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How to cut down Everton’s bloated squad

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Everton’s roster is too big even before adding new players

Bury v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Everton supporters have spent the entire summer waiting for the club to do... well... anything.

Last season obviously didn’t live up to anyone’s standards (except maybe Sam Allardyce), so it’s natural to clamor for new players. And yes, it’s very important that the Toffees get this summer right in terms of additions (Malcom pretty please), but there is another factor that needs to be discussed.

Everton has too many damn players.

Not good players, mind you, but players on the payroll and expecting playing time. There are still 27 players on Everton’s roster who got playing time at one point or another last season.

Add back into the equation players who were on loan last year and could be in the equation now — Antonee Robinson, Kieran Dowell, Callum Connolly, and Joe Williams — and you get up to 31.

31!

I don’t suspect any of Brendan Galloway, Tyias Browning, or Matthew Pennington have any real chance to get back in the picture — but you get the point.

Bury v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

So, let’s operate on the idea that Everton currently has 31 players vying for regular roster spots this preseason. Nine of those players would qualify as under-21 players and not occupy a Premier League roster spot this season, so I’m not worried about having players not make it onto the 25-man roster (i.e. the Luke Garbutt tango).

But 31 players is too many for a squad to rotate — and pay. I want to see what the team could look like after trimming some of the fat — and what fat needs to be trimmed.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that finding a buyer / loan partner for any player is doable. I know that might not be ultimately practical, but it’s good enough for this thought experiment.

For this experiment, I’m going to break the players into three groups: those who Everton will definitely keep, those they should think about getting rid of, and those they should definitely get rid of. Once we outline those groups, then we can see where Everton stands.


Definitely Keep

  • Jordan Pickford
  • Maarten Stekelenburg — Stek’s presence on this list isn’t based on his ability, but rather the fact that he’s already on the roster and a reasonably capable backup.
  • Leighton Baines
  • Michael Keane
  • Phil Jagielka
  • Seamus Coleman
  • Jonjoe Kenny
  • Antonee Robinson - He’s a potential future solution at left-back based on his work at the international level, his loan spell at Bolton last season, and his work so far in preseason.
  • Morgan Schneiderlin — Yes, yes, I know you hate him and I’m obviously wrong for including him and blah blah blah. I’m done trying to convince people that Schneiderlin is actually a good player. If the idea of Schneiderlin being good is repulsive to you, think of this spot in this way — Schneiderlin is the only player on the team with his particular skillset. If the Toffees do dump him, it’ll be for a player who is the same type of player — so think of this spot as that player instead.
  • Idrissa Gueye
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson
  • Beni Baningime
  • Theo Walcott
  • Cenk Tosun
  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin
  • Ademola Lookman — If he’s willing to stay, Everton needs to keep this lad.
  • Oumar Niasse — This might need to be amended because Marco Silva has gone out and said that he will not be leaving the Blues.

That’s 16 players Everton definitely should be keeping on board — 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 5 forwards/wingers.

Maybe Keep

  • Cuco Martina — He works hard, can play full-back on either side in a bind, and appears content in a rotational role. He’s not overly gifted, but depending on what else Everton brings in on the back line, he could remain useful.
  • Mason Holgate — Personally, I think he’d do well to spend a year in the Championship. He’s got the physical tools but entirely lacks any mental ones. Perhaps a year of playing the game at a slower pace would help him.
  • James McCarthy
  • Davy Klaassen
  • Tom Davies — I’m not advocating for selling Tom Davies, but he really hasn’t improved over the last year. He needs to be playing, but he’s just not a top-half of the table caliber player yet. A loan could do him some good.
  • Nikola Vlasic
  • Yannick Bolasie — Rumor has it that he’s already essentially on his way out the door, but if that falls through, he could theoretically still be a useful piece at Everton.
  • Kieran Dowell, Callum Connolly, and Joe Williams — All three of these players could stay to fight for a senior spot or go back out on loan.

That’s 10 players who could make the Everton first team this season, but who also could feasibly be allowed to leave in one form or another — 3 defenders, 6 midfielders, 1 forward/wingers.

Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

  • Ashley Williams
  • Kevin Mirallas
  • Sandro Ramirez
  • Muhamed Besic

So we’ve managed to definitively cut out...four players. That’s almost progress! I’d like to get down to 22 players, with the assumption that 3 more players come

To make some of the more difficult decisions, let’s create a depth chart with the remaining players. Players on the “Maybe” list are in bold.

GK: Jordan Pickford, Maarten Stekelenburg

LB: Leighton Baines, Antonee Robinson

CB: Michael Keane, Phil Jagielka, Mason Holgate

RB: Seamus Coleman, Jonjoe Kenny, Cuco Martina

DM: Morgan Schneiderlin, Beni Baningime, Callum Connolly

CM: Idrissa Gueye, James McCarthy, Tom Davies, Davy Klaassen, Joe Williams

AM: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Nikola Vlasic, Kieran Dowell

Wing: Theo Walcott, Ademola Lookman, Yannick Bolasie

ST: Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Oumar Niasse

We need to cut five players from this bunch. Let’s assume Bolasie is already out the door, leaving four more cuts.

There are way too many central midfielders in here, so let’s send Joe Williams and Tom Davies out on loan, which leaves us with two more players to ax.

I want to get rid of Mason Holgate, but the reality is that we’re so thin at center-back that it isn’t really an option. Cuco Martina gives an added bit of depth at the back, so I’d rather not lose him either.

Everton v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Callum Connolly could probably stand to have one more year on loan before making a push for senior team minutes — during which time it would be great to discover what his true position is.

That leaves one cut and three candidates — Vlasic, Dowell, and Niasse. I’d rather not have both Vlasic and Dowell fighting for the same minutes at the same positions — attacking midfield with spot starts out wide. So, in an ideal world I’d find a loan home for Vlasic, allowing him to get the regular minutes that Dowell had last year.

In the long run, I don’t think both Vlasic and Dowell can peacefully exist together on the same team with Gylfi running the show at the No. 10, but moving Vlasic on loan lets the club kick that can down the curb for another year.


With those moves, we’d have a final roster, including transfer additions, that looks something like this:

GK: Jordan Pickford, Maarten Stekelenburg

LB: Leighton Baines, Antonee Robinson

CB: Michael Keane, New Center-Back, Phil Jagielka, Mason Holgate

RB: Seamus Coleman, Jonjoe Kenny, Cuco Martina

DM: Morgan Schneiderlin, Beni Baningime

CM: Idrissa Gueye, James McCarthy, Davy Klaassen

AM: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Kieran Dowell

Wing: Theo Walcott, Ademola Lookman, New Winger 1, New Winger 2

ST: Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Oumar Niasse

Provided that the quality of the additions at the back and out wide was sufficient, that’s a pretty solid squad — one that is relatively secure in both its first XI and overall depth, but without breaking the wages bank or sitting several players on the bench for long spells.

Of course, both finding appropriate homes for the victims of this exercise and adding the proper players are no easy feats, but it’s interesting to see what could be in an ideal world.