With just six weeks until the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Everton have no time to waste in building their squad for what will hopefully be a much-improved campaign.
The transfer window shuts three weeks later on Monday, October 5, but Carlo Ancelotti and Marcel Brands will no doubt want at least the bulk of their business done by the time the first ball is kicked on the weekend of September 12.
Here, we’ll look at the departments on the pitch that need the most amount of surgery for Everton this summer:
TOP PRIORITY: Central Midfield
Obviously. It’s as clear as day that Everton must totally revamp their midfield this summer, with so many in this position struggling for them in 2019-20.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is finished, Fabian Delph never even got going, while Tom Davies still struggles to convince and André Gomes will take time to rediscover his best pre-injury form. And then there’s Jean-Philippe Gbamin, sadly MIA since August.
Everton did at least look a little more balanced with a midfield three in their win at Sheffield United on July 20 as opposed to the 4-4-2 Ancelotti has often opted for, which has usually left the two midfielders dreadfully exposed.
It seemed to ease the workload on Sigurdsson and Gomes in particular, allowing them to focus more closely on what they’re best (or better) at. Neither have looked comfortable in a deeper, more defensive-minded role. Then again, Ancelotti stuck with the same trio of Sigurdsson, Gomes and Davies in Sunday’s 3-1 pathetic defeat to Bournemouth, so who knows if this is the answer?
Regardless, Everton need reinforcements of all sorts in this area. They should probably target another Idrissa Gueye replacement given Delph’s plight and Gbamin’s cruel misfortune with injuries, but are crying out for a more creative, goalscoring midfielder just as badly. At least three arrivals in this department this summer should be the aim.
HIGH PRIORITY: Goalkeeper
Whether you think he’s just had sticky patch or whether you just don’t rate him, we can surely all at least agree Jordan Pickford is becoming a massive problem for Everton.
Only Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka made more than Pickford’s four errors leading to goals in 2019-20 - and his general laid-back demeanour after most of his catalogue of blunders don’t help his cause.
In my opinion, Everton should look to cash in on him this summer while his stock has not completely nosedived, purely for the fact that, while clearly not a bad goalkeeper, Pickford is not good, consistent or reliable enough to help Everton achieve what they hope for under Ancelotti. If not, he undoubtedly needs more fierce competition for his place than the now-departed Maarten Stekelenburg, the untrusted Jonas Lossl or the untested Joao Virginia.
And for those who think Everton could not feasibly attract a better goalkeeper than Pickford: fair comment, but here’s my argument to the contrary - Burnley signed Nick Pope from Charlton the summer after they finished bottom of the Championship, while just two seasons ago, Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson was in League One, on loan at Shrewsbury from Manchester United.
Between them, these two achieved 28 Premier League clean sheets this term and either would be worthy of dethroning Pickford as England’s number one at this stage. There are probably similar gems out there now; Everton just have to know where to unearth them.
HIGH PRIORITY: Full-Back
More through a dearth of options than a patent lack of quality à la the midfield.
At right-back, Seamus Coleman is still a decent option and undoubtedly the sort of heart-on-sleeve player Everton have too few of nowadays, but at 31, it’s no surprise nor any great shame that his best days look behind him.
Judging by Everton’s ‘goodbye tweet’ on Monday, Djibril Sidibé’s loan move from Monaco won’t be made permanent, which is the correct move. Jonjoe Kenny is back from a similar spell at Schalke 04, which by all accounts was a success, but Ancelotti must decide whether a rough diamond in Kenny and an ageing Coleman offer sufficient quality in this area.
Across the flank, Lucas Digne ended a difficult season season in England with vastly-improved performances, but will need competition for his place after Leighton Baines’ retirement.
It’s important, though, that Everton don’t just buy any old left-back evidently not as good as Digne to be his deputy. As in any position, Digne needs a strong rival for his place; ideally someone already just as good, if not better than him, or with the potential to be so. There’s no point bloating the squad out with average players, otherwise.
If they can’t find that elsewhere, Everton may as well save themselves a few million and promote the best the under-23s have to offer here - which may be new arrival Niels Nkounkou, 19.
HIGH PRIORITY: Winger
Ahead of them, Everton’s full-backs may find more fresh blood next season on the wing.
Anthony Gordon looks a star but is only 19 and will require time and patience to iron out rough edges. Richarlison is obviously excellent but much will depend on whether Ancelotti persists with him as a striker or moves him back to where Marco Silva preferred him, and where he played the final two games of this season - on the flank.
That leaves Bernard, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott, who between them offered up a measly seven goals and six assists this term. Granted, Iwobi clearly isn’t a winger, but given he has impressed mostly as a number ten, where does he fit into a 4-4-2 if that is to be Ancelotti’s plan A next year?
Bernard is eminently likeable and brings an element of unpredictability that can be as exciting as exasperating, while his reported £120,000 weekly earnings offers little value for money. Walcott is a willing runner but again struggles with end product.
When Sidibé, Sigurdsson and Moise Kean have all been deployed as wide men on at least one occasion this year, it probably tells you the writing should be on the wall for some of these wingers. All in all, Everton are in dire need of upgrades here this summer, too.
ANY WORK NEEDED?: Centre-Back, Striker
It seems likely that the coronavirus pandemic will have cost Everton a portion of the budget they had planned for this summer’s window, while the hectic nature of it may only make the club’s task more arduous.
With that in mind, it may well be that Everton simply can’t afford to improve every single area of the squad within the next two months, and if that is the case, then central defenders and strikers should be their lowest priorities.
Mason Holgate has shone in a breakthrough season at the back, while Yerry Mina has improved with more game time despite remaining frustratingly injury-prone. Michael Keane is a solid third senior centre-back, too, at least when not asked to play in a higher defensive line.
Jarrad Branthwaite’s emergence here also been encouraging, while the much-fancied Lewis Gibson will return from a loan spell at League One Fleetwood Town, where he earned rave reviews. Gabriel Magalhães continues to be linked, but Everton will probably have to put centre-halves on the back burner due to more pressing matters elsewhere.
As may also be the case at the top of the pitch. Dominic Calvert-Lewin can still improve greatly despite 15 strikes this term, his best year in front of goal. Richarlison matched his tally and has dovetailed with him wonderfully at times, while Moise Kean must be given more opportunities to show his potential - the last two games he started for Everton, he netted in each.
Though, if Richarlison is shifted back to the wing more often next year, perhaps another, more senior striker than Calvert-Lewin, 23 and Kean, 20, wouldn’t go amiss. But this should be some way down an already lengthy shopping list for Everton this summer.