Eighteenth in the Premier League. Five defeats from eight games. A goal difference of minus seven. One summer signing out injured until the new year and the rest yet to impress. A manager under intense scrutiny and pressure. Marcel Brands being questioned.
This is not the situation Everton expected to find themselves at any point this season. Even in their worst machinations, they did not see things going this badly.
Yes, the summer was a little bit difficult. While there were plenty of good signings, such as Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi and Andre Gomes, there was an equal measure of disappointment.
Idrissa Gana Gueye leaving for Paris Saint Germain was a considerable blow. Failing to turn Kurt Zouma’s loan spell into a permanent move another.
Likewise, not pushing harder to get signings such as Abdoulaye Doucouré and Wilfried Zaha seems disastrous with the all-encompassing power of hindsight.
The expectation is that these mistakes will be rectified in the January transfer window, with many predicting a busy market for the Blues, particularly given the extended lay off for Jean-Philippe Gbamin and the ongoing issues that is causing.
A central defender is at the top of most wish lists, as is an alternative to the stricken Gbamin and maybe even a striker or winger. Whether there are any arrivals will rest solely on Marcel Brands.
Everton’s Director of Football has come in for criticism in recent weeks as some sections have apportioned blame on him, and his ‘failure’ to get certain deals done as one of the causes of Everton’s woes.
The January transfer window provides him with an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and rectify mistakes. However, it’s not a window he likes to do his business in.
The line ‘Marcel Brands doesn’t sign players in January’ is one that’s been touted far and wide in discussions about potential transfer business and there is an element of truth to it.
Going back to his first season as director of football at AZ Alkmaar in 2005/06, when Brands first started to make a name for himself, the winter window is one the Dutchman has not conducted a lot of business in.
Between then and his final year at PSV Eindhoven, Brands made just 25 signings in the winter window. In none of those did he ever sign more than three players.
Of those 25 players brought in, only eight were permanent transfers, with a total spend of £25,804,000. That’s an average of £1,984,923 per window, although he did spend £9m on Maximiliano Romero in his final year at PSV.
Still, hardly numbers that suggest he is suddenly about to spend millions and overhaul Everton’s squad this year, even if there is considerably more money available at Goodison Park than at his previous two jobs.
Indeed, look at the transfers and the story is one of low-key moves and transfers for the future. Of the 25 signings, 17 were either loans (seven), players returning from loans (four) or youth players being promoted to the first-team (six).
The age of the signings also hints at Brands’ strategy for the window. Only seven of those 25 signings were over 23-years-of age at the time of their arrival, and one of those was the return of Marco van Ginkel, a player he had also signed on loan from Chelsea the previous winter.
The other 18 were all 23 or under, with the average age of his signings sitting at 24-years-old. Of those 18, ten were under the age of 20, the youngest being Memphis Depay, who was promoted from the youth system aged 17.
So what does that tell us about what he may do at Everton? The biggest takeaway is that expecting big-money arrivals would be foolish. It’s simply not Brands’ way of doing things. Instead, it would be wise to predict loan deals or the promotion of some of Everton’s more talented youngsters.
In the case of the former, there are likely to be plenty of players looking for game time, particularly with the European Championships coming next summer. Players will want to be playing and that is something Everton could use to their advantage.
If not, there are youngsters in David Unsworth’s Under 23 side who may be ready to make the step up.
The young Blues are currently third in the Premier League 2 table, a competition they won last season, and there are several in the group whose performances have not gone unnoticed.
For example, Lewis Gibson could help fill the void at centre-back and was part of Marco Silva’s group during pre-season. Morgan Feeney, the Under 23 captain, is another who would love to prove himself on the next level.
Nathangelo Markelo is a defender of promise, and one chomping at the bit, while Anthony Gordon, who has six goals in six games this season, could provide the creative spark that is sorely lacking in the current Everton midfield.
Gordon, at 18-years-old, is the youngest of this quartet but Brands’ promotion of Depay at 17 shows age is a number he does not concern himself with.
Of course, Depay proved to be a star talent, he scored five goals in 11 games after being moved up, and it’s debatable whether any of Everton’s current crop are at the level he was.
The only way to find out will be putting them into the first team and giving them their chance. It’s certainly worked for Chelsea this season, and their success so far will undoubtedly have made other clubs think of doing the same.
Everton could be at the front of the queue of imitators and have the talent there to give it a shot, although it’s debatable whether Marco Silva would be quite as happy in that situation as Frank Lampard has proven to be.
That may be the hand Brands deals him in the January transfer window, though.
Unless the Dutchman undergoes a dramatic change in personality and decides that he now wants to use the January transfer window to restructure Everton’s team, then the reality will likely be careful, short-term deals, a chance for the youngsters or, as was the case last year, nothing at all.