When Everton and Luton Town meet on Saturday afternoon, they’ll do so in the knowledge this game is already vital. Both sides are in the lower reaches of the Premier League table. The Toffees sit 15th while The Hatters are three places below in 18th. The sides have just one win between them. While it is early in the season, both clubs know Saturday’s clash could have implications for the relegation fight as the season wears on.
While both clubs are enduring similar fortunes, their route to get there couldn’t be more different. Luton are breathing rarefied air, playing their first season of top flight football since the 1991-92 season. Promotion came as a surprise and as recently as 2014 they were playing non-league football. Rather than a heaving transfer kitty, Luton’s share of the TV millions has gone on bringing their stadium up to code so it can host Premier League games.
The Hatters paid out a shade over £20 million in transfer fees this summer. With Saturday’s game in mind it is pertinent to add that Everton spent more than that on a single player, signing Beto from Udinese. Luton’s profligacy is illustrated further when you realise they broke their record transfer fee three times this summer. This is a team for whom promotion wasn’t in the plans, playing catch up in every department and doing their best to compete.
Competing was what Everton fans had in mind when Farhad Moshiri bought the club. But since he acquired a 49.9% stake in 2016 (increased to 94% in 2022) the club has been in a steady decline. The ambitious days of hiring Carlo Ancelotti as manager and signing players like James Rodriguez feel like another era entirely. For the last two seasons, Everton have circled the drain of relegation, narrowly avoiding being pulled in.
Sean Dyche kept them up last term after previous saviour Frank Lampard’s second season syndrome kicked in. But a lack of thorough investment and uncertainty behind the scenes sees them struggling for a third season in a row. Prize assets have been strip-mined along the way. The club still hasn’t replaced Richarlison. Anthony Gordon should have been a homegrown jewel in the crown but was the subject of a messy exit to Newcastle United. Everton can’t keep their best players and not enough is being done to replace them when they go.
Meanwhile there has been no unifying ethos to the management hires under Moshiri. Superstar Ancelotti gave way to the defence-minded Rafa Benitez who in turn was replaced by the inexperienced Lampard. Now Dyche is here with yet another new style of play. Meanwhile in the background, Moshiri is trying to sell his stake in the club to 777 Partners, an American investment firm.
777 have reportedly loaned Everton sizeable funds for the building of their new stadium and working capital to contend with the club’s precarious financial situation. But until their deal to buy the club is ratified, there can be no exchange of equity. The regulatory process is still underway on that score, leaving The Toffees in a state of uncertainty on and off the pitch.
It is against this backdrop that the two struggling clubs meet on Saturday. While the result is vital, their battles extend further than the pitch. One club is exceptionally well-run and almost paying the price for it. The other is being run into the ground with its future on the precipice. Three points are crucial for the fight against relegation. But these clubs have so much more to fight for.
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