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How would Danjuma fit in at Everton?

The Toffees are rumoured to be close to nabbing the Dutch international forward

Netherlands v Gibraltar - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

With a number of reliable media sources now reporting that Dutch international forward Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld could be close to making a transfer to Everton, we take a look at how the soon-to-be 26 year-old would fit into Frank Lampard’s embattled side.

After a deceptively decent start to the season, the Toffees have slid towards oblivion with the World Cup break proving no respite for the Blues who have continued their poor form on the other side of Christmas as well. Lampard’s last win in any competition was nearly three months ago, and he’s watched on powerlessly as Everton have plumbed the depths of defeat from winning and losing positions, both at home and away, and with no regard whatsoever to the level of competition they’ve faced.

The biggest on-pitch issue for the Blues has been in the attacking half, where they are second-worst scoring side in the Premier League with just 15 goals in 19 games from an expected goals (xG) total of 19.87 (16th). With Dominic Calvert-Lewin sidelined by multiple injuries and Neal Maupay impotent in front, Everton have struggled mightily. The failure to seal the deal for Mohamed Kudus in the summer must have stung Kevin Thelwell especially hard after watching him put in a star-turn during the World Cup.

Lampard’s undying faith in Anthony Gordon has not paid off either, with the youngster not only proving incapable of replacing Richarlison, but also not even hitting the levels he himself showed last season when the Blues just narrowly escaped relegation. However, bringing in Danjuma is an opportunity to right many of those wrongs, and somehow (improbably?) staving off relegation again.

Villarreal CF v Bayern München - Quarter Final Leg One - UEFA Champions League
Danjuma celebrating his goal for Villarreal against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter final.
Photo by Aitor Alcalde - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The Nigerian-born Dutch international started off his career with the PSV Eindhoven youth sides before a strong 2018-19 season for Club Brugges in Belgium where he scored six goals and four assists in 25 appearances saw AFC Bournemouth sign him for €15 million in August 2019 for their Premier League campaign.

A hamstring injury to begin the season and then a foot fracture during the winter period saw him make just 14 Premier League appearances mostly as a left winger even though he is right-footed. The Cherries were relegated that season and it was the next campaign in the Championship where he truly hit his peak form, playing with Everton’s backup goalkeeper Asmir Begovic as a teammate.

He banged in 17 goals and 8 assists to push Bournemouth into the Championship playoffs and earned himself a €23.5M move to Villarreal in Spain. Danjuma maintained that form with 16 goals and 4 assists, including six goals in the 2021-22 Champions League as the Yellow Submarines got all the way to the semi-finals before losing to the Blues’ Merseyside rivals Liverpool. Under Unai Emery there he found his best position as a centre forward, though he continued to have success out on the wing and as a second striker as well.

Danjuma has played 51 times in all competitions for Villarreal

Despite the departure of Emery, he has maintained that form into this season as well, with six goals in 17 appearances. However, Danjuma has shown himself to be prone to muscular injuries which should be a concern for the Blues, and he has only played two full ninety-minute spells this season.

He made his Netherlands international debut back in 2019 under former Blues boss Ronald Koeman, but then only came back into the national team reckoning earlier in 2022. Danjuma was left out of the squad for the World Cup in Qatar with Louis van Gaal marking his swansong with a thrilling loss on penalties to eventual champions Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Everton’s neglect of the right wing has been an ongoing problem for a number of seasons now, with both Richarlison and Demarai Gray at their most effective when playing from the left. Gordon’s emergence last season has proved to be a false dawn coupled with Lampard’s inability to play an effective 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 has resulted in the Blues ineptness with the ball and collapsing into a low block without it.

Richarlison’s departure was an almost-given all summer long yet the Toffees did nothing to replace him apart from making a couple of token efforts in the transfer market, and the lack of goals has hurt them immeasurably in a campaign that sees the Blues mired at the foot of the table with little creativity in attack.

Last two seasons - Danjuma has played less minutes than Richarlison, but been more effective

Having a genuine goal threat like the Dutchman would give Lampard a little more leeway with attacking options especially when lining up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. If Calvert-Lewin is fit to play, then Danjuma could feasibly start on the left and Gray switch to the right, and the pair could interchange during the game to keep defences on their toes. If DCL is out injured then Lampard could start Danjuma up top instead of Maupay, with Gray and Gordon as the wingers.

When defending a lead or playing a more conservative gameplan with three in the back and two defensive wingbacks (Vitalii Mykolenko and Seamus Coleman), Lampard could use any two of Calvert-Lewin, Gray and Danjuma. Alternatively, in a 4-4-2 Lampard would have either DCL or Maupay alongside Danjuma up top, with Gray and Iwobi as the wide midfielders.

Danjuma’s dribbling (3.5 per 90, 68th percentile) and progressive movement (7.55 per 90, 79the percentile) are very much needed on this otherwise bland Toffees side. Blues certainly have had enough of watching Gray and Gordon running at pace against defences only to lose the ball like the tides crashing up against the Bramley-Moore dock where a shiny new stadium is inching closer to completion.

Last two seasons - the right-footed Danjuma's shots mostly come from left of centre of the goal

The Blues financial woes are well-known, so quite how they would rig the numbers game to bring in a player of Danjuma’s calibre remains to be seen, but if they don’t overload him with minutes, he could provide just enough creativity to get Everton out of a very big hole that has been in the making for a few years now. Whether Lampard is the man to harness that ability remains to be seen.

Even if the Toffees were to somehow complete the signing of the player today, there’s simply no way he would feature tomorrow in Everton’s second consecutive relegation six-pointer. Word from before last weekend was that Lampard had two games to ‘redeem’ himself, but the manner of the Blues’ collapse on Saturday to let bottom-side Southampton come from behind to beat them only adds more pressure to this weekend’s trip to London to face West Ham.

David Moyes has been under pressure after a lacklustre start to the campaign, and could very likely be sacked this weekend, leading to the Saturday clash being dubbed ‘El Sackico’. Ironically, Lampard was a former West Ham player while Moyes is a former Everton manager, so there’ll be a sense of eerie familiarity hanging over the proceedings.