Everton enjoyed an eye-catching summer, spending around £140million on new players, including the big-money captures of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen.
There was also the high-profile return of Wayne Rooney on a free transfer, leading to suggestions the Toffees could challenge for a place in the top six having finished seventh last season, eight points behind United in sixth.
So far it doesn’t appear as though Everton have closed the gap on the teams above them having won only once in the Premier League, scoring only twice and losing their last three matches by scorelines of 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.
Manchester United handed out the most resounding of those defeats on Sunday, with former Everton striker Romelu Lukaku among the scorers, and Mourinho seemingly expected a much tougher test from the Merseysiders.
In his programme notes ahead of the clash, the United manager commented: “We are up against a team that has spent over £140million during the course of the summer transfer window, so obviously we are playing against a team that wants to at least secure a top-four position this season.”
Mourinho stuck the boot in further after his side’s victory, claiming that after the opening half an hour the match was “not competitive…there was only one team playing, another team looking”.
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Everton manager Koeman unsurprisingly took umbrage with Mourinho’s sentiments, admitting his disappointment with his side’s start to the season but suggesting it’s unrealistic to expect them to challenge for the top four.
The Dutchman also said it will take time for all of his summer signings to adapt and gel, pointing out that Mourinho had said similar about Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is only now starting to show his best form for United after 12 months at the club.
Speaking after the defeat, Koeman said: “I read the United programme and what my colleague [Mourinho] said about Everton spending £140million and so they need to go for the top four.
“I’m sorry. If there’s anybody in this room and outside and sees this as something realistic for us, please comment. Be realistic. I’m not happy how we started the season, but please be a bit realistic about Everton. We need time, but it’s difficult in football.
“If Mkhitaryan gets one year to adapt to the Premier League, we have eight new players, maybe I give them one year to adapt.”
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Given they currently sit in the relegation zone, there is no doubt that Everton are currently under-performing, but they finished 15 points outside of the top four last term and so are unlikely to have set themselves such lofty targets as Mourinho has suggested.
Furthermore, the United manager’s comments ignore the fact that his side signed arguably the Toffees’ best player, Romelu Lukaku, in a £75million deal, and that the rest of the top six also strrengthened over the summer.
Still, there has been significant investment in Everton’s squad and expectations certainly increased, so where should they be aiming to finish?
We ranked the Premier League squads by value in terms of the cost of each player (*Figures obtained from transferleague.co.uk) when they were signed to gauge how this Everton outfit compares to the rest of the division.
1. Manchester City – £625.8m
2. Manchester United – £590.6m
3. Chelsea – £490.9m
4. Liverpool – £336.6m
5. Arsenal – £309.2m
6. Everton – £276m
7. Tottenham – £216.1m
8. Leicester City – £177.1m
9. Southampton – £164.45m
10. Crystal Palace – £157.8m
11. West Ham – £141.95m
12. Newcastle United – £133.8m
13. Watford – £99.8m
14. Stoke City – £91.4m
15. Swansea City – £91m
16. West Brom – £83.5m
17. Burnley – £79.9m
18. Bournemouth – £78.1m
19. Brighton – £48m
20. Huddersfield Town – £43.9m
To give Mourinho his due, Manchester United are currently exactly where they should be in accordance to this metric – second in the Premier League behind Manchester City.
However, while we are left in no doubt that Everton are playing below themselves as things stand, it also seems a stretch to suggest Koeman’s men should “at least secure a top-four position this season”.
Their squad cost the sixth most in the league, around £60million short of Liverpool’s – or, say, around one Romelu Lukaku.
To increase the pressure on Koeman and Everton, however, is the placing of Tottenham in this table.
Spurs’ squad has cost around £60million less than Everton’s, yet they have performed considerably better than the blue half of Merseyside over the last couple of seasons and are widely expected to do so once more this term.
Of the other teams, Huddersfield and Burnley in particular are performing way above themselves – not that we needed any confirmation for that – while Crystal Palace, West Ham and Leicester City are among the Premier League’s under-achievers biggest so far.
However, it is well known that the amount of money a club spends on wages is a far better indicator of where a club should finish than how much they have spent on transfer fees. Over the past three seasons, the Premier League’s biggest spenders have finished third, fourth and fourth.
Furthermore, ws we have been known to point out in the past, Johan Cruyff once said: “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”
In Everton’s case, they spent quite a few bags of money this summer; now they need to start scoring some goals.
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