Ronald Koeman has been getting business done early this summer as he continues his rebranding of Everton. £95 million spent before August is unheard of for the Merseyside club, but new owner Farhad Moshiri is looking to elevate the club into top six territory with the top four the ultimate prize. There are pending departures to deal with, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley being the speculated duo, but with six arrivals, can this take Everton into the top six?
Koeman impressed at Southampton, earning them their highest ever league finish of sixth with stand-out wins away at Chelsea, Manchester United and at home to Arsenal. Goodison Park has witnessed the same kind of high-pressing, pass and move football with a blend of youth and experience becoming well balanced. The second half of the season brought the best from the Blues as youngsters Tom Davies, Dominic Calver-Lewin and Mason Holgate coming through to shine for the seniors. Injuries to key men like Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman through the campaign hurt their chances of a push at the top six places but a new season brings fresh hope.
Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane can fit straight into the starting side. At £30 million each, it’s pricey but for highly-rated English prospects, that’s how the transfer market looks these days. Despite relegation, Pickford was outstanding and one of the best goalkeepers in the league, if it wasn’t for him Sunderland would’ve been down by the new year. Keane has settled well to top flight football and his quick, physical attributes are something Koeman desperately needed to add to an ageing backline. It’s a surprise more teams weren’t interested in these two players, as Liverpool fans may question why their bitter rivals have now bolstered their defence considerably, as oppose to their club.
Elsewhere, Ajax captain Davy Klassen has arrived to possibly prepare for Barkley’s exit. 14 goals and 10 assists in 33 games as they lost the league by a point and reached the Europa League final. This is the sign of a goal-scoring midfielder the club need to move up the table. Henry Onyekuru was top scorer in the Belgian Pro League last season for K.A.S Eupen, but he has been loaned back to Anderlecht. So fellow striker Sandro Ramirez will hope to fire from the off after his £5.2 million arrival from Malaga. 14 goals in 30 games including goals in shock wins over Sevilla and Barcelona convinced Koeman to bring the 21-year-old to Merseyside.
Romelu Lukaku would be a tough man to replace as Chelsea and Manchester United battle for the Belgian’s signature. However, as a team Everton will be stronger as fans hope the combined unit can be as or more effective than relying on his goals. Barkley has struggled to realise his potential so his loss won’t be the worst thing, apart from the reality of losing a homegrown talent. Klassen can fill the void of the local boy but whether they can perform without last season’s top scorer is still a question.
Not since 2005 have Everton breached the top four, although they came close under Roberto Martinez in 2014 but fell off at the season’s end. Koeman has invested early, a wise move to form a united squad and build up partnerships and chemistry within the squad. Yet, rivals will spend like they have making it tough for them to beat one of them into the top six. Nevertheless, the sale of Lukaku means possible funds for further resources to be brought in whilst Goodison Park still remains one of the toughest trips of the Premier League season.
(Featured Image credit: dailystar.co.uk)