Merseyside is known for its quirky and idiosyncratic nature and this season, in particular, both of the region’s Premier League teams seem determined to live up to that reputation. ‘Hot and cold’ would probably be the best way to describe both Everton and Liverpool’s first full seasons under their new managers. Capable of outstanding performances, but struggling to maintain momentum. It is Everton, however, who are on fire of late and while Liverpool have recorded just one league win in 2017, the Toffees have lost just once since the turn of the year.
Not only have Ronald Koeman’s men made progress, David Unsworth’s Everton Under 23s top the Premier League 2, the highest level of youth football in the country. The Blues’ youngsters look likely to beat big-spending Manchester City Under 23’s to the title, showing the talent at Unsworth’s disposal. Everton’s recent reputation for bringing through some of the best in young English talent could hint at an era of success for their full side. Their fans may sing of being a ‘Grand Old Team’ but they are actually turning into a very promising young one.
Despite the understandable optimism, there are a few questions for Everton to answer before they can become genuine challengers for the top four. As with any young side, they struggle to maintain a high level of performance. Currently about as consistent as a rural Wi-Fi connection; the Toffees will need to avoid the type of sticky patch they suffered last autumn if they are to progress next season.
A steely 2-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates and 4-0 evisceration of a frankly outclassed Manchester City showed that Everton have the quality to put the big boys to the sword. But these two highly impressive performances only garnered six points. Far fewer than they missed out on during a run of nine games, beginning in September, which saw them win just once. Defeats against Bournemouth, Burnley, and Watford suggested a side not clinical enough; perhaps not yet mature enough to truly compete at the top end of the table.
It may be for this reason (along with the attraction of a bit of razzle dazzle) that Everton reportedly enquired about a certain Wayne Rooney during the January transfer window. Indeed, speculation suggests Koeman still hopes to add Rooney to the list of unwanted Red Devils brought, for a cut-price fee, to Goodison Park.
However, it would be a mistake to add the Manchester United captain to the hallowed roll call of ‘Tim Howard’, ‘Phil Neville’, ‘Louis Saha’, ‘Tom Cleverley’, and ‘Morgan Schneiderlin’. While Everton do need reinforcements if they are to mount a top four charge, they do not need an old war horse like Rooney. A top quality goalkeeper; an improvement on Ramiro Funes Mori; and an energetic striking alternative should be at the top of a shopping list which does not contain the name ‘Wayne Rooney’.
At their best, Everton are a dynamic and exciting young team and Koeman must be careful to nurture these qualities, rather than side-line them. Rooney does still have much to offer at the top level, but a return to his beginnings makes sense for neither player nor club.
Before David Moyes’s (unsuccessful) return to Goodison last week, he claimed that Everton still had some way to go before Koeman tops his own achievements at the club. In some ways, Koeman seems to be following the Moyes blueprint pretty well. The Scotsman was praised for scouring the lower leagues for talent, and Koeman will hope the mercurial Ademola Lookman can have the same impact as Tim ‘Socceroo’ Cahill. The current boss will be delighted with the form of Ashley Williams, who has offered the experience and defensive nous that Phil Neville once provided.
Where the two managers differ, however, is their own experience. Whereas Moyes spent his career in Scotland and the lower leagues, Koeman spent it lifting trophies. With four consecutive La Liga titles, a European Cup, and (back in the day, at least) a decent free kick on him, the Dutchman could provide the elite know-how that Everton have been lacking. Who needs Wayne Rooney?
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Everton’s reported move for Croatia defender Domagoj Vida would seriously improve defence
The Croatia international would bolster Marco Silva’s options significantly.
The world’s eyes were on Croatia last night, as Zlatko Dalic’s side dismantled Argentina 3-0. And a number of high-profile targets for Premier League clubs were in action. However, it appears Everton have identified a potential target that isn’t one of the household names, in Domagoj Vida, according to reports from Turkish outlet SABAH.
The defender currently plies his trade for Turkish giants Besiktas, having joined from Dynamo Kiev on a free transfer in January. But the 30-year-old has struggled to nail down a regular starting place at Vodafone Park. And Marco Silva could now swoop for his services, as he looks to bolster his defensive options ahead of his first season in-charge at Goodison Park.
The defender’s performance last night suggests he could be a serious coup for Silva if a deal can be completed. Vida partnered Liverpool regular Dejan Lovren at centre-back and managed to keep a star-studded Argentina attack; including the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala quiet for the duration of the game.
His aggression and determination was evident for all to see, as a string of last-ditch blocks and slide tackles rounded off a brilliant display for Croatia, as they secured a clean-sheet. And the dogged attitude the player showed last night, is what was largely missing from Everton’s rear-guard last term.
Sam Allardyce transfer target Marcelo Brozovic thriving in Russia
Everton tried to sign the Croatian in January but he has since been in fine form.
Croatia may have just sent Argentina packing from the World Cup. The Balkan side produced a ruthless punishment over the South American side, who were inept in their 3-0 defeat. The result was built on a midfield masterclass. The world-class Luka Modric and brilliant Ivan Rakitic had acres of time and space to send Argentina spinning.
But, the anchorman also deserves credit. Marcelo Brozovic, for the second game in a row at the World Cup, was brilliant. The pendulum in the heart of the Croatia clockwork, the Inter Milan star showed just why he became a key player for the Nerazzurri at the back end of last season.
Which is a lot different to January, when it seemed he was Everton bound.
Sam Allardyce pursued the Croatian fervently throughout winter. As summed up by Football Italia the Toffees were one of several teams willing to buy the player, with his time at Inter coming to an end. The Nerazzurri were apparently looking for a fee in the region of €28 million (£24.5 million) for the player.
But no deal ever came to fruition. Now Everton must be wishing that Big Sam and co had pushed the deal over the line.
Everton are said to be on the lookout for class improvements this summer and Brozovic is proving to be just that.
Inter Milan will be ecstatic that they did not end up selling the player. But watching him thrive for Croatia at the World Cup will continue to give Everton fans that feeling of missing out.
£17.6m on Marco Silva favourite would be waste of Everton’s resources
The Peruvian played under Silva at both Watford and Sporting and is now linked with Everton.
As recently reported in the print edition of Correio da Manha, as relayed by Sports Witness, Everton are believed to be in the hunt for Peruvian winger Andre Carrillo this summer. The Toffees, along with ‘other English sides’ and Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, are all said to be keen on the player who is valued at around €20 million (£17.6 million).
It all comes after his excellent showing in the World Cup against Denmark recently. Now, with Peru facing France later today, he will again look to impress.
But Everton would be wasting their money at £17.6 million.
Yes, Carrillo is talented. His performance v Denmark was impressive, however, he was up against an out of position left-back in Stryger Larsen and his end product still left much to be desired.
It was a big improvement on his form at Watford. The 27-year-old was erratic for the Hornets, scoring just twice in 30 games and bagging just two assists. Those are not stats consistent with such a financial outlay.
Marco Silva knows the player well. The new Everton boss had him at Sporting and then lured him to Watford last summer.
But, despite his history with the player, Everton should steer well clear this summer.