After an underwhelming finish to the season under Sam Allardyce, Everton supporters will be hoping for a brighter outlook under Marco Silva this term.
Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, we caught up with fan site Toffee Web to get the low-down on progress made on and off the pitch…
What do you make of your club’s pre-season preparations, both on and off the pitch?
Off the pitch, things have been very positive following a frustrating couple of years that saw little progress — indeed, given that Everton felt compelled to hire Sam Allardyce as a stop-gap appointment to safeguard against any threat of relegation, there was a good deal of regression at Goodison Park last season.
Since the end of 2017-18, the club has moved swiftly to reshuffle things at board level, promoting Denise Barrett-Baxendale to Chief Executive in place of the outgoing Robert Elstone.
More importantly, Steve Walsh’s spell as the Toffees’ inaugural Director of Football was brought to a merciful end as he was replaced by Marcel Brands from PSV Eindhoven while Marco Silva was appointed as Ronald Koeman’s new long-term successor as team manager.
On the pitch, however, things have been a little disconcerting.
If you count the Algarve Cup match against Lille that they lost penalties, Everton lost all five of their pre-season friendlies (the 22-0 win in a practice game against ATV Irdning during the training camp in Austria doesn’t really count), with many of the issues that plagued the team last season still very much in evidence.
Which of your club’s summer signing has you most excited about the new campaign?
At the time of writing, it must be Richarlison, the big-money Brazilian acquisition from Watford, although it looks as though Bernard is set to join him at Goodison Park on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk, pending a medical.
Both are exciting players and if the brief pre-season action is any indication, Richarlison will make a huge difference to an attack that looked embarrassingly toothless at times last season. He will add pace, trickery and a goal threat that Evertonians have been crying out for.
If we can add his compatriot, Bernard, before the transfer deadline, then a number of questions going forward will have been resolved with two exciting-looking additions.
Who’s your club’s young-player-who-could-make-a-breakthrough this season?
There is a handful of candidates who could break through this season among those who have not yet been farmed out on loan.
Kieran Dowell is an enterprising young midfielder whom many feel is ready to be tried at first-team level after spending last year on loan at Nottingham Forest. He has great vision and a wand of a left foot but needs to demonstrate consistency across 90 minutes and, perhaps, needs to add some upper-body strength to compete at Premier League level.
Joe Williams, a highly promising young central midfielder, also appears to be knocking on the door of the senior side and was unlucky to be deprived of a place on the plane to Austria for the pre-season training camp by injury.
19-year-old Beni Baningime, meanwhile, arguably did make the breakthrough last season and can count himself unfortunate not have been given more chances under Allardyce following a string of performances that showed up his more experienced team-mates.
What will be your club’s biggest factor behind achieving its targets this season?
If the club is able to meet its objectives for this season — realistically, an improvement by a couple of places to sixth or seventh which would likely mean a return to Europe — then Marco Silva will need to imbue his new charges with his preferred way of playing and to get one of the most shot-shy teams from last season to attack more.
The new signings, in concert with a first full season for Theo Walcott and striker Cenk Tosun and Gylfi Sigurdsson playing in his preferred central role, look like they will definitely help in that regard.
If they can capitalise on what is a favourable run of fixtures to start the new campaign, then any slip-ups by teams that finished above Everton last season would provide a golden opportunity for the Blues to surprise a few people.
What will be your club’s biggest barrier to achieving its targets this season?
At this stage, it looks like whether or not the club is able to bring in the central defensive reinforcements that are badly needed.
Ramiro Funes Mori and Ashley Williams have been moved on to Villarreal and Stoke City respectively and if the pre-season friendly programme has revealed anything it’s that the struggling Michael Keane and the ageing Phil Jagielka are liabilities as a partnership.
That Mason Holgate, the pick of the three remaining centre halves, is battling tendonitis in his achilles has underscored the bare-bones nature of Silva’s options in that position so you would hope that at least one — hopefully, two — defenders are being targeted before the transfer deadline.
Which club outside yours do you think has done the best business this summer?
I think most people have been very impressed with how West Ham have gone about their business this summer, starting with the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager.
Some have compared their spending with the spree that Everton went on last year, one that saddled them with a number of hugely expensive, overpaid millstones, many of them all vying for the same positions but the Hammers appear to have spent with a plan.
Pellegrini looks to have made decent-looking additions in a variety of areas in his team and they look, on the face of it, as though they could compete for the top seven this season as opposed to battling the spectre of relegation like they did last term.
If you had to pick a six-a-side team from your club’s current squad, who would be in it?
Jordan Pickford in goal is an obvious choice with Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman in front of him. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson as midfielders and Cenk Tosun in attack might round it out but it’s hard to exclude the likes of Theo Walcott.
Finally, how do you think your team will have done come the end of the 2018/19 season?
Again, assuming the transfer dealings that look as though they are going to be completed all come through and, in particular, the back line is strengthened, Everton will be in better shape than many believed they might be given the scale of the rebuilding task that faced Messers Brands and Silva when they came on board in May.
With Arsenal and Chelsea also in managerial transition, the former in very unfamiliar territory after two decades of Arsene Wenger at the helm, Jose Mourinho showing signs that his infamous “third-season syndrome” could strike again, and many of Tottenham’s stars having gone deep into the World Cup, there could be an opportunity for a team like the Toffees to steal into the top six.
Some moderate improvement — i.e. a seventh-place finish — evidence of progress in the playing style and the development of a platform from which to kick on next season would be an acceptable outcome from 2018/19 for Evertonians, however.
That appears to be more than attainable and anything above that in terms of the Premier League would be a bonus. A deep cup run and, perhaps, the first silverware to augment the trophy cabinet at Goodison since 1995 would be magnificent, though!