Everton supporters are going into the new premier league season on a high. The recent acquisitions of Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré has totally revitalised the Everton midfield and instilled new hope for the season ahead. Carlo Ancelotti and Marcel Brands have pinpointed areas of need and brought in three exciting new additions.
Defensively there is work to be done and bringing Jarrad Branthwaite and Lewis Gibson, two young left-sided centre backs to the club, was very shrewd business by Marcel Brands. Branthwaite and Gibson are being fast-tracked, Branthwaite to first-team training and Gibson being set up for a loan spell this season to gain experience. That leaves Everton with just three premier league experienced centre backs, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and Mason Holgate. It is crucial for Everton that they stay fit and free from injury.
Mason Holgate sustained a toe injury in a pre-season game that may force Everton to go into the loan market. It would be good business to bring an experienced premiership centre back on loan, Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea being touted by press pundits as a possible loan option.
At left-back, Everton have lost the experience and reliability of the retired Leighton Baines. Marcel Brands brought in the Marseille 19-year-old Niels Nkounkou, who like Branthwaite and Gibson looks like an outstanding prospect, but Niels will have to gain some premier league experience and prove himself before becoming the automatic back-up for Lucas Digne. This situation may strengthen Fabian Delph’s position in the squad, given his proven ability to play at left-back during his time under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. However, that would be a stop-gap solution at best. It will be interesting to see how things develop in the left-back position.
At right-back, Ancelotti has brought Jonjoe Kenny back into his first-team squad, after Kenny’s loan spell at FC Schalke 04 in the German Bundesliga. Kenny will be using his loan experience and youthful exuberance to challenge Seamus Coleman for the right-back starting place. Ancelotti may be looking for stronger candidates in this area of the pitch, maybe in the next transfer window.
Both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are capable forward options. Both hitting double-figure goal tallies in the last campaign. Even though the Everton midfield struggled to muster the creativity and supply the strikers needed. Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison fed on scraps and still found the net with reasonable consistency. This is where the new hope comes for the new season ahead – Everton have signed three new midfielders.
Allan Marques Loureiro, known as Allan, is brought into the Everton midfield as a combative, ball-winning dynamo, to fill the void left by Idrissa Gana Gueye, since his departure to PSG. It was plain to see that Gueye’s industry and willingness to put the hard yards in to break up opposition attacks has been sorely missed by Everton. Allan, who will be 30 in January, is seen by many commentators as being on the limit of the age boundary to fill this position. Part of the thinking may possibly be that Everton can get Jean-Philippe Gbamin back fit and firing, following his two traumatic injuries. Allan’s acquisition may allow Gbamin to ease back in the first-team picture, rather than be rushed back. Ancelotti has worked with Allan at Napoli and knows exactly what he can bring to the party. Allan joins Richarlison and Bernard to make a trio of Brazilian internationals in the Everton set up. That samba vibe in training and on the pitch could have a galvanizing effect on the squad.
It would appear that Ancelotti is using his canny management skills contacts and understanding of the power of dressing room dynamics to great effect. Especially in the signing of James Rodriguez. The Colombian “Galactico” signed from Real Madrid to team up with Yerry Mina (signed from Barcelona) Everton’s Colombian centre back who tallied fourth-highest headed chances in the premier league last term. Having two Colombian internationals alongside the Brazilian contingent further emphasises the managerial wizard’s brew Ancelotti is concocting. Mina must be relishing the thought of meeting the deliveries of James’ sweet left foot, given the impressive assist stats Rodriguez possesses. No doubt Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will also be keen to get on the end of that supply chain. We have to wait to see how a new natural number 10 fits into Ancelotti’s plans.
Gylfi Sigurdsson found it difficult to adjust to 4-4-2 under Ancelotti. Forced out of his natural number 10 role, which was deployed to best effect in previous manager Marco Silva’s 4-2-3-1 formation. What does Ancelotti have planned for Rodriguez and indeed Sigurdsson? In past Ancelotti sides, 10’s like Pirlo have been adapted to deep-lying playmakers. Could we see Rodriguez, Sigurdsson or even Andre Gomes being refashioned into the Pirlo role used so effectively under Ancelotti at AC Milan? One thing is for sure the signing of James Rodriguez has changed the landscape at Everton FC and greatly raised the club’s global profile. The signing of James Rodriguez is the most exciting since Everton signed Andrei Kanchelskis. Everton fans will be hoping James can emulate Andrei’s exploits in the upcoming Derby game with Liverpool.
Everton’s third signing Abdoulaye Doucouré will hopefully add the energy and vitality Ancelotti has stated the midfield requires. Again, it is clear Doucouré’s past experience of playing with both Digne at international level for France and Richarlison in their joint-best spell at Watford, plays a large part of Brands and Ancelotti’s strategy in signing Doucoure. A box to box, all-round midfielder, who can defend, break up play and support attacking play. Willing to comfortably progress the ball in transition and who is not afraid to hit the back of the net when the opportunity arises. Everton have lacked creativity and goal threat from midfield, Ancelotti’s plan will include a greater contribution from Doucouré, Allan and Rodriguez upon their inclusion in the team, possibly stimulating a response from Gomes and Sigurdsson to contribute more in this area of the pitch.
So all eyes on Everton’s opening game on Sunday, against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur to see if Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré are on the team-sheet. New hope abounds for Everton fans, who will be hoping that all three new signings get off to cracking start to the season.