World Cup, new transfer window dates will impact Premier League business
Liverpool will look forward to bumper sales of their traditional end-of-season DVD review. Like last summer's release it will feature lots of goals and wins -- just what supporters love -- which indicates two good seasons in a row, something not experienced since 2009.
A cursory examination of both campaigns sees certain similarities, such as how exciting Jurgen Klopp's team can be and occasionally infuriating too.
One difference will be how goals were shared around. During season 2016-17 Liverpool's main attacking trio were Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Together they scored 39 of Liverpool's 92 goals, amounting to 42 percent.
Having added Mohamed Salah to their attacking arsenal, and still including Coutinho, four players scored 102 of Liverpool's 134 goals this time around -- a huge hike to 76 percent.
Incredibly, just 32 goals have been scored by the rest of Liverpool's squad this season compared to 53, last time out.
There are reasons for this. Both Salah and Firmino were virtually ever-present. While Mane missed some earlier games through injury and suspension, he also featured in most matches.
Last season Klopp had to dip into his squad more. Players like Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge were called upon to share attacking duties. This year they've been out on loan. For the whole season at Wolfsburg in Origi's case, for half a season with West Brom in Sturridge's -- for all the good it did him or them.
A big frustration for Klopp was a season of injuries for Adam Lallana, who made a telling contribution last time and emerged as the manager's favourite. The famous Klopp hug seemed more heartfelt for the England man than for anybody else.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had tried to fix this gap in Liverpool's midfield, made worse by Coutinho's sale to Barcelona. Having struggled for months with very little game time, the former Arsenal man dug in and contrived to become a fixture in the team before a cruel injury forced him to miss the end of this season and probably a fair bit of the next one. By the beginning of season 2018-19, Liverpool could well be missing the contributions of six players that have helped them to fourth place two years running.
Coutinho is probably the most important loss. Klopp managed to keep Liverpool in the top four while also reaching the Champions League final but that's been done despite losing Coutinho and not because of it.
His creativity and long-distance shooting -- from free kicks or normal play -- haven't been replaced fully, with Liverpool depending largely upon the general improvement in Firmino's game and the extraordinary finishing of Salah.
From the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2018 Liverpool will have had big changes in personnel. It remains to be seen whether these are damaging in any way.
The increase in percentage of goals their forwards score isn't in itself worrying -- most teams have a high fraction for their best players. But it's somewhat ironic Liverpool won their last game against Brighton 4-0 with three goals from unusual sources: Dejan Lovren, Dominic Solanke and Andrew Robertson.
There is something to be said however for the claim that such a massive goal contribution from Salah cannot be relied upon next time around.
Klopp may prefer to see a more even spread of goals, but how he goes about getting it will be interesting. The hardest thing in football is to try and fix something that on the surface isn't really broken.
Liverpool will want better attacking strength from the bench than they've been getting from Solanke and Danny Ings, whether from the returning Origi and Sturridge or new recruits.
Qualifying for the Champions League again means Klopp has plenty of chances to offer his second-string players. They must see it as an opportunity to impress and to be part of something much bigger than themselves. Many could get regular football elsewhere, but to what end?
Already there are stories about Rhian Brewster wanting first-team opportunities. If there is genuine belief in the Under-18 World Cup star making the grade, his progress has to be constructively managed and encouraged.
It is not Klopp's job however to mollycoddle youngsters. His own position is on the line with virtually every match. In a results-driven business experimentation simply isn't feasible, but there needs to be balance between using present and future stars.
He can point to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson as classic examples of younger squad players biding their time and reaping the benefits. Their reward will be a starting place in Europe's biggest showcase on May 26. That has to be the bait, for youngsters and experienced squad players alike.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.
When football historians look back over this season in years to come, it will be interesting to see how important they view the signing of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United's ambitions.
It is striking to think that there were many who were concerned by the Chilean forward's transfer from Arsenal -- this writer included -- and some who did not see the need for it altogether. Sanchez, it was feared, would rapidly reduce the playing time of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford at a key stage of their development -- a fear which turns out to have been justified.
Yet, in this era of warp-speed news cycles, it's easy to forget just how sensational his switch to United actually was. He had been courted for months by Pep Guardiola, but had also long been the subject of a private and protracted approach from Old Trafford. And so, in one of Ed Woodward's finest moves yet -- a phrase which two years ago would have been difficult to imagine, given Woodward's initial failures in the transfer market -- Sanchez found himself in red instead of blue.
