Next up in our player-by-player review of the past Everton season, in which each individual will be recapped and rated is: Bernard
Bernard was seen as something of a coup for Everton when he joined on a free transfer last August. The Brazilian was widely linked with a move to Chelsea and West Ham before Everton emerged as contenders late on in the window, with the deal confirmed on deadline day.
The 26-year-old was a free agent after leaving Shakhtar Donetsk so hadn’t played a competitive game since the end of the Ukrainian season in March. As a result it took a while for Everton fans to see the best of the diminutive forward. But by the end of the campaign he began to show glimpses of his true quality.
Once he broke into the team Bernard largely remained there, making 25 starts in the league. The fact he was substituted 21 times perhaps highlights his lack of match sharpness after a truncated pre-season as well as the adjustment period required when coming into the Premier League. A return of one goal and just three assists is a tad disappointing, but Bernard isn’t the only player who needs to improve that side of his game next season. And the way he ended the season suggests he will be able to improve his productivity next campaign.
That lack of a pre-season meant Bernard was slowly introduced to the first-team, only making his first start in the Carabao Cup defeat to Southampton in mid-October. He was initially deployed on the right of the front three behind a lone striker, with fellow Brazilian Richarlison on the opposite flank. However, after briefly losing his place in the side in late February he impressed as a substitute away at Cardiff cutting in from the left. That’s where he would remain for the rest of the season, with Richarlison on the right, Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle and Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front. Things just seemed to click both for Bernard and the rest of the team, who lost just two of their last 11 games.
With a summer’s rest and then full pre-season in front of him, there’s no reason why Bernard cannot push on to even greater heights next season. Despite his slight frame he was quickly able to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, growing more productive as the season went on and his fitness improved. Marco Silva is likely to add more firepower to his forward line this summer but even with that added competition, Bernard’s versatility should ensure he sees plenty of first-team action again next season
A slow start, for obvious reasons, but grew into his own as the campaign progressed and proved to be one of the most astute purchases of the season.