Everton are the Premier Leagues perennial top four nearly boys. The Toffees have constantly found themselves hovering just below the promised land of the Champions League places, but have never quite found the required formula to break through that top four ceiling.
This season promised to be different, however. Having finished in sixth place last season, Ronald Koeman was given a substantial war chest brimming with sterling to spend on building a squad finally capable of giving the big boys a real challenge.
Koeman came out all guns blazing in the summer transfer market signing players left right and center. Having sold the talismanic Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for a staggering £75 million, the Dutch manager went about spending his newfound riches with almost reckless abandon, completely revamping his squad, while at the same time hoping not to fall into the same trap as Tottenham and Liverpool did after the sales of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.
— EFC Statto (@EFC_Statto) September 1, 2017
The biggest, and possibly most exciting of all of Everton’s summer signings came later in the window, with Iceland international Gylfi Sigurdsson joining the club for £45 million after long and protracted discussions with Swansea City.
The Swans were loathed to lose their star player and understandably so. Sigurdsson had swept the board at the clubs end of season awards and was directly involved in 22 of Swansea’s 45 goals in the league last season while playing a part in 53 goals since his return from Tottenham in 2015.
Sigurdsson’s contributions in the most recently completed season, most notably an equaliser at Old Trafford, were effectively worth 18 points to the Swans, who finished only seven points above the relegation zone. In fact, without Sigurdsson, Swansea would have finished rock bottom of the league, making it clear why he proved so supremely difficult to prize away from an Everton point of view. Considering Sigurdsson’s exploits, it really was no surprise that the Welsh club slapped such a hefty price tag on their most valuable asset.
However, having already bolstered the ranks with the likes of Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney, Koeman eventually got his man and Everton entered the current season with a decent looking squad.
?? | Our Club-record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson will be introduced to the Goodison crowd ahead of tonight's game.
— Everton (@Everton) August 17, 2017
Sadly for their Dutch manager, it seems the most significant bit of business, in terms of on-field performance, was the sale of Lukaku. The team from the blue half of Merseyside have been woefully drab, lacking in creativity and tangible goal threats. Koeman’s side have scored just twice in the league and star signing Sigurdsson has been nowhere to be found.
The 28-year-old club record signing has struggled to make any kind of impact at Goodison, failing to find the net or even register an assist in his four league appearances. In fact, Sigurdsson has only been able to muster up one shot on target and his set-piece wizardry, so effective during his Swansea days, has looked nothing more than cheap parlour tricks at Everton.
Sigurdsson is not entirely to blame though. Koeman’s team as a whole have looked slow and unimaginative without the beligerent Lukaku smashing them in on a regular basis. They have had a rather difficult start to the season as well. But consider the sides Everton have lost to, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham are the very sides that they spent hundreds of millions of pounds to compete with, then this can not be used as an excuse.
Lukaku > All of Everton's new signings so far ?
— Mark O'Neill (@MarkONeill94) September 18, 2017
Back to Gylfi now. Even with the difficult start to the season, you would somehow think that Sigurdsson would have been able to make more of an impact than he has.
He can not hide behind the guise of adapting to a new league, his stats from his time at Swansea show him to be rather a prolific performer in this league already, so what could it be?
Could Sigurdsson’s move be heading the same way as Charlie Adam’s did when he moved to Liverpool? Adam stood heads and shoulders above his Blackpool teammates, but was mostly ineffective after relocating to Anfield. Or, could it simply be that Sigurdsson is being weighed down by the massive fee Everton forked out for his services?
Whatever it is, Sigurdsson need’s to find his feet again quickly and prove his quality because as of yet, he has in no way, shape, or form improved Everton.
The Icelandic international was no doubt worth £45 million to a Swansea side he almost single-handedly rescued from the Championship, but whether or not he is worth that much to an Everton side pushing for Europe is a question that is yet to be answered.