. An abhorrent away record has persisted with two losses endured at Aston Villa and Bournemouth, the latter of which saw fans take to Twitter with typical humour.

Conceding two goals to set pieces at Dean Court meanwhile saw an unwelcome revisiting of an Achilles heel that so often was their undoing last term and if that suggests defensive frailties it’s a problem barely rectified at the other end with the Merseysiders averaging just a goal per game. Elsewhere the midfield has struggled to gel and has often been too ponderous in possession – all of which means, after just five league games, the knives are already out for Silva.

It’s only September, but it’s happening again. Summer optimism replaced by harsh realities and struggle. Positive predictions swapped for the Out brigade. Of course, there’s much more of the campaign to come, but it already feels like more mediocrity could see Everton pull the plug on Silva’s reign. If not for concerns from the board, then for the sheer disappointment amongst the fan base.

And that will most likely be followed by a stop-gap appointment, then a permanent appointment, then some form of squad rebuild that requires a season of transition, then once again the hope and belief that Everton have the platform in place to challenge the top six, then more anger and apathy when they don’t. Rinse and repeat.

This season is supposed to be a new horizon for Everton, yet it’s already starting to feel like old ground.

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