Everton have emerged from the close season with an impressively upgraded squad and go into the international break sitting on top of the pile having far exceeded expectations and infused long-suffering Toffees with overdue optimism
And… breathe! Five signings; seven games; seven wins… all crammed into a month between Everton confirming the arrival of Allan from Napoli on the 5th of September and the closure of the main part of the transfer window. It’s been a hectic start to the new season, not just in terms of the scheduling, which saw three rounds of the Carabao Cup shoe-horned into a fortnight, but also in terms of the rush of goals that has characterised the beginning of the Premier League campaign.
Everton have, of course, emerged from a transfer window that was extended into October with an impressively upgraded squad and went into the international break sitting on top of the pile as the only team to have won four from four in the League. On both counts, the club have far exceeded expectations, infusing long-suffering Toffees with the Spirit Of The Blues in anticipation of what’s possible in 2020-21.
Lurking on the other side of the current pause in the domestic season, of course, is the Merseyside derby, a fixture guaranteed to keep war-weary Evertonian feet on the ground for one more match at least, but fans from the Blue half of Merseyside will approach that normally dreaded date on the calendar with more optimism than in many a year. Not only did Jürgen Klopp’s mob have the notion of their supposed infallibility crushed at Villa Park last Sunday but Carlo Ancelotti’s side have been exhibiting every sign that they can be a match for the best on their day.
Any side that is averaging three goals a game, plays with the energy that Everton have thus far and has James Rodriguez in their ranks is going to pose a threat, even to last season’s runaway champions. The 10-year wait for a derby win might not come to end on the 17th but the Blues’ optimising going into it — the fitness of their best players notwithstanding — won’t be misplaced.
That’s down to some very good transfer business from Ancelotti and Marcel Brands. Identifying an urgent need based on the second half of last season, the Italian pin-pointed exactly how and where the club needed to strengthen and though there was a bit of a wait to get the deals over the line, within the space of a few days before the new season kicked off Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodriguez were in through door.
Niels Nkounkou, drafted in as “one for the future” but who dropped jaws on his first senior outing, had already come in to seemingly resolve one shortfall in depth at full-back and with Jonjoe Kenny staying put and the versatile Ben Godfrey coming in on deadline day, Everton’s back line has a healthy look to it.
Indeed, when Mason Holgate and Jarrard Branthwaite are fit, Ancelotti will have one of his migraines (hat-tip to Alex Iwobi) to deal with, with five centre-halves at his disposal. In some respects, the injury that Branthwaite suffered against Salford was back luck on his part because he might have expected to be one of the first-team four for that position but while he has looked very comfortable in the senior side despite his tender years, he remains raw and largely untested. He has a big future ahead of him but he might have to bide his time a little longer now.
Godfrey, while not as tall, looks to be supremely athletic, more in the Holgate mould, and he obviously has the benefit of top-flight experience but his ability to play at in a central defensive three, at right-back and even in defensive midfield potentially makes him a very shrewd signing. Far from the finished article, it seems, he's a diamond ready to be polished by Ancelotti and his staff and, potentially, a player who can be part of the Blues' setup for many years to come.
The last piece of business, of course, was the deadline-beating loan acquisition of Robin Olsen, a goalkeeper who comes to Goodison Park as a relatively unknown quantity and with his immediate role just as unclear. Jordan Pickford’s form over the past few months has reached alarming levels and it prompted Ancelotti and Brands to at the very least give him someone at whom the England international should look over his shoulder, if not fear losing his place to immediately.
Had the Blues landed Sergio Romero and not been priced out of a move for the Argentine — according to a report, Manchester United were asking for £10m for their third-choice keeper who is on £120,000 a week at Old Trafford — you feel that Pickford’s place might be under more immediate threat. As it is, with some mixed reports about Olsen’s own reliability, it looks as though the manager is giving him every chance to prove that he can get his head right and regain even some even form let alone the heights of his first season at Goodison.
It feels like Last Chance Saloon for Pickford, though; as Ancelotti showed with last season’s dramatically under-performing midfield, he won’t be shy about acting decisively in addressing a problem position in the team. It will be a stern test of the former Sunderland man’s character at an important part of his career with ramifications not only for his status as a first-choice Premier League goalkeeper but as his country’s first-choice goalkeeper as well.
