Have Everton joined the ever growing elite?

Have Everton joined the ever growing elite?

They are one of the oldest clubs in England, a Premier League stalwart with forays into Europe, a decent albeit dated trophy cabinet and a list of former players and managers that makes for very good reading. They have never stooped in the shadow of their more successful neighbours and have consistently been there or thereabouts, especially in the Premier League era.

Nurturing the likes of Ross Barkley, Leon Osman and of course Wayne Rooney into English football superstars, they regularly boast a strong squad and a production line of future regulars who can step up at any moment. After over a decade of solid finishes under David Moyes, Everton had a rocky patch under Roberto Martínez after losing Moyes to Manchester United, but have found form again under ex-Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.

Even though the bookies really didn’t fancy Everton to cause much excitement at the start of the season, the Dutchman has Everton battling for a top five spot and a place in Europe this term. After sustained high finishes and a lot of hard work, it could be easy to assume that Everton have joined the Premier League elite, but there could be some hidden cracks in the foundations.

Their current squad has a lot of depth, with the likes of Barkley, Morgan Schneiderlin, Leighton Baines and of course Lukaku bringing plenty of Premier League experience to their campaign. Players like Yannick Bolasie and Kevin Mirallas can feed endless balls into the big Belgian, who is backed up from midfield by a selection of players who can finish a loose ball without issue.

Their home attacking record is really strong and if it weren’t for a few messy away results, they could be challenging for a higher league position and maybe even a cup run. Even when the big names are injured or unavailable, youngsters like Tom Davies and Mason Holgate have stepped up to the first team without disappointing. It is this mix of experience and new talent that ensures that Everton can have sustained success, but it is also dependent on who they can retain.

It’s almost a certainty that Lukaku will attract a big name suitor over the summer, following a goal glut that has put him close to the golden boot nominations. Barkley is also attracting attention thanks to his attacking play and workrate and future stars like Davies will need plenty of coaching and development before they are ready to step up.

Everton have never matched the bank accounts of Chelsea, Liverpool or the clubs in Manchester, but they seem to be able to attract decent players when it comes to recruitment. They are still a few steps off the likes of Tottenham, however, who have managed to attract big names after joining the elite over a long period of time and they will need to look at the gaps this summer to avoid a weakened squad going into next season.

A big opportunity for the toffees is their proposed stadium move, which has seen them confirm a new riverside home next to the city centre and world famous Liverpool docks. Leaving behind the dated Goodison Park may just be the step that Everton need to join the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, who are all either in or developing new grounds to match their Premier League ambitions.

Trophies, however, are the key thing that Everton need to focus on. It could be easy to call a top eight finish a success year after year, but a focus on an FA Cup or League Cup will win the fans over and get pundits talking about Everton becoming a ‘big team’. Europa League appearances are good, but sacrificing the league for a try at the trophy could put them in the same boat as someone like Seville, who have become know for having a good go at European trophies year after year.

They currently have very good odds to finish with a European place this year, but a shrewd gambler will be looking into the future and deciding whether the loss of someone like Lukaku will have a big impact on Everton’s future status as a top four club.

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