Encountering a few opinions after the Arsenal match (especially from our beloved fearless leader Calvin) got me pondering two separate questions. The first was whether a 3-2 loss on the road at the Emirates can be considered a ‘moral victory’ and the second is what players on this current roster would actually still be here in three years if Carlo Ancelotti remains manager and we progress to being a force in the European places of this league.
I think the two questions are closely related.
The reason I think they are related is that as a club Everton have splashed on the biggest name manager in their entire history, and so far there is not a single player on the roster who is part of his transfer policy. Most of these guys won’t be here in the next two-three years so any results we get against good teams right now are just Carlo working out some wizardry with spare parts. The simple fact of the matter is that we outplayed Arsenal on Sunday, as you can see from this xG map:
xG map for Arsenal Everton— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) February 24, 2020
Arsenal is still more talented than we are, and we outplayed them in their own building. I hate the result turned out the way it did but I’m not incensed by the performance. You’re welcome to disagree, but below I will make my case. I’ll organize players currently owned by Everton into three categories: 1. Men who should be starting in three years. 2. Men who should be part of the squad in three years. 3. Men who I’m on the fence about.
Starters in three years
It’s 2023 and Everton is banging on the back door of the top four and their qualification for Europa League as the 5th place side in the Premier League represents the worst finish they’re likely to end up with this season. We pick our first XI against Manchester United who are definitely not being managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Carlo is pacing the sidelines. Who from our current crop of players is starting?
At 22 years old, Richarlison should only continue to grow as a player. By 2023, hopefully he will have figured out how to pass the ball, but he’s already one of the better two way wingers in the Premier League. Observe:
If he stays healthy, continues to develop, and no one comes in with a £100m offer for him, Richarlison will be starting for Everton for a long time.
Now for a player that might be a touch more controversial, but here’s a 22 year old with 12 goals in 1700 Premier League minutes so far this season. Carlo Ancelotti has come out and said he tried to sign the striker while he was at Napoli, and frankly it seems like DCL gets better and better every week. We’ve wanted that ‘Lukaku replacement’ ever since the big man left for Manchester United, and I think we’ve got him. Don’t believe me? Rom’s last season with us he scored 0.69 goals per 90 minutes. So far this season, DCL is scoring 0.62. Good enough for me to not want to go drop £50m on a #9.
I also think that since DCL is already at this point we eventually move on from Moise Kean. He’s too talented to be a backup but I don’t see him overtaking Calvert-Lewin for the 9 slot. I don’t think he’ll be here in 2023.
If you want to flame and rage at this, fine, I’m mainly just going to shrug back at you. Pickford isn’t so much on this list because I think he’s a stellar goalkeeper, he’s on this list because given how expensive keepers currently are in the market, Pickford is good enough that he’s not worth replacing. Chelsea’s in 4th with Kepa and Willy Caballero in goal, Spurs are in 6th playing a combination of Hugo Lloris and Paulo Gazzaniga (and before you hit me with ‘Lloris is a World Cup Winner’, Pickford was in the semis of the same WC.)
If we find a diamond in the rough or produce a stellar youth player, sure, no problems replacing Pickford, I just don’t think we need to go spend another £30m+ looking for a keeper.
I can’t believe I’m even typing this. Before the year started, I was rather vocally on the record as saying I didn’t think Mason had a future in the English Premier League, but the young defender has figured it out. He’s probably been our best CB this season, and if the 23 year old continues to improve he’ll be good enough to be a starter on a team in Europe and arguably the English national team.
Last guy that I think will be starting in 2023. Digne is one of the best fullbacks in the Premier League and will still be in his 20s when 2023 gets here. With 0.19 xA per 90 and completing 70% of his tackles, there’s no reason to be looking for a new LB anytime soon.
Still in the Squad
Either Djibril Sidibe or Jonjoe Kenny could be the starting RB in 2023. Kenny has had a wonderful year at Schalke, and he’s just 22. He’ll probably be entering his full prime in 2023. Sidibe is a wonderful player right now, even accounting for having a bad match against Arsenal, and Carlo likes him both at right back and right mid in his 442. If we’re still running that formation in 2023, I expect both these guys to be used quite a lot. Sidibe will be 30, so he will probably have lost a step by then, and he may be a full time midfielder, we’ll see.
Here are their offensive contributions so far this season. For the ‘Kenny is already better than Sidibe crowd’, Sidibe completes a higher % of his tackles and here are his creative stats compared to Kenny while playing in a tougher league this season:
Yerry’s 25 and is a pretty decent CB. Despite being in his mid 20s he still only has about 3000 minutes of European top flight play in his career, so I think with experience he’ll get even better. By 2023, he may be the third CB depending on who we buy, but I see no reason to think he can’t still be with the club.
In 2023, Gomes will be 29. He’s just a solid midfielder who does a little bit of everything and a guy like that is always useful. Talent-wise I hope that in three years we’ll be able to do better in the first XI than Gomes but he should absolutely still be a contributor.
So, based on what’s above, we have five players who should still be starting in three years. Three of them are young players who we expect to still develop (so they aren’t at the level we need them to be yet) and one of them is a keeper who we’ve basically argued would be too expensive to replace. There’s just not enough fully developed talent on the roster for me to get upset if we aren’t hitting our long-term goals this season. I hate losing, but I’m not shaping any negative narratives by the Arsenal loss or frankly by any other losses we’ll see this season. This roster needs too much work for me to act like I should have high expectations. Everton is not good enough yet to not still have moral victories.