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Q&A: How did Everton’s loanees get on this season? (Part Three)

In this third section, we get the lowdown on Connolly, Walcott, Bolasie, Kean and Simms this campaign

Everton v Salford City - Carabao Cup Second Round
Moise Kean and Theo Walcott were both loaned out by Everton this season
Photo by Emma Simpson/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton loaned out 14 players this season, and in this feature, we’ll be getting the lowdown on how each of them fared at their temporary homes in 2020-21.

In the third of this three-part segment, we chatted to those who saw more than most of Callum Connolly, Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie, Moise Kean and Ellis Simms this season:

Callum Connolly (Fleetwood Town)

Position: Centre-back/Right-back Age: 23 Contract Expires: June 2021 Fleetwood Appearances: 42 (all starts) Clean Sheets: 15 Goals/Assists: 2/2

Story of the Season: Having been loaned to League One side Fleetwood in the second half of 2019-20, versatile defender Connolly returned to the Cod Army in October, where he was a regular under both Joey Barton and later Simon Grayson.

Connolly, who helped Fleetwood to a 15th-placed finish in League One, will leave Everton this summer following the expiry of his contract after just one senior appearance and eight loan spells away from the club.

AFC Wimbledon v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One
Connolly is leaving Everton this summer
Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

To find out more about Connolly’s loan spell, we spoke to Fleetwood Town supporters’ page, Cods Chat:

RBM: What position(s) did Connolly play and in what formation(s)?

Cods Chat: He predominantly played at centre-back, as part of a back five in a 5-3-2 formation.

RBM: This was Connolly’s second loan spell at Fleetwood. How did he do?

Cods Chat: It was as consistent as his first spell - commanding, good on the ball, and looked better than League One football.

RBM: Connolly is leaving Everton this summer following the expiry of his contract. Would you like Fleetwood to sign him permanently?

Cods Chat: I’d snap him up immediately but I fear we’ll struggling with his wage demands. We’ll be up against some stiff competition with bigger budgets.

Theo Walcott (Southampton)

Position: Winger Age: 32 Contract Expires: June 2021 Southampton Appearances: 23 (21 starts) Goals/Assists: 3/3

Story of the Season: Signed from Arsenal for £20 million in January 2018, Walcott left Everton in October to return to former club Southampton on loan for the rest of the season.

He was out of contract at Everton, for whom he made 85 appearances and scored 11 goals, this summer, and has already agreed a permanent, two-year deal with the Saints.

Southampton v Leeds United - Premier League
Walcott will be staying with Southampton next season
Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

To find out more about Walcott’s loan spell, we spoke to we spoke to Allen Gunn, from SB Nation’s Southampton blog, St. Mary’s Musings:

RBM: What did you make of Walcott during his loan spell back at Southampton?

Allen: Theo really hit the ground running - he may not have done things that showed up in goals or assists, but he certainly made his impact on the game to help the front two as part of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 4-4-2 system.

I think the injury that had him on the sidelines for two months contributed to his lacklustre run-in, where he only featured in seven games. I think what was always a mark against him was his injury history, which he’s been unlucky with.

Walcott had games where you could see him getting a good run in the team, but on the opposite side of things, he’d bring nothing. He fit perfectly into our squad in that regard - a side with little consistency once it lost confidence.

RBM: Walcott was usually a hard worker at Everton, but often struggled with his end product. What strengths and weaknesses did you notice in his game this season?

Allen: Walcott certainly learned how to be the guy who made the third or fourth pass before the goal. He also did a lot more off the ball to create space for the likes of Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse. I think Danny Ings and Che Adams really benefitted from the work Walcott put in to get them into positions to be effective.

His biggest weakness was just staying fit, because I think that curtailed some of his momentum. In his first ten games, he had two goals and two assists, and you thought that would be something he could carry on, but he was fairly average up until his injury.

RBM: Walcott is joining Southampton permanently when his Everton contract expires this summer. Are you pleased he’s staying?

Allen: I think it’s a good move for both parties.

Southampton’s youngsters will really benefit from having Walcott staying on the south coast. Nathan Tella has been the most vocal of them to say how vital Walcott has been for his own game, and we don’t really keep experienced players around the squad either, because they move on to a bigger club or they just age out and we sell them on.

Having someone like Walcott, who is like a secondary captain, is valuable when you consider how important players like Jose Fonte, Rickie Lambert, Kelvin Davis, Steven Davis and so on were for us when we returned to the Premier League. They make it easier for younger talents to grow into the side and learn where and when to commit, and when and where to reserve some energy.

