If the last quarter plus of this season is an indication of things to come, we have every reason to be very optimistic about the Everton project moving forward. Marcel Brands has bought well and Marco Silva (finally) figured out how to put the pieces together in a winning formula in the English Premier League.
The key this summer will be to ensure that we do not lose what we have, and that we build on the momentum we’ve built. With this in mind, I view Everton’s potential transfer work in three main categories: securing what helped us this year, bringing our own young players into the fold, and adding the right pieces.
Securing what helped us this year
The very first priority for Everton this summer should be the permanent signing of Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes. If either loanee returns to their parent club this summer, the priority becomes buying someone of their skill level at their positions, and of course such a new player would be a year behind Gomes and Zouma in adjusting to the club and system.
I think it is unlikely that either parent club will be too dedicated to trying to keep these players. In the position that Gomes would likely fill at Barcelona, they have the massively talented Arthur who has come into fruition in a big way this year. Their priority in midfield will be the replacement of Philippe Coutinho (and possibly Ivan Rakitic, if they are foolish) and someone more truly attack minded than Gomes will be what they want. In recent years Barca has largely eschewed growing their own talent for a highly commercialized heavy spend policy, and a shiny new toy will probably more attractive to them than Gomes if they can get a good fee for him.
In the Kurt Zouma situation, I know that many folks are convinced that with an incoming transfer ban, Chelsea will absolutely refuse to sell him. While this is a possibility, of course, I do not consider this a particularly large concern. Zouma has been sent on three loans during his time at Chelsea, and has only had one year where he started more than ten games in the league for them (2015-2016 when they finished 10th and Jose Mourinho was fired). I see no indication that Chelsea considers Zouma a top four type talent, and that of course will continue to be their goal, transfer ban or not. In addition, new rules about the number of non-domestic loanees allowed for clubs will be coming in to effect soon, and as Chelsea tries to sort out their three dozen plus list of loan players some will certainly be sold.
Transfermarkt has this duo listed at a combined £47m, but I think securing the pair may cost closer to £60m given how important both were for us this year.
Young players into the fold
The solutions to a lot of the gaps Everton needs to address already exist either on loan or with the first team. A backup (and eventual replacement?) for Gylfi Sigurdsson already exists in Nikola Vlasic, we have an upgrade for Bernard already in the first team if Silva will just put a little faith in Ademola Lookman, depth for Richarlison exists if we can get Henry Onyekuru’s work permit sorted, and it is my belief that Dominic Calvert-Lewin will continue to develop at striker.
Knowing how transfer summers work, it is very unlikely that all these things happen. If we do not bring home Vlasic or Henry and we fail to patch things up with Ade, then each of these positions represents a potential buy. Because they are attacking positions those buys could become expensive in a hurry. There is no reason, however, to keep Calvert-Lewin from the starting post at striker. As Richarlison continues to grow into a first choice scoring option, we do not need our starting #9 scoring 20 league goals a season. If he can contribute 10-15 he can be a viable starter in a quality offense. This year, Calvert-Lewin has six Premier League goals in 1776 minutes matching his xG tally almost perfectly. Assuming development by the player and an increased minutes load, there’s no reason he can’t improve on his 222 minutes per G+A rate and while he is at it contribute to at least 15 goals next season.
Adding the right pieces
Two years ago, it had been my hope that at this point Everton would have consolidated seventh and be working to close the gap on the top six. Unfortunately, where we find ourselves instead is competing with Watford FC, Wolverhampton, and Leicester City for that position. I firmly believe our roster is more talented (and has a brighter future) than that of Watford or Leicester but Wolves present a problem that is unlikely to go away as long as Jorge Mendes is using them as a stash for his second tier of clientele.
Making good use of the pieces we already own and maintaining continuity in most of our first eleven are both essential, but we have no choice but to also be aggressive in the market trying to improve. I would like to see us gain a reliable backup striker that Marco Silva trusts to spell Calvert-Lewin (I love Cenk Tosun but I just do not think Silva does), a young starting quality right-back (with all possible respect to Seamus Coleman who is a club legend), and a like for like backup for Idrissa Gueye.
The moves I talk about here will probably cost us over £100m before sales of pieces we already have. This is just part of being a big club in the Premier League in the modern era, we really have no choice. I see the improvement in our first choice XI coming primarily from growth by DCL and Richarlison, and improvement on our right wing and right back slots. Increased depth should also contribute to more points by the end of the year. The goal next year should be about 60 points, and I think with the moves described here we can certainly hit that mark and possibly exceed it.
Meanwhile, if Brands is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat during the summer transfer window either in purchasing or loaning another Lucas Digne type player or three, then we might be able to look even higher.