2016/17 Everton Season Preview

The 2016/17 season presents a clean slate for Everton. After two miserable campaigns, culminating in Roberto Martinez’s sacking, the Toffees will be looking to achieve European football. Their new majority shareholder has brought in a new manager to work under a new structure at Goodison Park. Time will tell whether the respective appointments of Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh were the right ones.

2016/17 Everton Season Preview

Last year’s position: 11th

For the second successive season, Everton finished a lowly 11th place in the Premier League. Martinez had promised Champions League football upon his arrival in 2013, but instead Everton had regressed at an alarming rate. A dismal display in a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland, after similar drubbings to Liverpool and Leicester, sealed the Spaniard’s fate. He was sacked with just one game to spare. Upon the campaign’s end, the Everton hierarchy began their long-drawn pursuit of a manager working on the south coast.

Current Manager: Ronald Koeman

The Dutchman, who has lifted European Cups in his playing days, and league titles in his managerial ones, was the first choice. Eventually, Everton got their man, tying him down to a three-year contract. It was a sizeable statement of intent, attracting a manager who had secured Euopean football with his current club, to come to a team who had finished in the bottom half two seasons running. But Koeman was clearly impressed with the ambition shown by Moshiri.

Everton fans can expect a much different strategy from Koeman than that of his predecessor. The 53-year-old will demand hard-work, tenacity and precision. It should see him get the best out of some players who were left unenthused by the previous regime, while exposing some of the weak links.

Positives from last season

In yet another disappointing season, one which finally saw Martinez lose his job, positives were few and far between.

The biggest positive for Everton last term was undoubtedly some of the performances in the final third. At times the Toffees were too hot for the opposition to handle. Romelu Lukaku ended with his best goal tally yet, Gerard Deulofeu penetrated defences at will and Ross Barkley’s end product also improved.

Additionally, Everton put together two very good cup runs, before succumbing to both Manchester sides in the semi-finals. Though, in the end, the respective defeats were hard to swallow, the cup performances did show signs of promise. Hopefully for those loyal Evertonians who bared witness to Kevin De Bruyne’s controversial goal at the Etihad or Anthony Martial’s 90th minute winner at Wembley, they can go one round further this year.

Weaknesses from last season

Where to begin?

Manager, goalkeeper, defence, fitness, composure, concentration, work rate.

As the end was nigh for Martinez, Everton were the easiest team to play against in the league. Even in the middle of the season, Everton had never truly beaten a team until the final whistle blew. Bournemouth, Stoke, Chelsea and West Ham all staging comebacks to take points from Everton late on.

It all stemmed from the manager’s shortcomings. His decision-making was poor, he was tactically naïve and his stubbornness didn’t allow him to admit his system was failing.

Tim Howard lasted far too long as the first choice goalkeeper. His errors were costing the team points nearly every game, yet Martinez’ confidence in him remained. The defence simply couldn’t defend as a unit – dealing with crosses in to the box was a particular weakness. Everton’s midfield lacked energy and bite and the team as a whole had a tendency to switch off late on.

It resulted in a most frustrating campaign for Blues fans and one which won’t be remembered fondly.

Offseason progress

During the summer months Everton have seen a raft of changes.

Moshiri’s grip on the club has tightened. Everton have tempted Koeman and Walsh from Southampton and Leicester respectively. And the mood of Evertonians had enhanced emphatically.

Until it got to the weak prior to the season.

Everton’s pre-season performances have been a mixed bag, while Maarten Stekelenburg and Idrissa Gueye are the only additions to the squad so far.

On the pitch, a fine start saw two comfortable wins against Barnsley and MK Dons, before a trip to Germany for the Dresden Cup. The Toffees lost the opener 2-1 to the hosts, Dynamo Dresden. They were beaten on penalties by Real Betis on the following day.

Back in England, Everton put in two more dull displays. First, in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United for Wayne Rooney’s testimonial, which saw Mo Besic pick up an injury that will keep him out for six months. And then against Espanyol at home, where a clumsy challenge in the Everton area by debutant, Gueye gifted the visitors the decisive penalty. The Senegalese midfielder, though, did have enough about him to pick himself up and put in a solid individual performance.

Players to look out for

Early signs suggest that more often than not Koeman will alternate between 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2 formations. One player that will have to be adaptable in the coming seasons is Deulofeu. In the 4-2-3-1, he will be used in his most familiar position on the wing. When the 3-5-2 formation is used, presumably against the better teams in the division, it looks as though he might play alongside Lukaku, where he can use his pace to get in behind the defence and create for his strike partner. Playing in this position against Barnsley, MK Dons and Dresden he scored twice and assisted twice, leading Koeman to hint that he’ll be used there again in the future. If the management team can work on Deulofeu’s fitness, he could be their star man this year.

Barkley, meanwhile, has looked in determined mood may have a point to prove after his Euro 2016 snub. The 22-year-old was one of only two outfield players to go unused during England’s poor summer showing. He has put in some excellent performances for Everton in recent weeks.

In the final game of last season, a 3-0 win over Norwich, Caretaker Manager, David Unsworth, handed debuts to a number of Everton youngsters. The stand-out performer that day was Tom Davies, an 18-year-old box-to-box midfielder from Liverpool. Davies appeared in every one of Everton’s pre-season games this summer and has shown glimpses of his quality and versatility. After signing a five-year contract last week, Davies is set to become Everton’s latest academy graduate to step up into the first team squad.

Key matches

Tottenham at home on the opening day will be a good test. Facing Arsenal away at the season’s end could be decisive.

But the stand-out months are December and April. Everton face Man United and Liverpool in both months, as well as Arsenal (in December) and Chelsea (in April). A good points total in these two months could be the difference between another year on home soil or a European tour.