Everton must perform serious surgery on their squad this summer if they’re to avoid desperately battling at the wrong end of the Premier League table again in 2023/24.
The Toffees had to beat Bournemouth 1-0 on the final day last season to maintain their long stay in the top flight, having only escaped on the penultimate day the season prior with a memorable 3-2 comeback win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park.
Space has already been cleared in their squad, with the likes of Yerry Mina, Tom Davies and Andros Townsend coming to the end of their contracts. Meanwhile, Conor Coady and Ruben Vinagre completed their loan spells.
But right across the pitch, Sean Dyche and director of football Kevin Thelwell must target key areas for improvement. Everton need a far more reliable No.9 than the injury-prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin and more creativity in midfield, plus a regular partner for James Tarkowski at centre-back. And all of this is without the possible sales of prized assets like Jordan Pickford and Amadou Onana.
Ashley Young was the first name through the door, with the veteran signing on a free transfer after leaving Aston Villa. At 38 years old, the former England international will offer cover in multiple positions but certainly isn’t one for the future, and the club will need to strengthen far more than that to remain competitive.
Combining strong rumours, bookmakers’ favourites and a couple of our own left-field suggestions, we’ve looked at who Everton could sign this summer…
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Everton were greatly lacking in creativity and goals last season and to be honest, they were semi-decent defensively, so it’s not hard to see where the problems lie or what areas will be targeted this summer. According to multiple reports, Anthony Elanga is one of the potential solutions highlighted by the recruitment staff.
The Sweden international has been with Manchester United for some time now and has garnered a huge reputation as an exciting up-and-coming talent. However, he’s never truly made his mark at Old Trafford and has more recently been surpassed by Argentine wonderkid Alejandro Garnacho. Reports suggest the Red Devils would be willing to part ways with Elanga for as little as £15m — a similar fee to what the Toffees spent on one-goal striker Neal Maupay last summer.
El Bilal Toure
Speaking of strikers, Everton definitely need at least one. On his day, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is undoubtedly a solid Premier League goalscorer. The issue is his day rarely comes due to a string of wretched injuries. Maupay isn’t a viable back-up, meaning Everton often resorted to using the inexperienced academy graduate Ellis Simms last season, who himself scored just once.
Enter El Bilal Toure. The Mali international has just come off a decent season in the Spanish top flight, hitting seven goals and two assists in 21 appearances for Almeria having previously struggled to make the grade at Reims in Ligue 1. The Liverpool Echo report that Toure has a £34m release clause in his contract and while that may sound quite steep, it’s a fee Everton would make a profit on should the player hit the ground running and score the goals they need. Profit is, of course, a large part of Everton’s thinking this summer thanks to their FFP troubles.
Conor Coady’s loan has expired, Yerry Mina is out of contract, Mason Holgate is apparently being offered to Besiktas, Ben Godfrey is injury prone, Michael Keane’s quality as a top Premier League player remains in question and Jarrad Branthwaite is still very inexperienced. Despite having a squad of centre-backs last season, Everton have somehow ended up with only James Tarkowski as their truly reliable and quality option in that area.
It’s no surprise, then, to hear that the Toffees are monitoring Harry Maguire’s situation at Manchester United. Right now, it looks like the fee the Red Devils want would be way too high for Everton but as the window progresses, that may come down if they fail to find a solution for their very expensive mistake.
West Ham are also thought to be looking at the England international and despite his struggles in Manchester, both clubs would benefit greatly from Maguire, who would undoubtedly still thrive in the Premier League in the right surroundings.
Like Maguire and Elanga, it’s starting to feel like Scott McTominay’s time at Manchester United is nearing an end as the club look to drastically increase the quality of their squad to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool on a consistent basis.
McTominay is currently priced at 6/1 by Sky Bet to join Everton this summer, putting the Toffees behind West Ham (3/1) and Newcastle (9/4) at present, but still very much in the running.
