Well, it’s nearly here. Proper footy is just days away as we kick off our Premier League campaign against Stoke. After months of talk, transfers and pre season, we will now finally get the chance to find out whether this is a period of a sustained challenge to the elite or just an expensive false dawn. We’ve been handed to put it mildly, a tough start with games against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd in our first 5 fixtures. Not to mention that sandwiched in between the City and Chelsea trips is a flight to Split. It’s going to be a busy period, but it’ll be one that will provide the best possible test of the signings we’ve made and the squad as a whole.
Up to now it’s been a busy summer for the club with Ajax captain Davy Klaassen, Burnley’s Michael Keane, Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford, Malaga’s Sandro Ramirez for an absolute steal at £5.2m, one of the Belgian league’s brightest young talents Henry Onyekuru (sent out on loan to Anderlecht), and Cuco Martina all arriving. And of course last but by no means least, “the kid” is home. Even though I went to the Ruzomberok and Sevilla games where Rooney featured, I still have to pinch myself when I see him in blue because I still can’t believe he’s back after so long away. Seeing him lift a trophy in Everton colours would be the most incredible, emotional and any other superlative feeling you can think of. I’m really hoping that this year we can finally challenge for silverware. Our transfer activity so far definitely indicates Koeman’s desire for a more collective contribution to goals this season rather than relying on an individual as Rooney, Sandro and Klaassen are proven goalscorers. Last season our reliance on Lukaku was all too obvious as he was our top scorer by a million miles on 25, the next best was Ross Barkley with 5. On the subject of Barkley, rejecting £100k a week from your boyhood club, well, good luck mate because so far no one wants him.
Despite these additions we are still short in key areas. Having lost Romelu Lukaku to Man Utd for £90m, a quality striker is still needed to fill that 25 goal void. Olivier Giroud has been one of the main names frequently mentioned in that regard. If pre season has shown anything it has been that we are crying out for pace and a winger like Demarai Gray for example would be a good addition. The Sevilla game on Sunday showed that we were a lot more threatening going forward when Ademola Lookman came on.
Having lost Ramiro Funes Mori to a long term injury (wish him well but I guess he’ll have even more time on his hands now for barbecues and other weird Instagram posts), another CB and preferably another for cover are much needed. Virgil Van Dijk would of course be the dream having handed in a transfer request but as Liverpool seemingly have a direct line to Southampton these days it doesn’t take a genius to work out where he’s likely to go (once the Coutinho money comes in of course). Koeman’s biggest target though in the remainder of this window is for more creativity and for weeks now we’ve been actively pursuing Gylfi Sigurdsson without success. Swansea want £50m but it seems we haven’t quite grasped that yet and are still dithering. Just pay the money and get him in. Speaking of Coutinho being valued at around £70m, guess who’s scored more, done more assists and created more chances in the last 3 years than him? Yep you’ve got it, Sigurdsson, in a far worse side.
Anyway onto our opponents. One of those “11th-16th” sides who no one is remotely arsed about whatsoever but I guess at some point we have to talk about them. They’ve had a typically “Stoke” transfer window, i.e irrelevant and not at all interesting. They’ve signed Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma on loan, Darren Fletcher (who unbelievably to me is only 33, been around for ever him), Josh Tymon from Hull, who I must say gets the award for the biggest anti-climax signing announcement video of the window so far, and yesterday, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting from Schalke. They still have Bojan and Shaqiri, but lost Lionel Messi, er sorry, Marko Arnautovic to West Ham. The way the Hammers fans went on about it you can get easily confused there. For a man who these days looks like he’s in a permanent mid life crisis, Mark Hughes has done a good job having transformed Stoke from a rugby side no one cared about into a football side no one cares about. Good luck to him but another mid table finish beckons.
It would be great to get off to a winning start considering the fixtures that lie ahead so in my view anything other than a win on Saturday would be a disappointment for me. Mind you it is a marathon, not a sprint the Premier League so it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’ve just used a horrible footy cliche, I now hate myself. Moving quickly on, before I wrap up I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and say we’ll win 1-0 on Saturday and go on to finish around 6th or 7th again. And I’m praying to god that this is finally the year we win something. This season provides us with a great opportunity to do just that.
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