After another middling year, Everton is looking to bolster the roster and fill out the weak points. Certain areas of the squad are fine enough to not be a transfer priority (like goalkeeper), other areas are points of desperate need (center midfield), other areas are legitimately strong, and it is those that we will focus on today.
I absolutely love the combination of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Richarlison, as a single center forward, is a nightmare and not someone I want leading the line. Pair him with DCL? And I get really, really excited. Here are statistical profiles of both men laid over one another:
I was never a fan of Richarlison’s creativity numbers as a wide player, but move him inside and they stand up much better. DCL takes care of the ball, Richarlison progresses it on the ground - DCL wins aerial duels and finishes, both men press well. This partnership to me is the one element of the roster that I am most sure will be performing at the required level for the club’s ambitions.
If we’re stuck with Fabian Delph, I’d like to see him play exclusively at LB. I despise him in central midfield. With Baines’ retirement we theoretically need a backup in this spot, but I absolutely love Lucas Digne (who doesn’t). When Everton first signed Digne, he was a standard bang average LB in most respects. He’s been an offensive dynamo since coming here, which suggests to me his issues in Spain were just Barcelona stupidity messing up a players’ career, which tends to happen.
In my opinion, the backup LB option is already covered in house. I know he’s abysmal in CM, but Delph really isn’t a bad LB, and in fact his last year at Manchester City that’s where he spent the majority of his time. Here’s a statistical comparison between Delph his last season at City (playing LB) vs the last two years of Leighton Baines.
Delph obviously isn’t in the same category as Baines as a leader, but on the pitch our backup LB position is upgraded simply by vowing to never play Delph as a CM again and moving him over to back up Digne.
Do we need a fourth CB? I think so, but I do like our top trio of Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina, and Michael Keane. I never thought Mason was going to pay off, and I’ll own that I was completely wrong on that one. He’s now one of the best young defenders in England. Mina is still just 25, and I think he and Holgate pair very well. The fact that I like Keane is probably more controversial, so let’s talk about that one briefly. Keane, not surprisingly, is dominant in the air, and is actually better at gaining interceptions than Mina is. Where he falls short is his basically average tackling percentage and long pass completion.
However, as the teams third CB option, I don’t necessarily expect him to be excellent in those areas. If we think of Holgate and Mina as the two nailed on starters and Keane as a rotational piece those measured expectations are ones Michael holds up very well against.
Richarlison, Holtage and DCL are 23. Jarrad Branthwaite is 18, Anthony Gordon is 19. In the next couple of years I think all of these players are going to get a lot better. Realistically if one of the two teenagers pans out that will be great. Do we trust Branthwaite enough to be a fourth CB next year? I’m pretty hesitant. Gordon, I think, has shown himself to be a little bit more ready, but still probably finds himself in a rotational role next season. Moise Kean had a brutal first season, but I think he still has a lot of potential to make good on.
Jonjoe Kenny might well be ready for prime time after a breakout year at Schalke. I don’t really understand the links to right backs like Alessandro Florenzi when we have him in house.
We’ve got some young talent on this roster, and a few spots where I think the quality of players is already where it should be. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of work to be done if Carlo is to have the tools he needs to get this side solidly into Europe next season.