As our season preview turns towards home, we wanted to do something a little differently. Last season we previewed the U23 squad as a whole, but with so many players shuttling between the youth and senior sides, it was time to change it up.
Inspired by our colleagues at Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation’s Tottenham Hotspur site, here are Everton’s ten best players under the age of 25.
10. Jonjoe Kenny | 21 | 3/15/1997
One of the most experienced players on this list, “JJK” has proven to be quite a useful player in the Premier League. Of course, he’s nowhere near as good as Seamus Coleman and is unlikely to get there, but in terms of a solid squad member, you could do a lot worse.
Kenny is consistent, and defensively capable. His overall lack of attacking skill, though, is what keeps his ceiling where it is. Jonjoe is popular around Goodison Park - and with good reason - but I’m not sure I see him as Coleman’s long term replacement if Everton are going to get where they’d like to go.
9. Tom Davies | 20 | 6/30/1998
Ah, yes. The golden boy. Straight out of Merseyside and into our hearts. The hair. The socks worn low. The attitude. The off-field hijinks with other Everton youngsters. That Manchester City match.
In many ways, Tom Davies filled the void that Ross Barkley left when the latter turned coat for Chelsea. He said the right things and played the right way, and his early Everton performances were nothing short of electrifying.
Unfortunately, that day against City has remained the peak of Davies’ powers. While he’s not an outright detriment to the side, Tom seems to have stopped developing. There’s a player in there - we know it - but for some reason, Davies’ performances have become stagnant.
The managerial merry-go-round almost certainly has something to do with that, but it’s time for Tom to get moving. Everton need him, and if he unlocks more of that potential, he’ll fly up this list.
8. Antonee Robinson | 20 | 8/8/1997
This time last year, “Jedi” would not have made the top 10. After a hugely successful season on loan at Bolton Wanderers and several impressive appearances for the senior United States men’s national team, Robinson has made the case to be Leighton Baines’ long-term successor, Lucas Digne or not.
For 2018-19, Antonee is off to Wigan, where he should see plenty of game time and return to Finch Farm ready to make his mark on the Premier League.
7. Nikola Vlasic | 20 | 10/4/1997
An impulse buy on the heels of wrecking Everton defenders in the Europa League, Nikola Vlasic has proved he was more than a one-hit wonder with Hajduk Split. A nifty dribbler who can feasibly play across an attacking band of three (though he’s best in the middle), the Croatian is full of promise.
Vlasic needs to play, though, and after an early run of games for Ronald Koeman he predictably stagnated under Allardyce. Marco Silva has since directed him to train away from the first team, presumably with one eye towards a loan move to the likes of Newcastle United. Such a result would be ideal for all parties, so we can move Niko up this list next season.
6. Kieran Dowell | 20 | 10/10/1997
It’s a little difficult to know exactly what Everton have in Kieran Dowell due to his lack of minutes in an Everton shirt, but one thing is for certain - his performances for Nottingham Forest last season were eye-opening. Dowell developed into one of the Championship’s finest progressors of the ball, and notched 10 goals and 5 assists.
Dowell should have the opportunity this season to play apprentice to Gylfi Sigurdsson, and by all accounts, he’s ready. There’s an interesting argument to make, too, for playing Dowell in a deeper role over Idrissa Gana Gueye against bad teams. Either way - this should be Kieran’s big breakout season.
5. Dominic Calvert-Lewin | 21 | 3/16/1997
Let’s get this out of the way now - DCL is not a very good finisher in front of goal. He has a ways to go there, and provided many a frustrating moment last season. Calvert-Lewin under-performed his expected goals by nearly two, and consistently got into promising positions only to make a meal of it.
He was getting into those positions with ease, though, and that’s a huge reason why Dom has such promise. DCL’s football IQ is beyond his years, and he’s a hell of an athlete. Calvert-Lewin can contribute in the wide areas, too, and while that’s not always the best idea, it does add to his value. If Marco Silva’s staff can improve his finishing ability, look out.
4. Beni Baningime | 19 | 9/11/1998
Defensive midfielders can be hard to evaluate. They’re often at their best when you don’t notice them, and that’s where Beni Baningime shines. Finally called up from the U23 side last season, Beni was hugely impressive in distribution, and showed a talent for the tackle, too.
Baningime can sit deep and recycle play, but he’s not afraid to move higher up the field. He’s smooth, unlike Gana, and calm, unlike Besic. It’s unfortunate that injury has kept Beni off the field this preseason, because he could have a real role to play backing up Morgan Schneiderlin and surpassing the Frenchman sooner rather than later.
3. Henry Onyekuru | 21 | 6/5/1997
One of the few times recently that Everton have pulled a fast one in the transfer market, the Blues signed Onyekuru ahead of a host of clubs, including the likes of Paris St. Germain. The Nigerian winger had scored 28 goals in 57 games for Eupen (Belgium), and followed that up by adding 9 in 19 for Anderlecht.
An injury and a coaching controversy cut short his season with the Belgian champions, but Everton were able to find a new home for Henry in Turkey as he seeks to gain his work permit.
At just 5’9”, Onyekuru is unlikely to ever play striker in the Premier League, but projects as a devastating goalscorer from the wing. After years of suffering through Gerard Deulofeu and Yannick Bolasie, it’ll be refreshing to have a winger at Goodison Park who can actually shoot.
2. Ademola Lookman | 20 | 10/20/1997
Ade is something of a white whale for Everton fans. He was electrifying - and productive - on loan for a Champions League club in Germany. He’s shown tantalizing talent nearly every time he’s made an Everton appearance, and it’s been a minute since the club have had such an explosive attacking prospect.
In short, the promise, and the idea of Ademola Lookman is wonderful. Unfortunately, there are vague inklings of an attitude problem, and the kid has made it very clear that he wants to leave Everton for RB Leipzig. Convincing Lookman to stay, though? That, friends, could be Marco Silva’s greatest work.
1. Jordan Pickford | 24 | 3/7/1994