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Everton 2022-23 Season Review: Reprieve for returning senior loanees?

We look at some of the first team players loaned out over the past season

Everton v Southampton - Premier League
Andre Gomes one of the 3 senior figures due to return
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

With the Everton players due to return in two weeks’ time for pre-season training and with speculation mounting around new players joining the club, we take a look at the three senior figures returning to the Toffees. We also assess what their chances are of reintegrating into Sean Dyche’s senior squad after they were loaned out to various clubs last season.

The players in question of course are Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Dele Alli who played on loan at top flight clubs Lille, Trabzonspor and Besiktas respectively.

It would be easy for Sean Dyche to reel off time-worn rhetoric about “giving everybody a chance”, “seeing for himself” etc but whereas with most managers you might regard it as just “the right things to say” it is probably genuine in Dyche’s case. To look at his recent track record in re-integrating players or rejuvenating flagging performances you cannot ignore the massive difference we saw with Dwight McNeil in the second half of last season or the recall of Abdoulaye Doucoure from the wilderness and the huge effect that had on the team. Both men were either struggling or sidelined under Frank Lampard.

So, the question is can he do similar with Messrs Gomes, Gbamin and Dele?

Andre Gomes

As we all know, the Portuguese midfielder was a hugely important figure in the Everton of 2018/ 19 under Marco Silva. He forged a 2-man central pairing with Idrissa Gana Gueye that was undoubtedly the best pairing since James McCarthy and Gareth Barry from the Roberto Martinez era 5 years earlier. The same blend of industry and ball-winning (McCarthy and Gueye) with the composure, strength, ball retention and recycling of Barry and the likeable Portuguese. Gomes’ horrific injury in November 2019 preceded a 4-game run for Silva which saw 3 consecutive defeats including a heavy loss at Anfield and the trigger was pulled on Gomes’ compatriot manager. By the time Gomes remarkably recovered after a 17-game absence, Carlo Ancelotti was in the hot seat and he partook in just 3 games before the Coronavirus pandemic brought the game to a halt. He featured in all but one game after the resumption of that disjointed season but by the time the new season came along in 2020 the style had changed with the influential James Rodriguez in and Gomes’ form inconsistent. The team was also then heavily supporting the mercurial Colombian and required different attributes from the supporting cast. The Benitez and Lampard spells also saw him troubled with lengthy injury absences and the latter manager decided to send him on loan which brings us back to today.

What are Gomes’ chances of re-integration? He had a really good loan with Lille, featuring in 26 games and even registering 3 goals (2 more than he’d managed in a blue shirt in 88 appearances). His team finished 5th in Ligue 1 and Gomes was an important factor. I guess you would now have to question how much he fits the profile of a central midfielder under Dyche and that’s where it falls apart.

The athleticism and “sweat on the shirt” are not attributes you automatically associate with the former Portuguese international. Although he only turns 30 next month, that demand of the player, allied to his high wages in the last year of his contract and at a time when the club clearly has to make financial savings means that his chances are effectively slim to none? The good news for Evertonians who will have fond memories of that first Gomes period is that he has now found himself again. If the parting via another loan or permanent transfer is almost inevitable, then at least he leaves on an upward trajectory.

Arsenal v Everton - Pre-Season friendly
The lesser-seen Gbamin in a pre-season friendly in USA
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Jean-Philippe Gbamin

The midfielder returns or (as rumoured by his agent) will not be returning after a loan spell with Trabzonspor. It would be the last season of his 5-year contract if he were to stay. Remarkably, in just one season in Turkey he almost tripled his entire Everton appearances number of 8 across all competitions! That followed an earlier loan spell in 2022 in Russia with CSKA Moscow where he featured 11 times. 30 appearances in all across two loans. Little to say about the former Ivory Coast international as we so rarely saw him. Two of his appearances were in the first two games of the 2019/20 season when he was clearly not match fit and lasted only 45 minutes of his second appearance never to be seen again that season.

His wretched luck with injuries at Goodison was a major factor for his failure at Everton of course. He played part of 1 game under Ancelotti and 5 games under Benitez but he always looked embarrassingly off the pace despite being known for his athleticism back playing in the Bundesliga with Mainz just 4 years ago. His chances? Frankly, none. The last thing Sean Dyche needs is an injury-prone central midfielder in spite of the fact that Gbamin’s physique and alleged athleticism would ordinarily tick a few boxes for the Goodison boss.

Good luck to him as a professional if he can sustain an injury free run which will end his “Everton nightmare” (the words of his agent). The nightmare was unfortunately mutually shared with the Toffees supporters and management.

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Emma Simpson/Everton FC via Getty Images

Dele Alli

Speaking of nightmares, that is what the last couple of years might be considered for Dele. He returned early from his loan with Besiktas, nursing a hip injury that required surgery and no doubt an ear injury from the ear-bashings he received from the coaching staff at the Turkish giants!

Suffice to say that, a little like his Everton career so far, things did not go well.

Dele’s case is the most intriguing of the three returnees. The Dele Alli, as he was then known who appeared for England as a 19-year old in 2015 and starred in the 2018 World Cup in Russia was one of the most sought-after players in world football. People point to the fine relationship he had with (now Chelsea manager) Mauricio Pochettino during those early years and how it all fell apart with the Argentinian’s sacking from Spurs in November 2019 and the change of style of the replacement manager Jose Mourinho. The “tough love” for Dele shown by the Portuguese coach seemed to drive his career into a downward spiral.

His chances? I would not mind betting that, subject to his physical recovery from surgery, Dyche reckons he can get Dele something like the player from 5 years ago. He is still only 27 and ordinarily would have about five years of top-grade football left in him. As the expression goes “it takes two to tango” and much as Dyche might fancy his footwork he has to have his dancing partner thinking along the same lines and that is where it could all go wrong. If Dyche succeeded he would have one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premiership. For this, the last season of his current contract, the most it is likely to cost Everton is the £10 million transfer fee to Spurs after 20 first team appearances.

Although the escalating steps in fees after that are not absolutely clear, it is impossible that the Blues would have to fork out anywhere near the reported overall £40 million fee. That was based upon an appearance tally of 80 games and club-performance related factors. Put simply, that won’t happen. Wages will be high of course which is a negative factor but what price success? If you believe the speculation, Everton are being allegedly quoted way more than £10 million for players who have not proven themselves like Dele in his earlier years.

I think the manager may well invest a bit of time in Dele. The patient arm around the shoulder and man-management is something the club is already paying for (with Dyche) so the additional financial investment is zero right now until any other transfer-terms trigger. The chances of success with Dele might be significantly higher than zero and that would suit all parties. Get those dancing shoes warmed up Sean Dyche!