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RBM Roundtable: Everton’s 22-23 season - who was good, who wasn’t, what areas to improve

The second half of the season will start with some pessimism, do the Blues have the players to turn it around?

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The World Cup is almost underway which means a cessation in hostilities for club football, which provides a welcome break for Everton who went into the break in extremely poor form and desperately needing to hit the ‘Reset’ button.

The short tour to Australia is an opportunity for the squad to keep strengthening the bonds between the players and the coaching staff, but it’s the subsequent weeks where we are all hoping that the club as a whole can really work on improving the output on the pitch.

When club football resumes on Boxing Day, Everton will have three games to play before the January transfer window opens and Director of Football Kevin Thelwell will have a big part to play in the club’s future by bringing in at least a couple of players to bolster a faltering attack.

Yesterday the RBM crew discussed Frank Lampard and his coaching, and today we will look at the players and what we need to do in Janaury by answering three more questions. We’d love to hear your opinions to the same questions in the comments below.

Which players were good in the first half of the season?

Geoff - Alex Iwobi and James Tarkowski excellent though both need to score goals, Idrissa Gueye and Vitaliy Mykolenko very good; Nathan Patterson, Amadou Onana and the under-used James Garner have shown real promise of what’s to come but need consistency in their play.

John - Conor Coady and Tarkowski - consistent leaders whom if we were without, we would be adrift in the bottom three. Patterson is a star in the making and Iwobi continues to impress. I have also been impressed with Jordan Pickford. He didn’t do well against Bournemouth (which player in Royal Blue did!) but he is one of the top keepers in the league. It grinds my gears that the second he makes a mistake, the media jump on him and start the ridiculous and redundant debate of who should start in goal for England. He fouled van Dijk, get over it!

Pat - No one. Jordan Pickford if I had to choose.

Peter - Coady and Tarkowski have been excellent and have solidified the defence. Iwobi has been a positive force moving the midfield forward. Onana has shown flashes of his potential and provides us with a target in the box when we are attacking and DCL is not playing.

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Alex Iwobi
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Trent - Onana is a special player, and Everton has to maximize their time with him. The Belgian glides through midfield with the ball and plays hard on the defensive end as well. Gueye has been a welcome addition back on Merseyside, and he has also helped to stabilize play in the middle of the pitch. Pickford and Coady also deserve accolades for their performances too. All four players are playing at the World Cup in Qatar and they have been some of the brightest Everton spots of the season so far.

Kevin - Pickford has been outstanding, notwithstanding the Bournemouth match. Tarkowski has added grit and old-school defending, which has masked a lot of structural problems - up to the Leicester City game anyway. Coady has brought leadership to a side that’s been lacking them for a long time. Iwobi has been Everton’s only playmaker and probably an early candidate for Player of the Season. Mykolenko is developing into a really solid defender. Onana and Patterson are showing glimpses of exciting promise. He’s been attracting criticism, but without Gueye, the Blues would have been punished to an even greater degree, as he’s been holding the fort down defensively in midfield single-handedly.

Garrett - Error for the first goal on Saturday aside, Pickford has been sensational and his great performances have helped us win points that we quite frankly didn’t deserve. I think Patterson is brilliant, and I’m glad he won’t be at the World Cup so he can get back to 100% and spend more time on the training pitch. And finally Iwobi, of course. I don’t think I need to say much about him at this point. Go read any of my articles from this season if you’re interested in Iwobi praise.

Calvin - When Everton have had above average performances from more than half the side, invariably they have played well. But when it’s only Pickford and Iwobi playing out of their minds while Coady and Tarkowski are their same dependable selves, that’s simply not enough quality on the pitch to win football games at the level of the sport.

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Pickford makes yet another critical save
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Who has underwhelmed, and what’s their path forward?

Geoff - Anthony Gordon has been hugely disappointing as I thought he might be after his failed exit. His attitude and body language is poor, he acts unprofessionally (rash bookings) and as I’ve said before, his weaknesses are lack of creativity, goals and simply can’t take a dead ball – he’s largely been taken off them so a pat on the back to Lampard for that at least. On a positive note he’s fast and at least tries to defend, that’s it.
Dwight McNeil - I personally think there’s a player in there waiting to get out of the shackles he imposes upon himself. He is a magnificent crosser of the ball from the left yet he gets played as an inverted winger on the right but lacks belief clearly which is where coaching comes in and he needs to also be more assertive. He’s 6 foot and a powerful frame but you wouldn’t think so.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - injuries aside, on the rare occasion he has been match fit, his chance conversion is shockingly bad. He had one good season under Ancelotti (remember also he had James playing with him then). He took most chances with his first touch then but now he doesn’t have that belief.
Why is Mason Holgate still at the club? I know he hasn’t played often this season but each time is a painful reminder. A really short attention span for a professional footballer. Doesn’t concentrate, poor in the air, rash in the tackle, seems to think he’s better than he is.
Finally, Neal Maupay. I didn’t want him in the first place. Snatches at chances, conversion rate is poor, not big or strong enough to lead the line. Unless you’re playing a 4-4-2 (please don’t Frank) he is of no use at all. Reported £15 million frittered away.

John - Gana, Onana, Gordon, Demarai Gray. I haven’t listed Dwight McNeil or Neal Maupay as the former is a work in progress who I do believe will be a success while the French striker was a signing made out of necessity as Lampard’s other targets weren’t secured. He’s a nuisance player who works hard, not much more. The underwhelmers need to get back to basics and do the hard work and simple things well, first. Onana is too lethargic, Gana is beginning to look his age (hence why I would drop him deeper and play Garner to protect if we don’t get anyone) while Gordon needs to remember he’s a product of Everton youth that is still learning, rather than the next Lionel Messi. he doesn’t have to win games on his own, or pick up yellow cards like the Tory government pick up lockdown fines..

