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Everton: BTSport.com's Premier League 2019/20 season preview

With a talented squad at his disposal, Marco Silva will be tasked with putting the top six under some serious heat this season.

Last season's Premier League finish: 8th - (W15 D9 L14 - F54 A46 - Pts 54)

Last season's top scorers: Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison - 13 (both 14 in all competitions)

To finish in the top six*: 7/2

First five fixtures: Crystal Palace (A), Watford (H), Aston Villa (A), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A)

Predicted finish (BTSport.com writers' combined prediction): 8th

Predicted finish by The Script: 7th

Transfers in: Moise Kean - Juventus (£29m), Alex Iwobi - Arsenal (£28m), Jean-Philippe Gbamin - Mainz (£22.5m), Andre Gomes - Barcelona (£22m), Fabian Delph - Manchester City (£8.5m), Djibril Sidibe - Monaco (loan), Jonas Lossl - Huddersfield (free transfer)

Transfers out: Idrissa Gueye - PSG (£29m), Ademola Lookman - RB Leipzig (£22.5m), Nikola Vlasic - CSKA Moscow (£12m), James McCarthy - Crystal Palace (£3m), Brendan Galloway - Luton Town (free transfer), Phil Jagielka - Sheffield United (free transfer), Luke Garbutt - Ipswich Town (loan), Jonjoe Kenny - Schalke (loan), Shani Tarashaj - FC Emmen (loan), Sandro Ramirez - Real Valladoid (loan), Kieran Dowell - Derby (loan), Ashley Williams, Harry Charsley (both released), Shane Lavery - Linfield (free), Jack Kiersey - Walsall (free), Joao Virginia - Reading (loan), Korede Adedoyin - Hamilton (loan), Antonee Robinson - Wigan (£2m), Josh Bowler - Hull (loan), Bassala Sambou - Fortuna Sittard (free), Joe Williams - Wigan (undisclosed), Nathan Broadhead - Burton (loan), Muhamed Besic - Sheffield United (loan), Matthew Pennington - Hull (loan)

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Reasons to be optimistic

Lots. Everton have acted quickly to remedy the mistakes made during the Steve Walsh recruitment era and with backing from their owner Farhad Moshiri, have assembled a squad that wouldn’t look out of place in the Champions League.

Richarlison, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford, Bernard, Yerry Mina… the Goodison Park changing room is packed with quality players who look ready to challenge for the top four.

Exciting young forward Moise Kean is sure to get fans off their seats at Goodison Park after arriving from Juventus in a £29million deal. Kean is a 19-year-old Italy international who will bring further pace, trickery and dynamism to the Toffees' front line.

Fabian Delph, signed for £8m from Manchester City, looks a smart and cost-effective replacement for Idrissa Gueye, who has departed for PSG, while £22.5m signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin further bolsters the defensive midfield position. Djibril Sidibe, a loan arrival from Monaco, was one of the finest right backs in Europe as recently as 2017.

After a shaky start to his Everton tenure, Marco Silva’s men thrived during the second half of the season and finished with five wins from their final eight matches.

The Portuguese will be hopeful of carrying that momentum into the new campaign as they face just one of last season’s top six, City, in their opening eight fixtures.

Again they begin without the burden of Europa League qualification, unlike Wolves, who are being tipped in some quarters as one of their main rivals to upset the hierarchy and break into the top six.

Last season saw significant progress made in Everton’s results against the big boys too. The Toffees became the first side since 1948 to keep a home clean sheet against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the same season with three wins and one draw.

With Arsenal, Chelsea and United all looking vulnerable, this season may be the best time to strike - and Everton are primed to do so.

Reasons to be fearful​

While Everton’s squad is strong, there are still some obvious weaknesses. Kurt Zouma’s return to Chelsea has left them light at centre-back beyond Mina and Michael Keane.

Silva still needs to find a consistent central midfield partnership and the departure of Gueye leaves a big hole. And if Richarlison or Kean do not thrive in a central role this season, Everton will have to turn to one of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun or even youngster Henry Onyekuru.

Everton's pursuit of Wilfried Zaha fell flat after Palace held firm on their valuation of the Ivorian. They settled for Alex Iwobi as a cheaper alternative but the ex-Arsenal man is no better than what they already have.

