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Three reasons for Everton supporters to be optimistic about the New Year

Martyn Cooke

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Everton
Photo: Reuters

It has been a topsy-turvy year for Everton having secured a spot in the Europa League last season, splashed £140 million on new players in the summer and then slipping into the relegation zone after a poor start to the new campaign.

There were whispers in the close-season of The Toffees mounting a challenge to break into the top six after significant investment in new personnel but the actual result was a squad that failed to gel resulting in poor performances and the eventual dismissal of Ronald Koeman.

However, the appointment of Sam Allardyce has revived the club’s fortunes and here The Boot Room identify three reasons for Everton supporters to be optimistic about the New Year.

The arrival of Sam Allardyce

After the dismissal of Ronald Koeman in late-October the Everton hierarchy were slow to appoint a successor, instead opting to place their immediate trust in caretaker manager David Unsworth. However, that decision only exacerbated the team’s decline and the 44-year-old was revealed to be ill-suited to first team management with The Toffees winning just two of his eight games in charge and conceding an astonishing twenty-four goals in the process.

Eventually, amid rumours of strenuous disagreements among senior officials at Goodison Park, Sam Allardyce was handed the managerial position causing something of a split in the club’s fan base. Whilst the arrival of ‘Big Sam’ might not generate excitement in the blue half of Merseyside he is certainly suited to the task at hand. Everton need to get back to basics, become harder to beat and more defensively solid, which is exactly what Allardyce will provide.

The one-time England manager will certainly stimulate a dramatic improvement in terms of results and it will be interesting to see what style of play he implements given the existing talent in the squad and the significant transfer budget that he will undoubtedly be handed. If nothing else, the arrival of Allardyce removes any fears of relegation and will provide supporters with a team that is competitive – something that has been missing so far this season.

The January transfer window

Everton may have invested heavily in new players during the summer, spending in excess of £140 million on new talent, but it quickly became apparent as the season progressed that the club’s transfer policy was inherently flawed. Sam Allardyce has inherited a squad that is unbalanced, with no central striker capable of leading the line and an abundance of ‘number tens’, but the January transfer window will provide him with an opportunity to start to address some of these issues.

Farhad Moshiri demonstrated in the summer that he has the wealth and desire to develop Everton into one of the leading clubs in the country and it is likely that he will hand Allardyce a significant transfer budget to work with in January. However, as Ronald Koeman discovered during the close-season, simply throwing money around is no guarantee of success and supporters will be hopeful that the lessons of the past will not be replicated when the window opens at the start of the New Year.

With Allardyce now in place and the threat of relegation a thing of the past, the January window provides Everton with the perfect opportunity to invest in new personnel and correct some of the major issues that were created as a result of the flawed summer transfer policy.

The return of Yannick Bolasie

One of the most prominent issues for Everton so far this season has been the lack of pace throughout the team. The Toffees were slow, predictable and ponderous in attack under Ronald Koeman, which resulted in a team that were struggling to pick up results and could be excruciatingly frustrating to watch. However, the news that Yannick Bolasie has returned to full training and is set to return to the first team before the end of the season will provide a considerable boost for Sam Allardyce and the supporters.

The 28-year-old winger arrived at Goodison Park in the summer of 2016 for £25 million and was widely recognised as being one of the most effect wide-men in the Premier League after a successful spell with Crystal Palace. However, the Congolese international has been out of action for almost a year after picking up a cruciate knee ligament injury in December 2016 and he has been sorely missed by The Toffees during this period.

Bolasie’s pace, trickery and direct style of play is exactly what Everton have been missing this season and Allardyce certainly does not have an abundance of wide players that he can call upon at the moment. The winger’s return could galvanise the current Everton team, although it is crucial that, after such a prolonged absence, he is not rushed back into action too soon.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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Summer signing Josh Bowler finally starting to look the part for Everton

The summer signing from QPR is starting look the real deal for Everton.

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In the summer Everton made a number of new signings for the first-team, but what perhaps went under the radar was the improvements they made to the under-23 squad. One recruit signed with the future in mind was QPR attacker Josh Bowler.

As reported by Sky Sports, Everton paid the West London side £4.25 million for the talented winger, who signed a deal at the club until 2020.

He had previously played just 20 minutes of first-team football for QPR, so his signing did come as something of a surprise.

