As the Premier League season (thankfully) winds to a close, the relegation picture is becoming clearer. For a time, it looked like Everton might be involved in that dogfight, but the Blues’ talent has seen them creep to 12 points clear of the drop.
At present, Southampton, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion are in the relegation places, while Crystal Palace and West Ham United are perilously close to trouble. We’ll soon find out who departs for the Championship, and when we do, there will be some good players available. Could Everton take advantage? Here are some options to consider.
Ryan Bertrand | Left back | Southampton
It is evident to anyone with two eyes and a brain that Everton desperately need a left back to succeed Leighton Baines over the long haul. Ryan Bertrand is a very good one. The Englishman has won a Champions League (at Chelsea) and been capped 19 times for the Three Lions.
While Bertrand would make the Blues better next year, he’s already 28 years old, and would have a legitimate argument for supplanting Baines immediately. It’s worth a look, but probably not worth upsetting an entire apple cart.
Jonny Evans | Center back | West Bromwich Albion
The Northern Irishman is another similar case to Ryan Bertrand. Jonny Evans is a good player who fits a position of need for Everton (the sooner we see the back of Ashley Williams, the better). Trouble is, he’s already 30.
Where the Evans situation diverges from Bertrand, though, comes in terms of a potential transfer fee. Evans has a bizarre £3 million release clause in his contract if West Brom are to get relegated, and I’m here to tell you: they’re getting relegated.
Evans is a well-rounded, experienced Premier League defender, and he’s far and away better than Ashley Williams. If Everton can beat back the top six sides supposedly interested in Jonny’s signature, £3m would be worth the risk.
Mario Lemina | Midfielder | Southampton
Bereft of opportunities in a crowded Juventus middle, Mario Lemina made the switch to the Saints and has had a very good first year in the Premier League. A key part of their buildup from the base of the midfield, the Gabon international will likely look for greener pastures if Southampton can’t avoid the drop.
At 24, he’s full of potential and would ably replace Morgan Schneiderlin, for whom it looks like there’s no way back with the fans. His passing range and creative abilities would make him an able partner for Idrissa Gueye in the double pivot, and Everton would be well-served to make a push for signing Lemina especially if the Steven N’Zonzi links fall through.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg | Midfielder | Southampton
Hojbjerg is a central midfielder who could realistically play in a deep-lying, box-to-box, or advanced role — though he’s probably best utilized as a No. 8. He’s been in and out of Southampton’s lineup for much of this season, though I’m not entirely sure why Mauricio Pellegrino rated players like Oriol Romeu and Steven Davis ahead of him.
In the club’s first match under new manager Mark Hughes, the Dane played the full 90 and scored a goal in an FA Cup match against Wigan Athletic. In his time at Schalke and Southampton (when given chances, at least), he’s proven to be capable of playing significant minutes at this level.
He might not supplant Idrissa Gueye or Gylfi Sigurdsson in the center of the Everton midfield, but his work rate, technical ability, and tactical flexibility could make him a useful player going forward for the Toffees, especially if Tom Davies and Davy Klaassen fail to impress before the end of this season.
Xherdan Shaqiri | Winger | Stoke City
The Swiss winger’s move to Stoke was a puzzling one when it happened, with bigger clubs in Europe calling and Everton interested too. Xherdan Shaqiri has consistently been their best player in the three ensuing seasons and has scored seven goals with six assists this season.
Shaqiri has mostly played right wing at Stoke, though earlier in his career with Inter Milan and Bayern Munich he has lined up at left wing and Attacking midfielder as well. At just 26, he represents an upgrade over Yannick Bolasie and can back up Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle too.
Wilfried Zaha | Winger | Crystal Palace
A pacy player renowned for his dribbling skills and can line up anywhere along the forward line, Wilfried Zaha could be worth a flyer for the Blues. A Palace youth team product who wasn’t really able to break through at Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United, he has long been a figurehead for the Eagles but could look elsewhere as he turns 25 especially if they do drop out of the Premier League.
Ironically, the Blues could use him to replace his former teammate Bolasie out on the left, but he has played off-the-striker as well as lead forward for an injury-stricken Palace side this season.