Sanchez was set to join a City squad already creaking under the weight of its firepower -- he would have found himself among the ranks of one of the most devastating attacks the top flight has seen, alongside Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva.
Perhaps he looked at that cast and did not believe he would be a regular choice, despite Guardiola's presumed arguments to the contrary. What is for sure, though, is that United's need for him was far greater than that of their local rivals.
Sanchez, like Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard -- no coincidence that they are seemingly Jose Mourinho's first-choice front three -- is someone who can still thrive in a largely unstructured attack. His first few games, though, raised minor alarm. For the most part, despite his considerable efforts, he was far below par -- his passing and his shooting were equally wayward, and he had little understanding of the movement that his team-mates were making around him. Given the vast salary Sanchez commanded, he was expected to settle at once -- but it would have been unrealistic for him to do so.
In recent months, he has looked much more like the player Mourinho and Woodward relentlessly and successfully pursued. Most notable have been his showings in United's "big" matches, most particularly the 3-2 derby win over Manchester City. In this fixture, he played a leading role in United's comeback from two goals down, and provided an exciting glimpse of the team's future. He thrived amid chaos, sending in the free-kick that Chris Smalling steered home for a remarkable winner, and when making decisions in the final third he was the very soul of focus. His runs, so often mistimed before that day, were perfectly in sync with his fellow forwards.
Though Sanchez's understanding with Lingard has only just begun to thrive, it has been striking to see how frequently he and the England international find each other in space -- in a couple of respects they have similar approaches, unafraid to shoot from distance and very keen to play one-touch football at speed. That economy with the ball and diligence without it seem to be key to Mourinho's attacking approach, a welcome change from the pedestrian football that has often drawn frustration from United supporters.
Mourinho will call for patience, given that his side finished second in the table and have reached the FA Cup final, and that Sanchez is still finding his feet -- he ended up with two goals in 12 matches, and three goals in 17 appearances in all competitions.
Much seems set to come from him, and not too soon -- City outscored United this season by 106 goals to 68, a difference of 38. Chile's loss, though, is United's gain -- since their inability to qualify for next month's World Cup in Russia means that Sanchez, for the first time in years, will have a full summer off. That's no small matter, given that the last few seasons have seen him competing furiously at international level, in the process claiming two Copa America titles at the expense of Lionel Messi's Argentina.
United have some way to go to catch City, but the addition of Sanchez -- an almost unrivalled force of dynamism -- may just be the first step in the fightback. If so, the January transfer window of 2017-18 will be regarded as one of uncommon drama, and where the most thrilling of gambles handsomely paid off.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.
A change of managers at Chelsea is nothing new. In the 15 years Roman Abramovich has owned the club, the Blues have had 12 different men in charge of team affairs on a permanent or temporary basis. The likelihood is that this will soon become 13 with Antonio Conte expected to depart in the coming weeks.
Presently, there is no glaringly obvious candidate to replace Conte and Chelsea supporters are widely divided over the suitability of the managers being linked to take on one of the most challenging jobs in football.
Fan concern at this latest hiatus is exacerbated by the fact that Abramovich is pressing ahead with plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge. It's expected the Blues will play at the Bridge for two more seasons and then move to temporary home for at least four years while the stadium is rebuilt. Where Chelsea will play their football during this period has yet to be decided. Wembley remains the most likely venue, but a ground-share with West Ham at the London Stadium is also being rumoured and it's believed that options to remain within the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham are also being explored.
To make matters worse for supporters already troubled by these uncertainties, the Blues have come up short on the pitch this season. Premier League champions Manchester City have raised the bar and in the process, erased a number of records set by Chelsea in the Abramovich era. Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool also finished ahead in the table, meaning Champions League football will not be on the agenda for the 2018-2019 campaign.
What Chelsea fans crave right now is managerial stability and sight of a clearly defined football strategy that will enable the club to claw back the ground lost to rivals. When Jose Mourinho returned in 2013 for his second stint as boss, hope sprang eternal the Portuguese would go the distance and stay to build a dynasty that would overarch the stadium redevelopment that was announced during his tenure. Of course that didn't work out -- boom soon turned to bust for Mourinho. When Conte was appointed and led Chelsea to the title in his first season, the same thought processes were applied -- but then the Italian's world rapidly unravelled as well.
