Underperforming Everton yet to match lofty ambition


Only three Premier League clubs have spent more in the transfer market over the last five years than Everton. This is a measure of the ambition now harboured at Goodison Park, as was the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti as manager a year-and-a-half ago. That ambition, however, has still to be fully realised.

Everton were in good shape for much of this season. Indeed, the Toffees were even in the top four discussion until only a few weeks ago. However, a run of just two wins in 10 games has sent Ancelotti’s team tumbling down the table to the point where an eighth place finish appears to be the best they can achieve.

Would that be good enough for a club that has outspent most of their rivals to the tune of £500 million and have one of the best managers of the modern era in the dugout? Eighth place would be an improvement on last season, when Everton finished in the bottom half, but how should fans feel above moving just four places up the table?

Home form has been a problem for Everton over the 2020/21 campaign, with the Toffees losing no fewer than nine league fixtures at Goodison Park. This is something Ancelotti must address if his team are to get any closer to the top four, and Champions League qualification, next season. There’s only so much that a solid away record can make up for.

“I am only a trainer. It’s difficult to explain this double face of the team,” Ancelotti responded when asked how he would go about improving Everton’s home form. “It’s difficult to explain, but one of the reasons could be that when we don’t think that sacrifice on the pitch is necessary, we are wrong.”

Everton’s first team is strong enough to compete at the top end of the Premier League. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has emerged as one of England’s best centre forwards this season with Richarlison considered among the league’s best wide forwards and James Rodriguez a world class creator, when fully fit.

The addition of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have given Everton some much-needed structure in the middle of the pitch while Lucas Digne would improve almost every team in the Premier League. Ancelotti still lacks the depth the rotate and keep his squad fresh. This might have been a factor this particular season, with clubs generally forced to play two fixtures a week for much of the campaign.

Ancelotti has already hinted at plans to add to his squad this summer. “We don’t need to do a revolution; we have to follow a plan,” the Italian recently explained. “It’s true that I won a lot of trophies, but I don’t know how many trophies I won because of the quality, instead of the spirit, of the attitude, of the sacrifice, of the concentration or of the personality.”

The most significant appointment Everton have in recent times made may prove not to be Ancelotti, but that of Marcel Brands. As the Toffees lurched from manager to manager, they ended up with an unbalanced and incoherent group of players. Each manager brought their own ideas, but there was no common thread. This is what Brands has provided.

Some of the Dutch sporting director’s transfer dealings have been questioned since his arrival on Merseyside three years ago, but his business has, by and large, made Everton a better team. Now, though, Brands, who recently signed a long-term contract extension, must focus on adding depth to Ancelotti’s squad.

He may also have to persuade Ancelotti to stay, with Real Madrid reportedly interested in taking the 61-year-old back to the Spanish capital. Everton might have expected better of their two-times Champions League-winning manager, but they are heading in the right direction. That direction must lead to more than just eighth place, though.

 


 

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