With the 2023 summer transfer window now shut and behind us, the crew at Royal Blue Mersey put their thoughts down in words on how they feel about the transfer activity that did (and did not!) take place at Everton ahead of what is already confirming our worst fears that another relegation zone slog does lie in front of us.
The Toffees worst ever start to a league campaign in the club’s long history was not something even the most pessimistic Blue would have envisioned especially with the kind opening slate Everton had been handed.
However, some truly awful finishing and headscratching errors especially from experienced heads means here the Blues sit on just a single point out of a possible twelve, and new horrors await on the other side of the international break.
The crew summarized the transfer activity for each of the squad positional groups, while talking about the moves in and out, development, expectations, and more. In part 1 here we look at the goalkeeping and defending situations at the club.
Geoff - Asmir Begovic, capable deputy as he was, needed first team football. Joao Virginia I have always rated though he’s had a few bumpy loans. Having been overlooked for the cup game against Doncaster I expect he will only get a game if Pickford injured. I think we’re OK for coverage. The young keepers Tyrer and Leban will develop better playing lower league football on loan.
Pat - I don’t see Begovic’s departure as a huge loss. Barring any unexpected injury to Pickford, I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing too much of Joao Virginia, but if so, he seems capable enough.
Tom - Jordan Pickford is a big reason why Everton are still a Premier League side so to keep hold of him under a new long-term contract is a massive boost. The loss of Asmir Begovic is a blow as I don’t think there are many better experienced No.2s. It presented Everton with another financial headache they could do without so it’s no surprise they opted not to replace him. I haven’t seen much of Joao Virginia to comment but I think we all hope Pickford enjoys an injury-free season given his importance to the side.
Kevin - Everton elected to allow veteran Asmir Begovic to depart in search of pastures new - located at Queens Park Rangers, in the Championship, for whom he’s started all five league matches. The gap between the club’s incumbent, Jordan Pickford and the 36-year-old was large, but no effort was made to bring in a replacement, entrusting Joao Virginia to the task of backing up the England number one. The Portuguese is entering his sixth year at the club and returns from a season-long loan at SC Cambuur, for whom he played 17 games in the Eredvisie, conceding 28 goals, until losing his starting berth in January. Virginia, who turns 24 next month, will only offer emergency cover and is a probable downgrade from what Begovic offered, so fans will be hoping Pickford stays fit.
Peter - Jordan Pickford was still an Everton player at the end of the window and the worry was that he would be sacrificed to balance the books like Anthony Gordon. With the departure of Asmir Begovic, Joao Virginia appears to have finally been recognized as the understudy to Pickford. It was somewhat surprising when Pickford was given the start against Doncaster which Begovic was given last year. It will be interesting to see how this plays out moving forward.
Calvin - Quite surprised really that we’ve gone into the season with Joao Virginia as Jordan Pickford’s back-up. If the unthinkable happens to the England #1, I fear for Everton’s shaky defence which has already needed Pickford to bail it out more than once with critical saves. Surely no one expects Andy Lonergan to like, play, right?
Geoff - Delighted to see Branthwaite being given his chance. Definitely future full international. Young adds his versatility and experience for both full back positions and wings. Think we’re light at centre back. Keane is not dependable and Godfrey just not the player of 3 years ago. Patterson still developing so we can expect some bad with the good. Disappointed we didn’t bring in an experienced centre back to allow Godfrey to regain confidence elsewhere. We’re just about OK so long as no injuries.
Pat - Glad we were able to ship out Holgate, but wish it wasn’t just a loan. Mina leaving was a given. Wish we had held onto Coady, especially for such a cheap price. I’m a little worried about our fullback situation, as Young hasn’t necessarily lit the league on fire so far this season. Hopefully his age won’t be an issue and he can find his footing soon.
Tom - This is the area of the pitch where I have most concern. James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite are a solid opening pair but if they get injured Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey have shown little evidence recently that they can step up in their absence. They simply have not replaced the leadership of Yerry Mina and Conor Coady. Nathan Patterson has had a patchy start to the season, but the return of Seamus Coleman may help in that regard. I am not convinced in Vitaly Mykolenko and while Ashley Young has not done a lot wrong since his arrival, relying on a 38-year-old sums up the club’s predicament.
Kevin - The Blues saw Yerry Mina leave at the conclusion of his high-paying contract, the club seeing fit not to offer an extension to an important, if injury-plagued player who unfortunately was able to make it onto the pitch far too infrequently. The big Colombian signed for Fiorentina, but has yet to make an appearance for the Serie A side. Also gone was the on-loan Conor Coady, an option to buy being passed up on. Seeing as the Liverpool native works best in a three and Blues manager Sean Dyche almost exclusively plays a flat back four, this was a sensible move. Niels Knoukou was sold for a €2m fee to French second tier side Saint-Etienne A, where the full back spent the last campaign on loan. A late departure on a season loan to Southampton was former regular Mason Holgate - an astonishing eight years after his arrival - who’d fallen out of favour in recent seasons; the cash-strapped club will save around half of his rumoured £72,000 per week wages.
The only incoming player was Ashley Young, a player of such vintage as to have actually played at Watford with 52-year-old Blues boss Dyche! The ultra-veteran offers versatility and professionalism and has started all four of Everton’s league matches at left back, but will surely need spelling as the campaign progresses. The defence looks short of quality, even with the return from a successful loan spell at PSV of Jarrad Branthwaite, who appears to have nailed down a starting centre back spot already; depth is non-existent, which is a concern.
Peter - There was no area that has been impacted more than our defenders. Departures Mina, Holgate, Nkonku, Vinagre and Coady had no replacements at all. We are left with Tarks, Godfrey and Keane along with the returning Branthwaite. So pleased to see that Branthwaite is being given a chance and his performance at Sheffield was very promising. The issue is the potential for injuries or suspensions and then the lack of solid support might be critical in our success or failure. Ashley Young’s arrival, even with his advanced age, does give us an experienced player who can cover in many positions.
Calvin - Still incredible to think that the Blues did virtually nothing to address an ageing core of centrehalves that lost a lot of experience beyond bringing back Jarrad Branthwaite from loan. James Tarkowski has already shown some suspect decision-making while Michael Keane has done what Michael Keane does, so no one should really be surprised. That the latter and Ben Godfrey are this close to being regular starters absolutely terrifies me, but this is what we are.
Swiss defender Nico Elvedi would have been a perfect fit for a relatively low transfer fee and wages but somehow that option wasn’t even investigated beyond a cursory glance. Strange indeed.
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