After a summer of upheaval at Goodison Park, Everton fans are rightly excited about the new campaign and have high hopes that their side can challenge for a place in the Premier League top six in 2017-18.
For the Toffees to sell star striker Romelu Lukaku and still remain optimistic about the season ahead is a testament to the club’s expansive approach in the transfer market and has a lot to do with the return of Wayne Rooney to Goodison Park.
At 31 it is fair to say that the England international may well be slightly past his peak, but the former Manchester United man looks set to be a critical player for Everton next season.
If Ronald Koeman can get Rooney fit, on form and firing, the Merseyside outfit will have a player that can spearhead the club’s assault on English football’s elite.
While a tilt at the Premier League top four will be a big ask, Sun Bets football odds fancy Everton to be in the running for Champions League qualification come next May.
However, for this to happen, Koeman must get the dynamic of his attack right.
While Rooney looks set to be a consistent starter for the Toffees when available, his days of leading the line and playing as the furthest man forward look over.
The veteran does not have the speed or physical sharpness to offer a threat behind opposition defences and as such he will be better utilised in a second striker or supporting role.
Lukaku’s pace and ability to play on the last line of the defending team allowed Everton to stretch opponents last season, with plenty of teams wary of the Belgian’s desire to run in behind them.
Rooney’s technical abilities on the ball and intelligent movement off it mean that he is more suited to replace someone like Ross Barkley in the Toffees team and would be the ideal option to operate in a free role behind a number nine.
There has been much talk about Sandro Ramirez’s acquisition also, with the Spanish forward opting for a move to Everton ahead of other reputable reported suitors.
The former Barcelona attacker’s performances for Malaga last season suggest that he could well be the best option Koeman has currently to lead the line, with the 22-year-old’s mobility and predatory nature more of a natural fit in replacing Lukaku.
If Sandro and Rooney can strike up an understanding and partnership, with the Englishman being the main provider for the Spaniard, this could be a system that works.
It may well mean a change in formation to play two up front, but this would fit in well with Koeman’s desire to play a three-man defence, or 3-5-2 formation.
Replacing Lukaku was always going to be an unenviable task, with a reliance on the Belgian for goals painstakingly evident in recent years.
However, despite Everton no longer possessing a striker able to score the sheer amount of goals single-handedly that Lukaku did previously, the Toffees could have as equally a dangerous forward line if their new pairing of Rooney and Sandro can link up as a duo.