It’s become something of a running joke among the RBM staffers. Every time Everton is linked to a central midfielder, I imagine the group runs hiding under their desks, knowing the grumpy monster I’m about to become.
“Everton doesn’t need another %@$^ing central midfielder, guys,” I say, as if the group doesn’t already know it’s coming.
But here we are again, and it’s gotten to the point that I have to move my frustration from our private channels out into the public, because I can’t believe this is a discussion we’re still having.
With the news that William Carvalho is very actively pursuing a route out of Sporting in Portugal (the levels to which that has escalated are a little unclear, but the intent is plain as day), we’re stuck pondering the possibility that a move to Everton is a potential end to this saga.
Now, I have nothing against Carvalho.
He’s by all accounts a very good, though not utterly remarkable player – solid at shielding his back four, good at transitioning his team from defense to attack, ultimately the pace-setter for his team’s style of play.
It all sounds great…until you realize I also just described Morgan Schneiderlin, who, as you may be aware, is already at Everton. Yes he struggled the first half of this season, yes his attitude was poor, blah blah blah.
The reality is that Schneiderlin’s been an excellent player when put into a half-decent tactical setup, and if you don’t believe me, go look at some of the lineups he featured in this season before the last two months of the campaign.
And thus, we’ve settled into the problem that pops up regardless of the central midfielder linked to Everton.
Deep-lying midfielder like Carvalho? We’ve already got a Schneiderlin for that.
Box-to-box midfielder like Jack Wilshere (link) or Yves Bissouma (link)? We’ve already got an Idrissa Gueye for that as well.
Creative midfielder like James Maddison (link) or Hakim Ziyech (link)? We’ve already got a Gylfi Sigurdsson for that too.
None of the central midfielders Everton has been linked to are demonstrably better than the starters the club already has at that position – and some of the supposed targets are very clearly worse than what the Toffees already have.
And the reality is that players who are better than Schneiderlin, Gana, or Sigurdsson by any meaningful distance aren’t going to want to come to Everton, not right now anyway.
It’s a humbling reality, but it’s the truth. No clear-cut, top-tier player is thinking to himself “Boy, I really need to get in to play for a team that finished 8th in the Premier League last season.”
“But wait!” I hear you say. “What about depth at those positions?”
Excellent question, hypothetical reader who I am using solely as a device to move my point along! What about depth indeed.
Having some talented cover at this positions would be a big help…if the Toffees had a European competition to contend with this season.
Farhad Moshiri and friends don’t need to be dropping £100,000+ a week for a guy who is only going to start eight matches this season – especially when there are legitimate gaps in the back line and wide areas.
Even more important than the money, though, are the players who would be missing out on play time if players like Carvalho, Wilshere, or Ziyech came to Goodison.
Everton has a young, extraordinarily promising, player at each central midfield slot right now, and the idea of replacing them for a minimal-at-best gain is utterly ludicrous.
Reflect on Beni Baningime, Tom Davies, and Nikola Vlasic, who could serve as first backups to Schneiderlin, Gana, and Sigurdsson. I think most Everton supporters can agree that these three have immeasurable potential and the possibility for fruitful careers at Goodison Park ahead of them.
But, two of the three barely played at all last season, and Davies got shuffled forward into an uncomfortable creative spot too often when he played. These guys simply aren’t going to improve unless they get to play senior minutes.
And they aren’t going to get senior minutes if Marco Silva already has to balance minutes between Schneiderlin and Carvalho, Gana and Wilshere, or Sigurdsson and Ziyech.
What gain does the moderate improvement from a newly-signed player over the existing young player really bring for the upcoming season? Are the 600 minutes Beni Baningime might play in 2018-19 really the difference between top six and non-top six? Does 600 minutes of William Carvalho really make that much of a difference without significantly building up the squad elsewhere too?
I’d love to say that Everton is that close to breaking through, I really would. But that’s not realistic, and we all know it.
The gains, then, of bringing in another central midfielder are pretty limited – if there are any at all. The Toffees are better off focusing their energies on drastically improving the centerline and the left flank, bigger areas of immediate need.
But the cost of such a move, and the failure to develop such promising young midfielders – well, as one of my RBM colleagues like to say, “There’s a reason that bad teams stay bad.”