It's safe to say that, as the full promise of the Farhad Moshiri era has been mapped out to Evertonians this year, only a battle-hardened, sceptical minority might have envisaged a transfer deadline day as disappointing as the one that has just closed out the summer window.
Not everyone really expected the club, backed by Moshiri's financial clout, to splash out the £100m on players this summer that the media would have had you believe it would but, by leaving so much of the important business so very late, yesterday was, in the context of hugely inflated expectations at least, a disaster — albeit one laden with positive caveats.
A penny, though, for Ronald Koeman's thoughts following his assertion last Saturday that he would be disappointed if he wasn't able to add further players to his squad by last night's 11pm cut-off. The Dutchman almost certainly had targets — plural — in mind and it's unlikely that scrapping it out with Swansea City for a loan-cum-permanent move for Enner Valencia was how he envisaged the final hours of the transfer window going.
Of course, while Sky Sports have taken the bi-annual scramble for last-minute signings to absurd levels, not all fans are beholden — or want to be — to the “show” that is transfer deadline day. There is an almost masochistic fascination with the theatre of the final hours of transfer window — even without Sky's histrionics, there is plenty of drama just tracking the various moves and counter-moves — but it's a good bet that the vast majority of Evertonians would have been perfectly happy to have spent the time casually reclining in their armchair, beer in hand, mocking Jim White, knowing that Everton's business was safely done.
Instead, they sat through hours of misinformation and chicanery, watching target after target slip away. For whatever reason, potentially some of Everton's most important deals of the window were left to the last couple of days which necessitated that we Blues remain glued to TVs, computers, laptops, and mobile devices awaiting the latest news updates as we eagerly awaited those badly-needed arrivals.
The outpouring of frustration since has been understandable. That fanfare of Moshiri's arrival, boisterous quips about the Mersey Billonaires and the Blues' newfound riches offered hope that we could finally compete again with our traditional peers for a higher strata of player. There was certainly optimism that, having set our sights on a particular target, we would have the financial muscle to tempt both their club into selling, and to satisfy that player's financial demands.
Unfortunately, some clubs — Porto, as a glaring example — tried their best to lever the Premier League's new-found riches to their own advantage by raising their asking price to unreachable levels, ones where Everton, wisely, refused to go. And where money wasn't as much of an object, the club were battling their counterpart's simple absence of a need to sell, as was the case with Napoli and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Balanced against the need to bolster a partially improved squad was the need for fiscal prudence and, in the cold light of day, shelling out £30m on an erratic midfielder from Newcastle in the form of Sissoko or acquiescing to Porto's reported asking price of €50m for Brahimi would have tested that balance, particularly if we had managed to sign both players.
And the positives in the business that, firstly, Moshiri effected in dispensing with Roberto Martinez, hiring Ronald Koeman, and then drafting in Steve Walsh, the squad and, secondly, the players that the management duo have already secured should not be overlooked. This was a squad that was already stronger coming into the final week of the transfer window than when Koeman arrived — blessed with more power and grit than the one he inherited and one more suited to the way he wants Everton to play. And even with yesterday's frustrations, the transfer window as a whole was a lot more positive than many that Evertonians have endured over the years.
Nevertheless, there will be significant concern among Evertonians this morning that the much-hoped-for addition of some genuine quality in attacking midfield, a reliable source of goals to support or challenge Romelu Lukaku (where the goals are going to come from on consistent basis is a worry in general), a top-class, long-term goalkeeper and, perhaps, further cover at the back hasn't materialised. And the fact that Everton are one of only two clubs to emerge from the window with a positive nett expenditure figure will, naturally, feed into the scepticism over whether the new regime under de facto Moshiri control is any different to the one it has replaced.
Nett spend is mis-leading in this instance, though, particularly if players like Idrissa Gueye continue to demonstrate that, had they cost three times as much as the Blues paid for them, they still might end up being value for money. Furthermore, it's clear that, rather than tightening the purse strings, the board was apparently quite prepared to back its managerial team with substantial bids: £25-plus for Yannick Bolasie, £20m for Gabbiadini, £35m for Brahimi, £30m for Moussa Sissoko, £9m for Rachid Ghezzal, £17.5m for Lucas Perez and £20m for Axel Witsel.
One by one, proposed moves collapsed, with only the domestic deals coming to fruition (which probably hints at some lessons learned along the way in how to deal with foreign clubs, unpredictable players and their agents), leaving the option of what smacked of a panic buy in Sissoko at the eleventh hour. It's clear, therefore, that this particular Rome won't be built in a day and that the ability to offer Champions League football is a significant draw, one that lured Perez to the Emirates, Sissoko to White Hart Lane without a bat of his eyelid and enabled Leicester to land a one-time Everton target in Islam Slimani to the King Power Stadium.
In the meantime, while the dream of a fully-stocked team bursting with talent two players deep in every part of the pitch might be on hold, along with even the modest goal of striking alternative capable of sticking the ball in the net should — Heaven forbid — Romelu Lukaku get injured, there is still cause for optimism for the coming months.
If you have faith in Koeman, you have to believe he will continue to bring the most out of a more than decent group of players, including, perhaps, getting more out of a player like Valencia than West Ham were ever able to. The best thing the team can do is circle the wagons and focus on building upon a very solid start to the season so that, come the January transfer window, when the market will have shifted again, they are able to make the signings they weren't able to this summer.
It might require a little luck on the injury front in the interim, particularly with regard to Lukaku, on whose shoulders an awful lot will again be placed in the coming months. In midfield and at centre half, too, there is adequate cover for the time being but more than a couple of absentees in either department could leave the manager sweating on the continued fitness of those who remain. The foundation is unquestionably there, though.
And, of course, Leicester showed what's achievable with a close-knit, consistent team managed by a coach with an uncanny ability to wring the best out of a team that, on paper, had no right to be in the top four last season, let alone be sitting on top of the pile come the final day. The same chaos among the usual Champions League and title chasers that the Foxes were able to so impressively exploit might not be a factor this term but there is still plenty of scope for Koeman to keep this team in the upper echelons of the Premier League until the next window opens in the New Year. Maybe by then, Goodison will look a bit more attractive to Koeman's and Walsh's next marks.
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