Everton are working hard in the transfer market to build a side capable of challenging the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal this season.
The modern adage is to ‘break into the top six’. However, Evertonians being Evertonians will expect much more than that as they will their club on to re-establish themselves among the European elite.
Furthermore, the Toffees haven’t made it beyond the fourth round of either domestic cup since reaching the semi-finals of both during the 2015/16 campaign, Roberto Martinez’s last at Goodison Park. There is a huge craving for silverware at Goodison Park but to deliver that, Everton must have more strength in depth than they have done in recent years.
And so, we’ve put together two totally different starting line-ups: one is a dream scenario should Everton secure their biggest and most likely targets in a £100m spending spree, the other is made up of players waiting in the wings and on the fringes of Marco Silva’s squad.
There is still plenty of work for Silva and director of football, Marcel Brands, to do in the final days of the transfer window so, for now, it’s quite unclear what Everton’s best XI will be.
The goalkeeper spot picks itself, however, with England international Jordan Pickford taking up the gloves once again. In front of him, Lucas Digne – who created more chances (71) than any other Premier League defender last season – keeps his spot at left-back after impressing during his first year in England. Michael Keane was much more convincing at centre-back after a tough debut season with Everton and won more aerial duels (192) than any other player at the club during 2018/19. He will continue to be the defensive cornerstone, while Everton are still desperately battling it out to convince Chelsea into allowing Kurt Zouma back up to Merseyside after a very strong loan spell last season according to the Times – that one may go down to the wire.
Seamus Coleman improved drastically toward the end of last season but is 30 years old now. If Everton are to go all the way in the cups and challenge high up in the league, they will not just need to find cover for the Irishman, but someone who can genuinely challenge his place in the side. Santiago Arias has struggled for games at Atletico Madrid and has been consistently linked with a move to Everton, fuelled by his time spent with Brands during their PSV days. The Colombian is a tenacious tackler with more than enough attacking prowess and energy to slot in at right-back.
Andre Gomes will play the same role as he did alongside Idrissa Gueye last season, acting as the ball-carrying pass master who can keep Everton flowing and progressing in possession. The only change is that, instead of forming a double-pivot with Gueye, who has left for PSG, he will sit alongside Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who looks set to seal a move from Mainz any day now. The Ivory Coast international is just as tough a tackler as Gueye and will ensure Silva’s side don’t develop a soft underbelly.
With rumoured deals for Wilfried Zaha, David Neres and Malcom all seemingly dead in the water, expect Silva to line up with the same three behind the striker as he did toward the end of last season. The final 11-game stretch of that campaign saw the Toffees turn their form on its head, taking 10 points at home against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd without conceding a goal, while also picking up impressive away results at West Ham and Spurs. During that run, no Everton player completed more dribbles than Bernard, who really started to come into his own on the left flank.
Along with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison was Everton’s joint-top scorer in all competitions last season, with each grabbing 14 goals. Expect the pair to resume their respective central and right-sided berths, continuing to act as the creative dynamos and attacking aces up Silva’s sleeve.
Up top is where things get really interesting. Dominic Calvert-Lewin impressed with his work rate but between him and Cenk Tosun, they managed just nine Premier League goals last term. Striker is the one area Everton have truly lacked since Romelu Lukaku left for Man Utd. That, however, is set to change, with Moise Kean looking to be right on the verge of completing his switch from Juventus to Goodison Park. Kean will offer pace, flair and deadly accuracy in front of goal and may be the real difference-maker in Silva’s search to gatecrash the top places in English football.
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The ‘B’ Team
Of course, you can’t challenge for anything in football, let alone silverware currently residing in the Etihad trophy cabinet, if you don’t have a healthy batch of squad players waiting in the wings.
In goal in this second XI would be Jonas Lossl, who signed on a free transfer from Huddersfield Town this summer. Maarten Stekelenburg has bags of experience but isn’t getting any younger and will likely play a marginalised role this season.
At right-back, we all know how good Coleman is and he would likely switch between both line-ups regardless of any potential arrival is in his position. Yerry Mina still has a lot to prove in England but could form a promising centre-back partnership with Mason Holgate, who has returned from his loan at West Brom. The left-back spot would be taken by Leighton Baines who, despite being 34 years old, still retains a wand of a left foot.
A lack of No.10s to adequately sub in for Sigurdsson means Silva would have to switch to a three-man midfield but, still, it is not lacking in quality. Fabian Delph’s £9m arrival from Manchester City is as astute as it is sensible, with the England international’s ball-playing skills improving ten-fold under Pep Guardiola, without losing his appetite in the tackle. He can also fill in at left-back but, here, he will be the sole pivot in midfield.
Ahead of Delph would be Morgan Schneiderlin and Tom Davies. Although they’re at the club in very different circumstances, neither have quite convinced the Everton faithful as of yet. That said, they’re both super slick passers of the ball on their day, while Davies’ boundless energy would be invaluable when Silva directs his team to press for the ball.
Ademola Lookman’s departure to RB Leipzig leaves Everton relatively short of cover out wide but Calvert-Lewin has been deployed there in the past. He’s fast and energetic, and could use his physical presence to dominate full-backs, pinning them into place to stop them attacking Everton’s flanks. On the right, Theo Walcott is as mercurial as ever, looking like a world-beater for a flash, before being anonymous for games on end. That said, the 30-year-old still managed five goals and two assists last season, including strikes against Man Utd and Spurs during Everton’s strong end to the campaign. On his day, he can still produce the goods.
Tosun would be the central striker in this line-up, using his size and strength to physically occupy centre-backs, allowing players to run beyond him from midfield and out wide. The Turkey international lacks mobility but is a lethal finisher when found in the right position. Perhaps consistent games in a long cup run could finally unlock the confidence which he showed during his Besiktas days.