At face value it could be argued that supporters are worrying over nothing. Saturday sees Chelsea play Manchester United in the FA Cup final and with that comes the opportunity to win yet another trophy. Win or lose, Abramovich has huge cash reserves to throw at his expensive hobby.
Conte may well leave and, should he do so, the next man will come in and be given money to spend on new players -- that's the way things have always worked at the Bridge under the Russian and the 14 major trophies won to date under his ownership make it hard to criticise the way success has been achieved.
Scratch beneath the lustrous veneer that this silverware represents, however, and there is little for fans to be enthusiastic about. Chelsea lack the director of football-style structure and stadium permanence their rivals now have in place. Yes the academy continues to deliver success, but that is also measured in trophies rather than progress -- which in this case means players breaking through to the first team.
Right now nothing appears joined up. Abramovich, of course, has the financial resources to address this, but does he have the right kind of football wisdom? The next managerial appointment and the back office support that goes with it is potentially the most important in the club's entire history.
Get it right and Chelsea will soon be back in the groove and match-going supporters will ride out the stadium redevelopment and continue to part with their hard earned cash to follow the team. Get it wrong and the empty seats that were very much in evidence in the final home game of the season with Huddersfield will become increasingly noticeable and only get worse when the Blues move away from the Bridge.
Gazing at rows of empty seats at the Emirates when disgruntled Arsenal season ticket holders stayed away during the final troubled weeks of Arsene Wenger's managerial reign was a portent of things to come. Watching football is an expensive business and now as never before supporters need to feel that their club is doing the right thing by them.
Clearly conscious of this fact, Arsenal are being meticulous about appointing a successor to Wenger who was in charge of the team for 22 years. A long-term strategy is clearly in play, but they know they need to get the right man. Whether or not Abramovich is thinking along the same lines is a mystery -- he should be though, because if two years down the line Chelsea find themselves without a manager once more it will only mean one thing -- failure, and with it a long hard road might lie ahead.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco
With the Premier League season done and dusted, Cesc Fabregas was able to complete the most important assist of his life by getting married.
Indeed, the Chelsea midfielder tied the knot with his long-term partner Daniella at a picturesque ceremony at Cliveden House in Berkshire, England.
One magical day ????
A post shared by Daniella Semaan (@daniellasemaan) on May 15, 2018 at 7:03am PDT
Fabregas first met Daniella when she asked for an autograph for her son in Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, some seven years ago.
The couple have been together almost ever since, and have three children together.
Just married to the woman of my dreams @daniellasemaan ???????????????? Thank you @pamelamansourmehanna & @rosa_clara & @parazarme & @bassamfattouh & @signature_bespoke for making this day so perfect ❤️
A post shared by Cesc Fàbregas (@cescf4bregas) on May 15, 2018 at 5:34am PDT
One look says a thousand words ????
A post shared by Cesc Fàbregas (@cescf4bregas) on May 15, 2018 at 11:02am PDT
Cesc will have to be snappy about rushing his honeymoon through though, as the FA Cup final is on Saturday and the World Cup is set to start in less than a month's time.
Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.
Pep Guardiola said Manchester City won't match their spending of the past two summers with just one or two players set to arrive before the new season.
City have spent around £300 million since Guardiola took over in 2016, bringing down the average age of the squad.
Yaya Toure is out of contract and Guardiola said a replacement for the midfielder is his top priority, with sources telling ESPN FC that Napoli's Jorginho is a top target.
"Yaya is leaving so we have to replace him, and maybe another one," Guardiola said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football. "One or two more, no more. Maybe people don't believe me, but we don't have the money to invest £300m every season."
When asked where else he would consider adding players, Guardiola suggested up front.
"We have to think and talk more with Txiki [Begiristain, the director of football] and the staff," he said. "It's four competitions. We need new faces to compete with the guys from this season."
City won the Premier League by a record 19 points and will be the early favourites to defend their title next season, but Guardiola is expecting a tough challenge.
"At Barcelona and Bayern Munich, people expect you to win, but at Manchester City, you never know," Guardiola said. "We don't have history behind us like other important teams and there are five or six really tough teams at the top.
