Chelsea and Everton are about to kick off at Goodison Park in the first game of the new Premier League season for them. Both teams will be hoping to get off to a good start after finishing at opposite ends of the table last season. For a bit of pre-match reading, we sat down with Trent Nelson of Royal Blue Mersey to chat about the expectations for the next 90 minutes and next 9 months ahead. Be sure to check out the reverse version of this Q&A, where we talk about all the drama of Chelsea Football Club.
WAGNH: Last season ended on a most incredible high, despite a most incredibly low league position, but from the outside, it looks like Everton haven’t really been able to build on those feelings and the squad looks weaker, if anything. So what has gone on this summer and what’s the thinking among the club hierarchy?
RBM: It has been difficult but also not unexpected. The team is still trying to overcome FFP rules and limits that, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, have become difficult to manage.
Selling Richarlison helped, despite that it hurt us Toffee supporters, and especially to Tottenham. With that said, signing Dwight McNeil was major, as was the free transfer for James Tarkowski. Other moves like those rumored for former Blue Idrissa Geuye, Lille midfielder Amadou Onana, or for some Chelsea strikers or midfielders are necessary but in the meanwhile, resilience and hard work is the name of the game.
WAGNH: Frank Lampard seems to have earned himself cult hero status thanks to the aforementioned escape, but how do you rate his time in charge so far and what are your expectations of him going forward? Along those lines, what are your expectations for the season ahead? Can Everton hope for anything more than another relegation battle, or are we all underestimating them?
RBM: Frank Lampard’s Merseyside story is nowhere near over yet, but yes, he has been embraced by this team and its supporters precisely because of how he embraced them and the history of this club.
His great escape that he engineered was brilliant, but in the larger scale of things, it only allows for this team to rebound without spending time in the Championship. My colleagues are a bit more conservative regarding Everton’s chances this year, but I think the team can rebound and play more like it did under Carlo Ancelotti than under Rafa Benítez.
I don’t think we’ll be in a relegation fight again this year but few suspected it would happen last year either, so we will see.
WAGNH: Lampard’s constantly linked with swooping for one of many fringe players at Chelsea. But do Everton actually have a need for someone like Michy Batshuayi or Billy Gilmour?
RBM: As you’ve alluded to yourself, the team lost Richarlison this summer and needs creative and imaginative reinforcements and depth now. Everton haven’t had sufficient depth at the centre-forward position for years and without Richy it’s even worse.
However, names like Dwight McNeil help, and Batshuayi, Broja and someone like Gilmour would provide more striking and midfield support which is needed for this team to punch above their weight this year so go speak.
WAGNH: Can you please take Ross Barkley home?
RBM: Haha no thank you. -Sincerely, all of the Blue on Merseyside.
WAGNH: What makes Goodison such an ominous place for Chelsea to play? Is it the water? Something in the air? The cold showers?
It is absolutely not an easy place for anyone to play. The atmosphere is electric and every opponent feels it — not just Chelsea. With that said, there’s been some good luck for the Toffees and bad luck of you all.
Goodison is the type of place where all Everton needs is one mistake and they can — along with the crowd — do their best to try to hold it steady from there.
WAGNH: What can we expect from Everton this weekend, given the various injuries also affecting the team? Any predictions for this game?
EBM: I think that Everton will have a difficult time matching the talent level that Chelsea can field. I’ll say 2-1 as the final score.
Thanks again to Trent; be sure to visit Royal Blue Mersey, and may the best team win, as long as that’s us!