The 2018-19 season is about to get underway, so it’s time to review our pre-season campaign, look at the players we have brought in and assess the squad. Are we better than last year? Is the squad stronger and better balanced? Are the players ready to hit the ground running at Molyneux versus Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow, the 11th of August?
Richarlison - £35 million from Watford, Yerry Mina - £27 million from Barcelona, Lucas Digne - £18 million from Barcelona, Bernard - free agent (formerly Shakhtar Donetsk), Andre Gomes - loan from Barcelona, Kurt Zouma - loan from Chelsea, Joao Virginia - free from Arsenal
Ramiro Funes Mori - £8.1 million to Villarreal, Davy Klaassen - £12.15 million to Werder Bremen, Wayne Rooney - free to DC United, Joel Robles - free agent (joined Real Betis), Callum Connolly - loan to Wigan, Kevin Mirallas - loan to Fiorentina, Ashley Williams - loan to Stoke, Henry Onyekuru - loan to Galatasaray, Antonee Robinson - loan to Wigan, Shani Tarashaj - loan to Grasshoppers Zurich, Conor Grant - loan to Plymouth, Luke Garbutt - loan to Oxford United
Let’s take a look at the Everton squad and who’s doing what this season.
The goalkeeper position is arguably the strongest at the club. Jordan Pickford’s profile has soared after a successful World Cup campaign. Behind him, we have Maarten Stekelenburg. While at Everton he has never ascended the heights he reached earlier in his career (double penalty saves at Man City aside!), he is still a decent back-up keeper, who played 58 times for Holland, including a World Cup final. We have also signed 18-year-old Joao Virginia from Arsenal, and 21-year-old Mateusz Hewelt is highly regarded.
So we have a range of keepers at the club who are all at different stages of their career. It would have been good for Pickford to get some game time in our last friendly against Valencia. This aside, we are well stocked in the goalkeeper position.
Marco Silva seems to prefer a back four, whether we play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. With Seamus Coleman and Jonjoe Kenny we have the right back position covered. Likewise at left back, we have Leighton Baines and Lucas Digne fighting it out to be first choice left back. At centre half, we only had Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane before transfer deadline day, as Mason Holgate currently has an achilles tendonitis issue.
We appear to have completely reinforced this position with the signings of Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma, so we have this position well and truly covered also. The task now for Marco Silva will be to make a solid defensive unit from the players mentioned above.
The personnel is in place, but it has to be a concern that we are starting the season with a goalkeeper and back four that have never played together.
It looks like we will be lining up with three midfielders in Silva’s formation, and this is a position where we have some options. Idrissa Gueye is undoubtedly the engine room, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is nailed on to play as an attacking midfielder, but the other place is up for grabs. Morgan Schneiderlin will probably get it initially, but we have not brought in André Gomes on loan from Barcelona for nothing.
Schneiderlin has underwhelmed for a long time now and there are doubts about the efficiency of having Gueye and Schneiderlin in the same midfield. Tom Davies has ability but needs to step up - he may yet be better served from a season on loan somewhere.
James McCarthy has a long term injury. Muhamed Besic seems surplus to requirements, having seen a move to Middlesbrough fall through. We also have younger options in the form of Beni Baningime and Kieran Dowell.
Let’s hope that Silva can get the blend right in the midfield also. Along with the centre back position, this is another key challenge for Silva. More intensity and better ball retention will be required. If Schneiderlin doesn’t start the season well, he can expect Gomes to take his place once he recovers from a hamstring injury which is expected to keep him out until the end of this month.
We seem to have an array of options up front all of a sudden! Richarlison on the left, Theo Walcott on the right and Cenk Tosun up front. It’s a slight concern that Walcott has missed a lot of the pre-season, and he looked rusty against Valencia.
We do have various other options though. On the wings, we have Ademola Lookman and Bernard, although Nikola Vlasic and Yannick Bolasie appear to be surplus to requirements. Sandro Ramirez is willing, but is he able?
Up front, we have Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse as back up to Tosun.
Richarlison has impressed in pre-season. He has looked likely to produce a moment of magic any time he has had the ball. It will be interesting to see how Tosun gets on this season. He scored five in 14 games last season in a Sam Allardyce team where he fed off scraps. Could he get us 20 goals with improved service? He has his limitations as a player - he’s not the quickest, and he’s not the most mobile, but he certainly can finish when he gets a chance.
All in all, we have plenty of options up front, more than we have had for a while now, so hopefully last season’s struggles to score are a thing of the past.
On paper, we have the best squad we have had for a while. We have options in every position; we now have two left backs, five centrehalves, plus an array of midfielders, wingers and strikers. We may well see some departures yet, as clubs from abroad can still sign our players. It would round off an excellent window if we could shift some of the players no longer required - such as Besic, Bolasie, and Vlasic.
Currently, seven players have come in and twelve have departed. Some of the players have not had too much game time in pre-season though; Pickford, Holgate, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin & Walcott, along with most of the new signings. This has to be a concern. It’s doubtful don’t think we will be fully up to speed until some time in September, but there has simply been so much change at Goodison over the summer - even some of the pre-season friendlies were cobbled together last minute.
We’ve got a new manager, new players and some of the deadwood has been allowed to leave. The summer hasn’t been long enough for us. Pre-season results were disappointing, but this probably helped Silva and Brands to convince the Everton Board to splash the cash this summer. We now need to fine tune the squad, get some good work done on the training ground, and hopefully we are in for a good season. Thankfully the early season fixtures seem much kinder than last year - hopefully the results will be better also!
Come on you Blues!
Danny Broderick has signed on at Royal Blue Mersey just before the transfer window closed - please join us in welcoming him to the crew! #WelcomeDanny