The disappointing 1-0 loss to West Ham United ended an optimistic burst regarding the clubs form and expectations for this season under Don Carlo Ancelotti. The Toffees hadn’t lost in the Premiership since the 28th of November in the similarly disappointing 1-0 late loss to Leeds United. With a week to get ready for the 3rd Round FA Cup match they are to host against Rotherham FC, we can look back at the stretch of games capped by the West Ham match, and look forward to what it should mean for the future of this season, as well as some of the clubs current pieces.
With the January Transfer window open, Everton are right in the thick of things as far as the Premier League table is concerned. There is no reason for the brass on Merseyside to not push for something special this season, with the inconsistent play of the entire league and the talent and will that the Toffees have demonstrated. And so, appraising both the transfer prospects, as well as the prospects of the campaign for the team itself, is for me, of critical importance and necessity; there is lots of possibility regarding each topic in question.
January Transfer Window: Wide open for Everton?
The rumor mill has been swirling for the entire time that the window has been closed since this previous summer; such is the rumor mill every year of course. Yet for this winter, for this particular club, there are added caveats to consider. The team has real potential this season, and players across the team are playing better than in previous campaigns; Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Davies and Alex Iwobi come to mind quickly regarding players in that category. But others have no real place on the club anymore, with Bernard Duarte, Fabian Delph and Cenk Tosun simply place holders under the current coaching administration.
While I previously suggested defensive help, in the form of a loan or purchase of Samuel Umtiti or Unai Nunez, the innovation that has occurred in the absence of the beloved Lucas Digne has demonstrated the creativity of the coaching staff, as well as the versatility that these players have across the backline. Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate have played at either fullback position and have looked proper in doing so. This has been one of the most remarkable transformations to witness since the days of leaky, disorganized football; while those days are persistent for all teams and clubs, it is certainly nice to be able to blame the offense and not the defense or Jordan Pickford.
And so, could a name like Sami Khedira actually be reasonable? It appears so, and if it should be a cheap deal then there will be little harm in trying an old Ancelotti favorite, even at his advanced age. Moving Fabian Delph to this end might be reasonable should the Toffees find someone to take the former Manchester City talent; Everton could still use another attacking winger however, and while names like Thomas Lemar, Hirving Lozano and Isco having been floated about in the past, choosing the proper player of the allegedly available ones will be key. Leon Bailey could be added to that list, although I’m not entirely sure the actual possibility of his acquisition.
Up front, moving Cenk Tosun and bringing in former Ancelotti striker Arkadiusz Milik who is out of favor with current Napoli boss Genaro Gattuso. The player couldn’t cost a terrible price at this point, with him having featured in absolutely no matches this season; he would provide a reliable backup to our superstar Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as well as an invigoration of energy and scoring. It is certainly something the Toffees have to explore if they're not going to bring Moise Kean back during this window, or potentially ever.
And so, the Toffees will have a choice to make: stay as is, allowing the players to mature and grow together, or move pieces and try to swing big. The acquisition of Carlo Ancelotti a little over a year ago suggests ambition, and the fact that the boss has never finished lower than sixth at a major club when given an entire season suggests that the club understand the standard from both his player and itself. I believe that we will see Marcel Brands extend Robin Olsen, move players like Bernard Duarte and Fabian Delph, while bringing in two old Ancelotti favorites.
Bringing in Isco and Sami Khedira likely makes the most sense if the rumors that both Real Madrid and Juventus are selling those players on the cheap. Breaking closer to even than not when losing Bernard, Fabian Delph and Cenk Tosun while gaining quality, well known and well versed veteran pieces like Isco and Khedira would be more wizardry by Brands, the accounting department, and Don Carlo. But even if those moves weren’t to go through, the season is very much in the hands of young quality, and veteran experience; at fifth on the table with 29 points currently, four off of first place, the dropped three points hurts but is not by any stretch a death sentence for the clubs ambitions.
The Ambition of Everton: Top Five or Bust?
At their current position, Everton would be playing in the Europa League next year for the first time since 2017-18. Yet the Toffees can see the Champions League and have played the usual English participants in that competition, save Manchester United, well this season so far. This is why it feels like a proper time to trust the process and to bring in some additional backup for this second half Premiership run. With or without the boost, the Royal Blue must remain ambitious for the top five finish, but with the big wigs of England likely to call on reinforcements themselves, it makes all the sense in the world to expect similar activity this year.
After Rotherham United, the rest of January unfurls as not particularly easy, but much less difficult than the last month plus has been in terms of scheduling and rest. Away at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa before hosting Leicester City and Newcastle United should be at least six points, and anything over eight of nine points has to be seen as another positive month and stretch of matches. Beyond that the schedule is of course varied, with rematches against both Leeds United and Manchester United looming large afterwards; the Fulham rematch and Merseyside Derby at Anfield follow soon after, and positive additions during January could prove particularly useful in those rematches in which the Toffees were unable to find answers to their opposition.
But this season has still a long way to go, with many twists and turns still to follow as well surely. Even after the loss to West Ham and the disappointing fizzle that was the EFL Cup quarterfinals, the club has both spirit and talent, as well as potential, which may be most important of all when mixed with each former. Under the guidance of Don Carlo, the team has made significant leaps in short time, yet to continue this volition, more fuel must be added, and whether that comes from our success exclusively or additions of talent as well, remains to be seen, but for Toffees everywhere, one can only hope that we continue to invest in our own future at this critical junction.