Everton season preview: Can Rafa Benitez work his magic or is it set to be another underwhelming season at Goodison Park?
After a wild summer which saw Carlo Ancelotti leave to go back to Real Madrid and former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez become the new man in charge it is certainly shaping up for an interesting season for Everton.
Last season started off well with Ancelotti’s new signings showing their worth and quality.
It looked like it would be Everton’s best chance of European football for a long time but then it all went wrong.
Horrible home form aligned with a lifeless defensive approach meant Everton finished in 10
th position which was highly disappointing.
As well as this Everton were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of both domestic cups.
So, this time round the hope is for a much more positive campaign but with the toxic atmosphere surrounding the appointment of Rafa Benitez it does seem that the hope is not too high.
Transfer window so far
Due to the financial fair play regulations Everton have seemingly struggled in the transfer window this summer and it is due to the amount of money they have spent in previous windows.
So they have only signed three players so far and all for very cheap prices.
Andros Townsend was signed for free, Asmir Begovic was brought in for a cheap undisclosed fee and Demarai Gray was signed from
Bayer Leverkusen for £1.6M so the cash has definitely not been splashed.
Those three signings are not anything to get too excited about, but they are smart deals from Rafa Benitez due to the current financial situation.
Outgoings have not been too frequent either which is also a problem as to buy Everton will need to get players off the wage bill.
The likes of Mo Besic, Josh King and Yannick Bolasie were released at the end of last season and the only senior squad members that have left the club are Theo Walcott and Bernard.
A new right-back, winger and striker have been the reported positions that Benitez wants to improve but with the new season kicking off it would appear any deals that will be done would be last minute.
Denzel Dumfries was the right-back target but Inter Milan have beaten Everton to his signature with Salomon Rendon supposedly the back-up striker Benitez wants.
Dwight McNeil is the main target but as mentioned earlier, players need to be sold first and it looks likely that it will be Moise Kean who will be the one to free up some funds.
As well as fans favourite James Rodriguez, which will not do any good to get the fans on board.
Therefore, so far, the transfer window has not been too inspiring, but things could obviously change for better or for worse.
Pre-season started with a couple of games behind closed doors against Accrington Stanley and Blackburn Rovers.
Everton won both these games 3-0 and 1-0 respectively before flying out to Orlando for the Florida Cup.
Games against Millonarios F.C. from Colombia and UNAM from Mexico were testing games in warm weather for Benitez’s players.
The first game ended 1-1 with Asmir Begovic being the penalty shootout hero and the second game ended 1-0 to Everton.
Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend showed glimpses of what they can provide with Gray scoring and showing his raw pace whilst Townsend’s threat cutting in on his left foot was there for everyone to see.
After the trip to Orlando pre-season ended with a game against Manchester United and it did not go well at all with Everton being 3-0 down after 30 minutes, it eventually ended 4-0 to kill off optimism for the new campaign.
Last season Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the top goal scorer for Everton so he is expected to spearhead the attack once more.
Richarlison will be as important as ever for Everton as he will be the real quality on the wing after coming back from winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
James Rodriguez was the key creative spark last season but it still remains to be seen whether he will be at the club once the window is shut.
The other permanent Ancelotti signings from last summer will also be so important.
Ben Godfrey was arguably Everton’s best player last season, so he is expected to be at the heart of the defence whilst Allan and Doucoure are going to be the legs in midfield, if they stay fit unlike last season.
Lucas Digne is always one of Everton’s most consistent players and he is expected to be a massive attacking threat this season with his deliveries into the box.
Last but least Jordan Pickford will need to bring back his form from the last few months of last season of course his European Championship form so Everton fans can have full confidence with their goalkeeper for once.
What to expect
It is difficult to anticipate how this season will go for Everton as due to the fact that Rafa Benitez in charge Everton’s fans could get on bis back very quickly.
Benitez used a 4-2-3-1 formation in pre-season and in his last Premier League job at Newcastle he used a lot of different systems with a five-man defence being the one he preferred, so we could see that deployed for Everton this season.
If so, that would hint at a defensive approach which will not particularly please supporters however if it does get results then it may be the best way going forward for the season.
Rafa Benitez is of course a safe pair of hands but due to how fierce the competition is around Everton it looks like it will just be a safe season for Everton with another mid-table being what looks likely.
The hope will be for a cup run in either the League or FA Cup but a solid start will be pivotal as this campaign has the potential to go sour very quickly if Benitez does not start well.
The last thing that Everton need is a chorus of boo’s echoing around Goodison Park before Christmas.
To kick-off the season it will be a full Goodison Park against a depleted Southampton team.
Then after that it is two away trips to Leeds and Brighton before the international break.Realistically Everton should have at least six points from those games, anything other than that and the pressure is on for the season.