(Writer’s Note: This is the 13th of what will hopefully be 20 team previews in 20 days. Or at the very least, all 20 teams prior to the 2018-19 Premier League’s season-opener between Manchester United and Leicester City on August 10. Links to previous teams can be found at the bottom of the page)
Manager: Marco Silva (Hire Date: May 31, 2018)
Tenure Length: 19th/20 in Premier League and 79th/92 in Top 4 leagues of English football
2017-18 Record: 13-10-15, 49 points, 8th in Premier League
2017-18 Goals scored: 44
2017-18 Goal Difference: minus-14
Number of Current Consecutive Seasons in Premier League and/or First Division: 65 (includes 2018-19)
Last Promotion: 1954
Last Relegation: 1951 (First Division to Second Division)
2017-18 Europa League: Group play exit (Third place)
2017-18 Carabao Cup: Fourth-round loss (Chelsea)
2017-18 FA Cup: Third-round loss (Liverpool)
Everton had an early start to last season, navigating through two qualifying rounds to reach the Europa League group stage proper. Gylfi Sigurdsson, the top signing in a summer during which the Toffees spent £140 million, secured passage to the group stage with a wonder goal that lifted the Toffees to a draw at Hajduk Split.
Those good feelings, though, quickly dissipated in a slow start in league play as Everton suffered losses to Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United by a combined 9-0 scoreline in three straight matches around a 3-0 thrashing by Atalanta to open Europa group play.
The end for manager Ronald Koeman came one day after Everton was embarrassed at home 5-2 by Arsenal, allowing the Gunners to unload 30 shots at Jordan Pickford. As repeated bids to pry Marco Silva from Watford to take over as manager failed, David Unsworth served as caretaker, but the uneven results that included a 4-1 loss to Southampton meant Unsworth would never be full-time manager.
Enter Sam Allardyce, the master fixer, who arrived at Goodison Park on Nov. 30. He watched Everton’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United from the director’s box the day before he formally took over, and the Toffees went unbeaten in seven to make sure there would be no threat of relegation. During that time, Everton’s Europa League adventure came to a meek end with one win in its six group matches.
The Toffees were a flat-track bully team, able to dominate the Premier League’s lightweights while going 0-4-8 versus the top six. Their victory drought against eternal Merseyside derby rivals Liverpool reached 17 (0-9-8) with a pair of draws in league play bookending a 2-1 loss in the third round of the FA Cup.
Late in the season, Allardyce began angling for the full-time job, only to be met with strong pushback by Everton supporters, who wanted something more than the defence-first, plodding style Allardyce has nearly perfected in his repeated rescue missions throughout his Premier League coaching history.
Everton did take points in seven of its final nine matches, capping a turbulent season with a 3-1 loss at West Ham United.
POTENTIAL STARTING XI
Silva’s preferred approach is a 4-3-3, and even before reuniting with Richarlison, who will be on the left flank, he had plenty of pieces in place. It’s also a formation which could morph into a 4-2-3-1 with Morgan Schniderlin and Idrissa Gueye serving in support of the back four while pushing Sigurdsson further forward.
Cenk Tosun, who arrived in the January window, had five goals in 14 matches for the Toffees and is expected to lead the line. Richarlison’s arrival has pushed Theo Walcott further down the pecking order among wing players as he fights for playing time with Kevin Mirallas and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Another player who is on the outside looking in is Oumar Niasse, the Senegal international who was second on Everton with nine goals in all competitions last season. Whether Silva feels some of the holdovers are not a proper fit for his style, it was somewhat surprising to see him state the Toffees need to sign as many as six players to fit his needs.
THE NEW GUYS AND THE GONE GUYS
Richarlison is the £40 million gamble that could very well define Silva’s tenure at Goodison Park. The young Brazilian had a blinding start to the season with Watford, scoring five goals in his first 12 matches. But Silva’s dalliance with Everton caused a huge drop in Richarlison’s play and with both manager and player unhappy at Vicarage Road, the pacy winger failed to register even an assist in his final 21 matches.
