After a few weeks of inactivity and uncertainty, the past 72 hours have seen Everton’s potential transfer activity take off, with rumors related to both arrivals and departures coming in all the time.
It started last week with reports that Everton and Chelsea have officially opened negotiations into a deal for Romelu Lukaku — that deal remains likely, though Michy Batshuayi’s hesitance to be part of the deal might slow negotiations.
Manchester United’s move for Victor Lindelof then left Everton in pole position for Burnley’s Michael Keane, who would fill a huge gap in the Toffees’ back-line. Lindelof’s arrival could pave the way for the departure of Chris Smalling, in whom Everton reportedly has also shown an interest.
Spanish striker Sandro Ramirez was supposed to make a decision on a potential move to Merseyside yesterday, but no news has yet come out one way or another.
All that, of course, pales in comparison to the last 24 hours. It started last night, with the report that Ross Barkley turned down an offer to become Everton’s highest-paid player — leading to the club’s decision to let the player leave, and look to bring in both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen to replace him.
This morning, reports surfaced that the club had all but finalized a £30 million deal for Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, filling another massive hole in the squad.
PHEW! That’s a lot of news!
This is all very interesting, of course, but it’s also still a little abstract. To get a more concrete understanding of exactly what all this could mean for Everton, I want to put together a depth chart based on the current rumors surrounding the club.
Taking the above into consideration, Everton’s first-team might look something like this:
Let’s take a closer look at each position to see where Everton stands.
If the Jordan Pickford deal really is forthcoming, Everton is pretty set in goal. The English keeper will become the club’s clear top choice at the position.
I’ve listed Maarten Stekelenburg as the backup here, because he seems more likely than Joel Robles to be willing to stick around in a minor role. It is also possible that 20-year-old Mateusz Hewelt, who just signed a contract extension, wins the back-up role.
Either way, Pickford’s signing puts the team in a comfortable place between the sticks.
Let’s start in the center of defense, where reinforcement is definitely needed after last season. The position seems to be a clear priority for Ronald Koeman, who now has a very good chance of signing his top target, Michael Keane.
The Chris Smalling rumors are significantly less concrete and more polarizing. Some think he could replace Williams in the starting lineup and play alongside Keane, while others think he isn’t worth bringing on even as a backup. In general, his addition raises an interesting question.
Koeman stated even last season, before the club was involved in European competition, that he wanted four first-team quality center-backs in his squad. You’d suspect that with the addition of Keane, that would give the club four — Keane, Ashley Williams, Ramiro Funes Mori, and Phil Jagielka. If Smalling was also added, would one of those players be sold?
Until things on the Smalling front solidify a little more, it’s no more than an interesting thought experiment — but it remains a question that may need answering.
At right-back, things seem pretty clear. Jonjoe Kenny and Cuco Martina (rumored to be on his way to Goodison after leaving Southampton) will fill in for Seamus Coleman until the Irishman returns from a broken leg. Kenny’s strong showings with the Everton U-23s and more recently the England U-20 side have likely vaulted him into the top spot for now.
Leighton Baines will clearly retain his starting spot at left-back, but the club is without obvious cover at the position after the sale of Bryan Oviedo. Jeune Afrique has reported that Everton is interested in defender Florentin Pogba, who can play both as a center-back and a left-back. I’ve included him above, though those rumors remain pretty soft at this stage.
If no new player is added at left-back, Brendan Galloway would likely enter the season as Baines’ backup.
If Davy Klaassen truly comes to Goodison Park, the center of Everton’s midfield will likely be settled for years to come. The Dutch midfielder will become the top choice in the No. 10 role, settling into the most advanced position of the midfield three. Tom Davies will likely be the second choice at the position, assuming Barkley does in fact leave.
Idrissa Gueye will continue to be the first choice box-to-box midfielder, with James McCarthy (if he stays) and Muhamed Besic ready to fill in capably.
Morgan Schneiderlin will continue to be Everton’s No. 6, and as I’ve argued elsewhere, one of the club’s most important players. Gareth Barry is capable of filling in there against certain opponents, but Schneiderlin’s health will be paramount to Everton’s success if another holding midfielder is not brought in.
The Klaassen / Gana / Schneiderlin midfield has the potential to be special, and the presence of Davies, McCarthy, and Barry to back them up should have supporters excited about the state of this team’s core.
Up top, things are substantially less clear. Romelu Lukaku is all but gone, and the only striker who looks close to coming in so far is Sandro Ramirez — surely not a player expected to be an everyday striker.
I’ve got no doubt Koeman and co. are well aware of the need to bring a top-class striker in after the Belgian departs, but as it stands now, it’s hard to see who that might be. Michy Batshuayi is close to that, but reports suggest that he prefers a move to Monaco (and who could blame him?).
For that reason, we’ll leave Sandro and U-20 World Cup game-winning goal scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the only guys up top for now, with the obvious stipulation that a new striker will be needed.
Out wide, things are only a little clearer. I’ve slotted Sigurdsson into the wide left role, where he spent much of last season at Swansea. I think he’s better as a central playmaker, but with Klaassen already there and the team short on wide players, a move to the left is likely. Another star of the U-20 World Cup, Ademola Lookman, will provide depth on that wing.
On the right, we are left with Kevin Mirallas as the obvious choice. Yannick Bolasie will hopefully be prepared to take that position over at some point, but the exact timeframe for that is unclear. I’ve slotted Aaron Lennon in as his backup, but Lennon’s mental health issues could very feasibly keep him out of consideration at the start of the season as well.
Without a doubt, this is the area Everton will need the most improvement on top of what is already rumored. Sandro is not the answer for a team looking to chase the Champions League, and Mirallas has proved to be far too inconsistent to be relied upon on a weekly basis.
The Toffees need to add another striker and winger before the window closes.
Overall, the news of the last few days has created reason for substantial hope on Merseyside. If the rumors are to be believed, the Toffees could have a formidable backline and midfield by the time July’s Europa League qualifiers roll around.
However, movement will have to be made up front as well, or the team could struggle when the Premier League season begins.