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Everton transfer window analysis — taking stock of the current roster

Ronald Koeman filled significant gaps, but others still remain

Chelsea v Everton - Premier League
Leighton Baines points to his non-existent left-back cover.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Everton’s 2017 summer transfer window was...weird.

The early portion was great — Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, and Jordan Pickford all joined, filling key holes in attack, midfield, defense, and goal.

The middle portion was agonizing, but useful — it took a little while to get Wayne Rooney, Cuco Martina, and finally Gylfi Sigurdsson through the door, but each filled an important need as well.

The final portion was brutal — the Toffees added youth midfielder Dennis Adeniran and Hajduk Split winger Nikola Vlasic, but left huge holes remaining at striker and on the left side of defense.

That leaves Ronald Koeman and Everton in a place that’s difficult to assess. Was the window a success because of the players brought in? Was it a failure because of the obvious holes still remaining? As is usually the case, the truth is somewhere in the gray area between the two.

So, let’s take a look at the roster Everton has at its disposal at least until the January window opens.


Striker

Alright, let’s get the rough stuff out of the way first.

Everton is going to be pursuing a top-six place and competing in the Europa League group stage without a clear top-level striker. That isn’t to say that there aren’t talented or useful pieces among Everton’s strike corps — but in a league where the teams the Toffees are trying to chase down have Harry Kane, Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero, Roberto Firmino, and Alexandre Lacazette, the club’s current strikers cannot compete.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been very good so far this season, but he’s still only 20 years old and surely cannot be relied upon to single-handedly carry the load. Sandro Ramirez scored 14 goals for Malaga in La Liga last season — no small feat. But, he’s struggled with injury so far this season, and his best position is still a little unclear.

Wayne Rooney has made good on his return to Everton thus far, but he’s no longer an elite striker option, and has spent most of his time playing out wide or in the midfield thus far anyway.

Final Verdict: Koeman made spreading around the goals a top priority for his team this year, but a top club still needs a striker it can rely on for 15+ goals during the season. As it stands now, the Toffees have the depth to more evenly distribute goals, but no one to call upon in the big moments.

Winger

Koeman brought in Gylfi Sigurdsson largely to play the left wing role in his 4-3-3. The Dutchman appears to prefer to play through the wide areas on the right side, allowing Sigurdsson to drift into the center and play as a central playmaker, rather than forcing him to play in the true wide areas.

Kevin Mirallas is another player capable of playing this outside-in role on the left, if his issue with Koeman ever blows over. Wayne Rooney could also get a look in this position, if Koeman has to dig down in the depth chart for any reason.

On the right side, the long-term plan appears to be Yannick Bolasie, who could be back as early as October. The idea, presumably, is that Bolasie and Seamus Coleman can link up on the right side, where Everton will look to overload opposing defenses while Sigurdsson floats in the middle.

Ademola Lookman is something of a Bolasie stand-in for now, with Aaron Lennon also a good option to have, particularly in matches where Everton expects to do a lot of defending.

Final Verdict: Provided Bolasie is indeed back in October, the Toffees will be three acceptable players deep at both wing positions — more than enough to carry them into January and beyond.

Central Midfield

Koeman’s preferred 4-3-3 operates with its three central midfielders holding three separate roles — an advanced midfielder who plays as almost a second striker, a box-to-box ball-winner, and a deep-lying, defensively sound playmaker.

Davy Klaassen was brought in to be the advanced midfielder, but injury has complicated his first few months with the club. He’s shown bright spots, but still will need to do some adjusting to the more competitive Premier League. Tom Davies can also play in this role.

Idrissa Gana Gueye is the obvious first-choice player in the box-to-box role — and he’s been absolutely stellar so far this season. Tom Davies can play this role also, though Muhamed Besic may be a more appropriate analog to Gana.

Morgan Schneiderlin is the deep-lying midfielder of choice, and is one of the best in England at his job. Gareth Barry was the backup at this position, but his move to West Bromwich Albion obviously takes him out of the equation. Muhamed Besic and Idrissa Gana Gueye are the only players remotely capable of starting in his place — so this is an area to watch in the first half of the season.

Final Verdict: The Toffees, in all, have five central midfielders who can comfortably play against most of Everton’s competition. However, the lack of a true Schneiderlin backup is a bit concerning — whenever the Frenchman misses out, a change of shape may have to come into play as well.

Full-Back

Traditionally, full-back has been one of Everton’s strongest positions, but Seamus Coleman’s injury does complicate things a little bit.

The Irish right-back should be back before the New Year though, and Cuco Martina has been a decent, if not outstanding fill-in in the interim. Mason Holgate hasn’t been horrendous on the right side of defense either, so the situation at right-back, while not ideal, appears to be under control.

Leighton Baines continues to be the man of choice at left-back, and for good reason. His play on both ends of the pitch continues to justify his automatic inclusion in the XI for Everton — and perhaps a chance at another England call-up as well.

Of course, even if Baines was playing like garbage, he’d still be in the XI because Everton has absolutely no depth at left-back. Ramiro Funes Mori was supposed to provide depth at that position, but his injury has taken him out of the equation at this time.

Past him, there’s only questions. The only other player who appeared as a left-back in Everton’s preseason preparations, Callum Connolly, was just allowed to leave on loan for the season, leaving...Luke Garbutt? Cuco Martina? Maybe Aaron Lennon in an absolute bind?

Final Verdict: Koeman’s Coleman contingency plan isn’t perfect, but it’ll do until the Irishman returns. The bigger issue is depth at left-back — where Leighton Baines cannot be expected to play every Premier League and Europa League match, but there appears to be little other choice at this time.

Center-Back

Michael Keane appears to be the real deal in the center of defense, and there’s reason to be excited about the long-term implications of having the English giant at the heart of Everton’s plans.

Both Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams have performed adequately next to Keane so far this season — the former more than the latter — and that combination of players gives Everton a first-team center-back pairing capable of handling most anything thrown at the Toffees this season.

Koeman was keen on bringing in a left-sided defender to help out until Ramiro Funes Mori returned, but no such addition was made. Mason Holgate can slide into the center of defense if the Toffees need to go four players deep at that position, but he hasn’t quite proven to be up to the task against decent opposition.

Final Verdict: The first-team combination of Keane and Jagielka/Williams will be more than acceptable for this season. Everton’s failure to bring in another defender this window could create problems if Keane gets injured or fatigued, but if neither of those situations develop, the Toffees should be fine here.

Goalkeeper

Jordan Pickford has been excellent for Everton this season — he’s proven to be a clear first-choice keeper in just a few months’ time.

Maarten Stekelenburg is a reasonable back-up keeper — especially given that Joel Robles is still hanging around the first team as well.

Final Verdict: Everton is in good shape between the sticks — little else to say here.


Overall, Everton’s first team is 10/11ths in great shape — or will be once important players return from injury. Still, all those pieces could go to waste if there isn’t anybody to put the ball in the back of the net.

The Toffees’ depth is overall pretty solid, though. There are plenty of squad rotation players at striker and winger, a decent bit of cover in the center of midfield and defense, and two acceptable options at right-back. However, the left-back depth issue is one that could cause problems before the January window rolls around.