Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for the fantastic reception on my debut piece entitled “How Steve Walsh Ruined Everton”. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! After Walsh’s sacking in May 2018, current Everton Director of Football Marcel Brands was brought in from PSV alongside new manager at the time Marco Silva who was previously unemployed after being sacked by Watford. Brands arrived with high hopes and high expectations and was relatively impressive in his transfer dealings during his first summer at the club. However, his second summer of heavy spending yielded significantly fewer positives and eventually, Marco Silva was sacked after a heavy defeat at Anfield, leaving the club in 18th position and 1 point adrift of safety. After an 8th place finish the year before in which the club only missed out on Europa League qualifiers by 3 points, the goal for the season was to qualify for Europe, and those expectations weren’t budging based on the fact that the club had been big spenders in the Summer market yet again. So after a disastrous start to the season in which Everton had amassed more games played than points, Silva was finally shown the door at Finch Farm and Duncan Ferguson became caretaker manager for 16 days before being replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, both of whom facilitated an immediate improvement in form and moved Everton into a more comfortable mid-table position.
Now, in the summer after yet another season-gone-wrong, Brands must be cautious to not repeat his errors of last summer, as Everton’s financial situation is much tighter, especially considering the global implications of Covid-19 and its impact on the football market. Brands is now in his third summer window, which means he has had two full summers in the Director of Football position, the same amount as his predecessor Steve Walsh. As I did with Steve Walsh, I am going to go down the list of Marcel Brands’ 10 permanent signings thus far during his time at Goodison Park, provide a brief analysis of the player’s time at the club, and give the signing a grade based on value for money and player success. At the end I will compare and contrast his tenure with Walsh’s in conclusion. Let’s get started, shall we?
Richarlison, £35 million
As Richarlison is my favorite player, I may be a bit biased, but I do believe most Evertonians would agree that Richarlison is the best player at the club and has been our best performer throughout his two seasons in the royal blue shirt. Richy has played 79 competitive matches for the blues, registering 29 goals and 6 assists. He has played as a left-midfielder or as a striker in most of those 79, although he did have a brief stint on the right side during the end of his first season with the club. This season he was tied with DCL as the club’s leading goal scorer, was awarded Man of the Match a club leading 6 times, and he led the team in both shots per game and average match rating. Richarlison is the focal point of the squad and if Ancelotti can successfully hold onto him and build a squad around him. He could be the key to our future success. He might not have cost £50 million, but he sure is brilliant.
Yerry Mina, £27 million
After impressing in the 2018 World Cup but failing to force his way into Barcelona’s XI, Everton managed to pip Manchester United for the signing of the big Colombian center-back Yerry “King Yerald” Mina. His first campaign at Goodison was severely limited due to injuries, and so he only made 13 appearances, scoring one goal in Everton’s 5-1 boxing day thrashing of Burnley at Turf Moor. This past season, however, he played a leading role for the blues, playing 29 games and famously scoring twice in second-half stoppage time at Vicarage Road. This season Mina was dribbled past the least of any Everton defender and was third on the team with 3.9 aerial duels won per game at a rate of 64%. Overall, Mina had a decent season and was favored by Ancelotti for most of the season until another injury saw him replaced by Michael Keane. Has he been worth £27 million? Probably not, but he’s definitely not the worst defensive signing we’ve seen in the past few years. The fact he rattled all of Elton John FC by dancing in front of the family stand certainly helps his case.
Lucas Digne, £18 million
Recently I have seen an alarming amount of Blues on Twitter saying they wouldn’t be bothered if Lucas Digne packed his bags and left the club. If you are one of these people, you might want to see a doctor. Digne arrived with high expectations to fill the boots of the aging Leighton Baines, Everton’s left-back for 13 years, and at his peak arguably the best at his position in all of Europe. Digne did not back down from the challenge, and had an incredible 2018/19 season, scoring 4 goals and assisting 4. Although many believe he dropped off this season, Digne was quite literally the most creative player in the team this season (from left-back I’ll remind you), having recorded 7 assists (3rd most among defenders in the league behind only Trent and Robertson) along with leading the team in key passes per game with 2.1. People may say that he is poor defensively, but he led the team in aerial win percentage with an impressive 67.5% and was second in tackles behind only Djibril Sidibe. Lucas Digne is, in my opinion, the second-best left-back in the Premier League and is a top 5 left-back in all of Europe. Not to mention, he cost less than Morgan Schneiderlin. Well done, Marcel.
Although Bernard is somehow the highest-paid player at the club, reeling in a ridiculous £120k a week, you can never really complain about a free transfer for a 25-year-old Brazilian international winger with Champions League experience. Has Bernard’s move panned out amazingly? No. But surprisingly, he has been essentially the second-best creator in the team this season, leading the team in Shot Creating Actions (SCA) via Live Passes with 2.75 per 90 minutes and was second in SCA via Dribbling with .35 per 90 minutes. Bernard scored 3 goals and had 2 assists this season in 28 appearances, 12 of which were cameos off the bench. This was a slight improvement from his 1 goal and 3 assists the season before, which he managed in 6 more appearances. These numbers are still underwhelmingly low, however, and for a player with his weekly wage, we should expect more.
