Saturday marks the official start of the Premier League season. Tottenham Hotspur are looking to improve upon their third place finish from 2015-2016 while enjoying Champions League football. Spurs’ first opponent in the 2016-2017 campaign are Everton, and the Toffees are going through some changes of their own for the upcoming season with a new man in charge and some players coming and going. We sat down with Ryan over at Royal Blue Mersey to talk about the upcoming match and season expectations for the Toffees.
CFC: As of the time of this interview, Everton still have Romelu Lukaku. We don't have an explanation for this other than magic. How has this happened?
RBM: The consensus is that Everton are no longer a selling club, acting as a feeder to the richer folks up north and in London. The Toffees displayed a level defiance last year when they stopped Chelsea's pursuit of John Stones and they did the same this year by not letting Manchester City bully them into a sales for less than they wanted. This attitude has been bolstered by the new majority owner, Farhad Moshiri who has promised an injection of money to improve facilities, keep current players and to bring new players in.
Regarding Lukaku specifically, I'll say that the chance to cash in on him must be tempting. However, at the moment Everton does not have a replacement lined up. Add to that the players that the club has rumored to be interested in are not near Lukaku's caliber or age. Selling Lukaku would put Everton at a significant disadvantage for at least this season. It's also worth noting that he is under contract for another three years, putting the club in the position of power.
CFC: Ronald Koeman is the new man in charge. What are the reasonable expectations for Year One?
RBM: Koeman is an experienced manager with a decent Premier League track record. Everton fans should feel good about the future with the new boss at the helm. Expectations for the near-term should be tempered though. As with any new manager, Koeman will be installing a new system and will need to bring in players that suit his needs. The summer transfer window has been relatively slow for Everton; until this week. It's reasonable to believe that Koeman and new Director of Football, Steve Walsh will take their time and enter the season with most of the current squad intact. From there, we'll likely see move moves in the coming transfer windows.
I would put the Toffees in the middle of the table by the end of their year. They should pick up points against the weaker clubs while struggling against the super-clubs. This likely will not be the breakout year for Everton but it's reasonable to believe that the next campaign should see the team take a huge step forward.
CFC: Let's be honest: You saw how good Spurs got with poaching a Southampton coach and you're trying to repeat the process, right?
RBM: You got us; 2018-2019 Champions League here we come. Actually, I'll take it a step further and say Premier League Champions too; you know because Koeman had a better winning % with the Saints, 48% to 38%. Don't forget, Everton also poached the architect of Leicester's success in Steve Walsh. They truly could become the Real Madrid of Merseyside.
CFC: Roberto Martinez just got hired to be Belgium's new coach. Who is keeping Lukaku and Mirallas from jumping into the Irish Sea?
RBM: Rom should be fine because if there's one thing Everton fans know, it's that Martinez loves himself some Lukaku. Martinez will have him starting for Belgium even if he's running around on crutches. Now how Lukaku feels about the situation? I'm not aware of any statements that he has made about the hire but fellow Belgian and Everton player, David Henen has tried to smooth things over by saying that Rom is happy about working with his former manager again.
Mirallas should just go ahead and put out a letter thanking the Belgian FA for his fifty caps and commit to buying match tickets to cheer on the Red Devils whenever he doesn't have a club commitment. That's assuming that Martinez lets him in the stadium.
CFC: John Stones finally got his move and it looks like you're replacing him with Ashley Williams. What's your thoughts on both transfers?
RBM: Stones wanted to leave and play for a club that regularly competes in Europe. He requested a move to Chelsea last season and this year he finally got his wish when he moved to Manchester City. The most important part of the transfer from an Everton perspective is that the club stuck to their guns and held out on accepting an offer until they got what they wanted in terms of compensation. Stones is still very much an unfinished product so getting £47.5 for him at this point in his career is good business for the selling club.
Life goes on and Everton have signed Ashley WIlliams to be his replacement. Williams is older and obviously a temporary stopgap along the back line. However it is possible that he will be the more reliable defender over the next year or two while Stones continues to develop. Williams does not distribute the ball as well and he will probably start slowing down due to age but his knowledge and experience of the game should help the Toffees out this year.
CFC: We here at Cartilage Free Captain are helpers. Can we offer you one Ryan Mason for about £10m to shore up your midfield?
RBM: Cut that number in half and we'll talk.
CFC: Maarten Steklenburg has followed Koeman to Merseyside now that Tim Howard's gone to Colorado. Does he walk into the first team over Robles?
RBM: I think it's a close battle between the two but Koeman brought in Stekelenburg as his guy so he probably starts. Neither one has really separated themselves in the pre-season so I expect the boss to rely on the guy that he's comfortable with.
CFC: All joking aside, isn't it great to have Premier League back?
RBM: It's great. It gives a lot of us the opportunity to spend our weekend mornings doing something other than cutting the grass and spending "quality" time with our significant others.
CFC: How about a prediction for this Saturday?
RBM: Spurs are just way too strong at this point while Everton are in the midst of rebuilding their squad and laying the groundwork for their future. This first match is going to be a very tough test and I have Spurs taking all three points with a 3-1 victory at Goodison Park.
We'd like to thank Ryan for taking time out and answering some questions for us about Everton. I did the same for him in an interview over on Royal Blue Mersey. Check it out when you get a chance!