A New Hope

Having been handed the reins, Marco Silva gets to prove he is worthy of the Everton hierarchy’s faith but the outlook is already considerably brighter after one of the best transfer windows the club has seen

If hope alone won silverware, no one associated with Everton FC would be looking ruefully back on 23 barren years without a major trophy. Evertonians have expended a gut-full of unrequited hope since the FA Cup triumph in 1995, to the point that when matters reached their nadir with the appointment last November of Sam Allardyce as manager, what was left for many was simply despair.

Things can change quickly in football, though. It was only a few months ago that Everton were plumbing the depths of the statistics tables for attacking metrics under the journeyman Dudleyite's uninspiring leadership. So it is to Farhad Moshiri's credit that merely rising above the dross that occupied the bottom half of the Premier League to finish eighth was not achievement enough for Allardyce to keep his job at Goodison Park any longer than was necessary.

The appointment of Marco Silva as his successor poses some obvious risks but there is at least the prospect of significant upside under the enterprising young Portuguese which represents a welcome improvement on the low ceiling established by a manager who, mercifully, proved to be merely an interim hire following Ronald Koeman's dismissal.

Now, having been handed the reins, Silva gets to prove he is worthy of the Everton hierarchy's faith but the outlook is already considerably brighter after what unquestionably ranks among the best transfer windows the club has overseen. In stark contrast to the scattergun and mostly flawed approach undertaken by their predecessors over four windows, a considered recruitment and squad-management plan was devised and implemented in concert between Silva and new Director of Football, Marcel Brands and it has put the Blues back on the course envisioned by Moshiri when he bought a major stake in the club two-and-a-half years ago.
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Though unproven in the arena of Europe's biggest leagues, Brands came to Everton with a stellar reputation on the Continent for his achievements at AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven and the excitement generated by his arrival has, thus far, not been misplaced. Where Steve Walsh was exposed as being ill-prepared for the role as Everton's inaugural director of football, what the club and its fans have seen so far with Brands is a genuinely experienced and savvy sporting director in action.

The triage required of him will require more than one transfer window and there is more residual dead wood in the squad than desired but the Dutchman has made an impressive start to life at Everton, surely surpassing expectations in his first few months in the job.

The ill-advised, sentiment-driven Rooney reunion was terminated; one of the biggest transfer miscalculations of last summer, Davy Klaassen, has been moved on; and a bloated squad has been pared of other underperforming elements in the form of the seemingly uncommitted Kevin Mirallas and Ashley Williams, with scope to jettison a few more before the end of the month.

Just as importantly — if not more so — the management team have moved to address some crucial frailties: a worryingly soft centre in defence where age is threatening to finally catch up with Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane remains consistent in his fallibility; almost non-existent cover at left full-back; the lack of a strong, ball-playing link-man in midfield; and insufficient trickery and creativity in attacking midfield.

Where Walsh and Koeman largely paid over the odds for poorly-scouted players and flooded central midfield with three acquisitions of varying age, ability and effectiveness, Brands and Silva have brought in six players, all under the age of 26, that fill specific and targeted needs. The jury is, of course, out on whether they will prove to be any more effective than last year's signings but there is no question that they are superior on paper.

In replacing Ramiro Funes Mori, Yerry Mina promises to provide height, physical presence and a goal threat from set-pieces and Kurt Zouma offers similar attributes. Lucas Digne, meanwhile, finally answers the question of what happens after Leighton Baines or when, as was the case last season, he is sidelined for an extended period.

In Andre Gomes, a player blessed with deft skills and the ability to pick a pass, Everton have a player evocative of Mikel Arteta — a talented midfielder who had lost his way, under significant psychological strain in the Portuguese's case it would seem, and looking for a home where he can undergo a renaissance. Bernard will inject similar skill and vision with the ball at his feet but with the added weapons of lightning fast feet and an eye for goal from outside the box.

Finally, with Richarlison, a player with a season of Premier League football already under his belt, Silva has another fleet-footed, versatile, attack-minded presence who, like Theo Walcott, can compensate for the absence of an incoming striker with his ability to play down the middle when necessary.

