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Everton 2015-16 Season in Review: the Youngsters

A look at how the younger players contributed in 2015-16

A.F.C. Bournemouth v Everton - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

One of the silver linings of Everton's disappointing season was that several key players in the squad are quite young. At 23 and 22 respectively, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley played more league minutes than any other Everton players. John Stones (22) was fourth.

At RBM we've already reviewed the seasons of the above trio, as well as that of 22-year-old Gerard Deulofeu. Here I want to discuss some of the other younger squad players--what we saw from them this year, and where they might fit in moving forward.

Players who appeared for the first team

Brendan Galloway, age 20, 1433 total minutes (15.9 90s)

Due to injury problems to Leighton Baines, Galloway began the season as Everton's first choice left back and started 14 of their first 15 league matches. During this time he was mostly solid but did not offer the attacking prowess that we have come to expect from Baines. Statistically he logged decent numbers in tackles, interceptions, and fouls, but contributed very little in the final third.

In January Baines and Bryan Oviedo returned to fitness, and for the rest of the calendar year, Galloway was limited to only 2 League Cup appearances. His inability to remain in the starting lineup suggests that he is probably not ready to take the next step into becoming a reliable started, but with Baines continuing to age and lose time to injury, Galloway will likely again be an important bench player. The extent of his upside remains to be seen but at this point I think it's fair to have faith in him as a player who can competently spell Baines or Oviedo when needed.

Muhamed Bešić, age 23, 944 total minutes (10.5 90s)

At 23 he's not exactly a youngster but since he wasn't covered elsewhere here I wanted to do a quick blurb on the Bosnian. Lingering injuries and a crowded midfield meant that Bešić only logged about the half the minutes he did last year, but in that limited time he showed some improvements from his erratic first season--he fouled less, was dribbled past less, hit more key passes, and maintained an impressive tackle and long ball output. With that being said, he is still dispossessed far too often, and the tape shows a player that is still very prone to being caught out of position and lacks the discipline of the more cultured players in the league at his position. As such, Bešić remains an interesting but somewhat frustrating player with tons of potential but obvious persisting weaknesses.

Matthew Pennington, age 21, 389 total minutes (4.3 90s)

Pennington was brought in at the end of the season in the wake of a few injuries after spending a month on loan at Walsall. In general he did okay--was decent in the air and didn't look completely in over his head--but as part of a chronically disorganized defense it's a little difficult to discern his quality from this sample. In his favor, he was forced into a slightly unfamiliar right back spot for two matches and wasn't totally awful.

Next year for Pennington a lot will depend on what happens to Stones and on the transfer market. If Everton keep Stones or sign another center back, it's likely Pennington will be loaned out again to continue gaining first team experience.

Tyias Browning, age 22, 361 total minutes (4.0 90s)

Like Galloway, Browning began the season in the squad but then fell of the map, in this case due to a serious knee injury. Playing 90 minutes in the derby against Liverpool will surely have been a good experience for the young fullback (as will scoring in Big Dunc's testimonial), but one hopes that he is able to recover from the injury fully. If so, he will, like Galloway, likely find more minutes next year in Cup matches and when Coleman is unfit.

Tom Davies, age 17, 97 total minutes

Interim manager David Unsworth handed Davies 90 minutes in Everton's last match of the season, and the 17-year-old acquitted himself well. A mainstay in the center of midfield in Unsworth's U-21 side, Davies made the tackle that sprung Everton for their third goal, and generally looked lively for the whole match. He also has beautiful hair. We probably won't see a lot of him the first team next year but signs are good at the moment for a bright future.

Kieran Dowell, age 18, 72 minutes

Dowell also got the start against Norwich and also impressed. He's made a name for himself in the U21s with performances like his hat trick against Leicester and in general seems cultured beyond his years. Similar to Davies, he probably won't be making a run at a first team spot any time soon but he is absolutely one to continue tracking.

Jonjoe Kenny, age 19, 61 minutes

Kenny spent a decent amount of time at Wigan and Oxford this year before making an appearance in the aforementioned Norwich game and helping set up the Mirallas's goal. Next year probably means more loan time as he still has Coleman and Browning in front of him in the pecking order.

Callum Connolly, age 18, 36 minutes

Connolly is a versatile player who played every defensive position plus defensive midfield for the U21s this year, and made an appearance off of the substitute's bench for the first team against Bournemouth. Barring major injury to the backline, expect more loan time for him next season.

Notable loaned players

Luke Garbutt, age 23, 1817 total minutes (20.2 90s) for Fulham

Garbutt got a decent amount of time at left back and left midfield for a Fulham team that finished 20th in the Championship last season. RBM's conversation with Cottagers Confidential is worth reading, but while Garbutt showed some flashes of Baines-esque attacking talent, ultimately he put up fairly average numbers and had issues with defending in isolation. At this point his place in the Everton setup is a bit of a mystery, and I'm not sure that he can legitimately claim to be a better option than Galloway or Oviedo at left back at the moment, despite his pedigree. Another loan may beckon.

Conor McAleny, age 23, 418 total minutes (4.6 90s) for Charlton, 708 minutes (7.9 90s) for Wigan

McAleny scored 4 goals and logged 1 assist for Wigan, which is a pretty decent return for the amount of minutes he played. They weren't tap-ins either--check out this, this, and this. Granted League One is a far cry from the Premier League, but McAleny adds to the ranks of talented attacking midfielders in the Everton ranks. Unfortunately at 23 he appears to have less upside than the likes of Davies and Dowell. I would expect him to fight hard for a place in the first team squad during the preseason but in the somewhat likely event he can't make the cut, another loan or perhaps a sale in the £200,000-£300,000 range is the best option.

Leandro Rodríguez, age 23, 120 minutes for Brentford

Rodríguez scored a goal on his U21 debut but after 8 consequently goalless appearances was loaned to Brentford in the spring and played twice. A curious one at the time of signing and still a curious one now, Rodríguez unfortunately looks a bit like becoming one of those players that will move on and be forgotten, but we'd all love for him to prove me wrong.

Conor Grant, age 21, 1788 total minutes (19.9 90s) for Doncaster

Yet another young central midfielder, Grant scored 4 goals and had 3 assists for League One's Doncaster this season. Like Dowell and McAleny, he also showed a proclivity for wonder goals this season: see exhibits A and B. Grant will find himself in a very crowded midfield this summer and will likely go back out on loan for 2016-17.

Shani Tarashaj, age 21, 2208 total minutes (24.5 90s) for Grasshoppers

Everton signed the young Swiss attacker for around £3.1 million in January and immediately loaned him back to Grasshoppers, where he scored 11 goals and had 3 assists last season. Switzerland national team manager Vladimir Petković included Tarashaj in his squad for this summer's European Championship, and he has been used off of the bench in both of Switzerland's pre-tournament friendlies. At the moment of course Tarashaj has never actually appeared in an Everton shirt, but if Lukaku departs this summer, Tarashaj, Arouna Koné, and Oumar Niasse will be the only forwards in the squad. With that in mind, it's worth keeping a close eye on him this summer.