Everton spending give supporters optimism ahead of the new season
While there are no prizes for outspending Premier League competitors, Everton setting the pace in the transfer market is a refreshing shift for a club that spent years at the opposite end of the financial league table.
It was not so long ago that Everton signing two players in the same day could only mean a panicked influx of obscure deadline day buys. Marking a significant departure from those days, Monday's dual arrival of Sandro Ramirez and Michael Keane underlined a quickfire recruitment drive that has seen five signings confirmed within three days of the transfer window opening.
Summer spending already stands north of £85 million -- nearer to £95 million with potential add-ons -- but the speed of the spending and the identity of the new recruits is every bit as impressive as the outlay.
The first two transfer windows under manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh pointed to a steadying of the ship and, with the exception of Ademola Lookman, signings fitted specific criteria: All aged 26 or older and boasting Premier League experience.
It was efficient if unspectacular business, although the unsuccessful late pursuit of Moussa Sissoko last August recalled slapdash sagas of old. Recent activity contrasts that near miss that now seems to have been a lucky escape, and the latest transfers appear meticulous in both planning and execution. There is a sense Everton are building for the present and the future, balancing immediate concerns with potential longevity.
Each new addition has relevant first-team experience, in either the Premier League or elsewhere, as well as the necessary youth to form the foundations of this team for the near future. Keane and Davy Klaassen are the oldest at 24; Jordan Pickford is a year younger, while Sandro turns 22 later this week.
This welcome and important burst of activity felt imperative with Europa League obligations coinciding with preseason preparation. Everton face two European fixtures before the Premier League season begins, and so early business allows players a full preseason to adapt to their new teammates and surroundings.
Further, these deals show priorities. Aside from the well-stocked central midfield, Koeman has moved to revamp the spine of his team, addressing key positions at the earliest opportunity.
Even the most casual observer could acknowledge that, while the defence improved, last season highlighted the need for a consistent goalkeeper and more agile presence at centre-back. In Pickford and Keane, both nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year last season, Koeman has invested heavily to remedy those issues.
Similarly, the reliance on top scorer Romelu Lukaku, whose own future remains unclear, became increasingly apparent. He finished with 25 league goals, some 20 ahead of his nearest teammate. Irrespective of whether Lukaku stays, Klaassen and Sandro will be among those tasked with sharing the scoring burden.
Both of the attack-minded arrivals are new to the Premier League but arrive with encouraging credentials. A relative steal at just over £5 million, Sandro is the cheapest but perhaps the most exciting of the new recruits. No player aged 21 or younger scored more goals in La Liga last season than his 14.
This ability to both score and create is something Koeman will expect from Klaassen in midfield. With Ajax, he netted 14 times and registered nine assists in 33 Eredivisie games in 2016-17. In terms of chances created per game, only Ross Barkley (2.3) had a higher average among the current Everton squad than Klaassen's 1.8. The Dutch international should also improve the leadership element of a squad thin on influential figures.
After signs of increased spending power last season, it is clear Koeman has the resources to match the homegrown options at his disposal. Tom Davies and Mason Holgate can push on from their breakthrough seasons, while Lookman, Jonjoe Kenny, Kieran Dowell and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all impressed in helping England win the Under-20 World Cup.
Supporters are filling with optimism, but it is worth remembering that this is an ongoing process. Everton face a tough task closing the gap to the six teams above them, having finished 15 points ahead of eighth-placed Southampton and as many points behind neighbours Liverpool in fourth.
But it appears everything will be thrown at that very process and, while it could end in failure, it could also be the rebirth of a sleeping giant. Only time will tell, but it promises to be gripping viewing along the way. There is a lot to like about this bold and assertive Everton.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.