It is quite a financial outlay for a teenager and, looking at his statistics for the campaign, many Everton fans will be concerned he was a waste of money.

In 15 games for the Everton under-23s, the attacker managed to register zero assists or goals in what was an ultimately disappointing first season.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

However, in the recent 2-2 draw against Manchester United, Bowler summed up his season for the Everton youngsters.

The 19-year-old was easily Everton’s best player in the game. He tormented the Manchester United defence for 90 minutes with his direct style, pace and trickery. It was a tremendous performance which missed just two things, an end product and a bit of luck.

Bowler though is showing all the right attributes to become a future Everton star. After a slow start to the season, he has come into his own in the final weeks of the campaign and Everton fans can rightly start to get excited about their summer recruit.

What Bowler now has the perfect base to build on during the summer. He needs to bulk up a little to be a pertinent threat in the Premier League, which is where the summer can come in handy.

Staying fit and continued to improve are all Bowler really needs to do in order to prove himself a top talent in the Everton system.

At the moment, the trajectory is looking good for this 19-year-old talent.

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If Everton are serious about top four challenge they must battle rivals for Clement Lenglet

The Frenchman has been sublime for Sevilla this season and Everton need a new central defender.

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After a summer of investment Everton‘s aim for this season was to challenge for the top four. It was a bold and ambitious plan which failed miserably.

They spent much of the first half of the campaign in the relegation reckoning, sacked their manager and have now limped their way to the top-half playing a dreadful brand of football under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.

It is fair to say, Everton fans are not happy.

Next season, the challenge again will be to try and compete with the Premier League’s elite.

But if Everton are going to do that, they need to improve one area of their team drastically – the defence.

Ashley Williams has been woeful this season and Everton fans would happily see the back of him.

Phil Jagielka does his best, but age is starting to get the better of him. Michael Keane took a while to settle following his move from Burnley.

Meanwhile, Ramiro Funes Mori has been injured most of the campaign and Mason Holgate has had an inconsistent season.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

A new centre-back is a must and, if Everton are serious about challenging for Europe, it needs to be a top defender.

Plenty are about at the moment, but the one which springs to mind for Everton is Sevilla star Clement Llenglet.

He caught the eye of English football fans after shackling Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the club this season and now Lenglet is being linked with a host of clubs.

One such team is Liverpool, and with good reason. Lenglet has a release clause in his contract at Sevilla which stands at just €30 million (£26.25 million) – according to Marca.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Considering the price paid for the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Alporte and John Stones after the past year that fee is an absolute bargain.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is expected to dig deep into his pockets again this summer as Everton look to mount a renewed campaign next season.

Beating the likes of Liverpool to Lenglet’s signature would be the biggest signal of intent yet that Everton are ready to push into the Premier League elite.

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Everton’s under-the-radar £6m signing Lewis Gibson is a star of the future

The England under-18 defender looks a star in the making for Everton.

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Everton’s under-23s brought their season to an end this week with a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. It was not the campaign they would have wanted, after the brilliant PL2 title-winning season of 2016-17. But with David Unsworth stepping up to first-team duties earlier in the season and plenty of their stars from that season sent out on loan or joining the Everton first-team is what always going to be a tough one.

But in the final weeks of the campaign one player who has really stood out as an exceptional talent is 17-year-old defender Lewis Gibson.

His signature may have slipped by some Everton fans in the summer. The Toffees brought the England under-18 international to Finch Farm from Newcastle United. The fee for the player, according to the Liverpool Echo, could eventually rise to £6 million, so he was clearly identified as a top investment for the future.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

He has certainly looked the part this season.

Gibson has played 16 times for Everton’s under-23s this campaign, playing at both his preferred centre-back position and left-back. The talented defender was a member of the England under-17 team that won the World Cup last summer and he now looks like he could be the next great hope from the Everton youth system.

This summer he turns 18 and, given the standard he has showcased in the under-23s, he could genuinely start pushing for first-team football at Everton from next term.

(Photo by Filipe Farinha/Getty Images)

With the defence still an issue for Everton, improvements are likely in the summer. But Gibson should not be simply overlooked just because of his tender years.

Whilst he should not be a Premier League regular it would be great to see Gibson get game time in the League Cup and maybe find his way into the matchday squad on occasions next term.

Everton should not rush the defender, but if you are good enough then you are old enough. Gibson is starting to look like he could be the future of Everton’s defence and should get some reward from next season.

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