Football | Why are Everton struggling so badly?

It has been another miserable week for Everton.

Ronald Koeman’s side drew 2-2 with Cyrpiot minnows Apollon Limassol in the Europa League on Thursday before slumping to a 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The Toffees are currently languishing in 16th place in the Premier League, having collected just two wins and seven points from their opening seven league games.

The Merseyside club are bottom of their Europa League group after suffering a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in Italy in their opening Group E fixture, and these two results mean Koeman’s side have now endured the the worst ever start to a Europa League group stage by an English team.

Expectations were extremely high for Everton after a summer which saw them invest heavily in their squad, so what has gone wrong for the Toffees?

Replacing Romelu

Everton have understandably struggled to cope with the loss of Romelu Lukaku.

The prolific Belgian had been the focal point of the Everton team for several seasons, and has carried his rich goalscoring form to Old Trafford, where he has made a stunning start to his Manchester United career.

Everton received £75 million (potentially £90 million with add-ons) for the 24 year old, but have failed to adequately replaced him. Ronald Koeman was reportedly hunting both Diego Costa and Olivier Giroud in the dying days of the transfer window, but failed to land either high-profile striker.

Everton brought in the likes of Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane and Davy Klassen, and undoubtedly improved the overall squad, but must be ruing their failure to bring in a top class goalscorer.

Koeman did bring in Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez as attacking options, but Everton hugely miss the pace, power and prowess of Lukaku.

“We still need to sign a striker,” Koeman observed in August. “Everybody knows that we lost Romelu Lukaku. We brought in Wayne Rooney, Sandro Ramírez and now Gylfi, but we still need another one to play the No 9.”

Rooney made a bright start to his second spell at his boyhood club, scoring in his first two games, but his form has dipped after his controversial arrest for drink-driving last month.

Ramirez has yet to net a league goal for the Toffees, and only Swansea have had less shots than Everton so far this season. Everton have also scored the second fewest league goals – only finding the net four times in seven games.

Struggling Sigurdsson

Fans were excited when Everton signed Gylfi Sigurdsson for £45 million – despite the extortionate fee – but the Icelandic playmaker has struggled to settle thus far at Goodison Park.

Sigurdsson, who excelled at Swansea last season, has yet to register a goal or assist in six league games for the Toffees.

The former Spurs midfielder scored a stunning lob against Hajdik Split in his first European appearance for his new club, but hasn’t kicked on.

Only six Premier League players created more chances than the 28 year old last season, but interestingly, just 25 of the 80 chances he created came from open play, and he has only created two scoring opportunities from open play in 389 minutes at Everton.

His set piece delivery is superb, and perhaps he would be having more of an influence if he had the imposing height and power of Lukaku to aim for. Neither Sandro nor Rooney are particularly dangerous in the air, and Sigurdsson seems to perform best when he was a target man in front of him.

The change in style at Everton compared to Swansea is possibly another factor in his dip in form. According to Sky Sports, Swansea made the third most crosses in the league last year, while the Toffees have made the third fewest this season.

All is not lost, however. Sigurdsson has yet to find his feet, but if he can rediscover his best form Everton will have a fine player on their hands, one who can pop up with important goals and covers more ground than most players in the league statistically.

Mounting pressure

When any squad experiences an overhaul, the new players need time to gel and adapt to new surroundings.

The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry, Tom Cleverley, and Gerard Deulofue have moved on, and it is certainly a new-look Everton side we’re watching this season.

Their raft of new signings will understandably need time to settle, but time is a precious commodity in the Premier League. Everton fans are growing increasingly disgruntled with the regular abject performances, as illustrated by the boos which rang around Goodison after the defeat to Burnley.

Jordan Pickford is an excellent goalkeeper, Michael Keane is a good talent, and Klassen and Sigurdsson could yet produce big things for the Toffees.

However, severe pressure is mounting on Koeman. The Dutchman admitted last week that his side appear to be “afraid to play football”, and confidence is clearly low in the camp.

In their defence, Everton did face a tough start domestically, facing each of the top four in their opening six fixtures. Their performance against Man City in their 1-1 draw was very impressive, and they remain the only team to take points off Pep Guardiola’s side this season.

Given the modern cut-throat nature of Premier League football, however, Koeman needs to turn things around sooner rather than later.