For the first time in what feels like an eternity, Everton seem like a genuine threat to the top teams this season.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti brought in several players in key positions over the summer to strengthen the squad, spending over £70m in the process.
James Rodriguez joined from Real Madrid, Abdoulaye Doucoure joined from Watford for £25m, Allan signed from Napoli for a similar amount, as did Ben Godfrey from Norwich in central defence. They also signed goalkeeper Robin Olsen on loan from Roma to compete with Jordan Pickford while young defender Niels Nkounkou joined for a minimal fee at full-back.
The Toffees enjoyed their best start to a season since the 1890’s, winning the first seven games of their season in all competitions. They made it eight unbeaten with a hard-fought draw against the champions Liverpool too, before succumbing to back-to-back defeats in their two most recent games.
After their fantastic start many tipped them to make the top four, with the form of front three Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Rodriguez making headlines. The interplay across the squad was strong, the team were solid defensively and everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet.
The last two games however have been indicative of why I believe Everton won’t make top four.
With James Rodriguez struggling for full fitness and Richarlison serving a three-game ban following his red card in the Merseyside derby, Everton have looked a lot like the side that lacked so much consistency last season.
Seamus Coleman suffered an injury and Lucas Digne got suspended recently too and all it did was show that Everton are severely lacking in depth and quality.
Their strongest lineup on paper can compete with every team in the league on its day. The steel and ability in a midfield trio of Allan, Doucoure and Andre Gomes is enough for big games to both control possession but also defend well, soak up pressure and counter attack if necessary. In defence, Coleman and Digne are one of the best full-back pairings in the league while Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have formed a solid partnership under Ancelotti too.
Once anyone drops out of that strongest side though, the quality drop between whoever it is and the replacement is shocking. Additionally, they also have a very different profile of player stepping in the majority of the time.
It makes it difficult to maintain a genuine style of play beyond the first eleven players that start. It will ultimately be their downfall this season.
In a campaign where even the smaller sides are playing so regularly, a thin squad won’t be helpful. The likes of the big six will surely all eventually get their act together and they have enough in their squads to make changes regularly to keep players fresh and still not suffer a drastic drop in quality.
A win over Manchester United this weekend is very possible for Everton, even without taking into account the Red Devils’ current problems. But it doesn’t mean they’re goers for the top four for me.