Just a day after reports that Everton are close to making Asmir Begovic their first signing of the Rafa Benitez era, it appears the Blues are also going to add a pair of wingers at a relatively budget price as well.
Andros Townsend is currently a free agent after the expiry of his five year contract at Crystal Palace, with the London side preferring to let him walk as they retool after the departure of Ray Hodgson and the arrival of new manager Patrick Vieira. The 30-year-old has previously played for Benitez while the Spaniard was in charge at Newcastle United.
Demarai Gray left Leicester City in January 2021 to join Bayer 04 Leverkusen on a 18-month contract, but the move to Germany has not quite worked out for him and he is looking for a return to England. The 25-year-old has been linked with the Blues in the past as well but looks like it’ll be a relatively cheap transfer at just £1.5m.
Everton closing in on deals for wingers Demarai Gray (£1.5m from Bayer Leverkusen) and Andros Townsend (free transfer).— paul joyce (@_pauljoyce) July 18, 2021
Multiple media sources are now reporting on the transfer deals coming up, and an interesting thing common in the contracts of all Begovic, Townsend and Gray is that they apparently all include a one-year option on them. The former two will be joining on a one-year contract with an option for another year, while the latter will be coming in on a two-year deal with the option for the additional year. This appears to be a change from earlier on in Marcel Brands regime when players were being signed to longer-term contracts with no provisions.
Townsend just turned 30 and is going to be on a prove-it contract where he’ll have one season to show that he can consistently provide goal contributions from the right wing, where he has provided at least 0.25 xG+xA per 90 min when he plays over 2,000 minutes in a season.
Andros Townsend to Everton?— Hugh Klein (@macro_football) July 17, 2021
On the surface, I can certainly understand why this signing would seem (a) uninspired and (b) like a step back.
But, Townsend is actually pretty ok/good, and would, presumably, offer a decently good wide option for relatively cheap. Not too bad. pic.twitter.com/ipyAylxqHL
While not a flashy speedster of the Leon Bailey or Hirving Lozano variety, Townsend could provide steady dependability as well as dead-ball delivery for the Blues from the right side especially whenever James Rodriguez is out injured or when Alex Iwobi has been his usual uninspired self.
It does appear that of the limited transfer funds Rafa Benitez will be headed towards upgrading the right back, attacking midfielder and possibly centrehalf positions, and the Blues are being linked with making a move for former Leicester City winger Demarai Gray, who primarily plays out on the left where he tends to cut in on his right foot, but is also capable of playing on the right wing too.
Gray is now 25 and is a classic case of unproven potential having picked up 13 goals and 17 assists in 169 appearances for the Foxes. At Leverkusen he only played two full 90s, being brought on as an impact substitute about half the time and coming off at the break the other games. He managed one goal and two assists in ten games in the Bundesliga last season.
The small sample size for last season does skew how his radar looks, especially compared to James and Iwobi.
Basically Everton are bringing in cheaper players to fill out the squad who will provide about the same level of output as Iwobi. With Richarlison expected to miss parts of the beginning of the season after returning from the Olympic Games, having both on hand will help strengthen the team especially if Bernard and possibly Iwobi depart this summer.