6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th 6th, 5th. These are Everton’s final Premier League positions from season 2006/07 to last season. However, statistics this season suggest that consistent old Everton, the family club modelled on consistency and stability, may be about to buck that trend. Five wins from twenty one games has left them thirteenth, but worryingly just three points above the relegation places. So what has gone wrong on Merseyside?
On the pitch, David Moyes’ Everton famed themselves on being watertight at the back and building from there. Phil Jagielka was signed by the Scot from Sheffield United in the summer of 2007 for a modest fee of £4M. Although not the biggest, Jagielka was quick and a fantastic reader of the game.
Alongside a young Joleon Lescott, the two formed a formidable partnership and after Lescott’s departure to Manchester City in 2009, Sylvain Distin more than adequately filled the breach. Flanked by attacking full backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, Everton became a role model for defensive discipline and organisation.
However, failure to build on such strength with depth has caught up with Everton. This season, injuries to rising star John Stones and a series of inept displays by Antolin Alcaraz has seen Everton’s defending resemble that of Martinez’ Wigan team relegated two seasons ago. Only Newcastle, Burnley and Harry Redknapp’s beleaguered QPR have conceded more this season.
Goalscorers capable of scoring on a consistent and regular basis in the Premier League have proved hard to come by for most clubs with Everton no exception. The fact Yakubu is the only player to have scored more than 20 goals in one season for Everton, since Tony Cottee twenty four years ago, proves the point.
When Everton paid Chelsea £28M for Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2014, they thought, with some confidence, they were getting their answer. Lukaku had scored sixteen goals in a loan spell at Goodison the previous season so Everton knew what they were buying into. Still only 21 and with 30 senior caps for Belgium, the 6ft 3 inch frontman has all the attributes to be a world class player. But, perhaps with such weight on his shoulders and in keeping with his teams struggles, Lukaku has found it difficult to reproduce the form of last season.
With Martinez seemingly unsure of the root of his teams issues, Lukaku has found himself in and out of the team and often isolated in attack when he does play. Starved of quality service, Lukaku has often found himself in wide or deeper areas.
With Everton’s relative league successes has come European football and the riches that come with it. However, the Europa League has proved a talking point amongst many a Premier League manager who have qualified for it in one form or another.
Often long Thursday night trips to far flung places have been followed by abject displays in the Premier League the following weekend – Everton have been no different. Injuries to key players such as Stones, Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy have stretched Martinez already thin squad and the Europa League has done little to help that.
Luckily for Martinez, Bill Kenwright is a chairman known for patience and has long since prided himself on giving his managers the time and freedom of choice with the money he provides. A fine campaign last season means dissenting voices are being drowned out by the majority as far as Martinez is concerned but a stuttering second half to the season could see that balance change drastically, such is the nature of modern football.
An exit from the Europa League at the earliest opportunity could be excused if it results in an upturn in Everton’s patchy league form. Although the top four places are and will continue to be out of reach, qualification for the dreaded Europa League is a must for Martinez’ Everton.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Matty Foulds has not fulfilled two-year Everton promise
The one time ‘next John Stones’ has not lived up to his potential.
In November 2015, Everton agreed a deal to sign teenage defender Matty Foulds from Bury.
The then-17-year-old agreed to join Everton in January 2016 and was immediately hotly tipped for a bright future at Goodison Park.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, the deal cost Everton £225,000 and the club expected him to be playing first-team football within the next two years.
Such high praise and expectation soon saw him earning the moniker of ‘next John Stones’, considering the England international’s rise from the Football League.
So, it is now over two years since Foulds joined Everton and, as of yet, the first-team has not been calling.
The now 20-year-old defender has not yet made his first-team debut or even a matchday squad.
Foulds, who played just four times in Everton’s triumphant Premier League 2 Division One win last season, has not made the progress many at the club thought he might.
This season, he has established himself as a more regular feature, playing 11 times, mostly as a left-back, despite originally arriving as a ball-playing centre-half.
Foulds, whose current deal expires in the summer of 2019, has clearly not lived up to expectation just yet.
It could be he has fallen victim to the change of management at Everton. Roberto Martinez spoke highly of Foulds when signing him.
The Spaniard would have had a vision of him playing first-team football for Everton, but Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce may not share such expectancy.
Foulds also has plenty of competition at Goodison Park.
Last season he could not get past the likes of Antonee Robinson, Callum Connolly, Morgan Feeney and first-team regulars Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate.
This campaign he has been a regular but has not featured in the club’s last four under-23 ties.
Lewis Gibson has been preferred at left-back with Foulds also struggling with injury.
It certainly appears as though Foulds has not lived up to the expectations Everton had for him when he first arrived.
Next season, contractually, is his last at Finch Farm and Foulds will need to massively improve if he is to have any long-term future at Goodison Park.
Everton must secure Frank Fabra signing before World Cup
The Colombian is set to star at the World Cup with his nation.
Everton are currently being linked with a move for Colombian left-back Frank Fabra. According to Argentine radio station El Crack Deportivo, the 27-year-old is being considered as the left-back option Everton need.
Everton have been lacking in the department this season. With Leighton Baines suffering injury trouble throughout the campaign, natural right-back Cuco Martina has done his best in the role. Everton thoroughly need a new left-back and Fabra is an impressive option.
The Boca Juniors defender was linked with Manchester United and Chelsea by Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio in 2016. A powerful full-back, he has all it takes to be a star in European football.
Everton are, therefore right, to be targeting the Boca star. However, the Toffees must try to wrap up any potential deal before the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Fabra is looking increasingly likely to be Colombia’s first-choice at the competition. Pablo Armero has had his day and Fabra is the popular choice to play the role of left-back or left wing-back.
Colombia, who are in Group H with Japan, Poland and Senegal, have high hopes of going far in the competition. Four years ago they suffered a narrow quarter-final exit at the hands of Brazil.
Fabra will no doubt be key to any success that Colombia have in the competition and therefore will catch the eye.
Everton will be fully aware what a top World Cup performance can do to a player’s value. If the Toffees want to bring in Fabra doing so before the Russia World Cup could end up being a worthwhile cost-cutting exercise.
Regardless, Everton fans will just be pleased to hear that the club are starting to identify potential options to strengthen one of their weakest positions on the field, even if it is not a household name.
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