Everton fans went into the 2017/18 season with hopes of forcing a top-four finish in the league and bringing the riches of Champions League football to Goodison Park. That, coupled with a domestic trophy, would make the millions spent during the summer transfer window worth it.
If all else failed they always had the Europa League, following Manchester United’s example of winning the second-string competition, booking their seat at the head table next term. It made perfect sense on paper and bookmakers seemed to swallow it, the pre-season betting placing The Toffees near the head of the market on all fronts.
The reality has been very different. Manager Ronald Koeman was handed a transfer kitty most sides in British football could only dream of. The results in the early part of the campaign failed to match the level of investment and the Dutchman was shown the door in October following a 5-2 hammering at the hands of Arsenal.
Experienced former England gaffer Sam Allardyce was given another chance at managing a top-level club but, as we go into March, the team have a Premier League record of 9-7-12, crumbled in the Europa League at the group stage and did nothing of note in either of the English cup competitions. So, what’s the best way forward? Will those who hold the purse strings continue to throw money at the problem in an attempt to secure a quick-fix? Will it be buy, buy, buy, or sell, sell, sell?
Odds compilers have Everton as favourites in the Premier League betting to reinforce their shaky backline by purchasing Man United and England defender Chris Smalling in the summer and if the 28-year-old from Greenwich does join Wayne Rooney at Goodison, he shouldn’t be too far in front of teammate Phil Jones.
Those transfers would make perfect sense: with Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams entering the latter stages of their careers, a duo of new arrivals would freshen things up at the club while helping to plug a defence that has leaked 47 goals in 28 league matches.
Big Sam isn’t the only one showing an interest in the United pair, it would appear. West Ham, Newcastle and Arsenal are believed to be sniffing around, although the Londoners already have a number of decent options at centre-back and it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds for The Gunners, the ‘Wenger Out’ banners being unfurled again.
Chris Smalling is a player Allardyce knows well and it’s no secret the gaffer is an admirer of the 6ft 4inch defender, having called him up to the England squad when in charge of the Three Lions. Goodison Park will install a revolving door this summer, but fans demand those coming in offer real improvement on the failed gambles heading in the opposite direction. A couple of young, hungry players with a wealth of knowledge on the English game as well as experience playing on the continent – Everton could do a lot worse. In fact, they have done in recent transfer windows.