In addition to Sandro Ramirez finally get a permanent move away from Everton, the window also saw Moise Kean secure a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain, a somewhat surprising destination given the quality of forwards who stand ahead of him in the pecking order at the Ligue 1 giants. It could be a canny move by Mino Raiola, though — it gives his client a season at least at a glamour club in one of world’s great cities and if Kean can demonstrate the ability that he believes he has when given the opportunity in France, it can only be a good thing. And the lack of an obligation to buy leaves Everton open to benefit next season if he does catch fire.
While the decision has been questioned on Everton’s end, it was clear that the Italian wasn’t happy with the limited chances being afforded him so far this season, and, a bit like the goalkeeper situation, the position in which the Blues find themselves having made such a great start to the season means that the team can’t afford to have anyone not 100% focused and completely invested.
It does leave the first team a little light in striking options beyond Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, although a move for someone like Josh King ahead of the domestic deadline involving English Football League clubs isn’t out of the question. The work that Brands has done in lightening the wage bill and recouping some funds this summer means that Bournemouth’s reported willingness to accept staggered payments for King could be affordable even after £60m+.
But with the next transfer window open in less than three months’ time, both Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison boasting good fitness records — knock on wood — and Cenk Tosun expected to return to fitness sometime between then and now, it’s calculated risk if the squad stays as it is for the time being. Like some of Everton’s other players who have been underwhelming in the last, Tosun, as a natural finisher, might see an opportunity to prove a few people wrong when surrounded by a much-improved squad and the assist machine that is James in particular.
It wasn’t a given that all of the new signings would mesh with their new team-mates so easily and look, from practically the first whistle, as though they had been playing in the Premier League in the same team for years. As Ancelotti says, football doesn’t have to be that complicated but the fact remains that some players, often those coming from abroad to a new country, do take a while to adjust. Kean is one example and, as the Amazon documentary on Tottenham demonstrated, Tanguy Ndombele is another.
Allan, however, seems like the kind of player who can just drop into a team and get on with things and Rodriguez just makes everything about football look breathlessly easy; add in their familiarity with Ancelotti and you have the ideal conditions for a seamless transition to Everton from Italy and Spain respectively.
Had Brands only managed to bring in one of those midfield acquisitions, it would have represented an upgrade on last season’s squad and, with the benefit of a few more weeks for the manager to coach his players away from the ongoing pressures of a league campaign, it would have provided the platform for modest improvement in 2020-21.
With the addition of both Allan and Doucouré and then James on top of that, Everton have a really dynamic midfield, capable of playing in a number of ways; one that can press teams, force mistakes, move the ball quickly and dangerously in transition and pose almost constant goal threat.
Those are the hallmarks of a top side, particularly when you add in the shift in mentality and ratcheted up self-belief that appears to have come with the new-look Everton. As strange as it feels to say it, as long as that first-choice eleven stays reasonably fit and together, this Everton team is well on the way to being a very good outfit indeed. Blues fans will understandably be reining in their optimism but the longer this type of form continues, the more they will dare to dream.
Reader Comments (37)
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1 Posted 08/10/2020 at 07:53:28
We have suffered long enough at the hand of the Klingons â€“ we will never have a better chance to sort them out. There is character all over the pitch now â€“ we have the players to do it.
One thing is for sure they won't be feeling as cocky as they usually do.
Up the Blues!!
2 Posted 08/10/2020 at 08:39:01
Overall I no longer watch the TV games through my fingers. As the season progresses, I think we may bully into submission many of the lesser teams, something we have generally failed to do in recent years. Last season, we lost, drew and so dropped too many points against those teams. If we can pick up more points than we lose against the top teams, then we will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
It is much easier when you talk about it, isn't it?
3 Posted 08/10/2020 at 08:58:07
Can we finally get the monkey off our back and beat the team that we just don't turn up against.
If we win this game, the whole mentality around the club changes loose it and the bubble will truly burst. If we win this, I really think Everton will be top four contenders this season.