Their 2018/19 campaign saw some landmark results but also some ugly defeats. The Toffees won just three of 14 matches between December and February, including a 6-2 home thrashing by Tottenham. Everton can ill-afford a similar spell of so many dropped points this time around if they want to break into the top six.

The Christmas period looks the most likely contender for a repeat. Consecutive games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Burnley, Newcastle and Manchester City between December 4th and January 20th constitutes the toughest run of any team in the fixture list.

Finishing in the top six is difficult and Everton know this better than most, with seventh, eighth and eighth-placed finishes in the past three seasons. United, for instance, endured a terrible 2018/19 but still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Wolves.

It’s a big gap to bridge - are Everton up to the challenge?

Key man: Richarlison

The permanent signing of on-loan Barcelona midfielder Andre Gomes this summer means Everton have three Champions League quality creative midfielders in their ranks as the Portuguese joins Sigurdsson and Bernard.

That should mean plenty of chances laid on a plate for Everton’s club-record signing, Richarlison, next season.

At just 22 years old Richarlison is obviously still raw. He made a fast start to life on Merseyside following a £50m switch from Watford last summer, but scored just three times after January and was even dropped for the Merseyside derby in March.

The Brazil international has shown flashes of something really special, though, and fresh from a victorious home Copa America campaign in which he played a starring role, Everton fans can expect him to arrive back for duty a more polished player.

The arrival of Kean should help to ease the goalscoring burden on Richarlison, which could prove particularly significant as Calvert-Lewin and Tosun only managed nine between them last campaign. Onyekuru scored 16 goals while on loan at Galatasaray but is unlikely to force his way into the first-team reckoning.

If Silva deploys Richarlison consistently through the middle, where he has shown a tendency to drift towards when starting out wide, then 20-25 Premier League goals is an achievable target.

The manager: Marco Silva

Silva has been working in the Premier League for over two-and-a-half years but Everton’s coach remains a mysterious figure as he prepares for a second season in charge at Goodison Park.

The Portuguese enjoyed success with Estoril, Sporting and Olympiacos. But Hull’s decision to appoint him was greeted with scepticism and a fair dollop of derision. Silva ultimately won over sections of the media for his five months in charge on Humberside despite their eventual relegation.

After Hull's fate was sealed, Silva resigned and took over at Watford, leading the Hertfordshire side to a strong start to the season before attracting the attention of Everton in November.

His head was turned, Watford’s form tailed off and two months later he was dismissed, with the club citing an “unwarranted approach by a Premier League rival” that caused “significant deterioration in both focus and results”.

It was another acrimonious departure in a career which has also seen him sacked by Sporting for not wearing a club suit on the touchline and quit Olympiacos due to personal reasons, weeks after winning the Greek league title.

The 41-year-old is evidently ambitious but Everton supporters continue to be wary of a coach who appears to always have his eye on the next step.

On the pitch, Silva set up his side mostly in a 4-2-3-1 last campaign in a system tailored to suit the creative midfielders in the club's ranks.

It will be intriguing to see how he uses Richarlison next campaign, whether on the left or through the middle. Other jobs may come calling but for now he must focus on the task at hand.

Fans' view - Elliot Bretland - season-ticket holder

"We need to close the gap on the top six. As fans we look at the top six and see weaknesses in the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and possibly Chelsea.

"But Everton had their own disastrous spell and we have a lot of steps to take in terms of moulding the squad. It was well documented that the Ronald Koeman-Walsh era resulted in an unbalanced squad but we’ve remedied that now. We just need a bit more depth.

"It was difficult to work out Silva at first and a lot of Evertonians weren’t sure when he first came in. It was an up-and-down season. Initially the football was a lot better and there was a lift at the club but after Jordan Pickford’s error at Anfield the team seemed to fall apart for two months.

"Then we ended the season on a real high. We played United, Liverpool Arsenal, Chelsea at home without conceding and the point we nicked off Liverpool ended up costing them the title!

"Silva’s task next season is getting the consistency. Goodison is rocking again and the vast majority of fans are really up for this season. Players like Sigurdsson and Richarlison will obviously be important but Lucas Digne could be the key man for us next season.

"The understanding Digne has with Bernard down the left-hand side reminds me of the days of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines. He is a Champions League-level player."

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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