With the 2021-22 season complete, three teams will be leaving the Premier League having been relegated - Burnley, Watford & Norwich City.
Everton were sorely missing quality in a number of spots across the pitch and there is the chance that some gems exist on these sides that could certainly improve the Blues.
The writing crew here at Royal Blue Mersey put their heads together to pick out who they fancied the most from those sides, and came up with this list of players - leading was Burnley winger Maxwel Cornet and his teammate James Tarkowski, with Hornets forward Emmanuel Dennis also highly thought of.
Read on for some quick thoughts on the following players —
James Tarkowski - yes I’d take him as a free transfer (even with the inevitable big wages that accompany “Bosmans”). He’s aggressive (ask Richarlison), experienced, quite composed and will organise - I’d have him as the centre of a back three if we bought him so he could tell the others where to be. If we sign him he’s a starter.
Nathan Collins - reminds me of Jarrad Branthwaite a lot though whereas Branthwaite is naturally left sided, Collins is predominantly right sided. Still plenty to learn but a big unit who with the right people alongside him could flourish, probably a squad player but potentially streets ahead of Holgate or Keane
Maxwel Cornet, my pick of the Burnley players - in a dour Clarets team he added spark. Has a sweet left foot and can hammer the ball. Played mainly as a striker for Burnley but what a lot of people don’t realise is he’s played over half his career games as a left winger/ left midfield or left back - you can see the value of his versatility in the blue of Everton, challenging for places and providing cover in four key positions. I like him a lot, he should be challenging for a regular first team spot.
Joao Pedro - I don’t know if there would be any work permit issues for him going forward as he is uncapped at any level for Brazil and the rules when Watford signed him as an 18 year old might have been tightened 2 years on. All that said, he certainly has something about him with time to grow and learn. Strong and with a Richarlison-type ethic, maybe lacks a half yard of pace and not yet prolific but he looks at home in the Premiership. It’d be ironic if he came to Everton as Richarlison moved on as it would be the identical career path for both, having started at Fluminense. Probably an understudy to whoever leads the line in 2022
To avoid? Definitely Max Aarons, who is weak positionally in defensive situations, not progressed albeit he has been playing in a team regularly beaten. Ben Mee, Championship player, good professional but we should be aiming higher. Dwight McNeil, loved this guy’s potential two or three years ago but has stagnated, great crosser of the ball but doesn’t score anywhere near enough.
For me, I think that Ben Mee would be a wonderful innovation at the back to accompany Ben Godfrey or Yerry Mina, and to rotate with them each. Max Aarons of Norwich would be further talent at right back, while Dwight McNeil of Burnley would give the midfield some more creativity. Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr of Watford would both also add to the team’s firepower moving towards the future. Any of these players would be positive additions for this Everton team.
Dwight McNeil - Although he had a bit of a shocker this past season (along with the rest of his team), McNeil has shown his potential in the past and I believe he’d be a good pickup for the Blues. He’s still only 22 and we have been linked pretty heavily with him in the past which might help our case a bit.
Maxwel Cornet - Cornet’s name has already been fluttering around the transfer world following an impressive season. He can play a variety of attacking positions and I believe would be a good fit for the team.
Emmanuel Dennis - Dennis had a pretty formidable first season in the Premiership, leading Norwich in the scoring department with 10. If one of Richalrison or Calvert-Lewin were to leave this summer, I think he’d be a good, cheap option to help fill any potential void in our attack.
McNeil - It’s no secret that Everton’s current squad suffers from a distinct lack of creativity after Rafa Benitez disposed of the club’s two most creative players in Digne and Rodriguez, and the addition of Dwight McNeil could help alleviate that problem. He was Burnley’s leader in xA with 4.8, only one of which was converted by his teammates, which would place him first in the Everton squad as well ahead of Demarai Gray’s 4.3. Burnley will likely have to sell due to their financial situation and considering he’s English and still only 22, I think McNeil could be a good signing. We do have options on the wing at the moment, but it seems the club isn’t opposed to selling players like Townsend to make room.
Tarkowski - The defense should be priority #1 in the window for Frank Lampard as far as I’m concerned because another season of Holgate and Keane starting nearly every match will not end well. Yerry Mina has proven he can’t stay fit and Godfrey has had struggles with injury and form of his own this year, so James Tarkowski on a free seems like a shrewd move. Inflated wages are definitely a concern, but if Thelwell can get him in on a reasonable weekly wage, I definitely think Tarkowski could improve the back-line.
