20 Days of the Premier League returns with Everton, founding members of the Football League in 1888 and one of the most storied clubs in Europe.
The Toffees are coming off of a 10th-place finish and will consider themselves unlucky to have not finished higher, and this season will be their opportunity to seek redemption.
Life Hits Hard
Everton had a rip-roaring start to their campaign last summer, holding first place in the league a month-and-a-half into the season and maintaining European qualification into the start of March, only to let their season fall apart and take 13 points from a possible 36 to close the season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin led the club with 16 goals in 33 appearances and was fifth in the Premier League in the race for the Golden Boot; Richarlison scored seven in a left-wing role that he has become more familiar with since sliding out from his previous center-forward position, and both Gylfi Sigurdsson and James Rodriguez scored six times.
Rodriguez appeared to have revitalized his career when he pounded on opposing defenses to start the season, but injuries and inconsistencies that have become synonymous with his career held him back and contributed to the team foregoing their lead atop the table.
Carlo Ancelotti departed for Real Madrid in the offseason after spending just one season at Everton, and they will once again have a new face at manager in the coming campaign.
A Disappointing Summer for Transfers
Everton replaced Ancelotti with Rafael Benitez, a former Champions League-winner with Merseyside rivals Liverpool; as a result, fans were outraged when the club announced their intentions to sign the former leader of the Reds.
Benitez has won leagues, domestic competitions, and European cups as the man in charge, and his acumen is not in question— his affiliation with Liverpool has just been too much to win over many of Everton’s fans, who are some of the proudest in the world.
Aside from Benitez, Everton’s only important acquisition this summer was Demarai Gray, who made 10 appearances and scored one goal for Bayer Leverkusen last year.
Moise Kean has also returned after scoring 13 goals in 26 appearances and completing a successful loan with Paris Saint-Germain. Two-strikers systems are not popular in the Premier League, but between Calvert-Lewin and Kean, the Toffees have two marksmen that are fit to play most of the games in a season, if healthy.
It is unlikely that Everton will be able to win the league as they were poised to after six weeks last season, although they could realistically finish in the top-six as other top teams are not as invincible as their reputation makes them seem; there will be increased competition throughout the division, however, as other teams have gotten stronger and will be more formidable opponents.
Everton took 18 points out of a possible 36 from duels against top-six finishers and have the talent to consistently compete; their primary focus for next year will be consistently outperforming smaller teams and not gifting points to teams that they should be beating.
Benitez will be on a tight leash with the fans and will be demanded to win his first matchup with Liverpool on November 30th, whom the Toffees did the double over last season.
Everton could finish anywhere from top-five to bottom-half, depending on how their season goes— they will take their first kick on Saturday, August 14 against Southampton, with European qualification on their minds.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.