Everton are yet to make a second signing of the summer after unveiling free agent addition defender James Tarkowski last week. The Blues continue to be linked with a number of players, but finally earlier today we heard something concrete even as the players are currently on their pre-season tour of the United States and scheduled to play a friendly against Arsenal tomorrow.
David Ornstein of The Athletic reported that the Blues are in conversations with Burnley for forward Maxwel Cornet, and though there is no agreement as yet between the two clubs, a deal is expected sooner than later. The Ivory Coast international scored nine times last season in 26 games for the Clarets, including a memorable comeback winner late on against the Toffees at Turf Moor in a relegation six-pointer that looked to have doomed the Blues to the drop. Instead, it was Burnley who were unable to pull out any other key results to close out the season and joined Norwich City and Watford in the Championship.
The Blues lost Richarlison to Tottenham this summer, and replacing him remains a key priority for Director of Football Kevin Thelwell and manager Frank Lampard. We had previously done an analysis on who would be best suited statistically to replace the Brazilian forward between the Hornets’ Emmanuel Dennis and Chelsea’s Armando Broja, coming to the conclusion that it was the Nigerian international who came out ahead. Reports this week seemed to indicate however that the Blues interest in Dennis has cooled.
Cornet is the same age as Richarlison and will likely come for significantly less than Dennis, and likely the same amount of risk having played just the one season in England. What does jump out at the casual observer though is his incredible versatility - his numbers at both left and right wing are just about identical, and he looks quite adept at playing as a striker as well as a wide midfielder if needed.
The 25-year-old, for all his flexibility, still has some work to do on his game. His workrate compares very favourably against forwards, which would make him very suitable as a pressing centreforward in Lampard’s system. Cornet’s volume of shots though is not very good (compared to similar players in the top five leagues), and he doesn’t necessarily excel at creating chances either. As a winger on either the left or right he certainly doesn’t do well in progressing the ball forward as the Blues will like either.
To get a better idea of how he compares to Richarlison, as well as Dennis and Broja, we put them to the test side-by-side on last season’s data. From the graphic above, it still looks like Dennis is the better player, though Cornet appears to have a better eye for goal than any of the others, and outstripped his expected goals by the most too. Certainly inside the box he looks to be an able deputy or indeed replacement for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Even with his low shot volume, he still gets off 2 shots per 90 which is better than the other three.
With the ball on his feet, he appears to be more of a liability than Richarlison with the poorest take-on success rate, and appears to provide little more aerially either.
The deeper analysis doesn’t change our earlier opinion that Dennis appears to be the better player overall especially taking into account shot- and goal-creating actions for his teammates, though on a limited, attacking-only stats view of the last three seasons the two appear to be basically the same player, with Cornet having played nearly double his minutes however.
If Everton were able to spend freely in this transfer window than likely they would be aiming for a higher tier of player, but it appears they will end up choosing between Cornet and Dennis, likely whichever player will come cheaper. Interestingly, the Blues don’t necessarily have a good relationship with either club - we’ve shopped often from Watford and things got nasty when the Blues poached manager Marco Silva, while Burnley are said to have tried to take legal action regarding the Toffees spending and whether it met the Profit & Sustainability rules.