April 19, 2024

A summary of a month that will put far more pressure on Everton than the team’s performance warrants

 

For Everton, December always seemed like it would be a difficult month.

 

On the pitch, the Blues’ dominant victory over Burnley set up a Carabao Cup quarterfinal matchup with Fulham for the week leading up to Christmas, further complicating an already packed schedule.

 

A time when there are challenging matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Manchester City is made more intriguing by that game.

 

Off the pitch, the debate over the 10-point deduction will continue for months to come.

Some had anticipated that the takeover by potential new owners 777 Partners would have been reviewed by football’s regulatory bodies by the end of 2023.

 

The Blues had created a useful buffer from any trouble with the sustained good form that saw three consecutive wins in London help to open an eight point gap from the bottom three and pave the way for a pressure-free Christmas – for Dyche at least.

 

That has now changed and, with that in mind, here the ECHO looks ahead to the key points of a challenging month.

 

Games, Games, Games

Seven Premier League games in 31 days would be a test for any side but will be particularly tough for Dyche due to his threadbare squad. Everton’s efforts to address profit and sustainability concerns have seen recent transfer windows focus on bringing in fees and reducing the wage bill – last January saw no incomings and the sale of academy starlet Anthony Gordon, the summer saw a loan fee for Arnaut Danjuma as the only upfront payment amid a window in which several first team players departed. One of the few areas the independent commission that deducted 10 points from Everton agreed with the club in was that its spending followed a positive trend in terms of regulatory compliance. The result of that is a small squad that is heavily reliant on a core group of key players. Their resilience will be tested during this period and Everton can ill-afford the same injury misfortune they have suffered in recent seasons.

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Sean McAllister of Everton celebrates scoring his teams first goal with team mates during the Premier League International Cup match between Everton U21 and AS Monaco U21 at Walton Hall Park on November 28, 2023
Everton youngster quietly making progress has just made his biggest statement yet
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Roy Keane believes Sean Dyche can keep Everton in the Premier League despite the club’s 10-point deduction
Roy Keane has made a major Everton U-turn – and he is absolutely right
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Everton fans protest a 10 point deduction before the Premier League match between Everton FC and Manchester United at Goodison Park on November 26, 2023
Everton points deduction appeal LIVE news and 777 Partners takeover latest
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Of additional concern is the nature of the challenges that are on the way. The trip to Spurs on December 23 looks tough but the hard work really has to be done in L4.

The home form has to improve

The biggest of the challenges are the visits of big spending Chelsea, Champions League-chasing Newcastle United and title-holders Manchester City in a month where Everton’s home form simply has to improve.

 

Dyche said it was a “tough one to call” on Sunday and had merit in his belief the performance did not match the scoreline of the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United.

 

That has been a theme of this season though and it simply has to change – the stats may suggest Everton deserved to beat Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers but Bournemouth remain the only side to be defeated at Goodison Park in the league.

 

Before the deduction it appeared Everton could survive that difficult home form. Now they are playing catch-up it is a different story.

The two games that might reveal most

For all that can be said about the number of upcoming games against tough opposition, the two matches that might reveal most about where Dyche’s side is will be the away games to Burnley and Wolves.

 

The last time Everton went to Turf Moor, Dyche overcame then Frank Lampard’s Blues to hammer home the realisation Everton were in a relegation battle.

 

With the deduction bringing the promoted sides back into Everton’s orbit the trip to East Lancashire will be a defining game against the only side with worse home form.

 

Then the late December trip to Molineux will have echoes of the Boxing Day match last season, when Wolves’ win over Everton suggested another survival fight was on the cards.

Will the Carabao Cup still have intrigue?

There were queues outside Goodison when tickets for the quarter-final went on sale and the visit of Fulham looked a good opportunity to provide a jolt of optimism. A win would send Everton into a semi-final – potentially leaving a tie with Championship or League One opposition for a place at Wembley. That is still the case, but whether it is viewed as quite the same opportunity as it has been – and whether Dyche plays another strong side in the cup – may well depend on the results and any injury issues in the build-up to the match.

The suspensions that could bite

Injuries are the nightmare that have ruined Everton’s hopes over the past two seasons but this squad should get stronger before it gets weaker. Club captain Seamus Coleman featured in the first team squad for the first time at the weekend and was not involved in Under-21s action on Tuesday night.

He had played in three previous U21s games and his absence suggested he is close to match fitness.

 

Suspensions could cause Everton issues this month though, with both Jarrad Branthwaite and Abdoulaye Doucoure on four yellows – just one from a one-game suspension.

 

Everton fight back off the pitch to continue

 

Everton were shocked and dismayed by the severity of the penalty handed down earlier this month and immediately signalled an intention to appeal the 10 point deduction.

 

The deadline for that to be submitted is on Friday. While that process will need to be completed this season, there is little expectation it will be over before the New Year – but the impact and controversy, as well as the uncertainty over what will happen when the appeal is heard – will continue to impact Everton.

 

And the takeover is set to return to the foreground

 

When the deal between majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and 777 was announced, the stated hope from 777 was that the regulatory process the deal would have to go through was expected to be completed before the end of 2023.

 

The move must be approved by the Football Association, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Premier League and, while 777’s most prominent figures have been regular attendees at Goodison Park, this is a process that is very much still ongoing and requires serious scrutiny.

 

Whether an answer will be provided in December remains to be seen but the deeper into the month the process goes, the more it could become an issue for a club still facing an uncertain future.

 

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