Overall, will he be a pivotal signing on the pitch? I think that remains to be seen but he’s been largely signed for his off-field professionalism, and that’s important in the modern game where it is trending towards the next generation.

Yannick Bolasie (Middlesbrough)

Position: Winger Age: 32 Contract Expires: June 2021 Middlesbrough Appearances: 15 (12 starts) Goals/Assists: 3/3

Story of the Season: The fourth and final loan spell of his Everton career, Bolasie moved to Championship side Middlesbrough for the rest of the season in January, having been left out of Carlo Ancelotti’s 25-man squad this campaign.

Reconvening with a former manager of his, Neil Warnock, Bolasie enjoyed a fruitful spell at Boro, who finished tenth, scoring three times and assisting four goals.

On Friday, it was confirmed that Bolasie will leave Everton this summer following the end of his contract, bringing to a close his five-year association with the club he has not played for since May 2018.

Middlesbrough v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Bolasie scored three times in 15 Middlesbrough appearances
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

To find out more about Bolasie’s loan spell, we spoke to Jonny Bullock from The Boro Breakdown Podcast:

RBM: What position(s) did Bolasie play and in what formation(s)?

Jonny: When Yannick signed for Middlesbrough, he joined with Neeskens Kebano and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to help bolster our attacking threat.

Yannick was the best of the bunch and went on to play across the forward line (left, right, centrally) as part of a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 system.

RBM: What did you make of Bolasie during his spell at Middlesbrough?

Jonny: Yannick was a great signing for us. The signing itself was best for both parties. Yannick needed games and we needed quality.

As Boro play in moments and long spells without the ball, it can be difficult for any player to make a significant impact throughout the whole game. However, with three goals, three assists and some impressive displays, I think the general consensus with Boro fans is that it was a good signing overall.

RBM: Given Bolasie is out of contract at Everton this summer, and that he seems to have a rapport with Neil Warnock, would you like to see Boro sign him this summer?

Jonny: Yannick has a great rapport with both the fans and Neil Warnock. He really embraced life on Teesside and was admired by both fans and his colleagues. His ability to engage with fans both offline and online was a breath of fresh air for Boro fans, as this can sometimes be hard to come by.

Ideally, we would like Yannick to sign for Middlesbrough in the summer. However, Middlesbrough can simply not afford his wages at the current rate. It’s a case of ‘We’d like to, but whether it happens or not is probably unrealistic.’

We really do wish Yannick all the best in his next move wherever he ends up. We’ve enjoyed his time on Teesside and hope he enjoyed it too.

Moise Kean (Paris Saint-Germain)

Position: Striker Age: 21 Contract Expires: June 2024 PSG Appearances: 41 (28 starts) Goals/Assists: 17/1

Story of the Season: Despite featuring in four Everton games in September, Kean was loaned to PSG on the penultimate day of the summer transfer window, where he went on to score 17 goals and win the Trophée des Champions and the Coupe de France.

Both Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino used him regularly; at least more so than Kean had been at Everton under either Marco Silva or Ancelotti, where he usually played second fiddle to Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

PSG are said to be keen on retaining Kean next season, be it through another loan or by signing him permanently. Everton are thought to be demanding somewhere in the region of £40 million for Kean, who they signed from Juventus for £27.5 million in August 2019.

Paris Saint-Germain v AS Monaco - French Cup Final
Kean won the French Cup with PSG during his loan spell at the club
Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

To find out more about Kean’s loan spell, we spoke to Ed from PSG Talk:

RBM: Did Kean play anywhere other than up front? And in what formation(s) did he play?

Ed: Kean was played primarily as a striker in several different formations under Tuchel and Pochettino.

Both managers have different philosophies, so whether it was a 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, or 4-3-3, Kean typically lined up in the central striker role with Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, or Angel Di Maria on the flanks.

On occasion, Kean did push out wide, like he did against Bayern Munich in the Champions League when he came on as a substitute in both legs of the tie.

RBM: What did you make of Kean? Did you notice any particular strengths or weaknesses in his game?

Ed: Kean was brilliant for PSG. He scored 17 goals for the club, which is a great return from a player on loan, and he pretty much relegated Mauro Icardi to the bench. I think if you were to take a poll right now, most PSG supporters would rather keep Kean than Icardi, who PSG paid €50 million for last summer.

His biggest strength was pairing with PSG’s other attackers. He’s more likely to get involved in the build-up play and track back, whereas Icardi is your traditional number nine and serves mostly as a target in the box and nothing more.

From what I saw, he doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game. At 21, he has Champions League experience and even scored against Barcelona in the round of 16. I think the sky is the limit for him.

RBM: What do you think the next best move is for Kean in his career?

