In the third part of our review of Everton’s 23/24 squad, we look at the Blues’ midfield options. The middle of the park has been a problem area for Everton for a few years now. Poor recruitment, a lack of creativity and pure bad luck have all contributed to a real mess. With no additions on the horizon, success will come down to players knowing their roles and following a plan.
Onana’s first season at Everton was something of a mixed bag. Statistically his ball winning, duels and passing were good. He sometimes failed the eye-test, however. Whilst his application shouldn’t be questioned he does have a tendancy to play the game at his own pace. This can lead to him seeming to be on a different page to his teammates.
The Belgian remains one of Europe’s most highly rated young midfielders and, for some reason, seems to enjoy playing for Everton. His strong bond with Idrissa Gana Gueye can’t hurt. There are rumours of a switch to Manchester United, but I look forward to seeing what another year of development in blue can bring .
From seemingly being out the door under Frank Lampard to winning a contract extension as arguably our best player under Sean Dyche, 22/23 was a rollercoaster for Doucoure. Despite a stand-up row with the former manager, a couple of injuries and a 3 game ban for open hand slapping Harry Kane, the Mali international managed to get on the field 29 times last season.
That he ended the year as the club’s second top goalscorer is disgraceful, but that’s not his fault. His 5 goals were vital in keeping us up. None more so than the absolute bullet to secure survival. Under Dyche he was a player transformed and his directness and energy will be vital to our chances of an improved finish.
What is there left to say about Alex Iwobi? A hugely inflated transfer fee? Not his fault. Possibly the most frustrating Everton player I’ve ever seen? Partially his fault. For every plus point of the Nigerian international’s game, there is a minus. He gets around the park like nobody else in our squad, but he can’t tackle. He’s our best player with the ball at his feet, but his final ball is woeful. He should also score way more than he does.
Iwobi has been used as a 10, an 8, a right winger and even a right wing-back in his time at Goodison and never shown more than glimpses of quality in any of them. Worryingly, this marks him out as one of our more consistent performers. Moving into the last year of his deal, there was talk of a contract extension being postponed until survival was assured. I would lay good money, however, on him leaving on a free to allow us to reinvest elsewhere.
If he had managed a run of games, I imagine Dele would be a challenger for Iwobi’s frustration belt. Injury and personal problems have seen him reduced from one of Europe’s best midfielders to a bit-part player at Besitkas in just 4 years. His brave interview with Gary Neville laid bare the struggles he’s faced and he should be applauded for that.
The conundrum with Dele, though, is what can he contribute to Everton this season and is he worth the £10m that getting him up to speed would cost. He’s currently rehabbing a hip problem that’s kept him out of pre-season and looks to be a couple of months at least away from contention. Personally, I really want to see him come good. But then I’m a dreadful optimist: it’s the hope that kills you.
With somehow another year on his deal, Andre Gomes is almost the poster boy for the last 5 years of Everton recruitment. I think we were all in agreement two years ago that he just isn’t quick enough of thought or action to succeed in English football. He has however enjoyed a decent season on loan at Lille with three times the minutes he got at Everton in 22/23. That got him a return of 3 goals and 2 assists.
Whilst Gomes probably lacks the attributes to succeed at Everton, he’s too good a player to sit on the fringes of our squad. A loan or a sale would help both player and club.
Jean Philippe Gbamin
No legs, wants out, sells his kit on Facebook.
In what is almost certainly his last year with Everton, Gana is still a vital player. The 33 year old made 34 appearances for the club last season and, despite a couple of costly errors in possession, was the tone setter for the midfield.
We can but hope that his engine is still there and he has another year at a high level left in the tank. When he’s on it, there’s nothing better than watching Gueye snapping at the heels of opposition midfielders breaking up play. His dressing room presence shouldn’t be underestimated either.
Ending on a positive, Garner is possibly our player with the most potential. After overcoming a back problem and fighting his way into the team, the 22 year old now needs to make sure he keeps getting minutes. Tipped for a breakout year, it will be exciting to see how he fares after a full pre-season with Sean Dyche.