9 days to go... COYB
4 Posted 08/10/2020 at 11:11:22
5 Posted 08/10/2020 at 12:20:43
1-0 That's a surprise but no problem
2-1 There we go, back in it, we should win this
4-1 Shit - got to come out after HT aggressive, we need to show these who is boss. Liverpool don't concede 4, start kicking people.
5-1 It's not working, just a bad day at the office
5-2 Here we go, they are getting tired, Mane will get a couple now - Oh wait...
6-2 We've lost this, stupid scoreline but a one-off, good to get this out of the way early on.
7-2. Maybe there is something wrong with how we are playing, maybe others teams have sussed the high line???
My point is - if we can work on that doubt in the derby, force it to re-emerge they will wobble. Then we have to be clinical. Be more streetwise, more disruptive, more provocative and they will do what they did in 1985 - they gave up.
6 Posted 08/10/2020 at 12:43:18
If we have another good window in January and get rid of some on the bench and replace them with three quality players, I can see us top six or even top four.
7 Posted 08/10/2020 at 13:02:30
Leonardo was Director of Football at PSG, from 2011 until he left in 2013 (after resigning over an alleged push on a referee after a match). After an ill-fated spell in the same role for AC Milan, he returned to PSG last summer. They already had Tuchel in place. Tuchel, previously linked with Everton, has been on thin ice for a while now. There was talk Leonardo would oust him on arrival and get his own man in, but Tuchel kept his job and did better, reaching their first Champions League Final, so his job was safe.
Tuchel and Leonardo are a perfect example of the DoF and head coach not working together. It is reported that Leonardo bought Moise Kean without the request to do so by Tuchel. Tuchel had other players in mind. But PSG are short on forwards, there's only Mbappe, Neymar and Icardi there now, with Cavani having left. Di Maria can play in the front 3 as well, but there's a good chance Moise will be called into action.
It was very interesting though, that Moise is caught in this civil war, and to see how Tuchel uses him. Neymar has a tendency to miss quite a few games, for a variety of reasons, and Mbappe will play off a striker. Icardi is usually an ever-present, but he's a bit intellectually challenged as seen by what he and his wife get up to. He's already missed the first two games of the season for coronavirus reasons, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens again.
8 Posted 08/10/2020 at 13:34:26
Instead after less than a week's training with their new teammates they immediately had a transformative impact on the team and its results. It is to their enormous credit that they arrived fit and ready for action. Presumably they had been briefed in advance of their transfers to get themselves ready because they would be going straight into the team from the first match.
As Lyndon says one midfield signing would have given us an uplift. Bringing in three was almost too much to hope for. It usually takes a couple of years to put a new midfield unit together. Ancelotti and Brands achieved it in a week which is unprecedented, certainly as far as our club is concerned.
9 Posted 08/10/2020 at 14:29:03
The dude has a mean strike from inside the box.
What he isn't is the type of striker that goes deep to collect the ball and bring the ball forward in shooting range.
He doesn't dribble that well and he doesn't have the vision when it comes to passing.
What with constant service he is able to finish from.inside the box with his mean strikes.
He could be a good cover for Calvert-Lewin without us having to spend some more.
10 Posted 08/10/2020 at 14:45:34
11 Posted 08/10/2020 at 19:14:40
12 Posted 08/10/2020 at 19:21:34
Steve #7, what I remember Leonardo for is fracturing the skull of USA midfielder Tab Ramos in the 1994 World Cup. So personally I hope Moise scores about ten goals and we stick it up Leonardo's ass by taking him back next season. But I doubt it -- unless the injury bug bites, I can't see him getting many minutes from the notably stubborn (and prickly) Tuchel.
13 Posted 08/10/2020 at 21:01:16
This is a season-defining game: win this and we will be flying; loose and it will knock the stuffing out of us.
14 Posted 08/10/2020 at 21:15:50
If Everton does lose to the enemy, I'll be very disappointed if it completely derails our season, particularly as it's only the fifth game of a 38 game competition. I also remember how often a derby victory for Everton (a rare occurrence in the last couple of decades), has resulted in the Blues thinking they had cracked it, only to let their guard down against other teams and apart from bragging rights for one game, the campaign resulted in nothing of merit.
