Long Reads

How Could Everton Set Up Next Season?

Carlo Ancelotti - Everton Manager

After the acknowledgement in Andy Hunter’s article in the Guardian that Carlo Ancelotti and Marcel Brands will be given resources to improve the Everton squad this summer, here is a view on how Everton could look to recruit this summer by looking at how Carlo Ancelotti has set Everton up tactically so far.

Nothing even needs to be said. Look at that midfield. Against Southampton, Tom Davies and Andre Gomes were supposedly Everton’s midfield pivots. In a 4-4-2, which Carlo Ancelotti has favoured at Everton, you need a midfield that can both support the attack as well as being able to get about the pitch effectively in a defensive sense, to set traps for the opponent to limit their ability to play through you and effectively win back possession.

Of course, it is not only the midfield that is at fault for Everton’s recent poor performances. In wide areas, we do not create enough. Our defence is under constant pressure and our centre backs are mostly unable to defend in space, our right backs are either unable to cross the half line way or are unable to do anything productive in our own half and our goalkeeper often conspires to do the most ridiculous things you could imagine, while Carlo Ancelotti is trying to get points by hook or by crook, resulting in Everton turning out some very rigid displays. For sure, Everton are not a side that can enjoy the luxury of playing free-flowing football. The team need to be organised and resolute and that will get results but Everton need to be better in possession and creating chances.

Goalkeeper

Jordan Pickford has had a lot of questions thrown at him this season because of his lack of consistency, temperament and overall concentration. Everton are not usually a side that concedes a lot of shots on target yet Pickford tends to always come under scrutiny for mistakes and shots he should generally be saving. If circumstances were normal and Everton had a blank cheque to spend this summer, Everton probably would look to buy a new goalkeeper. With the realities of the market, Everton may not look to spend money on recruiting a goalkeeper.

If Ben Foster, was not staying put at Watford, I would be tempted to look at him. He’s a very strong goalkeeper who during Watford’s really poor run this season was still playing at a consistent level. Walter Benitez was in a similar situation as a free agent but signed a new deal for Nice and there is no way in the world Everton should consider signing Joe Hart, because he is bad. After that, you are struggling to find a goalkeeper who is cost-effective and of the right quality to challenge Pickford. Personally, my choice with a blank cheque would be Nick Pope, of Burnley. Not only is he a quality goalkeeper who makes big saves to keep Burnley in games, but he also has a good temperament, makes good decisions on the pitch and is an effective communicator with his back four.

I think what you see this summer is Everton will bring in a more competitive number two keeper rather than look to bring in an established first choice like Pope or Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale.

The Defence

Before lockdown, Everton were looking for a centre back, amid their pursuit for Lille defender Gabriel but due to the form of Michael Keane and recently Jarrad Branthwaite, Everton’s interest has seemingly cooled due to the shortcomings in other areas. Yet there had been some tentative suggestions from sources that to be honest no one can trust, that Yerry Mina’s future could be in doubt (I highly doubt it,) and so long term, to partner Mason Holgate, Everton need a better option at centre back. Gabriel as well as Jean Clair Todibo have been linked to the club along with a free transfer option of Thiago Silva. Personally, I would be very happy with Gabriel, he has a turn of pace and can cover in behind as well as win aerial duels and would be a starter at Everton, but I am less convinced by Todibo as a defender, he seems too rash and his positional awareness seems poor (yet that could be a product of David Wagner’s defensive organisation) and while I am a huge fan of Thiago Silva as a player, the move seems ill-fitting due to his age, the wages he would likely demand and the short term feel of the move. Would he likely be a good defender for Everton for a year? Sure. Will we be in the same position next year! Yes.

Like I said, I do not think we are looking to buy a centre back this summer but if it were my choices would be Gabriel, for reasons stated, James Tarkowski, because he is an excellent defender. Ancelotti has a similar system set up at Everton as what he faces at Burnley with the 4-4-2 and the transition would easier for him than what Keane faced, and Nico Elvedi, of Borussia Mönchengladbach, who would more suited to partner Yerry Mina or Michael Keane due to his inability of challenging for long balls but is a good defender nonetheless and as Carlo Ancelotti has shown, he is not afraid to swapping centre backs in order to fit the opponent.

Typically under Ancelotti, Everton have been defending deep and compact in a 4-4-2 formation which has shifted to a 3-5-2 formation at times to block off different passing lanes for teams who have been attacking through the middle more. The lack of sharpness in the air means I would avoid Elvedi and I would be more inclined to look at Tarkowski if that is how Carlo Ancelotti is deciding to go.