Indeed, with Cenk Tosun fired up for his first full season in England, Walcott ready to prove wrong the doubters from his Arsenal days, Gylfi Sigurdsson no doubt desperate to prove himself worthy of the massive fee Everton paid for him a year ago, and both Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell having places to fight for, the Blues have an exciting and potent attack when all personnel are fit and firing on all cylinders. Quite the transformation from the Allardyce-led outfit that could go successive games without registering a single shot on target.

The summer business means that there is balance and, apart perhaps from in goal and up front, depth to a team that has been without both for too long. That can't be underestimated when it comes to bettering last season's performance in the Premier League, gearing up for a couple of deep cup runs and, no doubt, Silva's hopes of surprising a few people this season.

And in that respect, opportunity could some knocking for Everton. Just as at Goodison, two of last season's top six clubs are kicking off this season with new managers at the helm while others face possible challenges born of a lack of sufficient transfer business this summer.

Maurizio Sarri is the latest Italian boss to take the helm at Chelsea and takes charge of a team in England for the fist time. Likewise at Arsenal, where Unai Emery arrives after two seasons at Paris St Germain where there were plenty of questions asked about his methods and suitability to a club desperately seeking long overdue Champions League glory. Of course, in contrast to the conveyor belt of coaches at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal are starting a campaign without the measured and dependable presence of Arsene Wenger for the first time in 22 years and the impact of that significant transition is hard to predict. If their experience is anything like that of Manchester United's after Sir Alex Ferguson retired, it could make for fascinating viewing… and represent an open door for Everton.

At Old Trafford, meanwhile, all eyes are on Jose Mourinho to watch whether his notorious third-season syndrome strikes yet again. His pre-season moans, apparent discord with certain individuals in his squad and gripes about the lack of boardroom support for his desire to sign a new centre back seem to have laid the foundations for the struggles that usually befall the third year at each club he manages.

For Tottenham, where there seems to be a growing unease that if they don't win something soon, the team that Daniel Levy has patiently assembled could fragment and some star names might depart along with the manager, the challenges could come from a disrupted pre-season and the fact that they were the only top-flight club not to make a signing this summer. Spurs had more players than any other team still at the World Cup by the semi-final stage and both a possible lack of sharpness caused by their late return and collective fatigue could come in to play early in the season.

Outside of the top six, consideration inevitably shifts to an analysis of how well other teams have strengthened over the summer, with some notable examples who have rivalled Everton for the spurious notion of “winners of the transfer window”.

West Ham, with a Premier League winner in the form of Manuel Pellegrini now in charge, have spent big over the close season following their brush with a relegation dogfight last season. Having been criticised in the past for drawing the purse strings too tight, Messers Sullivan and Gold have splashed out almost £90m on new talent, including around £35m on Brazilian midfielder Felipe Anderson from Lazio, £20m on French defender Issa Diop and, of course, Andriy Yarmolenko from Borussia Dortmund for around £18m, while Jack Wilshere was drafted in from Arsenal on a free.

That has the Hammers considered many as being top-seven challengers along with Everton and Leicester City. So too are Wolves and Fulham, two newly-promoted clubs who have also recruited in impressively comprehensive fashion as they invest big in an attempt to stay in the top flight this season.

The Midlanders, Everton's opponents in the season opener at Molineux, made four of their loan stars from last season's storming season in the Championship permanent acquisitions while also adding a mixture of experience in Joao Moutinho and goalkeeper Rui Patricio to younger talent like Leander Dendoncker and Adama Traore.

For their part, the Cottagers invested over £70m in the players like Alfie Mawson, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ivorian midfielder Jean Michael Seri from Nice and then acquiring Calum Chambers and Andre Schurrle on loan.

If the Blues were merely two defeats from Burnley away from finishing in seventh last season because of the paucity of other competition around them for the mantle of “best of the rest”, this season looks like there will be some strong contenders vying for what is often the last European spot. Of course, there is often a club or two — witness Everton last season — who have big transfer windows but fail to gel into a winning side so there are no guarantees, even if the signings look good on paper.

