Everton: Can Brian Sørensen’s Toffees find form in the new year?

Despite a campaign full of ebbs and flows, Everton closed out the 2022/23 Barclays Women’s Super League season in sixth position, securing nine victories throughout their league campaign. Brian Sørensen’s Toffees had certainly flexed their muscles in Merseyside, having been able to divert defeat by their Liverpudlian rivals on both derby day occasions.

His side also forced a 0-0 stalemate at Leigh Sports Village that saw the visitors thieve the winning threshold away from the hungry mouth of Manchester United, in a draw that proved imperative in the Mancunian’s inability to place both hands on the league title.

The arrival of the summer window allowed Sørensen to strengthen his side in any potential areas of depletion, and the signings of both Heather Payne and Martina Piemonte have already provided a versatile presence going forward for the Toffees during their respective short stints at the club. Sørensen also added an experienced midfield pillar in Justine Vanhaevermaet to his Everton side, as well as a promising collection of youth talent arriving in Merseyside on season-long loan spells.

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Despite utilising the market’s opening to nourish his squad list heading into the new season, the arrival of the summer window proved bittersweet for Brian Sørensen on multiple accounts. The departure of Gabrielle George would leave Sørensen with a troubling void to fill, as the defender completed a move to Marc Skinner’s Manchester United side.

The retirement of Izzy Christiansen, partnered with Jess Park’s return to Manchester City at the conclusion of her loan spell, saw Sørensen’s midfield group grow increasingly depleted.

But Everton have now played 10 games in their 2023/24 league campaign thus far, and despite having only accumulated just the 11 points, Sørensen’s Blues have been able to keep their head above water in what has become an increasingly drowning situation in the physio room.

Merseyside is Blue

Sørensen’s Blues faced a difficult opening spell to their 2023/24 league campaign, with the side facing back-to-back defeats at the hands of both Brighton and Leicester City. In what was a well-fought scrimmage at King Power Stadium, Willie Kirk’s Foxes were seen over the line through Lena Petermann’s 69th minute finish, scrambling a victory for the home side.

Despite finding himself in a trough from the outset, Sørensen took his side to Anfield Stadium for a Merseyside derby in front of 23,000 fans. It was a goal from the captain that saw the Blues take hold of the city’s bragging rights, as Megan Finnigan found herself unmarked inside the area to head home the 1-0 winner at Anfield.

Megan Finnigan has found herself become a pillar for the Toffees heading into the new year, with the Republic of Ireland international proving herself to be a vital asset to her Danish manager. Finnigan has carved her way on to the scoresheet from the most unlikely of places, able to convert for Everton on three separate occasions thus far.

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Injury blows

Despite scraping victory on multiple occasions, Sørensen has found himself unable to put forward a consistent starting eleven come matchday. As injuries continue to mount in Merseyside, the Danish boss has found himself having to operate with conservative caution.

The Merseyside derby saw Lucy Hope depart the clash under unfortunate circumstances, sustaining an ankle injury that would see her set for an extensive spell on the sidelines. Elise Stenevik found herself sidelined in the same period, with the Norwegian defender set to additionally be unseen until after the Christmas period.

If the dual blow hadn’t already proved costly for Sørensen, then the prolonged absence of Nathalie Björn and Karen Holmgaard would be enough to hinder the spirits of the Toffees.

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Closing out the calendar year

Despite the depleted list that had caused a mountain of concern on previous occasions, Everton found themselves signing off on 2023 in victorious fashion. The Blues stole a 1-2 victory out from under the noses of a struggling Aston Villa side, as Nathalie Björn’s calm conversion from the penalty spot earned the side a monumental victory in Birmingham.

Sørensen’s side would go on to make it two in a row, as a trip to the capital saw Everton snatch a 0-1 victory in an imperative win over a drop-zoned West Ham United.

Despite having found themselves an even footing come the Christmas break, the Toffees would go on to continue their uninspiring record on home turf, falling to a belting at the hands of a firing Manchester City in the last fixture of the calendar year

The rocky terrain that Everton currently find themselves in have resulted in an array of questions being asked of Sørensen, though we must ask ourselves whether the criticism is justified.

What to make of it all?

Sørensen has steered his side with one foot firmly placed on the brake pedal, unable to craft the stylistic identity he had his sights eagerly set on during the preseason period. Though, despite the injury blows that have riddled his side, Everton’s position heading into the new year perhaps shouldn’t be spotlighted to be as daft as it has been.

The Toffees entered last season’s Christmas break with 12 points, a start to their campaign that had found them subject to high praise. When we compare the circumstances, Everton find themselves trailing their previous tally by a mere single stroke, yet have found themselves spotlighted to onboarding criticism.

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The Everton manager finds himself in a precarious situation come the new year, having lost Nicole Sørensen to an early retirement decision, as well as facing the growing speculation surrounding Nathalie Björn’s position with the club as links to Real Madrid continue to gain traction.

Despite his losses though, Sørensen will be sure to expect imminent returns from those whom have been sidelined in previous weeks, allowing him the opportunity to enter coming clashes with a larger armoury.