Having covered the strengths of the squad in another piece, we’ll cover weaknesses here. There are some areas of the pitch I do not necessarily consider strengths or weaknesses. They’re just ‘fine’. Goalkeeper is this sort of position for me, so is RB with Jonjoe Kenny returning, these are positions that could certainly be upgraded but they are good enough that they aren’t a transfer priority. Most of this article will just be me complaining about central midfielders.
If we are going to persist in a 442, and I think we are for the most part, something has to be done about that midfield pivot. I personally rate Andre Gomes, I just think he was understandably exhausted after the restart and wasn’t given proper time to recover from his horrific injury, but we realistically need four reliable CMs and we simply do not have them.
Understandably, this area of the pitch has also been very active in terms of transfer rumors, notably with Allan and Doucoure linked (frankly two signings are probably necessary here). Let’s show what those players would offer compared to say, Tom Davies:
The black outlines there are Allan and just... wow, what a difference. Here’s Tom and Doucoure:
Not quite as dramatic a difference, but still I think just fundamentally different levels of player. I don’t use Tom as the example here because I am trying to pick on him or anything. Of the CM options for comparison, Gbamin played virtually no minutes and Gylfi’s numbers aren’t reprsentative of a full season in that double pivot CM slot. Gomes probably isn’t going anywhere regardless, so Tom is the comparison point. I think in a world where Allan and Doucoure both showed up, they would be our starters, with Gomes as the first option off the bench and either Gbamin or Tom as the fourth option.
As things currently stand, I don’t consider us even remotely functional at CM, and the buys need to happen in a hurry.
More so than other position groups I think the biggest problem with this squad is the dead salary that complicates every single move we try to make. The biggest name here is of course Gylfi Sigurdsson (£100k a week), who I personally like as a player. No other component on this roster fits the kind of team Gylfi needs though, and he’s on a high wage and doesn’t naturally play a 442.
Everton still, horrifically, has Sandro Ramirez on the books (£65k), and Bernard, while a nice player, is making way too much money per week given his actual on field contribution (£120k, the bite of a free transfer). Alex Iwobi doesn’t seem to have a natural place in this side, and he’s on £50k a week. Cenk Tosun is on £60k. Yannick Bolasie is on £75k a week.
Part of this problem comes from cycling through several managers of widely different philosophies in such a short period of time. Iwobi theoretically fit Silva’s system, he doesn’t fit well in a 442, Gylfi was bought to play in Ronald Koeman’s 433, Cenk Tosun was about the closest thing to a good idea Sam Allardyce had while at Everton. It’s royal blue messy, honestly.
I feel strange about this one. Theo Walcott looked better in Carlo’s 442 than he’s looked in a long time, Anthony Gordon showed a lot of promise and initiative, Bernard, for all his wages, does good things. Really there’s a desperate shortage of natural right side players, and the one we do have, Walcott, is showing some age.
If we signed a right winger/wide midfielder and gave Gordon a year to see if he could lay firm claim to that slot on the left, I think I’d be fine with that idea. In a magical fantasy world where we could sign a promising young wide right player, dump Bernard and Iwobi’s contracts somewhere, and get a veteran to pair with Gordon on the left, I’d be thrilled.
The stern reality of Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton project is that it is going to take time to get the books truly in order. In the meantime, any moves we make will simply be setting up to survive in the meantime. There’s too much salary not really helping right now, and there’s not great way to fix it besides just waiting out some contracts. Selling Morgan Schneiderlin to Nice helped (though I still think he’s a nice 6 in a 433), Oumar Niasse and Cuco Martina’s contracts finally rolled off, but a lot of these contracts will be here for a while unless we can convince other clubs to take these players off our hands. We may sacrifice some transfer fees in the process but getting that done should be a huge priority.
And please, for the love of all that is good in the world, sign some central midfielders!