In recent seasons, Everton has encountered continued branding as ‘consistent overachievers’. It’s a term which when applied doesn’t really make sense especially in football. For some, Everton finishing seventh last season was in itself an overachievement. Looking past the sales of key players and the lack of spending, Everton has finished in the upper reaches of the Premier League on a consistent basis — so consistent, in fact, labeling the side as ‘consistent overachievers’ seems harsh.
It could be argued they have finished in these positions because that’s where they deserve to be, not through the overreaching of an average group of players continually fluking themselves into a false position season after season.
Now after my initial rant, I would like to address what the next step is for The Toffees and how they can progress in the world of modern football. They are now 17 years without a trophy and with no sign of investment on the horizon; they have had to sell key players in order to keep the banks off their backs in the most recent transfer windows. Already there are already stories in the media surfacing in reference to the potential departure of further players this summer. If things don’t change at the club, then the next season could be another like many of those that has gone before. What have Everton got to do in order to break this monotonous pattern that they have fallen into season after season? Can they do anything at all?
The first thing that the majority would probably say in response to this question is that Everton have to keep hold of David Moyes. It seemed inevitable that Harry Redknapp was to fill the England hot-seat, which of course would have left a vacancy at Spurs. But now that Redknapp has left Spurs, Moyes is a main contender for the job and I feel that now that the position may be offered to him, then he will take it.
Whether Moyes takes the Tottenham job or not, the question remains whether Everton can secure a first trophy since 1995, after falling just short on so many occasions.
It would help if the side could start a league campaign half as well as they finish them. The last time Everton managed to get their season off to a less than appalling start was in the 2006/2007 season. In that campaign, Everton made the signings of Tim Howard, Joleon Lescott and Andrew Johnson before pre-season and subsequently were able to focus on pre-season with a settled squad and a few fresh faces. They won three of their first four games, a start that the Toffees have since failed to replicate. Compare this to recent seasons and Everton have undergone their transfer business at the last possible moments with key players such as the aforementioned Lescott and Mikel Arteta departing the club after the start of the Premier League campaign.
Even record signing Marouane Fellaini was involved in a deal that went down to the wire on transfer deadline day in 2008. Concluding their transfer business early could provide Everton with the foundation for a good start that has eluded them in recent campaigns.
It became apparent last campaign Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic are key to The Toffees’ chances of both short-term and long-term success- this has also alerted rivals with intention to bid. There have already been stories in some of the media about potential interest from Manchester United and Chelsea for Baines and Fellaini respectively, and if Jelavic continues to find the net there will undoubtedly be potential suitors chasing his signature too. Moyes has commanded big fees for the sale of key players in the past however and any teams looking to steal away Everton’s major assets may have to stump up large sums. But if these types of offers do surface, they may prove difficult to turn down for a club as cash strapped as Everton- especially if they have young players that can potentially step up.
Everton will be particularly encouraged by two younger players that should play bigger roles next year. Jack Rodwell looked to be developing into a regular fixture for Everton and England before injury stunted his progress. An solid pre-season for Rodwell could result in him becoming a valued cog in the Everton midfield. The same could be said for another academy graduate Ross Barkley.
As a seventeen year old, he was the Toffee’s standout performer in the early stages of last season but failed to feature after the first couple of months of campaign. Moyes has already alluded to handing Barkley a more significant role in the Everton midfield next campaign and it’s understandable why he has held back on starting the youngster in more games. Barkley had to recover from a triple leg break in 2010 and it would seem naive to overuse someone of such a young age following such a serious injury.
Fitness permitting, Barkley should be an Everton regular and one of their best players by the end of next season. Martin Keown recently referred to Barkley as the best young English talent he has ever seen.
The major factor that seems to be stopping Everton breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling are the financial restraints that the club has to contend with. For any large sums that are brought in from player sales, a percentage has to go back to the bank in order to balance the books.