The 2016-2017 campaign is starting to come to an end (there are only five more matches!) and the major questions facing the Toffees heading into the summer are starting to come into view.
From: “What should we do with Lukaku?”, to “Which centerback(s) should stay?”, the Everton front office face the most pivotal summer in recent memory.
If Walsh, Koeman, Moshiri and the rest of the board are to meet fans burgeoning expectations they are going to have a nearly perfect summer window.
The biggest domino to fall is certainly the fate of Romelu Lukaku, but you could argue that it is the defensive signings that hold the key to future success, and that is where I want to focus.
If the Toffees bring in a pair of successful young center backs, as well as a full-back or two, then they’d be stationed for short AND long term success in the back and in the midfield, following a stellar past two windows addressing the center of the park.
Most tackles won in 2016/17:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 18, 2017
Idrissa Gueye (92)
Lucas Lima (90)
Diego Demme (75)
Felipe Anderson (74)
Marcos Llorente (73) pic.twitter.com/qbnxuPLywM
Morgan Schneiderlin's game by numbers vs. Burnley:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 15, 2017
93% pass acc.
4 tackles won
Settled in well. pic.twitter.com/lbiEEDjNJl
Schneiderlin, Gueye, Tom Davies and crew have propelled the Blues into the upper most echelons of Premier League engine rooms with both age and contract situations leaning HEAVILY in the Toffees favor.
While the back line is not barren, Baines is getting up in age, Jags and Williams ARE old (especially for center backs), and no one knows what to expect from Coleman when he returns.
Those are all KNOWN entities though, and while their futures are certainly of interest and importance, they are also short, at least as far as their Everton careers go.
What is going to determine the club’s approach to rearranging in the back line will be greatly dependent upon the development of the younger defenders.
Mason Holgate has certainly shown promise and ability, though I do wonder about his best long-term position. Is he a better right back than center back? If so, is his ceiling at right back high enough for our ambitions?
Matthew Pennington, Brendan Galloway and others, on the other hand, will have to prove to Koeman that they can make the same transition from the youth squads to the senior team that Tom Davies did so well this season.
If Koeman develops an innate trust in some (or all) of these players the Toffees decision-makers will be able to emphasize quality over quantity in the back, a trait they have shown a knack for in their first two windows.
If the youngsters can’t pull a Davies, the Toffees are going to be in the market for a number of defenders to bring into the squad, not a preferred approach for Koeman and Co.
A back line is built on trust and relationships, meaning Jags and/or Williams will still be around in August, but in order to reach new heights the Toffees either need some young players to step up or will spend the summer searching high and low for quality defenders.
Let’s see what happens!
Now to your questions!
After a week of taking both literal and proverbial shots , Ross Barkley definitely came into the Burnley match with a chip on his shoulder.
Everton fans, keenly aware of the knifes edge upon which his future is balanced, showed Ross all the love they could.
Plenty of support for Ross Barkley at Goodison Park today #EFC #EVEBUR pic.twitter.com/anfe5oTKQz— BBC Merseyside Sport (@bbcmerseysport) April 15, 2017
With speculation about his future at the club (or not at the club) running rampant, Barkley’s response was going to be read into one way or another.
Come out tense, nervous or lacking confidence and the murmurs of it being time to leave Goodison Park would only grow louder.
Show up with steely resolve, play with passion, dominate the match and Toffees fans would take a breath knowing his Merseyside passions run as deep as ever.
Luckily for Everton supporters, Ross went with the latter and former.
Boy did he ever.
Ross Barkley’s game by numbers vs. Burnley:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 15, 2017
100% tackles won
4 chances created
Taking up his now standard right wing role, Barkley simply took over the match.
From his passing to his defensive work, Everton’s diamond made sure supporters know where his heart truly lies.
By the time he scored (who cares if they rescinded it) all Ross wanted to do was share it with his fans, who DEFINITELY noticed.
Ross Barkley pic.twitter.com/HdjiDRg6oW— Josh (@JQEFC) April 17, 2017
Ross Barkley though... pic.twitter.com/tSc5AV7swX— GrandOldTeam (@grandoldteam) April 15, 2017
Even the mayor got involved!
@grandoldteam @RBarkley20 Given the week this boy had, today he showed the real grit and determination that we love at this club led by example,hope he stays,good win pic.twitter.com/RXsaAItZ8s— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) April 15, 2017
So after the love he showed the Goodison faithful Saturday in both his demeanor and his performance, and the knowledge that he is in BY FAR the best, most consistent form of his career, I think his future can be summed up in this tweet.
Straight to the Gwladys street doesn't look like he wants to leave #RossBarkley #evebur— PJQ-Blue (@paulajadenquinn) April 15, 2017
Finally, Ronald Koeman is many things, but dumb is not one of them.
Brilliant from @RonaldKoeman getting @RBarkley20 a deserved standing ovation & love from the Goodison faithful #efc #evebur #EFCmatchday pic.twitter.com/EPyuV61Otd— Borneo Blues (@borneo_blues) April 15, 2017
I think Ross is going to re-sign and is in for the long haul.
Bramley-Moore as home
On the banks of the Mersey
Let the titles flow
As promised last week, I am going to now identify each team’s spirit animal, along with a one sentence explanation as to why I chose that animal.
My guidelines are simple: what animal best represents the emotional and physical traits of any given team.
This week I will cover the bottom half of the table. Make sure to stay tuned for next week’s conclusion to PREMIER LEAGUE SPIRIT ANIMALS!
So without further ado...