Ed: I’m biased here, but I think the next best move for Kean is to remain at PSG. Where else can he link up with players like Neymar and Mbappé?

Everton finished tenth in the Premier League and with Ancelotti departing for Real Madrid, it seems like the Toffees are in rebuild mode and not really a place for a player who needs Champions League football and a solid squad behind them.

I know Juventus has also been rumoured as a destination, but I don’t think they would pay the kind of money Everton would ask and I think they are miles away from really contending for the Champions League.

RBM: PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with a return to Tottenham. Do you think whether or not Pochettino chooses to stay at PSG will affect what Kean decides to do next?

Ed: The Pochettino story is a mess. I really don’t know what to believe at this point. Is PSG so toxic behind the scenes that he could only stand to stay six months?

This is a story we’re obviously following closely, but one thing I’m sure of is that, whether it’s Pochettino or someone else, PSG will have a top-tier manager at the helm and I think that’s all Kean will be looking for.

Ellis Simms (Blackpool)

Position: Striker Age: 20 Contract Expires: June 2022 Blackpool Appearances: 24 (19 starts) Goals/Assists: 10/2

Story of the Season: In January, Everton’s much-fancied young striker Simms headed out on the first loan of his career, joining Blackpool in League One, whose manager Neil Critchley was previously Liverpool’s under-23s manager.

Simms played a vital part in firing the Seasiders back to the Championship for the first time in six years, scoring ten goals in the process. Though, he sadly missed last weekend’s play-off final victory against Lincoln having injured himself with the last kick of a training session a day earlier.

Simms, whose current Everton deal expires next summer, is reportedly set to be offered a new contract to extend his stay at Goodison Park.

Blackpool v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final
Simms missed Blackpool’s play-off final win through injury, but was a key part of their promotion campaign
Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus/Getty Images

To find out more about Simms’ loan spell, we spoke to Matt Scrafton, Blackpool writer for the Blackpool Gazette:

RBM: Did Simms play anywhere other than up front? And in what formation(s) did he play?

Matt: No, he only ever played up front in a two. His emergence in the side coincided with Gary Madine’s injury, so Simms would often be partnered with the club’s top goalscorer, Jerry Yates.

The pair finished the season in great form and a strike partnership was really beginning to blossom. Blackpool would often play 4-4-2, but Simms would also partner Yates in a 3-5-2 as well.

RBM: What did you make of Simms? Did you notice any particular strengths or weaknesses in his game?

Matt: He made a dream start, scoring twice off the bench in the 5-0 thrashing of Wigan. Both were fairly simple finishes from close range but still, you have to be in there to have a chance of scoring.

He had a little quiet period after that as he got used to the way Blackpool and Critchley want to play, but finished the season superbly, scoring five in four prior to picking up the groin injury the day before the play-off final.

He was scoring important goals, too; his brace in the 2-0 win against Doncaster Rovers secured Blackpool’s place in the play-offs, while he scored another double in the first leg of Blackpool’s semi-final win against Oxford United. His obvious strength is his height and power, but he makes clever runs into the channels and he’s obviously a great finisher, too.

He has things to work on, though, and he admitted as much himself, such as his first touch, hold-up play and pressing and work out of possession. He’s certainly got age on his side, though, and the progress he made in a relatively short period of time at Bloomfield Road suggests he’s a quick learner.

RBM: With Simms’ time at Blackpool a great success, and the Seasiders earning promotion to the Championship, would you expect a return to Bloomfield Road next season?

Matt: I’d certainly hope so. Blackpool’s promotion obviously plays into their favour as playing in the second tier would be the natural progression for him.

But as Simms recently said himself, the ball is in Everton’s court and it’s up to them to decide what is best for their player. There’s bound to be plenty of other clubs interested as well.

But given Critchley’s tactical acumen, his knowledge and relationship with the people at Everton, as well as Simms being settled in the North West, you’d certainly like to think they’ll have a good chance.

RBM: Have you seen enough from Simms so far to suggest he can make it at Everton?

Matt: That’s hard for me to say, as I obviously don’t watch Premier League football week in, week out. But it goes without saying the step up is a massive one.

A season-long loan in the Championship makes the most sense for all parties involved, I think, and that’s likely to be the most realistic course of action. But, from what I gather, Everton are a little short on strikers, so can it be ruled out that Simms could provide backup? We’ll have to wait and see.

But it would be a shame to see a player of his talent sit on the bench all season and not get any game time, because he’s clearly thrived on first-team opportunities.

Our thanks to Cods Chat, Allen, Jonny, Ed and Matt for their time and contributions.