Everton Relegation Fight: How The Toffees Can Learn From Their Mistakes

Everton relegation fight
Photo Credit: AP

Everton narrowly avoided relegation at the end of the 2021-22 season. The Rafa Benitez hire was shambolic, and the Frank Lampard era has been turbulent.

Lampard ultimately took the Toffees to safety, but it was not a straight-forward path and the blue half of Merseyside is once again facing fundamental questions this offseason.

Everton transfer rumours are increasing in momentum once again. Key men are being linked with moves away. The club, though, is in a tricky financial situation after years of high-cost, low-impact transfers.

While the Chelsea vs Everton match was a major turning point in their season, and they showed incredible spirit to come from behind against Crystal Palace, this Toffees squad clearly needs an enormous amount of work.

Lampard achieved his goal, yet there are serious questions about his managerial ability at the top level. Turmoil might be too strong a word, but the club are in that ballpark yet again if they want to avoid another Everton relegation fight.

Donny van de Beek and Anwar El Ghazi are returning to their parent clubs. Several players are out of contract, and Lampard reportedly wants to land a pacy centre-back. This squad could look very different by August.

Richarlison’s Future

On top of their existing issues, the Toffees could also be looking for a Richarlison replacement in the near future. The Brazilian has long been linked with a move away, and he strongly hinted that he wants out ahead of Brazil’s friendly with South Korea.

The former Watford man said, “When we talk about changing clubs it’s a little bit complicated, due to the history I have there at Everton. The fans like me a lot.

“And when there are these talks about changing clubs, I feel like… that I don’t have anything to say. But I made myself clear to the board, I have talked with Lampard as well. He knows what I want.

“So, no matter what happens, it won’t disturb me at the national team, it won’t be a problem at the World Cup. I am totally focused at football so, no matter where I am, I will be playing my football with joy.

“We will see… Let’s wait this month. I am focused here at the national team now and let’s wait this month, the talk with my staff and (Everton’s) board to see what they will decide.”

Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs have been suggested as possible destinations for the Brazil international, though Spurs’ move for Ivan Perisic might take them out of the running. He has been mooted as a Barcelona target in the past, too.

Everton already have a lot of work to do this summer. Losing any of their core players will create yet another problem to solve. Letting Richarlison go only makes sense if there’s a sizeable fee in return as Lampard and co try to reshape the squad.

Lampard Speaks on Final Day

The former Chelsea manager discussed where Everton go from here after their final day defeat to Arsenal.

Lampard said, “We want to take the club forward. It has to improve. We have to improve. I have to improve. I have to get to work in pre-season. I didn’t have a pre-season [with this squad], now me and my staff do.

“Can we make the squad stronger and more balanced? I believe we can. We will look at everything in that way and it is important we look at it quickly.

“We have [director of football] Kevin Thelwell now and we have the board that are interested in trying to get the best out of this club.

“We want to play, the way we’ve played in the last month was fantastic but it’s been a certain type of football. We’ve played a lot of big teams who have had more possession.

“We want to look at how we can be a little bit better in possession. Some of that will be the squad and recruitment, others will be how we work in pre-season.

“You’re always starting to think about those things, you can never stand still or relax in this game. There’s reasons we are where we are and there’s reasons we just about stayed up. It’s very important that after that break, we get to work.”

Improving in possession is a must, but Everton’s hands are tied to a degree given their financial situation. The club has been united since Lampard was hired, though that is not enough to ensure they avoid another potential Everton relegation scenario.

This is a squad in dire need of an injection of quality, and to establish a clear identity beyond the backs-to-the-wall intensity they benefited from under Lampard.

Everton Transfer Targets

Dominic Calvert-Lewin, like Richarlison, has been the subject of transfer rumours. Allan, Andre Gomes, Yerry Mina and Salomon Rondon should all be allowed to leave.

Brennan Johnson and out-of-contract James Tarkowski are two names who have frequently been linked with a move to Goodison Park, while Conor Gallagher has been floated as a potential midfield upgrade.

Any suggestion of deal for Conor Coady seems far-fetched given his status at Wolves and Everton’s financial restrictions at the moment.

Tarkowski is the sort of signing that would make a lot of sense for Lampard’s Everton. There’s no transfer fee to worry about, he’s as reliable as they come, and he can slot straight into the defence.

This isn’t going to be a window of flashy additions like previous summers. Rather, Everton are searching for value and players they can rely on through a 38-match Premier League campaign.

A creative upgrade would be useful. Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend are a solid wide pairing, but the Toffees can find more effective talent in those positions to set up Calvert-Lewin (providing he’s still at the club).

Finding a long-term midfield partner for Abdoulaye Doucoure would be invaluable too, and could help the team construct attacks from deep rather than relying on hitting teams on the break.

Everton survived one scare. This summer’s aim is to ensure another Everton relegation battle does not happen again in 2023.