Premier League: The perennial Toffees have suddenly become unstuck

John Roycroft wonders how Everton, one of the elder statesmen of English club football, could find themselves in such problems on and off the field?
Premier League: The perennial Toffees have suddenly become unstuck

Everton’s Dele Alli shows his frustration during the Premier League match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

THEY were one of the founding members of the football league back in 1888. They have spent more time in top-flight football (119 years), than any other club and are only behind Arsenal for the longest continuous run in the top-tier. In the modern generation of English football, they, along with Arsenal, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs, are the only sides not to have been relegated from the Premier League. So how in the Hell have Everton found themselves just one point outside of the relegation places this season?

Their most recent embarrassment was the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of a Spurs side that haven't exactly lit up the Premier League themselves this season. But Everton managed to make Spurs look like the Brazil side of 1970 in comparison.

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane scores their side's fifth goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Tottenham Stadium Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane scores their side's fifth goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Tottenham Stadium Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Indeed, Everton were lucky it was only five, as the North London side had all their goals in the bag with 35 minutes left, and Antonio Conti started rolling out the subs with a tough match against Man United on the horizon.

The result leaves Everton precariously hanging over the relegation drop without any time to resolve their situation. They can’t really sack the manager again, and they certainly can’t bring in any more players. Plus, their end-of-season run-in will not make comfortable reading for any Everton fans.

Their last six matches include clashes with Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal; there are few guarantees that they’re going to be able to pick up many points from that list.

What's worse, the opponents immediately vying with them to avoid the drop are showing signs of improvement, not least Leeds United, who looked considerably more defensively composed under Jesse Marsch at Leicester, even in defeat, than they did with Marcelo Bielsa. While Brentford and Burnley also show signs of getting back in form.

'Championship level'

On Sky's Monday Night Football Jamie Carragher ominously described the Toffees defence as "Championship level" conceding 46 goals so far this season, last season Everton conceded 48 goals for the entire season.

"Whenever you see teams who are worst in the league away from home, the first thing that comes to mind is they're weak and soft.

"Fundamentally, this group of players at this club is so weak now. The lack of athleticism in that Everton team is frightening."

That is hard to reconcile when you consider the hundreds of millions of pounds spent assembling this team.

Looking at the current squad, with the likes of Jordan Pickford, Michael Kane, Richarlison, Fabian Delph, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Demari Gray, Andros Townsend, Seamus Coleman, Donny van de Beek, Vitaly Mykolenko, and Dele Alli, you are again left asking, how are you in this position?

Everton's under pressure manager Frank Lampard on the touchline as his side went down 5-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Everton's under pressure manager Frank Lampard on the touchline as his side went down 5-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

The appointment of Rafa Benitez was quite clearly disastrous not only for the bad vibe of hiring a former Liverpool legend as your boss, and what that says to the fan base. But also, Benitez's defensive style of management is rather outdated now in comparison to other Premier League managers. 

But to be fair to Rafa, while Frank Lampard inherited a mess at Goodison Park, if we take the FA Cup out of the equation, He has done little to remedy that mess and now faces the stark reality that he might just lead this huge club to the depths of relegation in only his second job as manager.

Money worries

Maybe more worryingly than their relegation troubles, if that's possible, is Everton's problems off the field.

Firstly, Everton's shirt sponsorship deal with Cazoo will end at the end of the season the online car retailer confirmed. The two-year deal, reportedly worth £10m per season, was penned ahead of the 2020/21 campaign. Now it will not be renewed.

Of course, this is linked to Everton suspending commercial ties with Alisher Usmanov’s companies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Uzbekistan-born billionaire is the founder of private Russian holding company USM and has had his assets frozen as part of sanctions imposed by the EU in response to Russia’s ongoing attack. The ending of all sponsorship deals between Everton and Usmanov's companies will leave a considerable hole in the sponsorship budget at maybe the worst time for the club's finances.

 

 Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Everton sponsor Alisher Usmanov, founder of USM Holdings group, the decoration For Beneficence during a ceremony at the Kremlin in 2017. Picture: Planetpix/Alamy Live News
 Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Everton sponsor Alisher Usmanov, founder of USM Holdings group, the decoration For Beneficence during a ceremony at the Kremlin in 2017. Picture: Planetpix/Alamy Live News

Should the Toffees survive relegation this year there is also the threat of up to a 20-point reduction next season, even before they kick a ball, as they could become the first club to breach the top flight's profit and sustainability rules.

Everton recorded combined losses of over £260m between 2017 and 2020, representing a clear breach of Premier League rules, which state that clubs are only permitted to lose a maximum of £105m over three years. But they are seeking clarification from the Premier League over how much of their losses can be offset due to the impact of Covid. The consensus is that the Premier League may find this acceptable and will not dock the Merseysiders points ahead of the 2022-2023 season.

Now all Lampard has to do, is make sure they are still in the Premier League to avail of any such favourable judgement.

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