Regardless of how 2018-19 plays out for Everton, they now have the look of a generally more coherent outfit that can play to a more identifiable plan and style. Crucially, Marco Silva's Blues should be much more more dangerous going forward and the building blocks appear to be in place for a strong campaign that could see them vying for a place in the top six if the manager can instill some solidity at the back.

Even if the club's league position doesn't improve much on last term — no failing given the period of necessary transition we find ourselves in again — it should be a lot more fun watching it all unfold. In many ways, it feels like the first season under Roberto Martinez when there were players capable of providing attacking thrills and a slew of memorable moments in the side. Everton might not be back quite yet but, perhaps, the chains can be cut on the doors to the School of Science and some of the joy of following this unpredictable club can return!

Predicted finish: 7th
Key player: Bernard

Reader Responses

Selected thoughts from readers

Henry Lloyd
Posted 11/08/2018 at 06:41:23
That was a good read, Lyndon, and I believe that 7th is a very good shout and Bernard being key to that scenario...

However, I think we have a tremendous chance of breaking the Top 4, call that over-optimistic if you like but if all these players gel quickly and I think they will do exactly that;

we could see some Fantastic Football from Everton this season.

I live in Indonesia and the football coverage out here is great and the locals where I live have started to get behind Everton because they like an "underdog".

Now that I have explained the Everton History to them, they want us to win all the more. I just thought I would share that as it's great to see.


Dermot Byrne
Posted 11/08/2018 at 07:11:54
That is such a good piece Lyndon.

It shows the reasons some of us are hopeful but at same time gives reason for caution and realistic expectations.

I think one of the main reasons for hope is the sign of proper planning and people working together towards that plan. We seem to have suddenly become more professional off the pitch.

I agree Bernard is an important signing. He could be the catalyst that speeds up the thinking and play of the whole team. Indeed I think the management may realise that the impact of a new player is not just their skills and game but the influence on existing players who need to be kicked up bum or maybe feel part of a confident, happy group.

The new defence looks a much more aggressive group and when they can read each others game, could be hard to beat.

But my biggest hope is we can bring a ball out of defence at speed and have players who can deliver that killer pass. That is the type of goal I love to watch.

Have no idea what will happen against Wolves. Maybe a bit early for the pychological positive impact on the existing group of players who mostly have zero confidence.

But give it a few weeks and as the days begin to shorten we may be smiling .and even keep smiling even with the X Factor back on our screens.

Now that is an achievement!


Dean Johnson
Posted 11/08/2018 at 07:45:27
Always a great read, Lyndon. Cheers
Michael Kelly
Posted 11/08/2018 at 08:00:33
Great piece, mate. I usually jump lines but read every word. Had my full attention.

My opinion is one that splits both ways. I think we will get 7th minimum but hope that comes without a place in Europa League. Think we would be better of being the best of the rest with a point to prove the season after. The Europa league is a difficult situation for us because. Yes us fans want the midweek footy on. An the excuse to go stag do orientated city's without the backlash from the Mrs, ha! But we as a club just aren't experienced enough to handle both the Premier and the Europa league at the moment, though we will achieve that down the line. No Europe means more rest more training between games. That being said Champions League footy if available is a no brainer.

We haven't got a better chance to get top 4 than we do this season. Spurs and United are worried, transfer wise. Chelsea and Arsenal are going through change like us but more drastic and with a lot more pressure on the managers than Silva has. City and the shite will top the league anyone else has a good chance to steal the other two spots. Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, United, Everton and Wolves for me, top 8.
Jamie Evans
Posted 11/08/2018 at 08:46:31
Thanks Lyndon, excellent as always - especially the title.

Who knows, maybe the force IS strong with this one.

Bill Griffiths
Posted 11/08/2018 at 09:39:51
Great article Lyndon. I don't really know how it is going to go this evening but if things don't go well I hope not to be reading numerous posts on here calling for Silva's head.
Stewart Lowe
Posted 11/08/2018 at 09:45:34
Brilliant read again Lyndon, as always and didn't want it to end. I think we have to look at 7th and aim for top 6 next season.

