The legacy of failed transfer splurges past, combined with yet another managerial change, an end-of-season loss of form and a global pandemic meant it was a far from straight forward transfer window for Everton.
Marcel Brands actually went into the window under pressure from some sections of the fanbase, with his reputation for unearthing diamonds questioned after some less than successful recruits.
I personally felt such criticism was harsh given the circumstances, but any doubts about Brands’ ability have hopefully been eased by what should be considered a hugely successful transfer window for Everton.
The number one target for any club is to be stronger at the close of the window than you were at the start - something Everton have undoubtedly achieved.
We all knew the centre of midfield was a black hole during the restart, but the recruitment of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have plugged those gaps, with both players slotting perfectly into the side.
The presence of Carlo Ancelotti no doubt influenced Allan’s decision to swap Naples for Merseyside, but Doucoure looks to have been a long-term target who has finally made the move to Goodison Park after several years of trying.
The unexpected diamond of the summer looks to be Niels Nkounkou. The 19-year-old joined on a free transfer and was initially expected to link up with the U23s. But Leighton Baines’ retirement meant a slot opened up the in the first-team squad, and if Nkounkou’s early performances are anything to go by, he is more than ready to fill it.
Kudos to Brands for that one.
Godfrey solves long-standing defensive problem
One of the main failings from last summer was the lack of a fourth centre-back, with the summer-long pursuit of Kurt Zouma proving fruitless.
The Toffees took their time to correct that mistake this time around, but the capture of Ben Godfrey looks to be an astute one.
The Pickford question
There were already enough issues in the squad before Jordan Pickford decided to provide Brands and co with another headache.
Pickford endured a difficult restart, making a number of errors, and it was hoped the short break would allow for a reset. Sadly, the mistakes have continued into the new campaign, forcing Everton into a quick re-think.
The late capture of Robin Olsen is unlikely to be a long-term solution, but it certainly puts Pickford on notice.
I suspect Ancelotti won’t hesitate to drop Pickford if his mistakes continue. And should that be the case, then a new number one will likely be on the shopping list starting January but most likely next summer.
James’ star shines bright
Last, but not least, the star of the show. James Rodriguez.
What can you say about a player who is a true global superstar? The most naturally gifted player I have seen since Andrei Kanchelskis. Some Blues of an older vintage say he is the best since Alan Ball. High praise indeed.
While there were question marks over his fitness, getting him on a free transfer is a stupendous deal for Everton, as is the two-year contract with the club retaining the option of third.
The way he is going an extension beyond that is likely.
Brendan Rodgers once said that the problem with football management is that it’s like “trying to build an aircraft while it is flying.”
So while Everton needed strengthening, they also needed players, many of whom are on sky-high wages, in a market suppressed because of the coronavirus pandemic, moved on. All things considered, that must be considered a success too.
Oumar Niasse, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sandro Ramirez’s hefty wages are now off the books. Half of Theo Walcott’s wage is now being picked up by Southampton while PSG are picking up the tab for Moise Kean.
Kieran Dowell, Maarten Stekelenburg and Luke Garbutt have also moved on to reduce Everton’s bloated squad – though it shouldn’t end there.
More to come
Everton can still do deals with EFL clubs for another two weeks so they will hope to move the likes of Muhamed Besic, Matthew Pennington, Beni Baningime and Callum Connolly on. Jonas Lossl is also likely to leave now Olsen has been brought in as goalkeeping cover.
Interestingly, the Portuguese transfer window is still open for another three weeks so that could be an option for Yannick Bolasie, who has previously spent time out on loan at Sporting Lisbon. Bolasie has been told he has no future at Everton and with less than 12 months left on his contract, will likely be allowed to leave for free.
If all of the above are moved on, that would mean 12 players have come off the wage bill permanently, plus Walcott and Kean.
Several youngsters could also be sent out on loan, most notably Jarrad Branthwaite, who is currently recovering from injury, and Nathan Broadhead, joining prospect Lewis Gibson.
That would represent a superb window for Everton, given the circumstances they are operating in. With their outlay of around £60m considerably less than many of their rivals.
The squad isn’t perfect, but the majority of the glaring holes have been filled and next summer’s transfer targets already look clear – namely right-back, back-up striker and an extra wide forward. Pickford is also on thin ice right now, which could add goalkeeper to that list.
Getting to the point where Everton can laser in on targeted recruitment rather than wholesale changes was an important first step for Brands, something which he is edging close to achieving.
I’m no finance expert but ‘The Esk’ on Twitter has suggested Everton’s transfer business has been constructed in the right way to mitigate losses and pass FFP regulations.
Just to add we are not out of the woods, our accounts are going to look horrific for 19/20 & as things stand for 20/21 but in terms of improving the squad remarkable. Down to Moshiri's continued financial support & the expertise/pulling power of Brands & Ancelotti— the esk (@theesk) October 6, 2020
The next set of financial results is still likely to contain a lot of red, but Everton won’t be alone in that respect with how COVID-19 has ravaged the sport.
With things going swimmingly on the pitch there is a lot to be excited about with Everton right now. But the best thing is, with Ancelotti at the helm, it is likely to get even better.