Irrespective of the context, Everton’s feeble final day capitulation at the hands of Arsenal was a direct reminder about the perilous position Frank Lampard’s side find themselves in ahead of next season. Fresh from the fire and fury of Everton’s dramatic comeback against Crystal Palace, it felt like business as usual for The Toffees against Arsenal.
Frail, uninspiring, apathetic. This feels like a team too comfortable dining out on stories of former glory. Dele Alli’s breakthrough years at Tottenham, Alex Iwobi’s Champions League nights, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes’s Camp Nou tales.
Everton’s dressing room is reminiscent of a group of men in a club attempting to impress girls by boasting about how much experience they have in bed, whilst the bouncer looms over them fully prepared to chuck them out for being too drunk.
The men are blissfully unaware, the girls have second-hand embarrassment, and the bouncer threatens to put an end to this ridiculous charade at any moment. Everton need to sober up and quickly.
Whilst their previously reckless spending has been halted by their precocious financial situation, they posted losses of over £100m for the third successive year in March, they are also a squad in desperate need of investment. Catch-22.
Having only spent £1.7m last summer, they had to offset the signings of Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson through the sale of Lucas Digne in January. Everton must sell to spend. Sounds simple? Well Everton’s squad is full of ageing and ailing players on high wages and shifting them will be a task in itself.
The likes of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Alli are all reportedly up for sale and yet interest in their services is minimal. There is money to be made in offloading the likes of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but with that comes the problem of replacing their substantial output.
Incoming Director of Football Kevin Thelwell has a job on his hands trying to carefully balance between risk, reward, and repetition. Sell the club’s prized assets and there’s a clear financial reward. But with that a just as stark risk that the club fail to replace them.
Then there is perhaps the bleakest scenario of them all, as Everton, caught between a rock and a hard place fail to do anything. Another year of inaction could prove fatal for a club whose top-flight status is pride of place.
Despite this, Everton are still in the market for new players. With the potential acquisition of James Tarkowski, on a free transfer, looking like smart business from Lampard, who has long been an admirer of the Burnley centre-half. Closer to home, the emergence of winger Anthony Gordon this season has added a newfound dynamism to Everton’s attack, and his progress could prove vital for Everton next season.
Lampard is also reportedly looking to call in a couple of favours at former club Chelsea, but protracted loan deals for Levi Colwill and Armando Broja could prove difficult, with the West London outfit looking to integrate the pair into their team next season.
Whilst a relegation battle may have felt like an unexpected blip, Everton’s predicament is one to keep more than an eye on. They need to choose their next steps very wisely. Lampard has flattered to deceive thus far in his fledgling managerial career and whilst he’s cleared the first hurdle, guiding Everton to safety with one game to go, the biggest test is yet to come.
Everton are not a club without ambition, and tempering expectation with reality is going to prove a constant battle in amidst all the uncertainty regarding the club’s finances.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Chris Lee – Chelsea FC