We know that we will probably see another 5-6 players go out by the end of this month and January to reduce it even further. We have the nucleus in the squad of a very good team. The aim should be to bring in another CB in in January because we just don't see Keane changing the way he plays.

Then once this team has had a full season to a climates to the Premier League and Silvas style, we can then add 4 maybe 5 top players to add to what we have, which would essentially include a striker like a Giroud who can ease the burden on Tosun. We should then make a push for the top 4.

Eugene Kearney
Posted 11/08/2018 at 09:46:46
Thanks for this piece, Lyndon.

I have been reading and re-reading so much about our 6 or 7 new signings. This article puts it all into context.

I have been well aware of Wolves strengthening their squad and the R.S. spending loads of money and of other big buys, but it will be interesting to see how Arsenal do without Wenger and how Spurs will fare. It should be a good season.

Top six + F. A. Cup will do me nicely!!


Chris Gould
Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:09:02
I think places 5th to 7th are up for grabs. There appears to be discord at Utd, and Chelsea and Arsenal have new managers. Spurs have not strengthened. I think the big 6 are vulnerable to a team that gels quickly and shows some belief.

I'm excited for the season. If Zouma and Mina can strike up a fearsome pairing then, with Pickford behind them, we will have a solidity that will allow us to really express ourselves. Suddenly we look strong on set pieces in both boxes. We now have pace and trickery in the team. We have strength on the bench and genuine options.

I'm dreaming higher than 7th.
David Hallwood
10 Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:23:49
As ever Lyndon, a thoughtful, interesting read. But I might as well the first one to say the old cliche; it's the hope that kills you, and the first 3-4 months maybe a rollercoaster ride.

But I agree with Michael(#4), with Chelsea and in particular Arsenal is the top 6 nailed on? What we do know about teams with long-serving managers is that the next man on the oche throws a few loose ones to say the least. And with all teams strengthening, can we predict anything?

I must admit that after the feeling of anticipation that I had this time last season, my expectations are fairly low and small steps will do nicely thank you. An eradication of the collapses that we witnessed far too many times last season for example, and playing from the first whistle as opposed to shuffling round like you've just come in from a bender would represent significant progress.

We can only hope that the new signings do a lot better than than last season, but as Lyndon pointed out that Brands has been a lot more focused on the glaring weaknesses in the squad, that was apparent to everyone bar Walsh & Koeman.

One final word on Koeman; had could one of the greatest players that has ever played the game be such a poor judge of a player and squad requirements, surely we won't make the same mistake twice will we.

Les Green
11 Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:36:56
Lyndon, I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you said here - specifically the likelihood of the promoted teams presenting a threat as a result of wise transfer activity.

However, I think there are also going to be a couple of wobbles among the Sky elite, and that will further open the the hatch in the glass ceiling, which will allow a team like ours to barge in if we step up this season.
Paul Kennedy
12 Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:37:04
Great read lots of common sense written .It is amazing how a few days, a couple of new faces can restore the hope belief that last season and the preseason games knocked out of us.

We are the eternal optimists at the same time worlds greatest pessimists all rolled into one.
Jamie Evans
13 Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:45:33
As usual a great read Lyndon, many thanks.

I especially enjoyed the title. Who knows maybe the force IS strong with this one ?

Si Turner
14 Posted 11/08/2018 at 10:57:14
Excellent read Lyndon. I agree with the tone and feeling you have described and feel considerably more excited by this team than I have done for a number of seasons. What I like most is the genuine competition for places in the final third and also the inter changeability.

Michael - I do understand your view however I also think we need Europa as a platform to boost our profile and get used to the demands of European fixtures again. If we have little experience and then did manage to get in top four it may be brief due to inexperience as a club. I think it would also be good for competition with the likes of Lookman, Dowell, Baningime getting more game time. Good thing is the variety of opinion I guess.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
15 Posted 11/08/2018 at 11:25:40
Exactly my thoughts Lyndon - but you are more of a wordsmith than I. I was going to say eloquent but couldn't spell it.