Alex Iwobi, £28 million
I have mixed feelings about Alex Iwobi. On one hand, he is a 23-year-old player who led Arsenal in almost every chance creation stat the season before his arrival. On the other hand, his end product this season was abysmal. During my first ever game at Goodison, he scored his only Premier League goal of the season, and he failed to register a single assist all year despite having categorically decent creation numbers. Analyst Ryan Williams summed up his season well with the statistics he cited in his season review article, saying, “Alex Iwobi was second in SCA via Live Pass at 2.32, but that number pales in comparison to his last two seasons at Arsenal where he was at 3.3 SCA via Live Passes per game. In his last season he also averaged 4.25 dribble attempts p90, but has dropped to 2.26 this season…” ( Go check out Ryan’s Work!) This essentially implies that he is still a decent creator of chances, but he had a significant drop off in quality from his final season at Arsenal, yet was somehow still one of the most creative players in the Everton squad. That’s a damning indicator of the midfielders we currently have. Worth £28 million? Definitely not, as of now. He has the potential to grow, though.
Moise Kean, £25 million
Moise Kean arrived on Merseyside with a bucket load of hype surrounding him. In my opinion at the time, Brands managed to negotiate a fantastic deal for the teenager, especially considering the absence of the dreaded buy-back clause. When he made his debut off the bench during the first game at Goodison of the season, his name was met with a loud roar from the Gwladys Street faithful. Unfortunately, he failed to impress this season, but then again, he barely played! 2 goals and 2 assists from 29 appearances seems bleak, but he only started 6 of those. Underwhelming, yes. Should we write him off? Absolutely not. He looked fantastic in an otherwise awful team performance in our last game of the season at home against Bournemouth. He has shown glimpses of his ability, strength, speed, and work ethic. He’s only 19 years of age, for heaven’s sake. With the right guidance from Big Dunc and Don Carlo, I still believe Moise Kean can become the striker we all thought he could be at the beginning of the year. He still has a lot to prove, but I think he might just prove it.
Andre Gomes, £22 Million
I’m going to stray away from stats for this one. It’s simply really difficult not to like Andre Gomes. He loves the club, is incredibly involved with EitC, and of course, made a miraculous recovery from what really could have been a career-ending injury in November. I actually got the chance to meet him via Google + Hangout and he is such a lovely bloke and a consummate professional. However, it was quite clear to see during Project Restart that he does not fit well into Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 system, and he had an underwhelming season compared to the campaign before in which he became a fan favorite and convinced Marcel Brands to acquire him on a permanent basis. We have to give him slack, yes, as becoming the same player again after an injury like that is incredibly difficult, as we saw with Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, and so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, I will say that he has not really justified his price tag, but we must give him more time. He is a joy to have at the club at the end of the day.
I am also going to stray away from the stats for this one quite simply because we basically have no stats for JPG. He has had the most awful injury luck since he arrived from Mainz in Germany. Did he have a history of injuries before he came? A little bit, yeah. But who could have possibly foreseen the year he has had. He is still only 24, after all. If he can stay healthy this year and do what he was brought in to do, he may yet be an important signing, but as of now I just don’t think it’s fair to evaluate his qualities after having played only 135 minutes for the club.
Fabian Delph, £8 million
I remember the day when Delph’s signing was announced, and Everton twitter was likening it to the Gareth Barry signing prior to the 2012/13 season. Those comparisons obviously did not pan out. Delph was completely bang average while on the pitch, registering an 86.6% pass completion percentage as well as 1.6 tackles and 0.2 blocks per match. He averaged a 6.49 rating, according to whoscored. So, he didn’t accomplish much on the pitch, but that was only one part of why Brands and Silva signed him. He was also brought in to be an exemplary professional, a leader, and to improve the locker room atmosphere. Did he do those things either? No. He got in arguments with Mason Holgate and even his own fans throughout the season, and he displayed a real lack of maturity many times, most poignantly when he not only made a crucial mistake leading to a goal but then 30 minutes later made a boneheaded challenge while on a yellow card during our incredible comeback at Vicarage Road. Does he have any resale value? Probably not. I wouldn’t mind watching him walk out the door though.
And there you have it! Brands’ acquisitions have been a mixed bag, with some absolute gems and some real stinkers. Overall, I think Brands’ deals have been much better than Walsh’s were, as he hasn’t had any ridiculous overpays, nor has he given any players ridiculous contracts, except for maybe Bernard. The quality of the players he has signed is drastically better than those that Walsh did, and he does seem to have a plan for the future and a consistent transfer philosophy concerning age and quality. Should Brands be free of criticism? Of course not. These next two transfer windows could make or break his Everton career, but I have faith in the man and hopefully, he will repay me for it. He is most definitely an upgrade on Walsh, but to be fair, that’s not saying much. With two summers gone, arguably two world-class players brought in, and now a world-class manager to work alongside him, Marcel Brands could yet still be the answer to Evertonians’ long lost prayers.