Marco Silva’s Everton side showed against Watford that despite the vast advances made over the summer, plenty of work lies ahead for the Portuguese along with Director of Football Marcel Brands.
Jurgen Klopp hailed Everton’s turn around over such a short space of time this season as ‘incredible’ – and with all six summer signings proving their worth already, there is great cause for optimism going forward.
Although they won 5 from 7 over the autumn period, Everton remain winless so far in December. They’ve also dropped points to the likes of West Ham and Huddersfield at home, as well as Wolves, Bournemouth and the traditional top 6 away from Goodison earlier on in the campaign.
It’s become clear that despite revolutionary performances from summer recruits such as Gomes, Digne and Richarlison, Everton’s enigmatic character lingers in the underbelly of this squad. Each disappointing display merely emphasises this and the need for more positive recruitment.
Backed by Farhad Moshiri, Marcel Brands has already shown he has his eye firmly on the prize. Along with new chief scout Gretar Steinsson, the Dutchman will no doubt be mulling over his options to carry on the good work he’s started since he’s come in.
The problem area for the last 18 months, and indeed for many years before 2013. Everton hadn’t had a centre forward of true quality for a long time before Romelu Lukaku arrived on Merseyside. Despite his inconsistencies, Lukaku was irrefutably the club’s best striker this century, and he has not come close to being replaced since his departure to United.
With Cenk Tosun now deemed Steve Walsh’s final costly failure, Richarlison has been filling the void to the best of his ability. However, the Brazilian is not a back to goal striker, which is what Marco Silva is said to be searching for in his 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system.
It has come as no surprise to see Everton consistently linked with a number of forwards so far this season. The most persistent name mentioned has been Gabriel Barbosa of Inter Milan, on loan at Santos. Richarlison’s compatriot has thrived in his homeland, earning a return of just over a goal in every other game for Neymar’s old club.
‘Gabigol’ boasts a spectacular return for someone his age. He struggled to establish himself at Inter or Benfica – his move to Europe perhaps came rather too early. His transfer fee was monstrous for someone of his age and pedigree, as Inter shelled out €30mil to secure his services 3 days shy of his 20th birthday.
He’s a wanted man in Brazil, with Flamengo as well as Santos reportedly keen on keeping him in his homeland. Barbosa however has recently stated his desire to establish himself in Europe. Everton would be in the driving seat if they are interested, as he went on to state his admiration for the English Premier League in a recent interview. A loan would be an ideal move for both parties, however Inter wish to offload him permanently.
Jean-Kevin Augustin is the most recent striker to be linked with a move to Goodison. With RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner hogging the limelight this season, Augustin’s minutes have been limited to mainly substitute appearances and Europa League games – despite this, Augustin still averages just under a goal/90min.
With his more prolific strike partner tipped to join Bayern, Augustin represents a more realistic deal for the blues. He is a France U21 International – despite dropping out of their squad in the recent international break to appear instead for Leipzig in a friendly – and his fee would not exceed €40-50mil as Werner’s would.
His goal record is somewhat modest but his goal/min ratio is not to be scoffed at, especially for a man of his age – he also boast the best touch record of all the forwards on the list above. He is generally considered to be one of the hottest young strikers in Europe.
An outside pick would be Alassane Plea of Borussia Monchengladbach. The 25 year old French forward has been scoring consistently in the Bundesliga after his estimated €25mil move from OGC Nice this summer. Plea graduated alongside the likes of Lacazette, Pjanic and Fekir amongst the Lyon youth ranks before joining ‘Les Aiglons’ where he went on to thrive in Ligue 1.
His playing style is vastly similar to the Arsenal forward, and his goal return has been just as, if not more impressive. He averages a goal or an assist in almost every game he’s played so far in Germany. His price has almost certainly doubled already – snatching him away from Borussia’s clutches so soon after joining would be a tricky but worthwhile proposition.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has most certainly stepped up his game this season. Currently sitting as Everton’s second top scorer with 6 league goals, the Icelandic International is set to make a much more warranted return for a man of his transfer fee.
Now the likes of Rooney, Vlasic and Klaassen have departed, Sigurdsson has made the number 10 position his own. However, with these departures it does leave the Blues over reliant on him to perform. Now pushing 30 and having only just reached 50 appearances for the club due to a few injuries, it is about time the club started to search for some support.
The Blues have most recently been linked with 19-year-old Salzburg playmaker Hannes Wolf. Wolf’s detailed stats from the Austrian Bundesliga are not available, however he has amassed an impressive tally of 5 goals and 9 assists in 22 games across all competitions.
Another young candidate linked with a switch to Merseyside is Serbian forward Andrija Zivkovic. The Benfica starlet has barely figured in 2018/19, however he registered a fair return last season, averaging direct involvement in a goal in every 2.5 games.
Although these numbers may not be stunning, his dribbles per game ratio is double that of Sigurdsson and is superior to that of wide-man Bernard. Like Bernard, he can operate both as a number 10 or a winger. Crucially, he is left footed, something the Blues lack in attack – a trait that Marco Silva is most definitely looking for.
The final candidate may not be an out-and-out number 10, but he has shown consistent quality in creative midfield across a stellar career for Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey represents an entirely different proposition to these creators. With a goal and 6 assists already this season from a number 8 position, the wantaway Welshman would offer Marco Silva the option of deploying his more favourable flat 4-3-3 instead of the 4-2-3-1 he currently plays.
