The first minutes of a new season should be about renewed hope and unashamedly grandiose expectations.
With the table cleared, a bright new strip and some different teams to go against, there’s something refreshing about getting down to the domestic grind again for supporters. At sun-drenched stadiums across England, that was evident in the buzz from fans that bristled through the speakers on our television sets.
At Everton, gripped by the aforementioned new-season mania, there was a similar atmosphere as supporters settled into their seats, hoping the team could banish the bad memories of 2014-15. But the mood turned sour sharpish and Goodison Park, as it was last term, quickly became a hotbed of fan angst and consequent hindrance.
The reason? Things became familiarly stale for the Toffees supporters. Although Z-Cars was greeted with a roar and the first few challenges with a pugnacious din of appreciation, it was soon apparent that despite a few months away from the men in blue, nothing much had actually changed.
Had it not been for an injury to Leighton Baines on the eve of the opening day game against Watford, manager Roberto Martinez would have fielded an XI that contained 10 players which were in situ on September 1, 2013; the first season of his tutelage.
Needless to say, with no shift in personnel, the brand of football hadn’t deviated too far from the soporific, stagnant style that blemished Goodison Park last season either. Again, a team without impetus or endeavor moved the ball far too slowly and far too predictably, much to the benefit of their grateful opponents.
Although Gareth Barry brazenly called for patience from the supporters in the days following the match, which finished in a 2-2 draw, it’s not difficult to see why those in the stands, on the sidelines and on the pitch seem trapped in a malaise. The remedy is rejuvenation and the best way to facilitate that process is with new faces.
At the time of writing, Everton have spent a meager £5 million this summer, with Gerard Deulofeu, Mason Holgate and Tom Cleverley the only three acquisitions; it’s the smallest expenditure of any team in the league. Manager Roberto Martinez has cited three players he’s looking to bring in bespoke positions—the priority being creative, intricate midfielder—since April this year, per Andy Hunter of the Guardian. But the Toffees, who finished 11th last season, seem content to rest on their laurels.
SEE MORE: Read Everton’s 2015/16 season preview.
Granted, consistency is important and it’s a vital attribute which many great sides have been forged upon. But there is a fine line between stability and stagnation; at the moment, the Toffees are certainly straying towards the latter.
What’s even more of a concern is just how much astute business is being done by clubs around the Merseysiders in the table.
The most recent transfer blow for Everton was to miss out on Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City, who was undoubtedly a major target for the Toffees. But in addition to the Potters, Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Newcastle United, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion have all conducted savvy purchases; that’s without even mentioning teams like Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, who Everton have vied with for positions in recent seasons.