As I write this article there are roughly 100 hours left until the close of the current January transfer window, and Everton fans are getting anxious. This month was supposed to be the first true flexing of Everton’s new-found financial windfall after the late hiring of Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh last summer stunted their ability to strike in that market.
Now, as we stand poised at the end of this transfer market, Everton fans are not sure how they should feel. Throughout December, Toffees fans have perused the rumor mill like Cookie Monster at a bake sale, salivating at the choices and knowing most (if not all) of them were obtainable in our new financial situation.
The deal with Morgan Schneiderlin felt so inevitable that by the time he finally put pen to paper fans enthusiasm for this MASSIVE signing was somewhat muted.
(I even included him in the midfield breakdown from my first mailbag column under the assumption he would sign.)
Schneiderlin is a 27-year-old midfielder in the prime of his career, with low miles the last 12 months, a known work ethic, and has established himself as a dominant force in the Premier League when given regular time.
Pair him with Idrissa Gueye and there is no question Everton is set for the foreseeable future in the midfield.
Finally, his contract will be up at 31, and at that time Everton can make an assessment on his continued inclusion in the side. Perfect!
Think of it this way. Assuming Schneiderlin becomes a rock in our midfield, Koeman just improved 10% of our field players. Add in Gueye from the summer and 1/5 of the squad is set for the next few years.
Those are the types of deals Everton fans will reflect on with fondness in future years.
Should Everton have failed to have signed any other players I would have been disappointed, but WOULD NOT have labeled it a failure based on the facts above.
Everton, however, has shown a new approach and shrewdness in the market.
Aiming at players who have either just broken through at their smaller parent clubs, or maxed out on potential in the Academy, Everton has looked to bolster their side for the long term, not just sign names people know.
Sure, it would have been nice to have Branislav Ivanovic as cover in the back with our current options, but it only SORT OF addresses an area of weakness, and only for a short window.
Recruits like Ademola Lookman, however, are the signings that make a club great.
When he signed at the beginning of the month, there was certainly excitement, but it was more of the “I can’t wait until he grows up and helps us” not the “That kid is going to score his first minute in the Premier League and will help us this year” mindset.
Of course, as I expanded upon in my mailbag this week, Koeman sees something truly special in the young man and has voiced his pleasure with his inclusion in the side on numerous occasions.
It ‘Lookmans’ like we are going to be seeing plenty of the young man this year, and that is a big deal when assessing this window.
When you sign a player and they are immediately BETTER than you expected, it proves that your recruiting and vetting methods work. This is why Koeman consistently talks about quality over quantity in the transfer market.
So two signings and two immediate impacts in areas of need. Things were off to a great start, and it was followed by a flurry of announced (and leaked) bids on a multitude of players around the world.
(All of them rejected, but come on, it’s Everton, A for effort!!)
It really started to feel like Everton was about to announce themselves on the transfer market and the signings were inevitable.
For the two weeks after Lookman and Schneiderlin came in, everything stood still. Other Premier League teams made moves, but Everton was sitting pat. What was going on?
Well, first off, since the calendar flipped to 2017, the Toffees have been on a tear.
Not only that, they have been winning by introducing teens Mason Holgate and Tom Davies in to the starting lineup, with their two ages barely adding up to Gareth Barry’s trips around the sun.
So with those two, January has now seen the introduction of four new starters, including one (Holgate) in a position that Koeman has not so subtly expressed his displeasure with the lack of depth at.
To recap, since January 1st Everton has signed or unearthed 4 starters or major contributors, three of which are under the age of 20, and the other one is a Premier League stalwart.
Toss in the HIGHLY rated German youngster Anton Donkor on loan from Wolfsburg (with a measly £1.2 million release clause should Koeman and Unsworth like what they see) and I’m not sure what else Everton fans want from Koeman.
JUST KIDDING! I know exactly what they want:
- A Champions League level forward to push Lukaku.
- A 21-year-old proven center back who’s both physical and can play on the ground.
- A dynamic winger-type player to replace Gerard Deulofeu for when a spark is needed.
That is the same list as almost every other team in the Premier League! So why don’t we have 7 new signings?
In the January market, where most sales are not aimed at immediate reinvestment, the team doing the selling is in an even more advantageous position that normal.
Assuming they are not outcast from their teams like Schneiderlin, you are trying to pry a (presumably) good player from a team midseason.
Second, teams have no incentive, assuming they won’t buy themselves, to sell any earlier than right before the deadline. Any team buying frantically on the 31st of January will pay well over market value for a player who is being allowed to leave midseason for WHATEVER reasons.
So after spending a summer window making bids, negotiating for weeks as teams tried to pull every cent from us, then inevitably backing out once the deal became too complicated or troublesome, something had to change.
The biggest shift was the immediate signings of Lookman And Schneiderlin, players Walsh, Koeman and the Board knew were worth their price tag.
They haggled over small stuff, but they got the deals done early before other teams could overbid and steal the deal from us (SEE: Perez to Arsenal).
Since then, it has become apparent the Everton decision makers are taking a different approach.
WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING HIGHLY SPECULATIVE TERRITORY
From the information I have gathered and my own experiences at guessing wildly, this is what I think has happened.
After the two early signings and the rapid on-field success, prompted largely by the introduction of the teen wonders (I haven’t even mentioned Dominic Calvert-Lewin), the board, Koeman and Walsh had a realization.
Instead of buying players en masse in January in an effort to change the momentum of a club struggling to finish top half, Everton is in a totally different spot then they thought they would be, even in December.
Now battling for a Europa League spot, full of depth in the midfield, and infused with TALENTED youth, there is no rush to buy.
Everton is not without its flaws, and the list above of what fans want is not too far off of what the squad lack.. New forwards, depth in the back and varied wide options are definitely areas of need.
They just aren’t needed IMMEDIATELY.
So now, instead of being led on by clubs hoping to squeeze as much money as possible from the new rich kids on the block, the Toffees now sit in a position of strength.
Able to walk away from deals they view as inequitable as opposed to beg the selling team to come down to their price, the Board at Everton is no longer having their hand forced.
Ok...great...so why haven’t we leveraged out some good deals then??
Well, as I mentioned before, most players on the transfer block in January are still at least fringe members of their current squads, so selling late is preferred.
What it appears (and I PRAY) Everton is doing, is waiting to strike late for another big target.
By waiting until later in the window, they are able to make an offer without other teams entering the fray and driving up the price. Everton can make a solid offer, the selling club won’t have time to drag out negotiations and the Toffees can get players at closer to fair value.
BUT WON’T WE MISS OUT ON PLAYERS BY WAITING SO LATE!?!?!
Yes, but because we did our most important business at the beginning of the window, promoted from the academy with great success, and are in the middle of a great run of form, that’s ok.
With everything mentioned above, no matter what happens, Everton have won the January market.
Now if we could just win a trophy........
PS. I predict Everton will sign a PROVEN attacker on deadline day.