If we’re looking at what options may be available to Sean Dyche at the end of this season, when the likes of Idrissa Gana Gueye is likely to be out of contract along with Andre Gomes, then the central midfield area of Everton’s squad is very thin.
Essentially there will be Amadou Onana (assuming the Toffees can keep hold of him), James Garner and behind those two, Tyler Onyango who, it would appear, is not yet seriously considered as an option to start in a central midfield duo. Onyango may be more suited to a more forward role a la Abdoulaye Doucoure and may of course go out on loan again as he is yet to have an injury-free spell somewhere.
Elsewhere, 21 year old Lewis Warrington, another central midfielder, is currently on loan with Plymouth Argyle but has only featured twice and appears to be out of contract at Goodison himself as things stand in June 2024. Warrington, if he was retained, would take up a berth in the 25-man squad due to his age, so that is another consideration.
That midfield duo axis in the first team has been the foundation of Everton’s recent upsurge in form and we know that Sean Dyche, once he has a strong formula, will no doubt want to keep that shape.
Doucoure is, of course, an option to play there having played in central midfield in 191 first team career games in top flight teams such as Watford, Everton, Stade Rennais and Granada. However, with four first team goals this season and his strength in applying a high press, he has pretty much now cemented himself a place behind the main striker in Dyche’s preferred line up so he would be loathe to move him back into a more restrictive role. Clearly Thelwell and Dyche may well be exploring other experienced options in the transfer market for next season but, closer to home, there are home-grown options to consider.
One of those options is Wigan-born Jenson Metcalfe who is a year and a half into a 4 year contract. He earned that lengthy contract (the maximum he could be offered at the time) following some good displays in the Under 18s and he has made the progression to Under 21s football despite only recently turning 19 years of age. He has been an ever-present for Paul Tait scoring one goal and providing 2 assists.
There is more to Metcalfe’s game than those statistics however. I have watched him a lot and although he’s not particularly tall or fast, he has a strength, tenacity, desire and reads the game well. Add to those attributes a very good short and long passing range and you can begin to imagine him fitting into the set up. To quote a Sean Dyche requirement, he is also “brave on the ball”.
I particularly liked watching him respond to playing alongside Jack Harrison recently when the Leeds United loanee was beginning his journey to the first team with an outing for the Under 21s. Metcalfe, playing inside of Harrison, was like a sponge learning how to take up good positions and improve his game. Does he have more to learn? Yes he does. He likes to “give a bit back” if he’s fouled, a bit like a modern-day Peter Reid. Nothing wrong with that in moderation although card-happy Premiership referees will be less forgiving than those at Under 21 level who are a bit more tolerant. He also has to gain a lot more experience of course but as you can see from the video footage below, he has a lot of natural ability already and must be in the club’s thoughts. Good luck Jenson!