"When you look at the distance of the gap we won with and think about doing that again, it will be impossible. You think about 25 points to Liverpool, and all the other clubs, it's unreal. And the weather conditions, the amount of games, it's quite different to Germany and Spain."
No team has won back-to-back Premier League titles since Manchester United in 2009.
"For no team to [defend the title] for a long time shows how difficult it is," he said. "The target is there but the other teams and contenders are trying too. The target is to win. It happened with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
"I am curious how we are going to run without the ball. That is our main target. That would be a good signal if we are still a humble team with desire and show how we run back. Normally after winning you say, 'Now I don't run' -- this is the moment you are not going to win. We will try to focus on that next season."
The title was City's third in the Premier League after wins in 2012 and 2014, and Guardiola knows that he will have to keep winning to establish the club as one of the league's best.
"Winning one title, a lot of teams have done that, it's not exceptional," he said. "To be a big team in England or in history, you have to win more. I know the players a little bit and I think they have the desire to try it again."
Guardiola said he appreciates the tactical challenges presented by other Premier League managers, praising Chelsea's Antonio Conte for his movement and the quality of United under Jose Mourinho.
And he had particular praise for Liverpool, who knocked City out of the Champions League quarterfinals and also won the teams' league meeting at Anfield.
"Liverpool is magnificent," he said. "I suffered a lot against Jurgen Klopp in Germany. The transitions to attack inside is so quick. They learnt a lot from last season."
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.
Scouting spotlight looks at Aston Villa's young star, Levante's playmaker of interest to Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, and Villarreal's version of Arjen Robben.
After breaking into the first team as a teenager, Grealish helped Aston Villa reach the 2015 FA Cup final with a fine performance against Liverpool in the semifinals. His development stagnated somewhat following the club's relegation to the Championship, but he has kicked on this year with manager Steve Bruce hailing the playmaker as a world-class talent.
At his best, Grealish is a joy to watch. He dictates Villa's attacking rhythm, finding pockets of space in the final third and gliding past defenders on driving runs towards goal.
Having worked closely with Villa's strength and conditioning coaches this season, the 22-year-old has bulked up considerably, boasting impressive power to hold off opponents.
His attitude has been questioned in the past, but Grealish has shown the application to match his talent under Bruce. With his dribbling skills and eye for a killer pass, he is the key to unlocking opposition defences, possessing a powerful shot from distance.
Fortunately for Villa, Grealish has found form at just the right time ahead of the club's Championship playoff final against Fulham.
He spent the first half of the campaign on the sidelines with a serious injury, but has chipped in with three goals and six assists in 21 starts since his return to fitness.
Grealish demonstrated his ability with a stunning strike against Cardiff in April, and set up the decisive goal in the playoff semifinal against Middlesbrough to send Villa to Wembley.
Where would he fit in?
If Villa fail to get past Fulham, it has been reported that Leicester will try to poach Grealish for around £20m. The former England under-21 international would be a shrewd replacement for Riyad Mahrez, displaying similar vision and composure to take control of proceedings in the final third.
Bardhi has enjoyed a fine debut season in La Liga, helping fire Levante to safety in their first campaign back in the top flight. He only signed for the Valencian side last summer but, if he maintains his current form, it won't be long until Europe's elite clubs come calling.
A talented, diminutive playmaker, Bardhi is often selected on the left of Levante's midfield, from where he can cut inside to create dangerous openings.
His strengths lie in his close control, dribbling ability, and awareness to pick up promising positions around the edge of the box. The 22-year-old is a significant threat at set pieces, with six of his nine strikes coming from outside the penalty area.
A tenacious competitor, Bardhi is eager to press his opponents into making mistakes and tireless in his efforts to win back possession. He can be overzealous at times, picking up 10 bookings in his 30 matches this season.
Bardhi delivered one of his finest performances of the campaign on Sunday as Levante defeated Barcelona 5-4 to destroy the champions' hopes of an unbeaten season.
The Macedonia international scored two excellent finishes, one with either foot, to take his tally to five strikes in four matches.
With Levante currently on a five-game winning run, Bardhi has been integral to a promising end to the season as he looks to build on an impressive start in Spain.
Where would he fit in?
Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly monitoring Bardhi's progress, with Levante standing to make a considerable profit on their €1.5m outlay.
Now in his third season with Villarreal after joining on a five-year deal from Malaga in 2015, Castillejo has already reached his best return for goals and assists in a single campaign. His contribution has caught the eye of a number of clubs and helped Villarreal qualify for the Europa League group stage.
A speedy inverted winger, Castillejo usually lines up on the right of Villarreal's midfield, but can often switch flanks or play down the centre in his efforts to make an impact.
With quick feet and lightning acceleration, the 23-year-old opens up opponents with devastating runs into the final third. He possesses the trickery to deceive defenders, taking a subtle touch and then bursting past them into the space beyond.
Castillejo has been praised for his hard-working attitude on the pitch, but his final ball can let him down on occasions. If he improves his delivery and finishing, he could have a future at the very top of the game.
Castillejo earned his comparisons to Arjen Robben at the weekend with a wonderful curling strike into the top corner to set Villarreal on their way to a 4-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
He scored a second before half-time, reacting first to Pablo Fornals' cross, taking a touch around the goalkeeper with his right foot and then converting with his left.
The winger's brace took his tally to five goals for the season, adding five assists in his 25 La Liga starts.
Where would he fit in?
Manchester United and Arsenal were linked with a £35m battle for Castillejo's signature last year, while Spurs, Napoli and Atletico Madrid have also sent scouts to check on his progress.
Diego Simeone is reported to be a big fan of the former Spain under-21 international, admiring the work ethic to complement his talent.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger
Everton have confirmed the departure of manager Sam Allardyce after less than a season at Goodison Park, with Marco Silva and Paulo Fonseca among the early favourites to replace him.
Allardyce took over at Goodison Park in November and had a further 12 months left on his contract, but Everton have relieved the former England boss of his duties on Merseyside amid high levels of fan discontent.
In a club statement, CEO Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale said: "On behalf of the chairman, board of directors and Mr Moshiri, I'd like to thank Sam for the job he has done at Everton over the last seven months. Sam was brought in at a challenging time last season to provide us with some stability and we are grateful to him for doing that.
"However, we have made the decision that, as part of our longer-term plan, we will be appointing a new manager this summer and will be commencing this process immediately. Again, we'd like to place on record our sincere thanks to Sam for his work with us over the last few months and wish him well for the future."
It is reported that Allardyce's backroom team of Sammy Lee -- another unpopular appointment as a former Liverpool player -- and Craig Shakespeare will also depart.
Director of football Steve Walsh's position is also under threat with PSV Eindhoven's Marcel Brands reported to be arriving.
Allardyce, 63, took charge of Everton when they were 13th in the Premier League, five points clear of the relegation zone, as he became the permanent successor to Ronald Koeman, who left the club in 18th by the time of his sacking in October.
Everton managed an eighth-placed finish in the league this season, but Allardyce's style of play and form away from home failed to win support from the fanbase.
A dismal start to the season under Ronald Koeman had Everton fearing being sucked into a relegation battle but stability and a push towards the Europa League spots did not placate the Everton support after Allardyce was given an 18-month contract.
Former Watford manager Silva is the favourite to take over and could complete the move to Goodison Park six months after the club failed to prise him away from Vicarage Road.
Watford refused to let Silva go only to sack him in January, citing the disruption caused by Everton's "unwarranted approach" for a major dip in form.
Shakhtar Donetsk coach Fonseca has also been linked with Everton as well as West Ham, while Louis van Gaal, Andre Villas-Boas, Sergio Conceicao, Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe are other names reportedly in the frame.
Information from Press Association Sport was used in this report
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
Everton endured a tumultuous 2017-18 -- with three managers, no less -- with Sam Allardyce sacked along with Ronald Koeman earlier in the season and David Unsworth proving unsuitable too.
Here's a look back at the Toffees' tough season ...
Three managers in one season is never a good sign but the revolving door in the dugout barely scratches the surface in terms of the damage done this season and the work needed to correct it.
Misguided summer spending and the knock-on effects turned a club primed for an assault on the Champions League places to one that now looks further away than ever from the level needed to challenge the top six teams, let alone the top four. Swift exits in both domestic cup competitions added to a pitiful showing in the Europa League group stage, while midtable nothingness has been the story in the Premier League since the turn of the year.
