Everton were looking at a big transfer window this summer with European qualification, yet as the team inevitably fell short of these ambitions, the means by which this can occur will be a bit different than what was previously expected.
Less financial room to maneuver, less room on the depth chart and fewer incentives to offer players who decided to come to Merseyside are all potential hurdles as Manchester City’s 5-0 thrashing of the Blues on the final day consigned them to a tenth-placed finish.
Yet the club did not expect to lose their boss Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid and that particular blow might be the most severe; players were interested in playing for him, as a legendary manager with legendary credentials, even if Everton weren't in a European competition.
Now, with him gone, while there will be money between Farhad Moshiri’s wallet and that which is earned through the (probable) Moise Kean sale, choosing the right boss and players to accentuate the talent already on Merseyside will be even more crucial than before.
TOP PRIORITIES: Boss, Central Midfield and Wingers
We have a bonus top priority this year, as Ancelotti has of course, moved himself to Madrid and away from Merseyside. In looking for a new manager, the Toffees must find someone who really wants to be there, and who really wishes to build a legacy as the manager who righted the Everton ship.
Yet had Ancelotti remained, the top priorities for the Blues on the pitch were still going to centre on the wing positions, as well as the central midfielders of the squad.
While Richarlison had a reasonable season, James Rodriguez found himself on the shelf far too often with injuries; Alex Iwobi was not up to the task of playing opposite Richarlison, and that left the team unable to play in certain shapes at certain times during the season. When Iwobi was moved to a more central role, he was hardly any better; it is safe to say that he may well be gone this summer, alongside the likes of Fabian Delph, Bernard and potentially Andre Gomes as well.
These departures will leave depth available for whatever talent can be afforded between Moshiri’s wallet and Everton’s transfer market earnings, yet their replacements will have to be coordinated with their new boss and the type of players he is looking to add to the squad.
While I have mentioned names like Leon Bailey and Thomas Lemar out wide, many of my internal, midfield suggestions were tailored to fit the previous boss; a coach like Graham Potter, Antonio Conte or Christophe Galtier might wish to bring some players over that they’re familiar with, alongside other high quality figures.
HIGH PRIORITY: Striker
As I noted in my striker report card piece, the difficulty in grading them as a unit and individually became that, in my eyes, they often had less help from the midfield and wide positions than they required.
In games where James played, the game often appeared more fluid and more beautiful, in many ways. When he was absent, pressure often fell to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score, which over the course of an entire season, wore him down into a less efficient version of himself.
Richarlison, who has made his home at Everton more on the left wing than up top, was not an adequate replacement for Calvert-Lewin up front, but did fare slightly better as a partner alongside him in Ancelotti’s narrow 4-4-2 towards the end of the season. Joshua King was virtually non-existent and has, of course, been released now.
So, it is a high priority to get Calvert-Lewin some help up top: not a Cenk Tosun or a King, but someone who can consistently put the ball in the back of the net when they are called in during a hectic part of the schedule or even in the latter stages of the match. Young names like Daryl Dike, Abdullah Sima, Silas Wamangituka or Rafael Leao remain potential solutions via the transfer market; that they also have the ability to play in other attacking positions as well could be an added bonus for Everton.
HIGH PRIORITY: Right-sided fullback
While Lucas Digne is always class on the left side of the pitch, and Niels Nkounkou is a player that the last coaching staff saw enough in to sign last summer, the right side needs a dependable option as well.
Seamus Coleman might not be with the team as a regular starter for too much longer, and even if he remains, he alone cannot be depended upon, while Jonjoe Kenny appears massively out-of-favour and struggled on loan at Celtic and Ben Godfrey is not a natural right-back.
Godfrey’s old Norwich City team-mate, Max Aarons, is, however, yet Aarons is a man in high demand and Everton could turn to a potentially less expensive option in PSV Eindhoven’s fullback Denzel Dumfries, who has been linked with a move to Merseyside this week. As Norwich are back in the Premier League, they will want a pretty penny for Aarons, who has been the subject of interest dating back into last season.
Both players are young, yet Aarons is four years Dumfries’ junior and has already demonstrated his ability, like his ex-teammate, to be able to handle the competition at this level. Dumfries might yet display this at this year’s Euros of course, yet as of now, we know he is quite good for PSV and within the Eredivisie.
In any event, gaining a new right-back would go far in giving Everton a dependable selection of back line players moving forward, with a mixture of experience, youth and tenacity sprinkled right in front of Jordan Pickford.
MEDIUM PRIORITY: Goalkeeper
Pickford himself could use some help behind him, too. With Robin Olsen going back to Roma to await his fate with new boss Jose Mourinho, Everton need to find a suitable backup for him.
While last season, Pickford’s future was unclear, England’s number one demonstrated his virtues during the final months of the season in which, he played very, very well for the Toffees. With the young Joao Virginia sitting behind Pickford currently, a more senior player, even if only by a few years, might help to shore up that segment of the team and push him on further, as Olsen seems to have done this year.
ANY WORK NEEDED? Centre-Backs
Everton should have some money this summer, yet no team can address every desired position each year, even if you're Manchester City.
While player sales will help with this year, alongside whatever Moshiri can contribute, the centre backs cannot be a position that we build up externally. Yerry Mina, as gangly and unseemly as he appears on occasion, really makes a difference to the entire team when he is fit and engaged. Michael Keane has often provided solid leadership and determination during his time in royal blue, as well, even if he may be likelier than Mina to lose his place to the hugely impressive Godfrey.
Mason Holgate, a player whom I quite appreciate despite his inconsistency, has to improve and show a greater spirit in defence. I do not believe the 24-year-old should be moved on, and believe he can regain sense of his form and ability. Young Jarrad Branthwaite, on loan last season with Blackburn Rovers, will hopefully begin to nudge his way into the conversation soon, as well.