Marco Silva brought in 3 new faces to transform Everton’s greatest problem area of last season – the defence. These new recruits have galvanised the likes of Michael Keane into action with some stellar performances. One man who hasn’t been at his best however is Seamus Coleman, who is starting to show the signs of a sad and unmistakeable decline.
A stalwart of our mini mid-season resurgence last year, the Irishman has become error prone in both defence and attack. He needs to be replaced soon, and there seems to be only one man tipped to fill his boots.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a revelation in a struggling Crystal Palace side this season. Defensively he has been a thorn in many an attacker’s side – Richarlison and Bernard at Goodison for example. He is inexplicably assured for a man of just 21 years of age playing in his first full season.
Wan-Bissaka tops all the defensive charts when compared to Coleman as well as new Goodison hero Lucas Digne, with all 3 fullbacks level on conceded dribbles per game and Coleman ahead on clearances by just 0.1.
A staple member of most fantasy Premier League sides, Wan-Bissaka attempts more dribbles than either Everton full back by a distance. His overall game rating and goals/assist tally is only marginally beaten by the formidable Lucas Digne, who is over 4 years his senior.
Often fullbacks such as Coleman begin their career in a wide midfield role before being deployed in the defence, helping them learn to balance their attacking and defensive responsibilities, whilst being eased of full defensive duties. It is a clear marker of his talent that Wan-Bissaka has slotted straight into the Palace defence and looks to be one of the strongest and most rounded fullbacks in the league already. It would take a vast sum to secure him, but he would undoubtedly solve the issues in this position for years to come.
It can’t be denied that Idrissa Gana Gueye has been one of the few successful pieces of business the club has made since David Moyes departed in 2013. At just £6mil, there is a case to be made for the Senegalese international to be named as one of the best value for money signings across the Premier League in recent years.
However this season, despite topping the interception & tackling charts, Gueye has shown he lacks the tools to operate in a dynamic midfield three due to his poor range of forward passing. He is often a terrific hounder of the ball, but his performances can be mercurial to say the least. A greater level of consistency, direct/forward passing and perhaps physical presence is needed if Silva is to utilise his preferred 4-3-3.
Local reports have recently linked us with Lyon star Tanguy Ndombele, whilst the national press maintain that Marco Silva is hell bent on getting his former midfield general Abdoulaye Doucoure to follow Richarlison from Watford to Goodison Park.
In terms of passing and dynamic contribution, Doucoure and particularly Ndombele far surpass Gueye, with 4 assists apiece. It is little surprise that Ndombele averages the highest pass completion and key passes per game – the France international has attracted the interest of Spurs, Manchester City, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United this season – his CIES transfer value has risen to €67.3mil.
Defensively, Gueye still excels on paper. Unlike some Everton players in this comparison list, there is certainly a place for Gana in this Everton side. His blocks, interceptions, tackles and average rating ranks amongst the highest not only on this list but of any other player in his position in Europe.
Another candidate who has been linked is young Swiss enforcer Denis Zakaria. Another Borussia Monchengladbach starlet, Zakaria has impressed scouts across Europe with his steely performances for club and country. His stats don’t stack up alongside his competitors just yet, however he is most certainly an option going forward if Brands and Silva are looking towards the long term.
Everton are currently blessed with four wingers who, on their day, can win a game on their own without question. Bernard’s inspired display at Leicester, Lookman’s game changing cameo off the bench against Palace, Walcott’s crucial goals last season, and Richarlison’s goals this campaign are all examples of this.
However, due to Richarlison’s deployment in a central position, Ademola Lookman and Bernard’s inconsistency and Theo Walcott’s disappointing form this season – a wide player, although not an out and out priority, will certainly be needed in the near future.
Furthermore Richarlison, Bernard and Lookman all prefer to occupy that left hand side, leaving Walcott as the sole out and out right winger. The former Arsenal man’s age and performances this season are enough of a concern for Brands to see this as an area that needs addressing.
The most favoured name amongst Evertonians in the list is ‘Chucky’ Lozano from PSV. Brands has been asked many times about Lozano and he has consistently refused to rule out a reunion with the Mexican winger.
Lozano’s form in 2018/19 has been nothing short of sensational. He’s simply been scoring goals for fun, boasting a better goal return than most strikers in Europe let alone wingers. His direct style of play was evident in the World Cup where he was instrumental in defeating Germany, consequently eliminating the holders from the tournament.
Another man enjoying a stellar season is Thorgan Hazard. Thorgan joined Chelsea along with his brother Eden back in 2012. His signing was primarily intended to facilitate his elder brother’s move to England, however he has gone on to make a name for himself in his own right.
Another star on this list who’s been pivotal to Monchengladbach’s scintillating form this season, Thorgan has directly contributed on average to a goal in every game. He averages 2 more key passes per game than Theo Walcott, as well as one more shot per game and one less unsuccessful touch.
Hazard has been linked with a return to the Premier League to join Liverpool, with Chelsea having first refusal on his signature. He’s also rumoured to be subject of strong interest from Borussia Dortmund if Christian Pulisic leaves for pastures new.
Similarly to Andrija Zivkovic, Hazard can operate either on the wing or in a number 10 role. His versatility and productivity would certainly be an attractive proposition for Brands and Silva – his signature could save the Blues from having to buy a number 10 and a winger.