Everton are unlikely to try and buy a centre back this summer but Everton desperately needs a right back. As with Todibo, Jonjoe Kenny’s positional awareness concerns me, even more than Todibo due to the fact that he was making the same mistakes at Everton under Marco Silva and Sam Allardyce and going forward he probably is not as rounded as Djibril Sidibe so reinstating him into the side makes little sense to me. Seamus Coleman has improved defensively under Carlo Ancelotti but struggles to get good quality crosses into the box and with the strikers being Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin who thrive off crosses we need better quality in the wide areas to create better chances. Considering the fact Sidibe has rarely featured since the restart, suggests that he will be sent back to Monaco, which is the correct decision.

Who could Everton buy? For me one of, Max Aarons, Denzel Dumfries or Kenny Tete.

Kenny Tete is one of the most underrated fullbacks in Europe. He does not get a lot of minutes at Lyon but is strong defensively and is prudent in the final third also. I doubt he would command a huge transfer fee and would be a guaranteed starter for Everton, I imagine. The beauty with Tete is he could fill either the wing-back role or the third centre back role for Ancelotti as is his ability in both boxes. He is not the best dribbler which is what holds him back from starting regularly but would be a good option.

Denzel Dumfries is much better than he is received also. The only issue for me with Dumfries is how does he adapt to the Premier League. The step up from Dutch football to the Premier League is a step up physically as well as anything else. His dribbling is much better then Tete’s and he is also a good passer of the ball into the final third which would make Everton more dangerous. There are some similarities with Sidibe but at 24 there is room for improvement and he could be someone Everton look at this summer.

If Everton are to buy a right back this summer, it is likely that they will look at Max Aarons. The Norwich right back has impressed in his first season in the Premier League and with his age, he will be on Everton’s radar to improve the defence and help Ancelotti make Everton more progressive going forward.

The Midfield

It’s no secret that Everton’s weakness is in midfield. They can’t run, tackle, create, run with the ball into effective areas or do anything. The wide players are unable to create or get into any rhythm in the game. Again, in normal circumstances, I would not be surprised if the club needed to buy four midfielders this summer, that will not happen of course but it is necessary if Everton want to improve they need more productivity from midfield.

In terms of central midfielders, Everton seem interested in Southampton midfielder, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. The Saints midfielder would no doubt improve the balance of Everton’s midfield but the extent of that remains to be seen. Sure, he is a hardworking midfielder but how much of that is a product of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s high pressing system as Højbjerg did not pull up any trees previously. Yet, £18 million would be a decent deal for a ball-winning midfielder as we are desperately short in that area of the pitch. Andre Gomes gets dribbled past for fun and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tom Davies have been really poor also and lack mobility.

As well as Højbjerg, Toulouse’s Ibrahim Sangare is a decent player with good potential as well as an effective midfielder who’s adept at winning the ball back well and would be an option for Everton. Napoli’s Allan is another midfielder who is horrible to play against and would add more bite to Everton’s midfield as well as having the experience of playing in Carlo Ancelotti’s system.

They would be the two to find the balance between an upcoming midfielder and an experienced player who can help lead the team. As well as them two, Boubakary Soumare, Baptiste Santamaria and Denis Zakaria are all players who would suit Everton’s midfield and if Watford get relegated I would be more interested in Etienne Capoue than Abdoulaye Doucoure. If Capoue was younger in fact, he would be my number one choice for that role.

In terms of the wide areas, Everton need two but definitely have to get one. Bernard and Iwobi just have not done it and Theo Walcott is good enough to become an impact player but nothing more. The priority should be the right hand side. Anthony Gordon and Alex Iwobi should be fine to battle it out for the left hand side spot but with only Theo Walcott able to play on the right, Everton need more options.

For me, the number one choice for that position should be Club Brugge’s Krepin Diatta. Diatta offers something we have not got, direct pace. Not only is Diatta a really good player who can score and create from wide positions, he is defensively prudent as he can often be seen playing right wing back which makes the deal a no brainer due to Ancelotti’s desire for his wingers to fulfil their defensive duties.

If Diatta was unable to come to Everton, my backup would be Ismaila Sarr. He’s similar to Diatta in the sense that he is quick and good in front of goal and would put good crosses in for the front two but if Watford stay up he would command a big fee and make any deal difficult to get done.

Overview

Everton are unlikely to buy a striker this summer despite the clamour from fans. If they were to and push Richarlison out wide then I would look at Ollie Watkins but that is an unlikely outcome.

Everton need more productivity if I was to describe what they need in a word. Productivity in defence, where particularly a right back can pass efficiently in the final third and win his personal battle with the opponent’s left winger. Productivity from midfield, where they can win balls and recycle the ball well, productivity from wide areas and hopefully Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin can continue their form.

It will be a big summer for Ancelotti. In order for him to get a successful team on the pitch, he will need the tools to do so, so back him.

About the author

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Owen Parkes

Owen Parkes, Everton fan and sports journalist. Follow him on twitter @owenparkes123 and check out his blog owenparkesblog.wordpress.com

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