Everton And Wolves Once Challenged The Elite, Now They Must Evolve

Brighton and Brentford sit where the Toffees and Wolves once did
15:00, 25 Aug 2023

Everton play Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday in a game that could well have ramifications for the relegation places come the end of the season. That might seem like a cruel assessment as we enter Gameweek 3 of the season, but it is one with a credible basis. Everton finished 17th last term, having also flirted with relegation the year before. Wolves finished a more creditable 13th but have lost manager Julen Lopetegui and key men Ruben Neves and Adama Traore as well as long-time centre forward Raul Jimenez. The prognosis isn’t looking good for either side.

Both teams have lost their opening two games. While the old cliche demands you don’t look at the Premier League table this early, Everton and Wolves do occupy the bottom two places. That fact is not hugely surprising. There were few fans or pundits tipping these troubled teams for great things this term. But it is a shock considering the ambitions of these two clubs and how close they came to upsetting the established order just a few short years ago.


Everton used to be a fixture as ‘the best of the rest’ in the Premier League. While they only broke into the top four once, you could often find the Toffees somewhere between 5th and 8th in the league. Never as flush with cash as the teams above them, they could still challenge for the European places. When Carlo Ancelotti took over as manager and superstar James Rodriguez signed, it looked like the Merseyside club would finally break through.

But Rodriguez lasted a season and Ancelotti picked up where he left off at Real Madrid. Since then there has been the toxic reign of Rafa Benitez and the boom-and-bust of Frank Lampard. Meanwhile behind the scenes, takeover attempts have fallen at various hurdles. Just yesterday, MSP Sports Capital withdrew from talks over purchasing a minority stake in the club.

Wolves know all about undulating fortunes. After breezing through the Championship in powerful, Portuguese-flavoured fashion they hit the ground running in the Prem. 17 goals from Jimenez and an ambitious coach in Nuno Espirito Santo led them to 7th in their first season back in the top flight. The following year brought ten more Jimenez strikes and a Europa League quarter final. Wolves and their quality contingent Portugal internationals like Neves and Joao Moutinho, as well as the unique physicality of Traore and defensive nous of Conor Coady, were on the rise.


It is a testament to the difficulty of building long-term Premier League success that Wolves have finished 13th, 10th and 13th since. Nuno’s departure after the first of those 13th place finishes didn’t derail the club as much as expected, yet Wolves fans still hanker for the days of European football and challenging the elite. They seem a long way off now. Lopetegui’s pedigree was expected to usher in a new era. Survival was the aim last term after a rotten start. This year was supposed to be where the West Midlands club pushed on under the former Real Madrid and Spain manager.

But the Spaniard departed over the summer, feeling restricted by the financial situation of the club. This echoes Everton, where multiple managers have had to contend with a lack of investment in recent years. Both these sides could have cracked the top six long-term, but each fell away as financial reality set in.

Of course, buying success wholesale isn’t the only way. Look at the teams who have supplanted Everton and Wolves. Brighton & Hove Albion have made an artform out of buying gems and polishing them for profit, while maintaining performance on the pitch. It all sounds very David Moyes-era Everton. Brentford have also established themselves as top-half side by purchasing rough diamonds and giving them a shine. Everton and Wolves must eagerly take notes on how and why these clubs occupy their old spots in the food chain, lest they drop out of the division altogether.

Nothing is conclusively settled at this point in a season. Whatever the result, neither Everton nor Wolves can consider their season over at this infant stage. But a change of approach is needed at both clubs to stem the tide they each face. Clubs are doing what they used to do and they’re doing it better. Everton and Wolves must evolve to survive and there’s no time like the present.

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