Guardian writers’ predicted position: 9th (NB: this is not necessarily Andy Hunter’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position: 12th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 200-1
One team were in genuine trouble during the final game of the season at Goodison Park – bereft of quality, effort, character and in urgent need of additions to inject all three – and it was not the one heading into the Championship. Bournemouth’s relegation spared Everton greater scrutiny that day and an empty stadium spared their players from the justified scorn of a crowd, but the impression deepened that Carlo Ancelotti must have underestimated the scale of the task he accepted last December.
Yet another rebuild is required to end the spiral of diminishing returns under Farhad Moshiri. Acquiring a manager of Ancelotti’s stature represented Everton’s finest result of last season and confirmation their owner will dig deep to deliver a Hollywood name. One criticism that cannot be levelled at Moshiri is unwillingness to back big ambition with big investment since his arrival in 2016.
The impulsive, damaging transfer business conducted on his watch, however, ensured stardust was strictly limited to the technical area at Goodison last time out. There was a chasm between what Ancelotti expects and demands and what he witnessed on the pitch. There is a responsibility on Everton’s hierarchy to deliver what the Italian was promised when enticing him to become their fifth permanent managerial appointment in less than four years.
After a discouraging few weeks of close season when two transfer targets – Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Gabriel Magalhães – opted for north London over Merseyside, Everton are closing in on three experienced, captivating and much-needed signings. Ancelotti is close to being reunited with his former Napoli midfielder Allan, a fee of about £20m has been agreed with Watford for Abdoulaye Doucouré, and another player the Italian knows well and he would be singularly responsible for luring to Goodison – James Rodríguez of Real Madrid – is also expected to arrive. Everton’s mood and prospects will be transformed should those deals be completed.
That Ancelotti has prioritised midfield for an immediate and almost complete restructure is no surprise given the paucity in that department last season. The trio, should they arrive, would address glaring weaknesses that were compounded by serious injuries to André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin. They would also have to inject the personality, leadership and commitment conspicuous by its absence from a squad that coasted through some games last season.
Many teams can have a dire day but Bournemouth was not an isolated case for Everton, although it was the first time Ancelotti admitted the players lacked motivation. Following a fine start to his tenure, when 17 points from a possible 24 switched talk from relegation to European qualification (both were an exaggeration), a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in the final game before lockdown jolted the Italian. It was the joint-heaviest defeat of Ancelotti’s managerial career but typical of what Everton have served up away at leading clubs in recent years.
Restart followed a similar pattern. The manager oversaw another good start – with Michael Keane blossoming under the Italian’s defensive organisation – but there was a marked decline as Everton won one of the final six games. The amount of times Ancelotti cited a lack of character was telling, although the most damning verdict came from the captain, Séamus Coleman, after a pathetic 3-0 defeat at Wolves. “Around the place I think we need more commitment on a daily basis,” he said.