Another English Premier League season is in the books, which means it’s time for everyone’s favorite offseason activity: speculation! As we know, silly season will soon officially be upon us as clubs from all over the world attempt to improve their squad for the upcoming campaigna��whether through addition by subtraction or the more conventional route: spending that sweet, sweet Premier League money.
Over the next couple months we’ll go through each EPL side, identifying their strengths and weaknesses while pointing out which player(s) they likely cannot afford to lose. Will the names always be notable? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
The honeymoon phase with Roberto MartA�nez lasted just one season en route to a fifth-place finish, but you allowed the disappointment that followed to linger in the two seasons that followed.
Now that you’re coming off consecutive 11th-place finishes, you’ve turned to Ronald Koeman. You’ve turned to billionaire investors. But don’t expect everything’s going to be sunshine and rainbows from this point forward. Oh no. Heading into next season, you’ve got very little to offer the Romelu Lukaku’s of the world, or the John Stones’, or even the Ross Barkley’s.
Sure you have money, but so do more successful clubs. So, where does Everton go from here?
New Manager In Town
There’s very little out there that can diminish Koeman’s success at the managerial level, especially lately. After Mauricio Pochettino led Southampton to their best-ever finish back in 2013, Koeman came in and improved upon that mark in back-to-back campaigns. He was shrewd in the transfer window, despite often selling key players.
Koeman started his managerial career as an assistant for the Netherlands national team, and continued the trend with Barcelona. Think about that: he started his managerial career assisting those two programs. Nearly every manager in the world would consider themselves lucky if they were able to even stumble upon one of those jobs over the course of their career.
He was at Ajax for several years, a club highly-regarded for the youth products they churn outa��not dissimilar to the Southampton academy’s reputation, in fact. Don’t expect that kind of potential from the get-go at Everton, however.
Then again, why worry about that when you’ve got money, right?
Lots To Lose
In all seriousness, Everton and Koeman will have plenty of money to spend going forward, something David Moyes was never really able to do while with the Toffees. Then again, we saw him overpay for Fellaini while managing United, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
But money isn’t going to keep everyone there: Lukaku wants Champions League football. And after three strong seasons with the Toffeesa��two of which were a massive underachievement for the cluba��he does deserve it.
Center back John Stones has been the subject of transfer rumors for what feels like an eternity, and you’ve got to imagine they’ll accept a ridiculous offer from some club eventually. Another bright young talent, Ross Barkley, is sure to be the subject of some speculation as well.
Everton probably won’t lose all three of these players in the same window, and if they’re serious about becoming better, then they definitely will not agree to sell all three. But they’ve got to at least consider the possibility. Let’s assume Lukaku is as good as gone: you better hold on to or build around the other two. If not, it doesn’t matter how much money you havea��players who want to win trophies aren’t going to go to a selling club.
Let’s Focus On Defense
Koeman’s biggest task will be to improve Everton’s defense. One thing MartA�nez seemed to have a knack for was producing exciting/attacking football. It was on the defensive end, however, where it often fell apart.
In Year One under the Spaniard, Everton conceded just 39 goalsa��the third-fewest in the league and one of just three clubs who conceded fewer than 40. It all went off the rails after that: over the next two campaigns Everton conceded an average of 52.5 goals per yeara��50 in 2014, 55 last season.
Now there are a lot of young defenders on this Everton squad, and it’ll be up to Koeman to decide who to build around and who to let go. In terms of the latter, how likely is it we don’t see veteran Leighton Baines featuring for Everton mucha��if at alla��going forward?
Phil Jagielka still holds some value and is important, but I’d like to think it’s time to build around Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, and John Stonesa��especially to see if he’s half as good as his transfer value assumesa��and see what happens. Because for a club that should be doing significantly better than Everton has the past two seasons, it can’t get much worse for them on defense.
Everton is a bigger club than Southampton, and in that sense Koeman is certainly taking a step forward. But expectations will be much higher, which is interesting considering that Southampton will be playing in Europe again while Everton will not.
A rebuild isn’t necessary, but more of a youth academy is. Money is one thing, but you can have all the money you want in the worlda��finishing in the lower half of the Premier League consistently isn’t going to do you many favors.
And yet, Koeman and company will probably have much more luck in acquiring premium talent this summer than Southampton will. Just because they don’t boast European football doesn’t mean they can’t pay them more and even give them the sense that they’re signing up to play for a bigger club. But for as good as Koeman is, don’t expect an immediate turnaround.
There’s plenty of uncertainty within this club at present. They’re largely a mess defensively and we don’t know who will primarily feature up top, but it’s hard to argue that hiring Ronald Koeman and receiving billionaire backing wasn’t a step in the right direction.
Previous Looking Ahead editions: