With the 2019-20 Premier League season now finally completed, it’s a chance to reflect on the season itself and try to analyse another frustrating and ultimately failed campaign for Everton.
What made it a particularly difficult season, is that Everton supporters have had to stomach yet another wasted and unsuccessful, trophy-less campaign and a bottom-half finish, while watching Liverpool win the league championship for the first time in 30 years.
So let’s have a look back and see what went wrong, how and why it did as we prepare for a critical summer transfer window coming up.
The 2019 transfer window was a strange one for the Blues, as they linked with a host of high-profile attacking players in Europe and were embroiled in a long running saga whipped up by the media over whether they were trying to sign Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace.
In the end, characteristically, Everton didn’t sign Zaha or any of the other marquee players they were supposedly after. They did though bring in highly-rated young Italian striker Moise Kean from Juventus and then added Alex Iwobi from Arsenal on deadline day in what seemed a panicky and rushed move.
But it was the players who left during that window, that would prove to be the most important moves. Those players were Idrissa Gueye who finally got his transfer to PSG, and Kurt Zouma who returned to Chelsea after his season-long loan.
Despite that odd transfer window and the failure to bring in a top class attacker, after a decent final quarter to the preceding season, there was some degree of cautious and tentative optimism as the Toffees kicked off their 2019-20 campaign with a match away to Zaha’s club Palace.
It had seemed that manager Marco Silva might have turned a corner having finally stumbled upon a settled group of players that seemed to be making his 4-2-3-1 formation work, as the Toffees finished the 2018-19 season on an unbeaten run that secured an eighth place finish in the table.
Losing Gueye and Zouma, who Everton couldn’t get back from Chelsea, was potentially crucial as they were key parts of that formation. But Silva had brought in Jean-Philippe Gbamin, a well-regarded defensive midfielder to replace Gana and it was hoped that one of Yerry Mina or Mason Holgate could fill in for Zouma alongside Micheal Keane.
However, this being Everton of course, Gbamin got hurt only minutes into his Blues career and in fact was not to play for the club for the rest of the season.
That injury might have been what ultimately got Silva the sack in the end. As I’ve said before, had Gbamin been fit and playing well alongside Andre Gomes and had Zouma been signed permanently, at least the Zouma we saw that season, then Everton might well have been considerably more successful this term meaning that Silva could still be Blues boss today.
Anyway after a tepid opening day 0-0 draw at Palace, the Blues then laboured to beat Watford 1-0 at Goodison Park before taking on newly promoted Aston Villa away.
Without Gbamin and with an erratic defence, an already highly inconsistent Toffees team was well beaten 2-0 by Villa. Everton’s notoriously poor away form, was back to haunt them.
After defeat at one midlands club, the Blues next Premier League game was at Goodison Park against another one as they took on Wolves. A five goal game ended in a 3-2 win.
Everton now had two wins, a draw and one defeat from their first four league games. Not a terrible start but not brilliant either.
There were though already signs of the problems that were to build as the season wore on. In particular the Toffees defence was leaking goals regularly and there was a hole in midfield because of Gbamin’s injury that none of the other players could fill.
The Blues then went on a dreadful run of form that saw them lose their next four Premier League matches, with defeats at Bournemouth and two losses at home to promoted Sheffield United and champions Manchester City to round off September.
Everton seemed unable to keep a clean sheet and the players often appeared to lack drive, energy and commitment. In addition, Silva’s changes during games were highly criticised for being unimaginative and lacking coherence.
Despite the pressure, the board were still backing Silva to stay on and there was a stated desire for stability and not to keep changing manager every time things starting going wrong.
That was understandable and the players were just as much to blame, if not more so, for the terrible performances, but it was becoming clear that Silva was struggling to find a way to get the best out of his squad.
He always said he wanted to play a 4-3-3 but wouldn’t adopt it and he seemed to have little faith in some of Marcel Brands’s signings, particularly young striker Kean who he was very reluctant to play, despite the Toffees problems scoring goals.
After yet another loss at Burnley following another tepid and underwhelming effort, the Toffees finally won again as they beat West Ham 2-0 at Goodison Park.
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The Blues couldn’t follow up that win in the next match as they went to the south coast and lost controversially 3-2 at Brighton.
Although Everton could feel very unlucky to have lost that game, in truth any controversy over VAR only really temporarily covered over the problems in the team.
But VAR certainly wasn’t helping as the Blues seemed to be permanently on the wrong end of these decisions, almost as if there was a conspiracy against them.
However, there were increasing calls for Silva to be replaced as Everton seemed to be yet again a badly listing ship, hugely inconsistent and under-performing.
The next few weeks would prove crucial in deciding whether Silva and his players had what it takes to turn things around.