Welcome to the 2017-18 Everton Season Review. Unfortunately, an autopsy is required before we can truly bury this year. Next up, the wingers.
2017-18 Everton Winger Performance
Performance: When utilized, Aaron Lennon proved to be exactly the player Everton thought it was getting when he was first signed – defensively responsible, quick, able to stretch the field, but sometimes lacking end product.
For whatever reason, Ronald Koeman didn’t see a need for a player with those skills in his narrow, defensively fragile team. David Unsworth brought Lennon back into the fold, and Sam Allardyce continued to use him for a time, but deemed him surplus to requirements after adding Theo Walcott and seeing Yannick Bolasie return from injury.
He was promptly sold to Burnley, where he…did exactly what he always does. He helped contribute to a defensively unbreakable setup, created space for his attacking counterparts, and made occasional attacking contributions of his own.
Future Outlook: He’ll be going back to the Europa League next season with Burnley, while Everton tries to figure out how to fill in its winger ranks.
Grade: Incomplete. He probably didn’t get as much playing time as he should have this season, and he’s hard to definitively grade as a result. But there’s no doubt Everton could still have used him after loaning out Ademola Lookman, and the Toffees may yet rue his departure if Lookman leaves this summer.
Performance: Sam Allardyce was brought to Everton to do a very specific job, and he more or less did that job. In 10 years, I highly doubt we’ll think as negatively toward this season as we do right now, because at the end of the day, it probably changed very little for the Toffees.
I would argue that the major exception to that line of thinking, though, is Ademola Lookman. The winger produced three goals and two assists in his final two matches at RB Leipzig, nearly propelling his club back into a Champions League place in the Bundesliga. He’s still not a finished product, but the kid can play.
Future Outlook: Everton could have used Lookman this season, regardless of what Sam Allardyce thought. Given his improvement at RB Leipzig, Everton could most definitely use Lookman next season and beyond.
But is he going to have any desire to stay at a club where he’s been benched and publicly chastised by his manager? Tough to say – but if the new manager has half a brain, one of his first actions in charge of the club will be a very humble phone call to Ade.
Grade: Incomplete. He didn’t play a ton for Leipzig, and he certainly didn’t play much for Everton either. He looked good when he played, but assigning him a grade seems short-sighted. Going forward though, the sky is the limit.
Performance: Added in January, Theo Walcott came to Goodison Park with pretty mixed reviews. He’s been a solid, productive Premier League winger when healthy – but his health has always been a question mark.
He looked strong, quick, and fit from the moment he started at Everton though, and there’s little doubt at this point that his addition was a positive one. He’s capable with the ball in his feet, a pretty strong distributor out wide, and capable in front of goal when called upon. His ability to work well with Cenk Tosun, Everton’s newest striker, is an added bonus.
Yes, at times Walcott was quiet in the final weeks of the season – but primarily because he was being asked to play essentially as an auxiliary full-back. His willingness to play that role is appreciated, but hopefully Everton’s new manager will grant him a freer role than Sam Allardyce did.
Future Outlook: Because Walcott debuted at Arsenal in 2006, it feels like he should be in his mid-30s by now – but he’s actually only 29 years old. He certainly didn’t look like a player who is slowing down this season, and I fully expect him to be Everton’s top choice at wing for the next few seasons.
Grade: B+. Walcott’s clearly still a capable attacker, and brings ability in the final third that was sorely lacking before his arrival. I’d have loved to seen more from him in the closing weeks of the season, while still acknowledging that much of his disappearing act was caused by Allardyce.
Performance: Today is Yannick Bolasie’s 29th birthday. For most of this season, he looked like he was 49.
Certainly, much of that can be attributed to his return from a terrible knee injury, but it remains concerning that those lingering effects will not subside. For a player who has historically relied on his pace and agility to get by, Bolasie seems to have lost almost all of it.
Yala regularly lost the ball, and his lack of ability to create space between himself and the defender meant he couldn’t get away many good crosses into the area. The turnovers were bad, but even they can be forgiven if there is attacking output.
Future Outlook: Bolasie’s age and Everton’s investment in him mean that he will be (barring a miracle) in the squad next season, likely as the nominal starting left winger. Here’s hoping that a full offseason of rest and preseason of training gets him fit and firing.
Grade: D. The only thing keeping this from an F is that I do cut Bolasie some slack for recovering from injury.
Performance: Performance? What performance? The 30 year old Belgian found it impossible to get in the team, and it didn’t matter who was manager. On the rare occasion that Mirallas did play, he was awful. Everton couldn’t loan him out fast enough.
Future Outlook: Mirallas has had his moments with the Blues, and was genuinely effective at various points. He’s whined and complained his way out of the club, though, and I would be incredibly surprised if he reports to preseason training.
Grade: F. The attitude. The lackadaisical play. The dust-up with the coaching staff. The Instagram posts. A year to forget.