Everton’s identity crisis: why the Toffees' big-spending instincts betray a lack of joined-up thinking

Marco Silva Everton

Everton players and fans are able to tell you about managerial whiplash. It's common for clubs to seek a new approach after a failed appointment, but the Toffees have switched back and forth between footballing ideologies like few other clubs in recent times.  

They went from David Moyes, a man manager who built everything from the wings; to Roberto Martinez, a more ambitious thinker who wanted his team to play through the middle. After that there was Ronald Koeman, a coach in a similar mould to Martinez. The subsequent hiring of Sam Allardyce represented a near-180-degree turn in approach.

Of course, Allardyce was only appointed in the first place because Marco Silva, then Watford manager, wasn’t available at the time. A few months after Silva was sacked by Watford, the change was made. But what did this say about the identity of Everton as a football team? How can a club go from Allardyce to Silva without undergoing some sort of ideological overhaul?

In the Merseysiders' case, it can be difficult to work out. Their squad is arguably the best outside the Premier League’s top six right now. They boast quality in almost every area, having spent £340 million on new signings over the past three years. And yet it's still not clear what they stand for as a team.

This summer, as has become the norm since British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri took over three years ago, Everton have been linked with a number of big-name targets. These have included Diego Costa and Nicolas Pepe, the Lille attacker linked with every elite club from Arsenal to Manchester United. But where is the line upon which these sort of transfer targets can be plotted?

Last summer, Liverpool needed a strong and commanding goalkeeper who could play out from the back, so they bought one in Alisson. This summer, Manchester City paid £62.8 million for Rodri, having recognised the need for a long-term successor to Fernandinho; someone who would similarly fit Pep Guardiola's ideology.

Everton also make big-money signings, but their transfer strategy doesn’t seem to be guided in the same way. 

Silva commits to his attack as a coach and has previously demonstrated a determination to harness wide talent. And yet Everton remain without a proven No.9 following the sale of Romelu Lukaku two years ago, and are still short of quality out-and-out wingers. If they are building something, it’s seemingly not to the specifications of a manager who will be hoping things don't get worse with the exit of Idrissa Gueye.

This identity crisis is exacerbated because of what has happened on the other side of Stanley Park in the past few years. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are one of the most clearly identifiable teams that the Premier League has seen in quite some time, playing a certain way and buying players to suit. Their fast and furious style has re-energised a club that faced their own questions of identity not so long ago.

Klopp cannot be credited solely with the Reds' resurgence. There is a very clear concept of what a Liverpool team and player should look like. On the basis of the evidence at hand, that just doesn’t exist at Goodison Park. Costa and Pepe may well arrive before the start of the season, but what would their signings say about the direction of the club? 

The Toffees might have money, they might have ambition and a new stadium finally in the works, but crucially they're still lacking some crucial qualities to truly scare the top six. 

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