The Sharpy derby at Anfield in 1984, was a turning point for the club, but that side had run the other lot close at Wembley and Goodison in several previous encounters.
We have to realise that despite the last result for the neighbours, they will remain firm favourites at Goodison and for good reason, I think we can beat them, I hope we do beat them, but to hang a whole season on it is a mistake regardless of the outcome of that single game.
15 Posted 08/10/2020 at 22:22:06
16 Posted 08/10/2020 at 23:07:51
He is listed primarily as CB, DM, CM, RB and one appearance at LB..?
A versatile lad indeed; after having watched Nkounkou, his right foot looks good enough to play at RB too.
17 Posted 09/10/2020 at 00:52:05
If things are indeed different now under Ancelotti and the good results so far, we'll maintain momentum with or without winning the derby. To let it define the season is truly a small-club mentality.
18 Posted 09/10/2020 at 01:09:27
Agree with Stan, it's just another game in the season, sure, our derby rivals, but still just 1 game out of 38. I would love a win but we look beyond that result towards other games regardless. The boys are in a groove right now and I definitely hope it is a sign of better things to come. Really a good, refreshing and surprising start to the season.
19 Posted 09/10/2020 at 01:36:46
I'm sure Carlo and Marcel have the same vision. To them, as they've begun to shape their own squad, Liverpool are just another team, and nothing special.
20 Posted 09/10/2020 at 02:16:51
I put up a similar post some years ago about the derby being a must win fixture and I came up against similar assertions as yours. Given what has transpired since I regret that I backed away from my position at that time.
Not this time around, fellas â€“ no way. Not only must we win this game â€“ we will.
This is not just about the 3 points. If we are going to claw our way back to the top, everyone associated with the club has to have a change of mindset and start believing we can beat anybody, anytime, anywhere.
We must most definitely stop rolling over for a club that has bullied us for years and has taken great delight in doing so.
22 Posted 09/10/2020 at 03:07:04
23 Posted 09/10/2020 at 03:36:53
We now have the players with the right mentality to put one over the red shite. Although we have to beat them and the corrupt officials too.
I'm confident that our new-look team will have most teams running scared. If the goalkeeper situation can be resolved, then the sky's the limit.
We have winners in the team now who have made the others up their game. Klopp knows after his mauling by Aston Villa that this is a must-win game. Therefore more pressure on the reds...
We can win the derby.
25 Posted 09/10/2020 at 09:27:57
Mal (#6), I agree wholeheartedly, well said. Although one article appeared to put him as part of the problem. How that worked out, I'm not sure!
For Everton, it's the future that counts, not the past. I don't think we should be measuring the success or failure of our team this season by the result of one match.
The next match is the most important one of the season. Not because of who we're playing; but because it's the next match. Although the Press and the TV build it up as a must-win game for both clubs, my view is that is bollocks.
When Pickford did what he did in the Anfield derby, in the last minute of injury time, that one moment saw our season evaporate. No more; we take our best shot at winning the game, take in the attitude and togetherness of our team and just do our best to win, like we must do in every match we play in, not just this one.
My view is that the opposition in the next match have been growing as a bigger and bigger demon; and the urge to overturn the run of results can easily define the rest of our season. If we let it!
Well, we've got to get out of this thinking mode, or it just becomes a bigger and bigger obstacle to our progress as a team.
If, as some believe, Liverpool see this as a must-win game, let them. That just piles pressure on them because, if they lose, there's more pressure on them.
To us, we must develop an attitude of nothing deters us from achieving our goal; that includes making this coming match more important than the one after.
We've got a good team and the Prof will want to make it a better one. He is instilling in this team the skill, attitude and will to win that will make us a competitor for one of the so-called Top Six places.
My view, as a fan, is that any team we play, if I see our team play their best, then I believe the results will come. I'll not be looking back at how long it's been since we won at this, that or any other ground.
It's how we do from now on... in every match.
