With the Europa League to add to next seasons’ schedule, the current Everton squad needs some major strengthening in the summer transfer window.
Taking a quick look at last Fridays’ game against Watford and (I think) we learned a couple of lessons playing against a big, physical side.
Firstly and despite a good effort, Tom Davies is not a natural right back and probably shouldn’t have had that question of marking the likes of Okaka asked of him just yet.
Mason Holgate, for all his sterling work in recent weeks, would probably admit to centre back being his preferred option.
Until Seamus is fully fit and ready to return, Mason is probably nailed on to continue at right back and Tom will naturally revert to his preferred midfield role.
So let’s make the shopping list…
We need a top notch, definite number one starting goalie.
Maarten Stekelenburg came in as a stop-gap, will surely move on in the summer and good luck to him.
Joel Robles, for all the clean sheets he’s kept, is not the inspiring, rock solid goalie we need.
He’s improved this season, of that there can be little argument, but is he the goalie we’re going to hand the starting role to – I think not.
With names like Pickford (who gets the nod of approval from Neville Southall), Forster and even Butland being bandied around, the tall Spaniard will probably revert to the role of back-up.
The middle of the defence is the area that needs the most urgent attention.
With names like Michael Keane and Virgil van Dijk being mentioned, and a heavier game schedule, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Ronald Koeman is looking hard at overhauling the centre of the defence – the area of the field that he dominated during his own playing career.
Phil Jagielka has endured being dropped this season and returned to perform well, but is beginning to show his age.
Ashley Williams has defended well and generally looks solid at the back, but his forward mobility is limited and his ball distribution varies between average at best and woeful, and age is not on his side either.
If the shopping goes well, neither Williams nor Jagielka will expect to be guaranteed starters next season.
Ramiro Funes Mori is still recovering from injury and has age on his side. He could be retained for squad depth, but is unlikely to be a regular starter.
Many feel he may be one of those to leave in the summer along with Niasse, Cleverley, Kone and probably Deulofeu.
Leighton Baines isn’t getting any younger and as a result isn’t getting forward as much and certainly nothing like as effectively as in years gone by. We need to have a suitable replacement/back-up sooner rather than later.
Midfield is the area that needs the least attention with Schneiderlin, Davies, Gana Gueye to shoulder the load.
Depth will be provided by Besic (please stay fit), McCarthy (if he’s still here) and possibly Gareth Barry to be retained as a wise old head for specific opposition and game scenarios.
Whether Ross Barkley stays or leaves, we need an offensive midfielder and one who will consistently take games by the scruff of the neck and run them, boss them, own them!
Up front, we need another striker to play with and put pressure on Romelu Lukaku… and if he leaves, two.
Calvert-Lewin and Lookman are still on the learning curve and not ready to start regularly.
Enner Valencia has worked hard when selected this season, but surely will return to West Ham ?
Kevin Mirallas has experience on his side and if he can improve his consistency and add a few more goals, he’ll be vital for the cup and Europa campaigns.
We have Yannick Bolasie to return and hopefully, he won’t have lost his pace as that’s the element we need much, much more of in all areas of the field.
We have a number of players ready and desperate to step up from the U23 squad, but they cannot be overused and over relied on.
They need to find their feet and grow into the added pressure, physicality and pace of the top flight.
So a top goalie, two quality centre backs, a left back, a game-changing midfielder and two goal-scoring forwards are the minimum requirements and by any stretch of the imagination, that’s a serious summer shopping list… next season starts now !!
Correctly identifying and securing six or seven major statement signings is what will be needed for two reasons.
Firstly to accommodate participation in four competitions and secondly, to send the message to Lukaku that the club is genuine about challenging for a top four finish and the ‘promised land’ of the Champions League.
Lukaku has stated till he’s blue in the face that he wants to play Champions League.
Make those six or seven statement signings, and throw down the gauntlet of challenge to him to stay and achieve his and our Champions League dream with Everton.