If we, WHU, Wolves maybe, Leicester can put up a decent season then we could find Premiership A and Premiership B. The top sides with 60 plus points and the bottom sides coming down to the wire with a slew of clubs still not getting to 40 points until the last weekend of the season.

The other side of this coin is will any of the top 6 from last year not have European Football in 2019-2020? Europe is only guaranteed for the top five. 6th and 7th are only in Europe if a cup winner (or both) are in the top 5. I can see real competition in the cup for the major teams and no "lets give the first team a rest and play the kids" mentality. Do this and get knocked out and then finish 8th and there will be unrest from the fans of that team.

And then there is the "Leeds Scenario". I suspect European money is no longer critical for the financial survival of clubs. Consequently being out of Europe is not going to produce a 2004 Fire Sale scenario as we saw with Leeds, but given our difficulty in attracting world class rather than very good players, it is possible that next summer we are either going to see some clubs losing players who are no longer playing in Europe, failing to attract their targets because there is no European football or even more vastly inflated wages to entice players to a club in the hope of getting back into Europe for 2020-21.

Interesting times ahead and a season which after the dross of Allardyce caused me to have absolutely no interest in football over the summer, may just rekindle the desire. I am even taking my two kids to the match with Fulham. (The kids are 33 and 30. It will just be like old times). There is excitement in the air.

Steve Ferns
16 Posted 11/08/2018 at 11:33:26
Brilliant Article Lyndon.

As wrote at the time, I wanted us to ask the new manager how he will win us the league. Sure, the likelihood would be almost 0% but the manager should aim for it, we’re Everton after all. Managers like Allardyce or Moyes could never do a Leicester as they don’t try to win games.

Sure, the chances of this team winning the league aren’t much above 0%. But if all the players are at their very best, and stay injury free, and we have a bucket load of luck, then it’s possible. This is the reason I wanted silva in. He will aim for no less.

I recall big Nev shocking Robbie Savage on stage at the Echo Arena at a live BBC event when Big Nev told Robbie that he went into EVERY season believing he’d win the league. “Otherwise Robbie, what’s the point?”.

Maybe these new signings aren’t quite the best in the league, but they’re all young, they’re hungry and they have a point to prove. So does the manager. I truly believe the club is in a great place and this could be a very special season.

Simon Jones
17 Posted 11/08/2018 at 11:47:19
Good chance this season as a few of the big sides may be caught cold. I expect Spurs & the dark side to provide proper competition to Man City, otherwise I don't see Man U, Chelsea & Arsenal scaring anyone.

Burnley will likely struggle with the added pressure of the UEFA Cup (or whatever we are calling it now), but good luck to them anyway, how good would it be to see them at the pointy end of the competition?

The "surprise" team may come from one of the promoted sides, Wolves or Fulham, though I expect West Ham to perform much better this season and they could push for one of the top 8 places.

So what about us? Well we have to integrate late signings into the squad, so I'm not necessarily expecting a great start, which will be a shame as we are playing teams you could expect to normally beat. It will be fascinating to see if our young Portuguese manager could emulate the other "Special One" from Portugal. He has a job on his hands for sure, but he has the sort of players he wants and the better players from last season's squad are still here.

I think we could finish as high as 4th, but anywhere in the top half may represent progress if we are set up to score goals and try and win games. I'd rather we lose 3-4 to City than get either get twatted or lose by an odd goal with 11 players behind the ball. Whatever, in Silva I trust, I hope he gets our patience and support in that order. This might just be fun...

Jack Convery
18 Posted 11/08/2018 at 12:52:33
Great read and fully agree that Bernard is class and will make a hell of a difference to the non existent midfield we've had of late. Bring it on. COYBs.
Jerome Shields
19 Posted 11/08/2018 at 13:00:14
This is a very good analysis of the teams in the Premier League. The teams need to evolve all the time so as to compete in it.I hadn't really looked at other teams this Summer, but it seems that most have had a mixed Summer affected by the World Cup, financial constraint and the malaise in attitude of highly paid players, who can switch off on Managers they don't gel with.

