Nothing but the best is good enough. As club mottos go, Everton Football Club have one of the most famous and assertive in the Premier League.
And it was ringing in the ears of all Evertonians at the start of the 2017/18 Premier League season, when there was much optimism in the blue half of Merseyside as many fans thought this was their opportunity to turn the ‘Big 6’ into the the ‘Big 7’. Despite losing top scorer Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, they received a hefty chunk of money and invested in what appeared to be players of the highest quality. Finally, this was their chance to fulfil the club’s potential.Embed from Getty Images
However, this has been one of the club’s most disappointing seasons in recent years. Ronald Koeman’s last few months in charge of Everton gave the impression of a man who had little care for the club. David Unsworth, his temporary replacement, clearly did have the love and passion required, but could not steer the sinking Everton ship towards safety. By the time Sam Allardyce was appointed at the end of November, Everton were languishing in the bottom half of the table, finding themselves in a potential relegation dogfight.
Big Sam, a popular member of the Premier League’s managerial merry-go-round, sparked a mini revival, picking up 11 points from his first 5 games and as the club moved toward the top half. Nevertheless, despite climbing the table, a series of abject away performances have rendered his position untenable. His negative tactics, neglect of Everton’s youth players and flippant media comments have turned many fans against him.
It is plausible that Everton could well finish 7th come the end of May, matching what they achieved last season. Qualification for the Europa League, after the start they had, would be a respectable finish and not a disaster. However, the aim was to attempt to bridge the gap between themselves and the ‘Big 6’, not extend it further. Their recent capitulations away at Spurs and Arsenal show how far they have fallen, and how much the gap has widened.Embed from Getty Images
Sam Allardyce has achieved the minimum required of him as Everton will secure a top-half finish. His record of never being relegated is admirable, but he is not a manager suited for a club like Everton. The fans demand 100% commitment and decent performances week-in, week-out. Too many times this team has been found wanting.
Sam Allardyce cannot cop all of the blame for Everton’s demise this season. Steve Walsh, the Director of Football, is the man in charge of transfer activity at Everton. As chief scout at Leicester City, he was the man responsible for bringing Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante to the Foxes – proof of his ability to pluck future superstars from footballing obscurity.Embed from Getty Images
However, as Director of Football at Everton, many of his big money signings have flopped. Davy Klaasen, former captain of an exciting Ajax team, has been on the periphery all year. Michael Keane looks a shadow of his former self and only recently has Gylfi Sigurdsson started to find his feet. The less said about Cuco Martina, the better. The failure to buy a striker in the summer, whilst not thinking to replace the dreadful Martina in January, highlights the unequivocal inadequacy of Steve Walsh as a Director of Football.
Everton fans have been calling for the likes of Marco Silva or Shakhtar Donestk boss Paulo Fonseca. Both would be a massive improvement on any of their recent managers. A young manager who has an attacking philosophy, which has been deployed with significant success, is exactly what Evertonians have been calling out for. The fans probably know that a few tweaks to how the club is run could lead to a very exciting period for Everton.
As a Liverpool fan, it pains me to say that Everton probably have the best bunch of youth players in the country – something that Allardyce isn’t fully utilising. With a new stadium on the horizon, a new manager who replaces the dead wood within the squad, whilst allowing Everton’s youngsters to realise their potential, is the remedy to the club’s problems.
Whoever it is that leads Everton into next season, one thing for certain is that it cannot be Allardyce. If Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri allow him to keep his job, they clearly do not believe that nothing but the best is good enough.
Written by Dan Walker.