When Everton supporters strolled out of Goodison Park after their side had defeated Stoke City by a solitary goal on the opening day of the season, courtesy of a returning Wayne Rooney who had scored on his second debut for the club, everything probably seemed well in the world.
What a difference a couple of months can make.
The Toffees are in the midst of a mini-crisis, struggling to find any semblance of form as they lumber under the increased expectations that a summer of heavy investment has generated.
Ronald Koeman’s side have picked up just eight points from their opening eight fixtures in the Premier League and are flirting around the edge of the relegation zone whilst they have got off to an unconvincing start in their Europa League group.
Even at this early stage in the season, there are some genuine concerns regarding the team’s start to the campaign which has prompted a detailed critique of their Dutch manager.
The summer saw Everton spend almost £160 million on new players as Koeman undertook the task of remoulding the Toffees’ first team squad into one that could provide a serious challenge to the so-called ‘big six’.
Eight prominent players arrived at Goodison Park during the close-season, including Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and Gylfi Sigurdsson, as the Farhad Moshiri era moved into top gear.
For the most part, the money appeared to have been spent wisely and there was a sense of genuine excitement and optimism around the club. However, the biggest investment in Everton’s history has yet to yield any positive outcomes so far.
Moshiri has publicly stated that Koeman retains his “full, total support”, but the fact that the majority shareholder chose to make such a statement in the first place suggests that not all is well in the corridors of power at Goodison Park.
And neither should they be.
Koeman will undoubtedly be given time to correct the crisis that is very much of his own making, but the 54-year-old will need to utilise all of his managerial experience and nous in order to steer the Everton ship back on course.
The team have consistently produced slow, laboured and lethargic performances so far this campaign that have given supporters little hope of being entertained or witnessing a positive result.
Koeman’s team selections have been confusing, especially his unwillingness to deploy natural wide players that possess the pace and trickery to brighten up the Everton forward line, and his insistence on shoehorning Gylfi Sigurdsson into the starting eleven as a left winger is bamboozling.
The Icelandic international needs to play in a central position or just off the striker in order to maximise his potential.
It was always going to take time for the Everton squad to gel, especially given the large number of new arrivals that filled the home dressing room at Goodison Park during the summer, but Koeman appears to be trying to fit all of these new recruits into the starting eleven rather than into a system that suits the team.
He needs to pick a side that is balanced rather than the best eleven individuals at his disposal.
The most glaring issue that the Dutchman failed to tackle during pre-season was the sale of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgium striker was always destined to depart for a Champions League club and Everton’s reliance on him for goals over the previous two seasons should have highlighted that a suitable replacement was a priority.
Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney were both purchased but neither possess the power and physique to act as a figurehead of The Toffee’s attack in the same way the Lukaku did. Everton’s failure to replace the Belgium has left Koeman without a suitable replacement for the club’s most prolific marksman.
In short, there is plenty of work to be done at Goodison Park.
Koeman will be given time to turn things around and you would imagine that he would be successful in doing so. However, that will come as little comfort to those Everton supporters who expected so much more following a summer of investment.
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.