Everton had been tipped to challenge the Premier League elite this season, following their huge summer spending spree. However, that wave of optimism has been crushed by negativity following the Toffees’ opening seven fixtures, which have yielded just two victories and seven points.
Currently down in 16th, the pressure is already mounting on manager Ronald Koeman, of whom much more was expected. Here are five reasons why Everton supporters should be concerned.
Romelu Lukaku’s goals have not been replaced
Everton were over-reliant on Romelu Lukaku last season and his departure has been keenly felt. The Belgian, who joined Manchester United for £75 million in the summer, scored 25 times for the Toffees last term. Despite having splashed out more than £100 million in the transfer window, Koeman did not replace Lukaku with a proven goalscorer.
The Merseyside outfit did sign attacking players, including former England’s all-time record scorer Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez from Malaga, but they don’t have a player who will guarantee 20+ goals. With just four from seven matches thus far, it is abundantly clear where their major issue lies.
Ronald Koeman doesn’t yet know his best team
Such has been the overhaul of Everton’s squad that Koeman appears to be unsure of his preferred starting XI. Particularly in attack, the manager has trialled several combinations and formations, none of which has borne fruit. Rooney has been deployed as a number nine and number 10, to varying effect, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has yet to hit the heights he reached for Swansea.
Furthermore, Koeman has too many attacking midfielders who perform similar roles – and shoe-horning them all into the side has not worked. As such, many of Everton’s displays have been disjointed.
A lack of confidence has infected the squad
Miserable results give rise to a lack of confidence, which makes it even harder to get out of a slump. It is a vicious circle and one in which Everton are presently trapped. Confidence issues are often manifested in the brand of football being played. As quoted in The Guardian, following their disappointing 1-1 draw with Apollon Limassol in the Europa league, Koeman said that his side were ‘scared to play’.
Instead of trusting their ability, the Toffees are fearful of making mistakes – causing them to take the easy option. It is a mindset from which they need to free themselves. One positive result might be all it takes to break the cycle, however.
Ashley Williams looks out of sorts
As well as their failure to find the net regularly enough, Everton have also struggled at the other end of the pitch. Although it would be unfair to single out any individual, it’s fair to say the form of Ashley Williams is a cause for concern. The Wales skipper has looked off the pace this season and failed to forge a solid partnership with new arrival Michael Keane.
Now 33 years of age, could it be that time is beginning to catch up on a player who was a wonderful servant to Swansea? Unfortunately for Koeman, who made Williams one of his first signings as Everton manager, he is short of options in central defence with injuries to Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes-Mori.
European adventure is a negative distraction
By virtue of finishing seventh last season, Everton qualified for the Europa League. Although playing in Europe should be embraced, it can sometimes be to the club’s detriment – as illustrated by Tottenham Hotspur in previous campaigns. Playing so many matches in far-flung places across the continent can take its toll, both physically and mentally.
The congested fixture list has afforded the Toffees no escape and no chance to put things right on the training ground. Playing on Thursday nights has also disrupted their domestic schedule, with Premier League games having to be moved to Sunday. There has been no rhythm to their campaign thus far.