Stats: Everton 2019/20 Wingers
Under Marco Silva in 4-2-3-1, the width and production was being generated more by Richarlison, Bernard and Alex Iwobi. The biggest issue quickly became that Richarlison could not play both up front and on the wing simultaneously, and that without him, the wings of Everton became more inconsequential by the moment.
When December brought Carlo Ancelotti, and with him the 4-4-2, Everton were now putting more direct pressure on goal; unfortunately, neither Theo Walcott, nor Bernard looked up for carrying the load out wide consistently, while Iwobi became less pronounced under the new boss.
How these players, as well as some new ones, can handle the challenge this year will play into how creative and effective Everton can be playing smooth, attacking football.
Alex Iwobi - with James Rodriguez potentially on the right side if not in central midfield, Iwobi should find a comfortable home on the left. He will likely rotate with the likes of Anthony Gordon, and perhaps Bernard; he could even see some time on the right side should injuries or scheduling become an issue.
At Arsenal, the Nigerian showed flashes of brilliance from the left side; his creativity, expression and finishing were visible under both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery. Under Silva, he was used both wide left as well as a number ten behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Moise Kean or Richarlison.
Under Ancelotti, nearly a full year into his administration, Iwobi will have to take control of the left side of the pitch to really create the space and situations for his strikers to take advantage of more consistently than last year. He’ll have to build on his two goals and an assist across all competitions, but that is doable with the integration that comes with time and practice under one’s coach. There is support around him, however, in both youth and experience.
Anthony Gordon - the 19-year-old is a part of Everton’s future, but perhaps even the present as well. Gordon can play across the front of whatever shape is used. While he can play centrally, either wing, preferably the left, is where we’ll be more likely to see him in rotation. With some wide players looking less likely to feature routinely at Goodison Park, it will be up to the local boy to make his mark on first team football.
While he’s seen used sparingly relatively-speaking, Gordon is likely to see more action with the European trend moving towards playing youth earlier and earlier. If he gets his chance, don’t be surprised to see him take it. This would be ideal for everyone in blue in Merseyside and beyond.
Bernard - the diminutive Brazilian winger was responsible for a few memorable, and sometimes winning, strikes last season; yet with just the three goals and two assists last season, he will need to look as sharp as he did against Preston to remain relevant at Everton.
Should he remain on Merseyside when the transfer window closes, he will offer the club another wide option to choose from. While it’s unlikely to see him as a consistent starter, he could still offer depth in rotation with Iwobi and Gordon.
Theo Walcott - there is simply no possibility that Walcott remains at Everton; were he to, he simply wouldn’t be played. It is in his best interests certainly to find a club that can use the flashes he can still provide as he nears 30. The former Arsenal winger hasn’t lived up to expectations, although has given a memorable moment here and there. We all wish him well wherever he should decide to go.
Richarlison? - this is, for me, the most interesting of the winger reviews. Richarlison has featured as a striker more frequently and recently than a winger. Why have him on both lists? Because with his diversity, he allows Everton some flexibility to fix weakness where it may present itself.
With his 15 goals and four assists, it seems likely that better service and play from the entire team should result in a better season for the Brazilian still. But depending on the service outside, as well as the standard of young players like Kean and Calvert-Lewin in front of goal, will determine where ultimately Richarlison will play most of the time.
While I anticipate that will mean he spends most of his time in the opposition’s 18-yard box, it could also mean he spends time creating width. That he can do either is a luxury Everton should consider themselves lucky to have in the first place; we will be better off should we not rely on him to do it too often, however.
Nathan Broadhead - should the left-winger from Wales get some time at Everton as opposed to a loan somewhere, he could offer another presence. Another young, passionate player out wide can’t hurt the Toffees. Especially when one considers the possibility of transfers for names like Bernard and Walcott, it will be a good opportunity to include the next generation of home grown talent to first team competition.
Yannick Bolasie - reduced to depth or excess at Goodison, Bolasie found himself on loan again last term, this time at Portugal’s Sporting. Not left yet and featured in both pre-season friendlies but it’s hard to see a future at Everton for the 31-year-old.
State of the Position
The state of the position is positive, yet certainly not definitive. There are players that can make substantial impact for the Toffees going into this new campaign, as well as players that may yet see themselves departing Merseyside; how everyone plays together, and what combination will be best become the real questions we must ask ourselves as the season approaches.
It will take time, and so shouldn’t be too pressurised a circumstance immediately as the season commences. But with the big-summer spending Everton has endeavoured for this year, they will need to demonstrate efficiency, team spirit, diversity of position and more.
These wingers will play a massive role in how effective and efficient the central strikers can be; between them and the new Allan-Doucouré midfield, there is a real opportunity for a true step forward domestically for Ancelotti and Everton.
With new energy from Rodriguez on either side of the shape, and an energised Iwobi, the attack should be more fluid than last season. Taking into account the innovations of midfield and (potentially) the back line, it is difficult not to be excited for the possibilities that lie ahead for the Blues this campaign.
As for the rumours linking the Blues with a move for Thomas Lemar or Hirving Lozano, those are gamechangers for Everton should they be able to muster the funds for those transfers, but there will be lots of time to talk about that later.