Everton are objectively and historically one of the biggest clubs in English football. Only three clubs have won the top-flight league title more times than the Toffees and only two have appeared in the semi finals of the FA Cup more often. They have appeared in more top-flight seasons than any other club and were founder members of both the Football League and the Premier League.

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But at the time of writing Everton are very much in a relegation battle and have just exited the FA Cup in the third round stage, their first hurdle. They were in a relegation battle last season (2021/22) and will surely be in one this term. They have not finished in the top half of the Premier League since 2018/19 and have finished no better than seventh since 2013/14.

These poor results have come against the backdrop of what many Evertonians wanted for so long: a big-money takeover. In 2016, almost exactly seven years ago, Farhad Moshiri purchased 49.9% of the club, increasing his holding to almost 69% by September 2018. Since then they have spent lavishly on players, to the tune of around £600m. And yet they have got worse! So the question is, just why are Everton so bad?

Bad Signings

We don’t have space to list the litany of wasted money under Moshiri but early “highlights” include Yannick Bolasie (£25m, two goals in 32 appearances, left on a free transfer), who admittedly was unlucky with injury, and Davy Klaasen (£24m, seven appearances, sold for around £12m). The Toffees also spent around £28m on Cenk Tosun, a striker who managed nine goals over five seasons before leaving for nothing when his contract expired.
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There were some good signings too, such as Lucas Digne and Richarlison but both of those have since left the club with only a modest profit made. Idrissa Gueye was bought for around £7m and sold to PSG for £30m in a rare bit of good business and has since re-joined the Toffees. Jordan Pickford was a fine addition too, as was Dominic Calvert-Lewin for just £1.5m.

But the many misses far outweigh all of that, with Theo Walcott (£20m), Alex Iwobi (£27m) and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (£22m) all failing to deliver on the huge fees paid for them. Everton have had some bad luck with injuries to the likes of Bolasie and Gbamin, but ultimately their expenditure has often seemed untargeted and had an air of panic to it.

Wrong Managers

Time will tell if Frank Lampard can turn Everton around, if he is given the chance, but there is no doubt the club have made some odd managerial appointments. Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was always doomed to fail given the fans’ hatred of the “fat Spanish waiter” and the verdict on Sam Allardyce was not much better. Once again the board may point to a little bad luck in that the one man who did seem a good appointment, Carlo Ancelotti, was tempted back to Real Madrid when it seemed he was taking the club forward.

The Board

For a while now the ire of the fans has chiefly been reserved for the board rather than the players or manager. Moshiri is damned as being uncommunicative, whilst another criticism is that there is a “jobs for the boys” attitude and too much self-interest. On the one hand, Moshiri has put his money where his mouth is but ultimately the buck always has to stop at the top, so he must shoulder at least a large portion of the “blame”.

Are Everton really that bad?

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Spending £600m on poor players and seemingly moving backwards is clearly not a good look. But there are many fans in English football who would look at Everton and query the verdict of “so bad” from the title of this feature. Since 2006/07 they have finished 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 11th, 11th, 7th, 8th, 8th, 12th, 10th and 16th.

The current 2022/23 season is a worry and the last three were poor but prior to that finishes of 8th (twice) and 7th (in 2016/17) were not too far away from their average over the past two decades or so. It should be remembered that their best-ever PL finish, fourth, came in 2005 and a year earlier they were 17th, whilst the following season they finished 11th.

The current direction of travel and mood around the club is not great but recent signings have been better, on the whole. If they can survive this campaign there is reason to believe they can get back to being top-half regulars. Whether that “if” proves too big, time will tell …