As mentioned above, there are Champions League clubs thought to be looking at talented Belgian Amadou Onana but even if he were to stay, Everton would need extra bodies in midfield with Idrissa Gueye not getting any younger. McTominay’s energy and quality would be a boost and he certainly fits Sean Dyche’s philosophy.
Looks like someone else is joining Ashley Young at Goodison Park very soon ?
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— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) July 14, 2023
- Arnaut Danjuma: Everton almost had Danjuma in January with terms agreed and a first interview with the club already in the bag. Then Tottenham happened. Well, that U-turn proved to be a mistake for Danjuma and it’s understood Everton are willing to let that be water under the bridge, though the likes of AC Milan and Feyenoord could once again scupper their plans.
- Jonny Evans: “We’ve got Jonny Evans coming in”. We all heard what we heard in that now-deleted social media post from Everton. Reliable sources have since stated Everton aren’t pursuing the former Leicester defender. But, again, we heard what we heard!
- Callum Hudson-Odoi: At 33/1 according to Sky Bet, Everton are way back in the running for Callum Hudson-Odoi. However, it’s a long summer and anything could happen. The winger would certainly fit the Toffees’ budget and staying in the Premier League would be a bonus for the player who, did you know, was recently described as ‘100%’ the best talent to come out of the Chelsea academy by Reece James’ dad.
- Conor Gallagher: Sticking with Chelsea, Conor Gallagher is a name Everton have been linked with for a couple of years now and like McTominay, he’d certainly be a good fit for Dyche. The main issues right now are the lack of bodies in midfield for Chelsea possibly causing cold feet and competition from the likes of Tottenham, Brighton and Borussia Dortmund, who can all offer European football.
- James Ward-Prowse: A club like Everton must be careful not to sign too many players from relegated clubs. After all, it only just paid off last year with Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil. However, James Ward-Prowse would seem a totally risk-free signing. Despite being at the league’s basement club, Ward-Prowse was arguably the best player in the relegation battle last season in terms of quality and pedigree. Sky Bet have Everton at 33/1 to sign Ward-Prowse and he’s likely too expensive for them so, once again, they’re way back in the running. But what a signing it would be if they could pull it off.
Three ways Everton could line up under Sean Dyche in 2023-24
Tried and tested
When Dyche joined Everton, everybody expected a 4-4-2 formation, high work rate and rigorous defending. The latter two were delivered but perhaps surprisingly, Dyche rolled out a 4-3-3. Given the improvement seen in the Toffees following his arrival and the fact he did, indeed, keep them up, it’s likely he’ll stick with what has worked.
In this system, the likes of Elanga, Toure and Maguire would be exciting additions that, if they delivered on their promise, could genuinely push Everton up into lower-mid-table. Right now, supporters would take that just to escape the anxiety of another relegation battle.
Of course, Dyche could go back to his beloved 4-4-2. This system would be all about functionality, solidity and calling on experience. Burnley boys Tarkowski and Keane would be the centre-back partnership, flanked by veterans Young and Seamus Coleman — McNeil and Alex Iwobi would provide the legs and industry in front of them.
Further forward, the partnership of Calvert-Lewin in front of Abdoulaye Doucoure as a second striker went a long way toward keeping Everton up last season, and they’d be given a little more freedom by the duo of Gueye and James Garner who, between them, combine defensive grit, mobility, and quality in possession.
Backs to the wall
The wildcard option in terms of formation would be something like a 3-4-1-2. Flanking Tarkowski with the youthful energy of Branthwaite and Godfrey, with Vitalii Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson as wing-backs, certainly would mean Everton couldn’t be beaten for pace at the back. In front of them, Gueye and McTominay would form a midfield powerhouse with enough energy to light up Merseyside on their own.
Doucoure is the attacking option in front of those two, helping Calvert-Lewin and, if they land their signing, Toure in an exciting strike partnership.
In this system, there is also the option of bringing Dele Alli into the fold. The former Spurs man would undoubtedly be Everton’s best player on a technical level, and – given the mental health issues Dele recently opened up about – perhaps Sean Dyche’s excellent man management and closeness with his players could provide the environment for him to thrive.