26 Posted 09/10/2020 at 10:05:09
I totally understand what you're saying, the mental block against Liverpool has been utterly unacceptable. However, I believe removing that mental block to be merely a particular case of strengthening up generally from a mental perspective, and it looks like we're doing that.
If we don't, we're going nowhere regardless of a derby win, but if we do then the derby games will be taken care of as all other games are, one game at a time.
28 Posted 09/10/2020 at 12:00:18
29 Posted 09/10/2020 at 13:48:00
30 Posted 09/10/2020 at 13:49:13
31 Posted 09/10/2020 at 13:59:17
32 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:06:41
Aaaaaagh Kevin what have you done?
I was calm and relaxed, at peace with the world for once, until I read your post.
How those scumbags can be so totally unaware and blinkered to have the audacity to call James a cheat, when they as a club have been practising how to dive and throw out a leg and win penalties etc for years, is beyond me.
Fucking rs shite!
33 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:07:04
If we lose home and away, so be it; let's just finish higher than them in the Premier League. My view on the games against the RS is formed by we only get 3 points for the game, happy to lose home and away to them if we win the league!!!!
34 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:33:35
I had a wonderful dream last night... What else, but the derby! 4-0 win with 30% possession.
Goal No 1: Michael Keane plays a delightful ball over the top, their weakest link Van Dijk can't control, lays off for Calvert-Lewin who chips it past Adrian â€“ 1-0 Everton
Goal No 2: Kopites are pressing for the equalizer and they swarm around James whenever he received the ball. In a moment of magic, he turns around his marker, plays an exquisite cross-field ball for Richarlison. He twists and turns Arnold, right-foot curler â€“ 2-0 Everton
Goal No 3: Everton win a corner, Gylfi's delivery... Calvert-Lewin thunders a header past hapless Adrian... runs to Big Dunc to celebrate with a Biiiiiiiig Hug!
Goal No 4: Everton counter with DoucourÃ©, Liverpool back off, he plays square to James at the edge of the box. James gets up, and with a wand of left foot, Top corner â€“ 4-0 Everton.
Stuff of Dreams... I hope everything falls in place on the 17th..
35 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:54:55
Running down Church St in my undies.
Running through treacle whilst being chased by Irene Handle. (Ask yer Dad)
Etc. Etc. Etc.
36 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:56:52
I couldn't describe it... so in the end I googled it...
Apparently it's called â€˜optimism'
39 Posted 09/10/2020 at 17:51:12
40 Posted 09/10/2020 at 18:20:58
He has been training alone with the medics for four days since he arrived in Brazil, no contact, no high speed. The following video shows him training with the team for the first time Thursday afternoon.
You get a couple of glimpses of Richarliosn. There is one exercise when the players follow each other in Indian file, hopping high from the standing leg and landing on the other leg.
They really do leap high. All except one: Richarlison. He is a good trainer, but he appears to avoid leaping too high and coming down too heavily on his injured left ankle.
Then there is a game in which he plays for the 'lesser' team. He only appears right at the end of the video, playing centrally. An easy ball is played to him but he is challenged. Totally unlike Richarlison, he pulls out of the challenge, again seemingly to avoid risking his injured ankle.
On the one hand, it's a positive sign that he is training with the team again rather than alone, but on the other, given what we see and what is being reported, he won't be anywhere near the team tonight.
James and Mina in Colombia are a different story. They themselves and the Colombian nation will want the maximum amount of minutes possible out of them over the two games.
41 Posted 10/10/2020 at 04:28:50
It's so, so easy for some red-headed bastardized Yank to say this, having only joined Blue ranks in 2007, not having gone through the years of pain and suffering so many Blues have, but this derby is an opportunity.
An opportunity for this fantastic Club to announce to the world we're back.
Don't fear the derby. Relish it this time. It's a golden chance to lay down a massive marker.
We're back. And I really believe this is our year to trounce them. The planets have aligned; believe.
42 Posted 10/10/2020 at 18:20:29
Digne, though not that tall is very good in the air. A back line of 4 six-foot-plus athletic defenders would make me feel a lot more comfortable at corners and might cover up Pickford's inadequacies at dealing with high balls into the box.
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