Pat - If I can’t pick the whole squad, I’d say Gray and Gordon. Lampard’s tactics call for creativity and product from the outside flank, both of which Gray and Gordon just can’t do. Lampard would be inclined to bring in some more reinforcements in that department come January.

Peter - Gordon has been the greatest disappointment and his head was definitely turned with all of the Chelsea and Tottenham rumours. The offer of a new contract has not changed things and I think that it would be better to move him on. Maupay is not the target man that we need. Our bench is ineffective and their ability to change a game has not happened this year. More depth is needed with greater quality.

Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Gordon with Gray
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Trent - Gray has had moments, but they are only moments. He is inconsistent - like McNeil - and might be more useful to Lampard as a second half sub. Both players need to find their finishing boots more consistently, but I think that with more work, and the right personnel rotation and lineup, each player can contribute better and more consistently than they have to date. They’re not replacing Richarlison’s production and the Toffees need that badly..

Kevin - Gordon showed initial signs that he may be kicking on this season, but his form has flatlined to the extent that even people who see a player there are having second thoughts as to whether the club should have accepted Chelsea’s bid (even if it wasn’t the exaggerated reported fee). He looks happier on the left flank and hopefully can improve if he’s not being played every week. Maupay is not looking like an adequate backup striker. I don’t think he’s as bad as he appears though, so a rejig of the system may help him make some impact. McNeil’s limitations (extreme one-footedness, lack of pace) are evident, but he has some good points and if used in a different role/position then he may shine. Although Onana is an exciting youngster, he’s being used wrongly and would benefit by being given a simpler role as a conventional defensive midfielder alongside Gueye.

Garrett - I think Gueye has not been as good as many would lead you to believe. Part of that is the fact that he’s being asked to be a single pivot in the Premier League at the age of 32, but his sloppiness on the ball is a real issue in my eyes. He can still get around the pitch and win tackles, as he always has, but when Onana and Iwobi are pushed so far up the pitch, Gana’s room for error is minuscule, and he’s been making errors. I could mention about 10 other players, but I’m sure the rest of the team will cover those.

Calvin - It’s difficult to criticize Onana and Gana without knowing what exactly were the instructions from Lampard for them. We can beat up on Gordon, Gray, McNeil and Maupay all we like, but when we put players who are not PL-starter quality in positions where they need to be relied upon, this is what we get. Many players seem to thrive when dumped in adversity, but not many of those footballers seem to be wearing Everton colours when they do so.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League
Maupay on the ball
Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images

What areas do Everton need to focus on in the January transfer window?

Geoff - Actually, in spite of the many shortfalls we simply need two strikers (permanent or loan) to compete for the single place up front. We have players like Iwobi, Gray and Stanley Mills who can supply chances and score a few. Generate the funds by selling Gordon and any squad players such as Michael Keane, Holgate and people with expiring contracts like Yerry Mina and Tom Davies. Calvert-Lewin and Maupay (if he’s still there) can then warm the bench. I presume Salomon Rondon will be gone and Tom Cannon still won’t get a proper chance.

John - Striker, midfielder, and perhaps two wingers. DCL can’t be relied upon, injuries tell you that, while a creative midfielder is a big miss for us. Our wingers are not good enough, either yet or simply never will be. Strikers rely on service, either from the middle or out wide, hence the winger and midfielder wishlist.
Of course, all roads lead back to ‘good times’ Bill Kenwright. I truly believe his presence is a malignancy in the Club. An overseer of mediocrity, we can change managers as much as we like, but while repainting the walls briefly brightens the place up, it doesn’t do anything to address the rotten foundations.

Pat - Winger, striker, and central midfielder. When all is said and done, we’re not scoring goals, and Calvert-Lewin can’t stay healthy. We need to bring in a relatively experienced striker to come in and score some goals or I am almost sure we will be going down this season.

Peter - A quality striker.

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League
Everton never really replaced either of Richarlison or James
Photo by Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images

Trent - I think the attack is still an issue for this club, and so if another option who could play multiple positions - midfield and striker, winger and striker - came available, I don’t think that would be a bad investment. If more help along the backline was to be invested in, I suspect that it would mean names were leaving the club too, but that would help too. After Coady and Tarkowski, things do get a little bit difficult concerning steady and sturdy centre backs.

Kevin - Attacking areas. The team has lost goals (Richy) and creativity (James Rodriguez) over the past year or so and not brought in adequate replacements. None of the current wide players look good enough to be nailed-on starters. DCL cannot be relied upon, sadly. All resources should be aimed at bringing in a striker, preferably one with the versatility to play wide, or dropped off (such as Mohammed Kudus) and a quality right-sided winger, who should offer creativity and goals. A more potent attacking unit would keep opponents honest, if backed up by a solid framework behind them..

Garrett - A winger who can actually contribute to goals on a consistent basis. Clear as day.

Calvin - While it’s easy to say we just need a striker, the problem is much more deep-rooted than that. We are not creating nearly enough chances to score, let alone finish them. A creative attacking midfielder, a starting-calibre wide player and a solid 10-goal striker are all pressing needs, but some hybrid versions that can combine a couple of those characteristics would certainly be welcome.