I volunteered to write this article. Not sure why, exactly... I don’t actually believe that Everton need a striker in January yet I offered to be the one to write about which striker we should sign. Does that seem right to you?
The reason for my consternation over the overall question of whether we need a striker is complex. You see, I believe in Cenk Tosun. I think that in a system that runs both Theo Walcott and Richarlison, a pro’s pro like Cenk who can drag defenders and create space with his movement and be a big body to worry center-halves is incredibly ideal. While I’m at it, I think Dominic Calvert-Lewin has all the mental and physical tools to develop into a very nice English Premier League striker and I think he’s on schedule too in his development.
Much has been made of the move of Richarlison to striker, a position that I think most people instinctively believe is playing him out of position. What gets missed in all of this talk most of the time is that Richarlison at striker almost always incorporates Bernard at wing.
There’s a reason for this. When Richarlison is at striker, if Walcott takes up a winger position we now have two players who are primarily shooters with limited open play chance creation behind them in forward areas. Our two best overall creative forces, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lucas Digne, are valuable because of their remarkable combination of set piece and open play creation.
Bernard, on the other hand, is arguably the best purely open play creator we have, so when Walcott and Richarlison are both on the pitch he fills the creative void and gives them better opportunities to score.
Therefore, Richarlison starting at striker isn’t so much about Cenk Tosun or Dominic Calvert-Lewin, it’s about moving our best goalscorer up top so that our best open play creator, Bernard, has somewhere to play.
All of this to say, if you talk about signing a striker in the upcoming window, you need to do so with an understanding of what tactical void he will fill. Is he going to play with Richarlison and Bernard? If so then he simply needs to be a finisher. Is he going to play with Richarlison and Walcott? Well then he probably needs to be a creator or at least do what Tosun does in his movement- but if you’re going to sign the latter, why not just play Tosun?
I’m going to assume that the plan is to have a first choice front three of Bernard, Richarlison, and the new player in my suggestions and you can do what you’d like with them. That means we’re looking for a finisher for Bernard to provide passes to.
Moanes Dabbur - Red Bull Salzburg
The Israeli forward Moanes Dabbur has been linked to both Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks and has six goals and an assist in 500 Europa League minutes this campaign. He also has 9 league goals in the first half of the year. Transfermarkt has the 26 year old valued at 15m, which would be an excellent value buy.
The downside is that this move kind of feels like Cenk Tosun 2.0: established striker from smaller league in his prime comes to the EPL. If you weren’t in love with the Tosun deal this may not be your bag and if you are in love with the Tosun deal you don’t think we need him anyway. But he’s a good player and has the potential to get the job done. I am curious as to whether Everton’s issues with RB Leipzig would cause problems in dealing with their sister club in Austria.
Alvaro Morata - Chelsea
Alvaro Morata has been linked with a swap deal for AC Milan’s Gonzalo Higuaín in a deal that would see two unsettled former Real Madrid strikers trade shirts. The problem is, swap deals rarely ever happen so if Maurizio Sarri is keen on bringing in the man in Higuaín who scored 36 league goals for him at Napoli, Morata is likely to want a different destination than going-nowhere-fast Milan.
If you want a shiny striker transfer that moves Richarlison off the #9 and solves the striker problem perfectly, this is it, but the problem here is one of stature. We can’t loan in Morata because we already have Zouma on loan from CFC so it has to be a buy. Such a buy would be incredibly costly (Transfermarkt has him listed at 50m) and we would have to convince a player whose only senior clubs have Real Madrid, Juventus, and Chelsea that the Everton project is worth being a part of. Not impossible, and Everton has spent serious money the last couple of Januarys, but just because someone is the perfect player for the role doesn’t mean there is a good path for him to fill it.
Emiliano Sala - Nantes
I am normally extremely cautious about players from Ligue 1. Talk of the ‘top five’ leagues in Europe always bothers me because outside of Paris St. Germain and Lyon (and Monaco a couple of seasons ago), the French league is miles behind England, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Sala is enjoying his best season at Nantes to date (at age 28) and has at the halfway mark already tied his goal tally from the previous two campaigns. He’s even been linked to Everton.
Here’s the worst part. He has nearly doubled his xG projection so far this year. That means he’s running incredibly hot in the finishing department and that’s probably not sustainable for a guy who underperformed his xG by three goals last year and only overperformed it by 1.5 the year before that. Remember Sandro Ramirez? He had numbers like that.
Sala’s probably the worst player on this list and he’s certainly the one we are most likely to buy. Everton that.
I’m gonna keep this really simple. We don’t need to buy a striker in January. If you insist on having one, get a guy like Aleksandar Mitrovic next year when Fulham go down. The logistical issues in any striker deal make it highly unlikely that we improve on what we have, and don’t let fans who only count ‘goals scored’ fool you, the ones we have aren’t bad.