Self-anointed survival specialist Allardyce had a chance to confound his critics after steadying the ship but the latter part of his tenure merely underlined why he is not the manager to take Everton forward. Sacking him soon after the season was the right thing to do.
Jordan Pickford was the exception to the mediocrity afflicting many of his teammates this season. More than a few raised eyebrows greeted his move from Sunderland as a £30 million transfer fee made him the third most expensive goalkeeper of all time, but the World Cup hopeful silenced doubters with a level of consistency that should cement his place as England's first choice goalkeeper in Russia this summer.
Pickford formed a one-man blockade in those early months of the season as the Everton defence continually parted with ease and left the summer signing rescuing his teammates on countless occasions. Pickford was so overworked that he was still Everton's best player by some distance when conceding five in the 5-2 defeat against Arsenal in Ronald Koeman's last game in October.
Pickford is still relatively inexperienced at this level and such rawness translates into occasional errors, but his form this term makes the goalkeeping position one of the few Everton need not worry about this summer.
Apart from Pickford and a select few, there is a case for most of the first-team squad deserving a stern word or two at the end of a season that has left supporters questioning the character of several Everton players.
For much of the season the continual underperformance of experienced players already at the club caused more concern than the inconsistencies of any of the new signings. Morgan Schneiderlin has earned some redemption of late but ranked among the worst players in the opening months, while recovering from a long-term injury only offers so much mitigation for the string of underwhelming performances served up by Yannick Bolasie.
But the worst offender has been Ashley Williams, who captained the team on occasion but showed none of the temperament and qualities expected from the person with the armband. His disappearance from the squad in the final weeks is testament to his poor form and ill-discipline.
Memorable moments are in short supply with worthwhile victories even scarcer, so the return of right-back Seamus Coleman after 10 months out with a double leg break stands as a genuine positive amid a season of gloom. Coleman crunched into tackles without any thought of his injury on his return, leading by example from the first whistle and through every match thereafter.
His first match back ended with a lung-busting run in the 94th minute, a reminder to supporters, opponents and teammates that this was the same Coleman evident before his career-threatening injury and lengthy spell on the sidelines.
In a squad desperately short on leadership and players willing to raise expectations and demand more from teammates, Coleman is a refreshing and much-needed exception. The Republic of Ireland right-back is the leader of this team in all bar title and the only thing left is to hand him the captain's armband for next season.
The sheer number of contenders in this category is a depressing microcosm of a season in which Everton conceded three or more goals on 10 separate occasions. Supporters were still recovering from the last heavy defeat when the next one rolled around. This ability to plumb new depths at such a rapid rate persisted throughout the season.
Shipping nine goals in the space of three days against Atalanta and Southampton in November marked the lowest week of the season but the prize for lowest point goes to the wretched first-half performance against Arsenal in February that saw the Toffees trailing 4-0 at half time. Allardyce opted for a slow and untried five-man defence that the home side comfortably ripped apart.
Matches against the top teams under Allardyce were as close as it gets to forfeiting the game without not turning up. There was no thought on winning the game or even trying to do so. Such narrow-minded thinking typified the Allardyce approach.
Everton face a pivotal summer and must learn from this season to ensure history does repeat itself in the immediate future. The new manager has to understand the club and possess a distinct style of play, methods the players and supporters can invest in. Restoring hope on the terraces and belief on the pitch is vital.
Swift and effective decision-making relating to the managerial and first-team setup matches the need to trim down and improve an overblown and unbalanced first-team squad. There are too many players at the start or end of their career and not enough at their peak. In terms of recruitment the task should be clear as many of the issues of recent years sit untouched.
Defence remains a work in progress and creativity must increase. An injection of pace would improve options in several areas, while a ball-playing central midfielder capable of dictating matches should also be near the top of any summer to-do list.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.
The Premier League season is over and it's fair to say some teams fared better than others.
Manchester City wiped the floor with everyone as Manchester United's title challenge fell flat and champions Chelsea finished outside the top four.
And what of Arsenal? It was a miserable end to Arsene Wenger's 22-year career at the club, with no trophy and a second successive season without Champions League football.
ESPN FC's club correspondents run the rule over their team's campaign, providing a grade, their star player, flop, highlight, low point and what to look for in the summer transfer window.
