Marcel Brands was seen by many as the antidote. While Everton had spent big in two years before the Dutchman’s arrival as Director of Football, this appointment was seen as a watershed moment in the club’s recent history, the Farhad Moshiri era.
While the Toffees’ spending prior to Brands’ arrival was somewhat scattergun, picking up whatever players they could like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, the former PSV Eindhoven chief came with a plan. A plan to establish Everton as an elite side. His arrival was more significant than any mega-money player signing.
That was over a year ago, though. Brands was hired in May 2018 and since then around £170 million has been splurged, including £80 million this summer, and yet it’s still not entirely clear what his vision for Everton is. The Toffees have made a number of impressive signings of late. Richarlison has already proved himself well worth the £35 million fee spent for him last summer, with Andre Gomes, Lucas Digne and Bernard all shrewd pickups. These additions only took Everton as high as eighth place in the Premier League table.
This summer, Moise Kean is another impressive capture, with the £25 million paid for the striker considered one of Italy’s brightest young talents representing great value. Beyond Kean, though, Everton’s business has been somewhat underwhelming. The addition of Fabian Delph, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Djibril Sidibe will broaden Marco Silva’s options, but have they really strengthened enough to bridge the gap to the top six?
In this sense, what Everton have done this summer isn’t that different from what they have done in recent years since the Moshiri takeover. Brands might have a long term vision, but in the short term it’s difficult to envisage the Toffees catching the top six purely on the basis of the money they have spent.
It should be noted that Brands inherited a mess of a squad. He has had a lot of untangling to do with a significant amount of deadwood still to be unloaded. It will take a while longer for the Dutchman and Silva between them to get the team they want on the pitch. Rebuilding an entire squad isn’t easy, especially in the modern game.
Silva could be the key to Everton crashing the party at the top of the Premier League table. The Portuguese coach seemed to settle on a starting lineup and an overarching approach towards the end of the 2018/19 season and if he can carry that into the new campaign the Toffees could hit the ground running.
The Premier League’s top six, at least Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, look vulnerable and so a clutch of clubs surely hold ambitions of breaking through the glass ceiling this season. Everton along with Leicester City, West Ham and Wolves all hopeful of a strong campaign. There is an opportunity there to be grasped.
Working out Everton in recent years has been difficult. They have jerked back and forth between managers with vastly different ideas and different ideologies. Their fans and players have suffered managerial whiplash, going from Ronald Koeman (a modern coach) to Sam Allardyce (a traditionalist) to Silva (another modern coach) in the space of just one year. Now, at least, they have committed to going down one path.
Their transfer business reflected this general lack of direction. Players were signed on the basis of their name rather than their suitability. It’s fair to say Everton have by and large left these days behind, with Brands’ business following a clearer plan. But in the immediate term, that plan might not be enough to take the Toffees to where they want to be. This might be the start of something, but the fruition might not occur this season.