Time For Blues Fans to Look Beyond This Season
It’s incredible what one match can do for the perception of a season. While things could get worse (this is being prepared on the eve of the Merseyside Derby), it was the reality check nature of the 4-0 loss to Chelsea last weekend that has caused Everton fans to pause for thought.
The dream of somehow stealing fifth spot (or better) and unlikely Champions League spot, thanks to Manchester City’s legal troubles, has now vanished. Bookmakers have soured on Everton betting markets, and they can be found as big as 200/1 for a Top 4 spot (impossible), 20/1 for a Top 6 place (improbable) and 11/20 for a top 10 finish (still precarious).
The rallying cry among fans is, as you might expect, “let’s build for next season”. Expect that to be repeated unless Everton come up with something special in a daunting run of fixtures that includes Liverpool, Tottenham, Leicester and Wolves.
Too Many Summer Squad Overhauls
The problem, of course, is that we have said this countless times over the last decade or so. There is always just enough on show to give fans hope that it’s just the roof that needs fixing, but we have inevitably found more problems as time goes on.
For many fans, the main bit of ‘fixing’ required is in midfield. Chelsea overran Everton in the middle of the park, and it certainly seems like the only player to present himself as a long-term solution is André Gomes. The Portuguese maestro has won the hearts of fans (both Blues and neutrals) as he has bounced back from that horrific injury in November. But Gomes remains a class act, and he should be viewed as central to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans.
On a brighter note, the future of Richarlison seems to have been resolved after the signing of a long-term contract. Sure, some could see the wisdom in taking the money for the Brazilian in a similar vein to Romelu Lukaku, but one would argue that it would herald another summer of going back to the drawing board. Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin seem to be forging something of a solid partnership, and it’s an area that does not need fixing.
Pickford Needs to Reboot
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the goalkeeper. It might seem harsh on Jordan Pickford, but the mistakes are piling up. It’s not as if Pickford lacks a future at Everton, but it feels like he needs to recalibrate. The problem is an able deputy. Martin Stekelenburg brings experience, but, as 37-years-old, he is hardly a long term solution.
So, going back to the idea of building for next season. There is room for optimism. The good results under Ancellotti should not be dismissed, and it shows that there is something the Italian can work with at Everton. There are issues, but with the likes of Mason Holgate, Gomes, RIcharlison and Calvert-Lewin, there is the nucleus of a good side.
The point is that next year will probably not be Everton’s year to step up to the next level, i.e. Top 4. But there should not be a complete squad overhaul. If the board can move on some of the dead weight, and a couple of decent signings, then we have the chance to build under Ancelotti. Not major surgery, but some smart tweaks, and Everton could start living in the present.