This is an exciting summer to be a supporter of Everton Football Club.
The club has a new manager in Ronald Koeman, who has significant success in the Premier League and the near-unanimous backing of Everton supporters. Even more encouragingly, the club has a new owner in Farhad Moshiri who is clearly ready and willing to spend money to improve the level of talent in the side.
Most recently, midfielders Axel Witsel and Juan Mata have been rumored to be moving to Merseyside before the season starts. Each of these players could fill an important need for the Toffees.
Witsel is the sort of box-to-box midfielder that Everton missed for much of last season. As James McCarthy struggled and Gareth Barry aged, the Toffees completely lacked a physical force in the center of midfield that could contribute in both attack and defense. Witsel, despite Belgium's struggles at Euro 2016, can bring both the edge and skill the team frequently lacked this season.
Everton's struggles in wide areas this season were well documented, and Mata could certainly help to sort out that problem. The Spaniard also has the ability to play as a No. 10 and put a little added pressure on Ross Barkley.
The Toffees have also already added Maarten Stekelenburg to fill in the obvious gap left in goal by the departure of Tim Howard and continued average-at-best play of Joel Robles.
Each of these players would/will fill an obvious need, but it seems pretty clear that Everton's greatest need for most of last season was in the defense corps, not in front of or behind it.
Skipper Phil Jagielka deserves to keep his place in the lineup, as the team gave up half a goal less per game with him in the lineup. Past him though, it would be easy to argue for the removal of any other regular on the back line from last season.
John Stones may be on his way out the door. Seamus Coleman was oft-injured and contributed very little to the team's attack. Leighton Baines found his form to an extent near the end of the season, but also found himself on the bench when healthy at times. Ramiro Funes Mori has shown poor judgment and decision-making on a regular basis.
Of course, I'm not arguing that all of these players should be benched at the start of the season -- but the fact that a reasonable argument could be made for just about all of them is a clear indication that the team needs to invest some of its new-found money in one or two new defenders.
As of right now, no serious rumors have surfaced connecting the Toffees and a defender, with the lone notable exception being Bruno Martins Indi, who Everton has bid 10 million euros on, according to a single Portuguese newspaper. Given the single source reporting the inquiry and the unreliable nature of summer football reporting, such a move is certainly far from a sure thing.
Any new player wouldn't have to be of an elite caliber, particularly at full-back where Baines and Coleman probably deserve another chance to prove their worth this season, but a proven record of success in a major league is a must.
Ideally, the Toffees should add a center-back who can play alongside Jagielka, compete with Funes Mori, and fill in for the club captain on occasion, who will be 34 by the time the season starts. Another full-back, particularly one who can play on the right, is equally important given the departure of Tony Hibbert.
In January 2016, Roberto Martinez ignored his team's obvious defensive struggles, refused to bring in another defender, and instead wasted the team's cash on a forward he barely used. Koeman's potential additions obviously seem to be a significant improvement over what Martinez did in January, but if he doesn't prioritize his defense, he may face the same failures as his Spanish predecessor.