Everton have more players out than any other team except Chelsea.They have brought in suitable players and have been able to attract them to play for Everton. which is a change on previous seasons. Brands has brought a professionalism to established contacts and has shown himself to be more savvy than the competition. Silva has shown a ability to analyse the capabilities of players and clearly knows and can identify suitable players to put a team together to play according to his system.

Everton are still a work in progress, but appear to be heading in the right direction with a clear plan and goals. They have found a unexspect gear in their rebuilding plan. I haven't been this optimistic for years and this time last year thought I would never see it again.

I expect Everton to be challenging the top four this season as they gradually build up momentum. The first part of the season will be a getting to know period and will have its ups and downs.

There is definitely more realisable ambition about Everton.

Derek Knox
20 Posted 11/08/2018 at 13:16:16
Thanks Lyndon, great piece and realistic assessment of the challenges in the Premier League this season ahead. There has been many incomings for most teams, usually taking a while to settle in to a different environment.

Although we are one of the teams, who has enjoyed a 'good window' it will largely be the team that finished last season, plus only two new additions, I suspect, who will turn out this afternoon. This may be in our favour, but will not be easy.

Chris Clark
21 Posted 11/08/2018 at 15:03:03
Great read. Hoping the influx of players and the outgoings has given the surviving players a kick up the arse.
Peter Gorman
22 Posted 11/08/2018 at 16:07:52
Spot on, Lyndon.
Phil Parker
23 Posted 11/08/2018 at 23:56:59
Great column Lyndon, I went to Wolves today and the vibes are good. Spirit and determination in place, very motivated and talented manager, and players to improve us waiting to make their impact. I feel this could be a very good season for us.
Lenny Kingman
24 Posted 12/08/2018 at 18:38:29
In my book, Silva is regarded by the Everton hierarchy as the successor to his compatriot Jose Mourinho. When he was at his best, early Chelsea. How they pursued him so vehemently with no interest in the consequences says a lot I believe.

The new order and master plan has been augmented. The future starts here.

Mark Tanton
25 Posted 13/08/2018 at 15:17:51
Enthusiasm and optimism at last! I think Marco is going to utterly transform this club, along with the superb Brands. I can't wait for the ride.
Ian Bennett
26 Posted 13/08/2018 at 16:25:14
No European football and quality additions, I think we need to be targeting top 5. Other teams have more fire power, but I think we have a good team blend.

Top 5 gives us a building block to retain this seasons additions. 7th will see the better players picked off. Top 4 is the dream scenario to give us a bigger draw for top players. Here's hoping - oh and a cup or two.

Victor Yu
27 Posted 14/08/2018 at 09:19:50
I think we are a Lukaku away from being a very serious top 4 challenger.

I don't think we have the top class scorer to bring us there yet.

Tony Everan
28 Posted 14/08/2018 at 12:31:01
Lyndon . Like a bar of Green and Blacks organic chocolate, Imtry to find a quiet corner and a comfy chair to read your longer articles. They are to be savoured.

It is wonderful to have the hope back, and after the Wolves match I don’t think it is forlorn. The Everton FC mojo is back. There seemed to be desire and focus, an understanding that this team is on the warpath.

I too think that Bernard could be the catalyst to help us overcome top 6 teams . If he can approach the influence that Hazard or David Silva bring we are in business big time.

I think we have more about us the Leicester, West Ham, Fulham, Wolves, whilst they will do OK I think we will be a cut above them come May.

The next two are winnable games and will indicate whether top 6 is achievable this season. Maximum points against Saturday could see us on get on a run. I’m backing us to be mixing it with 4 of the top 6, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man Utd, will drop points .

We will have opportunities to make ourselves very noisy neighbours to that exclusive top six and toss a royal blue caber through their glass ceiling.

Dave Abrahams
30 Posted 08/09/2018 at 20:23:47
We have now played four games and while we haven't set the league on fire
there has been enough to suggest that this season there will be a lot more entertainment than last season.

I believe under Silva and especially Brand there will be a continuous improvement throughout the club each year these two are here and every transfer window will improve the playing side and I believe we will climb the league each season as well, it's nice to looking forward to each game and feeling relatively confidant of the outcome as well.

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