It’s hard to think it was only two years ago that Leicester City obliterated everything we thought we knew about Premier League football.
They were a team of misfits that rallied together to produce one of the greatest sporting shocks of all time as they challenged the established narrative that money equals success.
But since then, the top flight has reverted to its status quo with the rich top six clubs sitting comfortably above the other 14 teams making up the Premier League.
It seems then that Leicester’s win was much more a ripple than a sea-change for English football, and if anything, the top six looks stronger and more separate from the rest of the division than it has ever been.
Everton have been the club that has perennially threatened to sneak into the top bracket but never quite managed it. They finished seventh and eighth in the past two seasons, and that’s despite spending a reported £142.38million last summer – a huge sum for any club, let alone one which is much more accustomed to selling big rather than buying big.
At the end of the 2016/17 season, Everton finished seventh eight points behind Manchester United in sixth. A year later, after spending £142.38million, plus an extra £40.5million for Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun in the January transfer window, the Toffees finished eighth, 32 points behind the Red Devils and 14 points behind Arsenal who took up the final spot in the top six.
Of all the riches Everton have brought in since receiving a serious investment, only Jordan Pickford has really looked like a quality top six player. Of course, it’s not all down to the transfer policy, as the board must have hoped Ronald Koeman would bring out the best in their brand new luxuries which didn’t turn out to be the case.
Despite replacing Steve Walsh, the previous Director of Football, with Marcel Brands this summer, it appears their transfer policy isn’t going to change drastically. Everton had a very quiet start to the window but now Richarlison has reportedly completed a move to Goodison Park that could be worth an eventual £50million.
Even with a new club record signing and a new manager to boot, not many are predicting Everton will break up the established top six this season and that’s despite relative inactivity at Tottenham and Chelsea so far.
The argument used to go that European football would attract the top players, which is undoubtedly a key factor, but Manchester United broke the world record for Paul Pogba when they had only qualified for the Europa League and Burnley are yet to make a signing this summer despite making the competition.
Why then, with money finally available at the club, are Everton signing players that no other top clubs are looking at, and looking unlikely to better their seventh place finish of two seasons ago that they achieved before they could spend their new investment?
It’s a simple question with no easy answer other than the fact that the top six are really too good now.
They have world class managers and strong teams to build on, whereas Everton have to recruit in defence, midfield and attack this summer. Even though Richarlison could work wonders like he did in the short time he spent with Marco Silva last season, Everton’s transfer policy seems at odds with the traditions of the club and they are clearly still trying to find their feet at the top end of the market.
They are throwing money at decent Premier League players rather than those who really could take them to the next level, and this is why they will find it very difficult to finish above seventh in the coming season.