Ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season, Alex Keble takes an in-depth look at each of the 20 clubs.
With the club's recruitment limited, it’s fair to say this has been a tough summer at Everton, particularly for the players.
In mid-July they had to suffer through Sean Dyche’s infamous "Gaffer’s Day", a series of high-intensity running drills set over several hours.
Their pain is Everton supporters’ gain, because after surviving the drop by the skin of their teeth last season one thing is certain: the Toffees needed whipping into shape.
Hard work and mental toughness are the hallmarks of any Dyche team. Unless there are sudden changes in the transfer budget this month, Everton are going to need those qualities more than most.
Performance last season
|FA Cup||Third round|
|EFL Cup||Third round|
PL performance last five seasons
How to improve on 2022/23
Everton struggled in their first full season under Frank Lampard and, right up until the rally in May, things had looked bleak. They were running out of ideas, without a discernible playing style, and drifting towards the Championship.
Dyche did enough, just, winning seven points from the final four matches – including a 5-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion that will live long in the memory – to finish two points above relegated Leicester City.
But there wasn’t much cause for celebration. Everton recorded their lowest-ever Premier League points tally of 36, and despite Dyche managing to pick up the pieces and create a sturdy(ish) defence by the season’s close, his record of 21 points from 18 matches was perhaps lower than expected.
Improvements will come with "Gaffer’s Day’" and what it symbolises - a full summer absorbing Dyche’s methods and preparing for a stronger, fiercer, and altogether more serious campaign.
Dyche has been restricted to free transfers and loan signings as he looks to shape his squad.
Young's debut goal v Wigan
Dyche’s gravelly persona, coupled with neutrals’ tendency to tune in only when his teams face a "Big Six" side, has unfairly characterised him as a regressive and defensive coach.
In reality, although Everton (like his Burnley), are relatively direct on the ball and conservative off it. Dyche's teams not only regularly change formation but tend to hold a fairly bold defensive line.
Nevertheless it isn’t the most expressive football to watch, which is especially true given Everton’s current goalscoring problems. Dyche will, quite rightly, focus first on creating a mean defence.
Reasons to cheer
If they can stay in the division, there is the new 52,800-seater stadium currently under construction to look forward to in 2024/25.
Reasons to fear
It’s hard to see where the goals will come from.
Everton were the second-lowest scorers in the Premier League last season, with 34 goals. They had the worst return on expected goals (xG) in the whole division, posting -13.2 (scoring 13.2 goals fewer than was expected of them). This suggests that finishing chances, rather than creating them, is the problem.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury record is a concern, but he did score in both the friendlies against Monza and then most recently versus Sporting. Neal Maupay has struggled for goals (one from 11 starts and 16 sub appearances), while Ellis Simms has been sold to Coventry City.
So far Everton have scored seven goals in five pre-season matches.
Opening six matches
If Dyche’s summer training regime does make Everton fitter than anyone else, they can have high hopes of a fast start.
Fulham (H), Aston Villa (A), Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), Sheffield United (A), Arsenal (H), and Brentford (A) is just about the most straightforward opening six matches of any of last year’s bottom 10.
Predicted XI v Fulham
4-5-1: Pickford; Patterson, Keane, Tarkowski, Young; Iwobi, Gueye, Doucoure, Onana, McNeil; Danjuma.