Why Everton are NOT too good to go down
Why Everton are NOT too good to go down: There are worrying parallels with Villa in 2016 and Newcastle in 2009, with fans at war with the owner amid poor managerial choices and signings… and the teams below are getting their acts together
- Everton are 16th and just four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone
- They are the second-longest serving top flight club, staying up since 1954
- But relegation is a serious threat giving disconnect between owner and fans
- Recent Aston Villa and Newcastle relegations are warning signs for Everton
- If they appoint the right manager and keep key players fit they should stay up
The farcical events of this week have confirmed that Everton are a club in crisis. They are at war with themselves and in very real danger of being relegated.
Everton and relegation are two words that just do not go together. The blue half of Merseyside have been in English football’s top flight since 1954, a 68-year stint that is bettered only by Arsenal.
That spell is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Everton have finished in the bottom half 28 times since 1954. While their four titles are rightly a source of great pride for Evertonians, their resilience in avoiding the drop for so long when often not fighting near the top of the table is arguably a greater achievement.
That is what makes the mess Farhad Moshiri has overseen in the last six years all the more painful. Everton were never about being flash or spending big like their red neighbours, they are about commitment and pride on and off the pitch.
Instead, Moshiri’s Everton is one which has spent £500m on new players and is spending another £500m on a new stadium, yet has sacked six managers in six years and has a highest-placed finished of just seventh to show for it.
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri (left) sees his struggling side (right) in a relegation battle
Results have been so bad in the last four months for Everton that it has provided a distraction to the shambles going on in the boardroom. Since a win over Norwich on matchday six in late September sent them up to fifth, Everton have picked up just six points from 14 matches – four fewer than the next-worst team, Burnley, who have 10 points from just 12 games in the same period. That isn’t a blip, that is relegation form.
Since Moshiri decided to finally act and sack Rafa Benitez earlier this month, however, the spotlight has shone back on the owner, with no former Liverpool boss in the dugout to absorb anger from the stands. With no Premier League football to distract anyone this week, the Everton circus has taken centre stage, with Moshiri in the pillory as his embarrassing pursuit of a second-rate manager is played out in the national press.
After being sacked by Fenerbahce last year following a three-year stint in China, Vitor Pereira’s stock is lower than it ever has been – certainly lower than it was when he previously applied for the job in 2013 after leaving Porto, before Moshiri then turned him down in 2019.
The Portuguese’s call to Sky Sports News to express his dismay at the furious backlash from Everton fans to his potential appointment confirmed their status as a laughing stock, while Moshiri’s backtracking since has cemented suspicions that he is an erratic owner prone to sudden changes of mind.
Everton fans protest outside Goodison Park amid news that Vitor Pereira may take over
Frank Lampard has moved into pole position for the job, more by accident than design, though his appointment would not fully placate the fans and his task would be massive. Whoever is appointed – Wayne Rooney or interim boss Duncan Ferguson would be the most popular choices – the task is massive.
Thanks to their 13-point haul from the opening six games of the season, Everton are still four points clear of the relegation zone, but the clubs below them should have them worried. Norwich have started to pick up wins under Dean Smith, Newcastle’s January spending spree can only see them get better, Watford have appointed a survival specialist in Roy Hodgson and Burnley – who have games in hand on everyone – are well capable of putting an unbeaten run together under Sean Dyche.
There is no shortage of examples of clubs who were deemed either too good or too big to go down but were relegated.
In 2016, Aston Villa’s 28-year stint in the top flight came to an end after a foreign owner who promised the world failed to deliver glory, then grew frustrated and disconnected from the fanbase and ultimately paid the price for a series of poor managerial appointments and bad signings. Sound familiar?
In 2009, 17 years of top flight football at Newcastle eventually culminated in relegation with an owner prone to bizarre managerial appointments at war with his fanbase. A pattern is emerging here.
In 2004, Leeds were relegated after financial mismanagement and over-spending on transfers crippled the club. Moshiri’s wealth ensures that Everton are still on a sound financial footing for now, but there is a warning there if he continues to spend frivolously and eventually gets fed up of failure. It took Leeds 16 years to bounce back.
Aston Villa were relegated from the Premier League in 2016 after years of unrest
Newcastle lost Premier League status for the first time in 2009 despite a star-studded team
Two things are key if Everton are to avoid the drop. They need to get fans back on side by appointing the right manager, or certainly not the wrong one, and they need to keep Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison fit.
Almost every team seems to get a bounce from appointing a new manager – a couple of wins or a few points against the odds because the players have had a kick up the backside and the fans are filled with optimism. Given the events of recent weeks, months and years under Moshiri, that bounce may be limited, but Everton should at least get one if they appoint Lampard – or anyone but Pereira.
The time to go for a progressive, young manager like Graham Potter was surely last summer – why would he leave ninth-placed Brighton for Everton now? – but Lampard should at least be able to get a tune out of the club’s talented youngsters.
Anthony Gordon has impressed on the wing this season, Nathan Patterson is a top prospect at right back just arrived from Rangers, while centre back Jarrad Branthwaite and forward Lewis Dobbin are knocking on the door.
This is not a top-half squad though. Ask yourself this: if Everton were to go down, which players would attract serious Premier League interest? Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and his England team-mate Jordan Pickford, certainly, while Demarai Gray has been a rare positive this season, but the rest all look to be at their level in a relegation battle.
Everton’s squad is an unhappy mismatch of relics from previous managerial regimes, with new signings Vitali Mykolenko and Anwar El-Ghazi barely improving it.
Everton’s survival hopes are heavily reliant on form of England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The decision to sell one of their best players in Lucas Digne because he had fallen out with manager Rafa Benitez, only to sack the Spaniard three days later, best sums up the muddled thinking of Moshiri and his board, who have left the new manager and director of football – if Marcel Brands is ever replaced – with a lot of work to do.
Financial Fair Play rules tied Everton’s hands in the transfer market last summer, which was arguably not a bad thing given their track record for signings under Moshiri, but the lack of sensible investment in the squad is really being felt now.
Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are undoubtedly Everton’s shining lights, and the fact they have missed four and two months of the season through injury respectively is clearly a big factor in Everton currently sitting 16th.
They started together in the 1-0 defeat against Aston Villa last weekend for the first time since a 2-0 win over Brighton in August, and if they can stay fit the goals – and points – will surely start to flow again. If that doesn’t happen, Everton really could go down.
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