Season Preview: Can Silva ‘fix’ Everton?
Everton at a glance
Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles - 9)
FA Cups: 5 (1906, 1933, 1966, 1984, 1995)
League Cups: 2 (1977, 1984)
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For the better part of the last 15 years, Everton have attempted — every which way imaginable — to burst through the glass ceiling that is the Premier League’s top-six (previously the top-four before Tottenham Hotspur’s rise to stability and Liverpool’s return to elite status). At first, they simply outworked their opponents (while spending next to nothing) under David Moyes; Roberto Martinez was supposed to bring about a free-flowing, attacking revolution (on a slightly larger budget); 12 months ago, Ronald Koeman was supposed to meld the two philosophies together (after spending spending more than $200 million in the transfer market).
Ultimately, all three came up short, each one failing more spectacularly than his predecessor. You can’t say, however, that the Toffees haven’t gone for it, that they’ve been happy to sit idly by and live a comfortable, unambitious life as a perennial top-half side in the PL. Of course, it’s where they’ve most commonly finished over the last decade and a half, but it hasn’t been without aiming higher.
In 2018-19, under the leadership of new manager Marco Silva (he’s more Martinez than Moyes, but with less PL experience than Koeman), the goal remains the same, but just as difficult — and unlikely — to achieve. Farhad Moshiri has owned the club for two and a half years now, and despite pumping nine figures into it (via transfer fees alone, not even including his investment as the club moves toward building a new stadium), the ceiling appears more opaque than ever before.
Everton could push for top-six because… Silva has shown (in a half-season at Watford, albeit) that he’s tactically astute and can piece together a formidable attacking unit. The jury is still out on whether or not he can set up a defense, but that’s where much of Everton’s experience lies, so the idea appears to be to rely upon them outperforming expectations and finishing bang in the middle of the goals-conceded column, at which point a positive goal differential is actually possible (-14 last season).
Everton will fall out of the top-half because…. all of the fancy, expensive pieces just don’t fit together/are redundant. Alongside Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson is arguably the most talented player on the roster (he should be, considering he cost $52 million last summer), but for the last few seasons he’s been the common denominator in a number of teams without any semblance of midfield balance. Richarlison and Theo Walcott aren’t going to cover up his defensive deficiencies out wide, at which point you’re asking an awful lot (read: absolutely everything) of Idrissa Gueye, who’s very good, but only about 75 percent of N’Golo Kante.
Best possible XI:
Martina — Keane — Jagielka — Digne
Sigurdsson — Gueye — Davies
Walcott — Niasse — Richarlison
Transfers In: Richarlison ($45 million, Watford), Lucas Digne ($23 million, Barcelona)
Transfers Out: Wayne Rooney (free), Ramiro Funes Mori (undisclosed, Villarreal), Joel Robles (free), Davy Klaassen (undisclosed)
Ranking their offseason: B-
After lighting $225 million on fire last summer, one would imagine there wasn’t a ton of money to be spent this time around — nor was it needed — though Silva clearly earmarked Richarlison as a must-have marquee signing. Lucas Digne was tabbed to become one of the world’s best left backs as recently as three years ago, but it hasn’t quite happened for him at Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona.
Star player: Richarlison was the PL’s “Wait, who’s he?” breakout star during Silva’s six months at Watford. Equally adept at winning the ball in the air and dribbling past defenders, the 21-year-old possesses an especially unique blend of skills that Silva clearly values and knows how to maximize.
Coach’s Corner: If not for Ronald Koeman’s untimely departure last October, Silva might still be the manager at Watford. Silva didn’t make any bones about wanting the Everton job, though, which ultimately led to his dismissal by a quick trigger finger a couple months later. The squad, as it exists now, plays perfectly to Silva’s strengths and ideas as a manager, but we already knew he could set a team out to attack and entertain. It’s the other part — the defending — that he struggles with, and that Everton struggled with last season (58 goals conceded, 7th-most, even after six months under Sam Allardyce).
PST Predicts: They have the seventh-best squad in the PL, and they’re so predictably — and boringly — likely to finish with the seventh-most points in the PL this season. Outside of the “big six” finishing 1-6, Everton finishing 7th is the safest bet one could make.