With the title wrapped up bar a PSG like collapse and the relegation battle ending sooner rather than later as teams like Palace and Leicester begin to pull away I thought I’d take an early look at the three best ways to improve the current 20 teams in England’s premier football decision. I will break it down into 20 separate articles as a series of sorts in order to keep it shorter and more manageable to read so keep an eye out!
Sign a new Goalkeeper – Much like their rivals across the way, Everton don’t in my opinion have a goalkeeper worthy of a team wanting to compete for European places and trophies. Joel Robles may well have been seen at one point (must’ve been at a very young age!) as a better prospect than David De Gea whilst in Atletico’s youth set up but it’s fair to say they are leagues apart now. Maarten Stekelenburg is more consistent and less erratic than Robles but a step down on Tim Howard and nothing special.
Certainly they’ve made defensive improvements thought they were always going to do so moving from Roberto Martinez who’s not exactly known for his clean sheets. Koeman, with the help of experience signing Ashley Williams, has reduced the goals conceded in the league from a total of 55 last season to currently at 37 with 4 games to play. They have also kept 12 clean sheets up from last seasons total of 10. Possibly an element of this is due to no longer having John Stones making costly mistakes!
Either way, Everton have continued their upwards streak since the departure of David Moyes and so both the addition of European football – in whatever form they qualify for – and the constant stream of revenue into clubs from TV deals/sponsorships there is no excuse for them to shell out on a higher quality keeper.
Personally if he recovers from injury and returns to form I think Jack Butland is ready to make the next step in his career and play for a team competing for trophies and Everton are certainly headed that way if they can stay together. Other options for the blue side of Merseyside is the highly rated Timo Horn or if they are prepared to wait a few years for stardom; Alfan Lafont of Toulouse at 18 years of age is coming along nicely whilst the world focuses on other teen sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Add more wingers – Over the last few years Everton have moved into a formation of playing pacy wingers who can beat a man and cross in for Romelu Lukaku to feast on whilst also providing support for the driving runs of Ross Barkley.
Yannick Bolasie was a solid pickup for the blue half of Merseyside although he’s endured a tough start having suffered a season shortening injury. Below him on the depth chart, Kevin Mirallas in my opinion is a master of none. He’s fast but lacks the ability to really create much from the wing nor does he score enough to be a supporting striker for a Lukaku let alone a leading man. Gerard Deulofeu looks to be deemed surplus requirements and at the moment Aaron Lennon has to prioritize his long term health above football even at the late stage of his career.
If Spurs have indeed withdrawn from the market for Wilfried Zaha due to the worry of frequent absences during the African Cup of Nations then their loss could be Everton’s gain should they raid Palace yet again.
If they truly are aiming to become a force in both England and Europe and live up to the goals of Romelu Lukaku then shelling out large sums of money (not outside the realms of possibilities due to the wealth of English clubs) then they should be aiming higher than just Zaha though with all due respect. Thomas Lemar and Gelson Martins for example are hugely talented and skillful wingers with vast potential/upside. If they are priced out of the market for these touted wingers though, Denis Suarez has not been well received for performances on his return to Barcelona and may be a casualty of a summer overhaul, likewise Mohamed Salah may well be tempted to have a second go at the Premier League.
Add another Striker – The budget for adding a striker will solely depend on whether or not they are able to retain Romelu Lukaku. With Chelsea circling (as Diego Costa appears to be on the verge of a move to China) and Lukaku pulling out of a 5-year deal it would seem more likely that he wont be but for the purpose of this post I will assume he remains a Toffee.
As a result, Everton will be looking for someone to lessen the load placed on the Belgian either as someone who can be rotated in without such a drop off in production or who can be brought on to support when chasing games late on. Arouna Kone and Oumar Niasse simply aren’t up to it whilst I don’t think Ademola Lookman is quite ready for such expectation; not everyone can be Marcus Rashford!
Based on the formation Everton usually play they are likely looking for a strong and pacy forward with the capability to start up top flying solo. They may be able to snatch Kelechi Iheanacho from City depending on Guardiola’s transfer targets because he has already slipped further down the pecking order since the arrival of Gabriel Jesus. If City stick by their young talent (unlikely based on track record) then Everton could potentially find solid pickups in mid-market strikers like Antonio Sanabria (Real Betis), André Silva (Portugese starlet at Porto) or the Polish star of Euro 2016 Arkadiusz Milik who hasn’t quite hit it off in Naples. All of these offer solid strike options with Silva potentially being an heir apparent for if/when Lukaku leaves.
They’d be options to either improve Everton if Lukaku stays by increasing their depth – necessary for success on numerous frontiers – or at least maintain the ability to compete should they lose their superstar.