Click on each correspondent for the full version of that team's season,
Pep Guardiola's men swept all before them this season and can deservedly claim to be among the best the league has seen in history. -- John Smith
Progress of sorts by Jose Mourinho but a desperately disappointing Champions League campaign and an underwhelming title challenge means there's more work to do. -- Rob Dawson
Tottenham negotiated a difficult season playing games at Wembley but Mauricio Pochettino needs to build on his promise and deliver trophies. -- Dan Kilpatrick
The Reds showcased their exhilarating football throughout the campaign and could end it in spectacular style by lifting their sixth European Cup. -- Glenn Price
What a poor campaign. From champions to out of the Champions League places, it was a season to forget for Chelsea -- and probably the end of Antonio Conte.-- Liam Twomey
Merci, Arsene. It wasn't the end Wenger wanted but his exit can bring in a new dawn for supporters eager for change. -- Mattias Karen
Oh dear. A miserable campaign will likely end with Sam Allardyce's departure. Whoever succeeds him needs to nail the transfer market this summer. -- Luke O'Farrell
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.
The Premier League summer transfer window opens on Thursday. Just let that sink in as you continue to assess your team's campaign during the 2017-18 season or look ahead to the FA Cup final or Champions League final in Kiev on May 26.
Don't even think about the World Cup, which begins June 14 in Russia when the hosts take on Saudi Arabia in Moscow, because that will just get in the way. Almost five weeks of international football this summer is bad news only for those Premier League clubs that must now get all of their incoming transfer business done before a ball has been kicked next season.
With the Premier League and EFL voting earlier this year to close the English transfer window at 5 p.m. BST on Aug. 9, there will be an almighty scramble for new players this summer.
The sensible clubs will look to get the majority of their business done early -- as Manchester City did by announcing the signing of Bernardo Silva last May, closely followed by the capture of Ederson a few days later -- but even City took it to the wire with their failed attempt to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in August.
With the dust still settling on the end of the 2017-18 campaign, how many clubs can say they are prepared to hit the ground running when the window opens Thursday?
Arsenal don't have a new manager yet, despite Arsene Wenger's departure being announced almost a month ago, while Chelsea, Everton, Leicester, West Ham and Watford still have to decide whether to stick or twist with the men currently in charge. With uncertainty as to who is running their teams, what are the chances of those clubs rolling out a smart, strategic transfer strategy later this week, designed to avoid a panic-stricken spending spree in the first week of August?
Some within the game have little confidence that the new window -- it is not shorter than before because FIFA insist on a 12-week summer market -- will lead to better planning. It will more than likely be the same old story.
"Most clubs are better run nowadays," a prominent transfer negotiator told ESPN FC. "But there are so many reasons why it's almost impossible to get all your business done early. Selling clubs, especially those abroad, are in no rush to sell early because they know that English clubs are now even more likely to panic and pay exorbitant fees if they have to get their business done by Aug. 9.
"Don't forget that continental clubs still operate to the Aug. 31 deadline, so most of them see the new Premier League deadline as an easy way to make money this summer by selling players to clubs desperate enough to pay over the odds.
"But before all of that, there is a World Cup to consider, and a lot of clubs and players will want to wait until after Russia because they may get a better offer if the player has a good tournament."
Another obstacle to early business is that player contracts do not expire until June 30, so most business must wait until the beginning of July. That is not ideal for players performing in the World Cup at that point. If Belgium reach the latter stages, will Marouane Fellaini be prepared to wait until mid-July before moving as a free agent from Manchester United, or would it be wiser to agree to a deal before Russia to ensure that he is not distracted by concerns over his future?
Managers tend to want their new players signed and added to the squad before the start of preseason training -- usually the first week of July -- but that rarely happens these days. The beginning of a summer tour is another cut-off point, but some clubs will fly out to the United States or Far East before the World Cup final is played on July 15, which is another problem to deal with.
Managing the new window will be a challenge, especially as English clubs could find themselves vulnerable to big offers from Spanish or Italian clubs after the Premier League window closes. If they decide to cash in on a player, he cannot then be replaced until January, but if the money is too good to turn down, which route do they take?
With only 25 days between the end of the World Cup and closure of the English transfer window, there will be plenty of rushed decisions and mistakes made this summer. Some of them will be costly.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_