Everton are synonymous with the ‘best of the rest’ tag.
The top six continue to reinforce their exclusive coalition, but while many clubs have risen only to be swatted away a season or two later, the Toffees are a constant presence lurking outside the elite.
They’re arguably the most stable, consistent team since the Premier League was spawned, drifting around the lower-top half with neither intense crises or unrepeatable success.
That’s the kind of stability most clubs’ fans crave, but with such a solid platform, the Goodison Park faithful have been waiting for the right builder to come along and implement his grand designs.
Marco Silva is the chosen boss to take a healthy Premier League club up to the infamous, elusive ‘next-level’ and turn them into a European force – but can the vision become a reality?
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Everton ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Where did Everton finish last season?
8th. This was a transitional season for Everton. The Ronald Koeman era turned sour, Fireman Sam Allardyce put out the flames, but Silva was called upon to see Everton as a long-term project.
A strong start and resolute finish bookended a bleak midwinter for the Toffees, as they won just three times between the start of December and end of February.
Kurt Zouma’s arrival from Chelsea on loan proved the catalyst for a defensive revival in the end – Everton kept eight clean sheets in the last 11 games of 2018/19.
For a team managed by the attack-minded Silva, an air-tight backline is a tantalising prospect, and the Toffees will hope they can hold firm this season to allow the strikers to simply do the business with every chance that falls their way.
Who is Everton’s key player?
Gylfi Sigurdsson. There’s more to a good player than their goal and assist counts, but Sigurdsson’s numbers prove his importance to the team going forward.
The Icelandic star scored 13 goals and picked up four assists in his most productive ever Premier League campaign.
Sigurdsson has magical touch with set-pieces – he takes corners, free-kicks and penalties – making him the ultimate creative pot of gold for the Toffees.
New permanent signing Gomes will also be a huge player for Everton while Richarlison will continue to unlock his potential if Silva’s squad continue to develop together.
Who is Everton’s biggest summer signing?
Andre Gomes (£22m). Everton fans already know what they’re getting from Gomes having spent the season on loan at Goodison Park in 2018/19.
Gomes looked out of his depth at Barcelona on too many occasions but his super-slick passing and composed, purposeful dribbling skills have wowed the crowds on Merseyside.
The 25-year-old doesn’t exist to win headlines, score the goals or even rake in the assists. With Sigurdsson et al ahead of him, Gomes will be relied on to play the pass leading to an assist.
Gomes needs a defensive-minded midfielder alongside him to give him the freedom to roam. Only time will tell whether Idrissa Gueye will remain at the club amid talk of a switch to PSG.
Who is the Everton manager? Meet Marco Silva
As mentioned, Silva loves to go on the offensive. Attacking flair and individual qualities are encouraged, while players are instructed to press high and not relent.
Silva’s style is more rapid, more direct than the patient, probing tiki-taka of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City but there is shared intent to get forward.
Everton enjoyed a good record of second-half goals and substitutes getting on the scoresheet last season, possibly down to the Toffees fitness levels notably improving during 2018/19. They’re fitter and faster for longer in games.
Silva is likely to build on his 4-2-3-1 system with Sigurdsson at the heart of it all.
Everton fixtures – The Start
10th August: Crystal Palace (A)
17th August: Watford (H)
23rd August: Aston Villa (A)
Everton fixtures – The Run-In
2nd May: Aston Villa (H)
9th May: Sheffield United (A)
17th May: Bournemouth (H)
Full Everton fixture list and TV details here
The fans say…
ANDY COSTIGAN, GRANDOLDTEAM.COM
What is the mood like among fans going into 2019/20?
A bit of a mixture really. With the way we ended last season, hopes were high that the team had genuinely turned a corner and that with a couple of key signings, particularly a goalscoring forward, we’d be in a better position to mount a serious challenge for at least a top six finish.
he summer transfer activity hasn’t gone quite as well as many had hoped for, largely due to the club needing to offload some high-earners who are decidedly on the fringes these days. We don’t put too much stock in the pre-season friendly results to date, the serious stuff isn’t far away though, and we need to be ready to hit the ground running with a win at Selhurst Park.
Who will be your key player this season?
A lot is expected again this season of Andre Gomes and Lucas Digne who were excellent last season in their respective loan period and first full season with the club.
Both are huge crowd favourites and now that Gomes is ours and not a loanee, many expect him to take his game in a blue shirt to another level. Without an out-and-out striker (yet), much of the attention is likely to focus on Brazilian Richarlison who also enjoyed a more than decent debut season last time out.
Any young talents coming through?
Our U23 side have been champions of their league twice in three years and you would like to see one or two of them given a chance to make the breakthrough to the first team.
Nathan Broadhead has done well in pre-season and right now, is arguably the most likely to get an opportunity. The problem for young talents hoping to make the move into the first team is the pace and the physicality of the Premier League and the need for almost instantaneous success, it’s a brutal environment and not for the faint-hearted.
A lot of effort went into bringing Marco Silva to the club, but he didn’t get off to a great start. How confident are you that he’s the right man for Everton?
You’re right, the early days and weeks were daunting for Marco and the jury was very much out regarding him. The turning point though was the 17-day international break early in the New Year.
That period seemed to be the turning point as after that, with the exception of a couple of indifferent performances – notably Fulham away – the improvement was clear to see and the players looked much more comfortable playing the way Marco was keen to.
What must Everton do to break free of the battle for the ‘best of the rest’ and crack into the top six again?
Apart from the obvious concede less and score more, the key element for me is self belief. In recent years, there have been games we’ve gone into not really believing we could get a result never mind win.
That has to change and if we can pick up the form of the back end of last season and throw in a bigger helping of self belief, I honestly believe we have a team that can contend and make the ‘top six’ look seriously over their shoulders.
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
The heart says Champions – what’s the point of entering a competition if you’re not believing you can and will win it.
The brain and sense of reality says I’m hopeful of finishing in the top six and gaining qualification for European football in season 20/21.
Check out the latest Everton news and views from GrandOldTeam.com
Where will Everton finish? RadioTimes.com says…
Tying down Gomes is a great move for Everton, but with Zouma uncertain to return and no replacement as yet, there’s pressure on Silva to reinforce his defence to ensure it remains solid.
Gueye also looks unlikely to remain at Goodison Park, meaning there’s pressure on Fabian Delph to fill his boots – four years after Gueye replaced Delph at Aston Villa.
Everton are making steps in the right direction, they should be a much more stable ship this season than last, but without Zouma or Gueye, it’s hard to see them vastly improving on last season.
Predicted 2019/20 position: 8th
NEXT: Are Leicester the best team outside the top six?