Richarlison’s interplay with Sigurdsson could determine both their success as individuals and Everton’s as a whole. But the Brazilian is the only new face on the squad heading into the final fortnight of the summer window as the Toffees cleared some dead wood from their roster, notably Davy Klaassen as he moved to Werder Bremen for £12 million one year after arriving from Ajax for double that amount.
Fellow veterans Wayne Rooney, Joel Robles and Ramiro Funes Mori also moved on, while Yanick Bolasie and Ademola Lookman are likely to be sold to streamline Everton’s roster. There has been talk of the Toffees being close to agreement on acquiring Lucas Digne from Barcelona, which would put him against incumbent Leighton Baines.
THE GUY WORTH SEEING
Jordan Pickford (GK)
Pickford was one of four standout players in leading England to the World Cup semifinals in Russia this summer — joining Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier — while emerging as the No. 1 for the Three Lions and gathering a full helping of confidence for his second season at Goodison Park. His best performance may have been against Sweden in the quarterfinals when he not only made three saves for his clean sheet, but the first two came at vital junctures in the contest for the Three Lions.
Everton, who spent £30 million before last season to land him from Sunderland, are reportedly working on a new and more improved contract for their No. 1 keeper to keep him away from the elite squads in both England and Europe.
Arguably the best shot-stopper in the Premier League, Pickford’s distribution also played a key role in England’s run to the final four and is something Silva will try to use to great effect as Everton look to become a free-wheeling offence that can compete with the top outfits in the top flight.
Per Ladbrokes, oddsmakers are fairly confident a disaster will not befall Everton as the Toffees have long 33/1 odds on being relegated. They also have the second-shortest odds to finish in the top 10 at 1/3 and second-longest for the bottom half at 11/5.
Everton is the first outsider for a top-six finish at 4/1 odds and rank seventh for a top-four finish at 16/1. Tosun is on the board for the Golden Boot, albeit at 50/1 odds.
FIRST FOUR MATCHES/LAST FOUR MATCHES
Aug. 11 — Wolverhampton (N/A) A
Aug. 18 — Southampton (17th) H
Aug. 25 — Bournemouth (12th) A
Sept. 1 — Huddersfield Town (15th) H
April 20 — Manchester United (2nd) H
April 27 — Crystal Palace (11th) A
May 4 — Burnley (7th) H
May 12 — Tottenham Hotspur (3rd) A
Everton’s struggles during the preseason are ones to be expected as Silva’s players adapt to their new structure. Aside from a 22-0 thrashing of ATV Irdning, the preseason has been one of drilling to learn spots and roles as well as Silva learning which personnel combinations work best.
The other positive for Silva is the soft opening slate of schedule gives Everton some margin of error in terms of getting results while not playing its best football. All four matches are entirely winnable, and it can be argued the lid-lifter at promoted Wolverhampton is the most challenging of the four.
With the exception of West Ham United, no one outside the top six has spent heavily as a means of trying to lift themselves up the table. The Toffees have kept their powder dry beyond Richarlison, though Digne’s arrival appears imminent, and it would not be surprising to see one or two more new players arrive at Goodison Park before that opening contest at Molineux.
Once the Toffees find their identity under Silva, they should be a team that contends for a place in the Europa League for 2019-20. They could conceivably be the best of the rest among the non-top six, and if Chelsea and/or Arsenal fail to ignite under their respective new managers, Everton could pip the London giants if it can overachieve this campaign.
PREVIOUS TEAMS’ PREVIEWS
July 18 — Fulham July 28 — Newcastle United
July 19 — Cardiff City July 29 — Leicester City
July 20 — Wolverhampton July 30 — Everton
July 21 — Southampton July 31 — Burnley
July 22 — Huddersfield Town August 1 — Arsenal
July 23 — Brighton and Hove Albion August 2 — Chelsea
July 24 — Watford August 3 — Liverpool
July 25 — West Ham United August 4 — Tottenham Hotspur
July 26 — Bournemouth August 5 — Manchester United
July 27 — Crystal Palace August 6 — Manchester City