Cornet - It’s been reported that Burnley’s standout player of the season has a release clause of just £17.5 million. If true, Everton should 100% be looking to snap him up, but I fear they will be far from the only ones keen on the Ivorian’s signing. Cornet was able to showcase his flair and talent by scoring some incredible goals despite playing for a dreadful Burnley side that lacked ideas and innovation going forward. He’d be a great signing in my opinion, but I see him getting a move to a team somewhere higher in the table.
Dennis - Should Dominic Calvert-Lewin leave the club this summer, Nigerian forward Emmanuel Dennis could be an intriguing option as a replacement. Although he’s a very different profile from DCL, he scored an impressive 10 goals for an awful Watford side and put out some great performances despite the coaching carousel and toxic environment which was Watford this season (and most seasons in the top flight). Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Possibly Mathias Norman, just from the couple times I watched him he looked athletic, capable on the ball and a decent passer. Also, fee would probably be low as he may not want to go back to play in Russia. About to turn 26. Concerns about his injury record the past couple seasons. Maybe to fill out the squad as a low-cost option, probably better elsewhere though.
I agree with Geoff on Aarons. He’s fast but at 22 I don’t think he’s improved. Defensively unimpressive and not the tallest either. I think he may be an “athlete” type that may/may not learn the game. Would be expensive also.
Emmanuel Dennis. Can’t overlook him, 10 goals in an awful team. Bit of an outlier as far as his career goes, but at 24 may be a late-bloomer. Listed as a striker but played left side mostly for Watford. Didn’t cost them much, but they’ll want a fair bit more than that. Goals dried up after a promising opening half season. If cheap could be a decent option.
Joao Pedro. Has potential. Seems hard-working and appears to be a good team player. Decent technically. Needs to add end product, but at 20 that can come. Would depend on how reasonable the fee was. Over £10m I’d probably pass.
Ismaila Sarr. Stock has taken a hit and at 24 not as much in demand as he was previously. Fast, dangerous, but injured and out of form thereafter. Latest Transfermarkt value is over £24m, though that’s not been updated since December. Worrying decline but could just be in need of a move. If he could be bought for about £15m could be a bargain.
Maxwel Cornet. Adaptable. Was highly thought of in France as a young player, but didn’t seem to kick on, ending up playing wing back at Lyon. Scored three against Manchester City in the 18/19 season! Impressive to hit nine goals in a Burnley team largely devoid of creativity. Although he didn’t get a significant injury this season, it’s a concern that he was forced off with potential knocks in six games. Does he lack physical robustness? Could be a relatively low-cost replacement for Richarlison is he is sold, though this would be a downgrade.
Dwight McNeil. Linked to EFC last year. End product, always a concern has diminished to nil this season. Lacking pace for a wide man. Carries the ball well, can cross a ball and defensively diligent. Still only 22 so could come on. Likely, Burnley would want £20m-plus and for anything like that figure, I’d swerve.
James Tarkowski. Available on a free, though will have plenty of suitors. Dependable in a low-block defence. Has leadership characteristics. Concerns are that, at 29 would be seeking a high wage + has only played in one system, under Dyche during his seasons in the EPL. Don’t think he has the pace and ability to play out that Lampard wants in a CB. Avoid, personally.
I liked what I saw of Nathan Collins, and at just 21 he is likely to grow into a Tarkowski/Mee type defender. With Burnley now rebuilding in the Championship under Vincent Kompany, they might not be willing to let him go for cheap having signed him last summer for £12 million on a four-year deal.
There is nothing more I can add about Cornet that folks haven’t already said here, and with a release clause of just £17m and wages in the £50k per week range, that is a gamble Everton should absolutely take, especially if Richarlison does end up leaving.
Emmanuel Dennis is very highly regarded and at just 23 could turn into a special forward. He’s also on wages of under £30k, which makes him even more attractive. Joao Pedro so far is taking the Richarlison path to stardom, coming through from Fluminense to Watford, and it would be quite ironic if he follows Richy to Merseyside as well.
Here’s a name for central midfield that you won’t see mentioned often - Pierre Lees-Melou. Imagine a 28-year-old Andre Gomes with a less flamboyant hairstyle and bear, but more versatility, proven performance, and at one-third the wages? Won’t wow the critics, but would be a handy backup with experience.