By Paul Conatzer
After the scoreless draw with Crystal Palace and Wolves beating Watford, finishing seventh isn’t impossible, it’s just improbable. Wolves (54) have a four-point league over the Blues (50) with two games left.
Wolves have Fulham at home and finish the season at Liverpool. A win against Fulham would clinch seventh place and last Europa League place, unless, Watford beats Manchester City in the FA Cup, which seems unlikely.
Everton play host to Burnley before closing out the season at Spurs. West Ham handed Spurs the first loss at their new stadium on Saturday. So, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Everton to repeat the feat.
However, missing out on seventh place isn’t necessarily that bad. Of course, Everton should be qualifying for Europe every season. But, finishing seventh and going into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League is something of a mixed blessing.
On the plus side, there’s that playing in Europe thing which should make your club more attractive to possible transfer targets. On the minus side, you start your season in late July and you end up travelling to places that can sometimes even baffle Google Maps.
Let’s look at what happened to Everton, who finished seventh in 2016-2017 under Ronald Koeman. Despite spending more than £100 million, Koeman failed to replace Romelu Lukaku, who had led the Blues in scoring the season before. Everton qualified for the group stages and had decent results in their first two Premier League matches beat Stoke, 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Manchester City. Things went downhill fast, very fast for Koeman and Everton after that.
By the ninth match of the season, a 5-2 loss at Goodison Park to Arsenal spelt the end for Koeman. Everton failed to get out of their group, winning only one game and suffering a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Atalanta at Goodison. The Blue eventually finished eighth under Sam Allardyce but played in such a boring style, Everton fans couldn’t wait to see Big Sam get a taxi from Goodison Park.
So with a summer expected to have plenty of movement in and out, perhaps Marco Silva won’t mind not visiting the far-flung corners of European football and spend more time shaping his squad. He and Marcel Brand have some big tasks facing them. They need to find a consistent striker; hopefully, make Andre Gomes and Kurt Zouma’s loans permanent. Then there is the size of the first team squad. It needs to be trimmed. Everton currently have 15 players out on-loan. It’s possible Nikola Vlasic and Henry Onyekuru would be welcomed back, but Vlasic has said he is happy at CSKA Moscow and Onyekuru is still waiting for a work permit, but nobody knows how those will work until Brexit actually happens if it does.
So finishing eighth, but with more points and a team pointing in the right direction could be the best thing for Everton.