So, like we all said in the summer, this Everton squad is proving to be nowhere near strong enough to mount a serious challenge for European football. Whatever your view of Yannick Bolasie, he will be sorely missed by Everton while recovering from his ligament injury. With four assists and a goal, Bolaise was providing a spark, even if it was slightly erratic, that Everton’s wings have lacked all too often recently. So let’s wish a speedy recovery to the feller. In his absence, Everton will need to add to their wings, as well as many other places, in the January transfer window. So here is an assessment of a few of the options that Everton may look towards to bring back that creative spark from out wide.
At the time of writing, no one seems certain where Depay is going, or if it will be a permanent move or a loan. But the consensus seems to be that he will be leaving Old Trafford. The former PSV wonderkid has struggled to hold down a regular starting place since his big-money move to United, something that has only been amplified by the arrival of Jose Mourinho. This season he has only been had one start, and that was against Northampton in the League Cup. Depay’s attitude has been questioned by some, however his continued undertaking of the extra training sessions he has undergone since his exclusion from matchday squads would dispute those claims. It must not be forgotten that this was a player who was drawing comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo, he scored 22 goals at PSV, securing the award for Dutch young player of the year, in the season before his move to Manchester United. Last year was much less impressive for the Dutchman, he scored six and assisted none, but his performances against PSV in the Champions League showed that there is a player in there if a level of consistency can be found. Ronald Koeman has made something of a habit out of gaining high performances and consistency out of temperamental flair players in recent years, Dusan Tadic and Saido Mane are two that immediately spring to mind. With this in mind, maybe Everton would be wise to move for Depay this January.
If reports are to be believed, Everton attempted to sign Brahimi on deadline day, only for their £30m bid to be rejected. After an uncertain summer, Brahimi has started to find his form again at Porto, scoring in each of his last three games. Many will have seen his recent performance against an albeit weakened Leicester, during which he was the creative lynchpin of Porto’s 5-0 win, even scoring an audacious backheel flick. Brahimi is the sort of player that is capable of running entire games, his slick passing, quick feet, intelligence on and off the ball and his eye for a goal all make him a formidable attacking opponent. It is thought that if Everton were to submit a similar bid to the one they made in the summer, then Porto would be open to accepting it. The one drawback of Yacine Brahimi is that he is in line to be selected for the Algeria squad for the upcoming African Cup of Nations, meaning that a deal may be more difficult to complete and even if it did get done, Everton would have to wait until February until Brahimi arrived at Goodison Park. Perhaps for a player of this quality, it would be worth the outlay and all of the red tape that comes with it, as Brahimi has all of the qualities to become a fantastic creative midfielder in the Premier League. Whether Everton do return to attempt to acquire Brahimi, however, remains to be seen.
After bursting onto the scene while Charlton were still in the Championship last season, scoring five and assisting one, the then 18 year old raised the attentions of a host of Premier League clubs, Everton included. After Charlton’s relegation to League One, Lookman has continued to perform, adding four more goals to his rapidly growing reputation. He has described himself as “a game changing player, who can take the game by the scruff of the neck.” Undeniably, Everton have a real lack of wingers capable of doing that. His confidence in his own ability is startlingly apparent, but right now the phrase most widely associated with Lookman has been a ‘raw, unknown quantity’. While this may strike fear into the hearts of Evertonians, evoking flashbacks of Romelu Lukaku’s admission that Oumar Niasse was awful at football, Lookman’s potential is undeniable. Looking most comfortable on the left wing, the 19 year old’s ability to use either foot, pace and excellent balance have made him a handful for many experienced Championship defenders. Robins manager Karl Robinson recently expressed the feeling that Lookman had progressed as far as he could at Charlton and a January move was almost a certainty. Rumours of an £11m move from Everton have been rife and, if true, the starlet could prove to be a worthy asset, although whether he could make an immediate impact remains to be seen.
Steve Walsh couldn’t have just waited six months for this one, could he? His goal against Manchester United earlier in the season was an eye opener for many about the talented English youngster. Gray has been built in the mould of the traditional English winger, pace, trickery, an eye for a goal and a decent delivery. Similarly to Lookman, his weaknesses are mostly physical. As a youngster he has not matured physically yet, but that will come with time. Those familiar with the championship will have been aware of Gray’s potential for much longer. For a teenager to perform so well in that league is not mean feat, some of the praise has to go to the management of Gary Rowett for that (genuinely can’t believe Birmingham have sacked him). Then Steve Walsh did what he does best, picked up player with promise for a fraction of his actual value. His use as an impact substitute in the second half of Leicester’s title winning season proved him to also possess a maturity beyond his years. At times when Leicester were winning games by a goal and looking to run the clock down, Gray would pick up the ball and, instead of running for goal, he would dribble it to the corner flag in order to waste him. During this time, another feature of his game becam apparent, his workrate. Gray is nor a player to shirk his defensive duties and would be more than comfortable in a pressing side organised by Ronald Koeman. However since the successes of last year, this season he has largely remained on the periphery of a Leicester side who are still trying to ride the wave of last year’s success. With no straightforward options on the left wing, a player like Demarai Gray could come in to Everton and really make that starting role his own. This offer of first team football could be decisive in luring him away from Leicester, something I never thought I’d write.
With both Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas out of favour and registered interest in Memphis Depay, Ronald Koeman seems intent on bringing more modern wingers to Everton. With these criteria in mind, if Steve Walsh hasn’t as much as gazed towards Domenico Berardi, then he’s being paid far too much money. At the age of 22, Berardi is already one of the standout players in Serie A, he has continued to improve throughout his time at Sassuolo, helping to guide them from the second tier of Italian football into the Europa League. Although he is most at home on the right wing, similarly to Depay, he can play anywhere along the forward line. Everton are crying out for an intelligent winger, someone with excellent vision and the ability to create chances. Since the 2013/14 Serie A season, Berardi has racked up 23 assists and 40 goals, averaging over 1.3 key chances per game in the entirety of that period. Another plus point of Berardi’s signature is that he’s become renowned for his ability from set pieces, something that we all know Everton desperately lack. So what’s the catch? The 22 year old has been out with a knee injury since early September, after scoring 7 goals in 6 games. Only now is he being readied for a return to action after the Italian winter break. It may be hard to prise him away from Sassuolo in January, but it would be well worth a try. After being rumoured to have turned down Juventus in the summer, on the basis that he would not get enough first team football to further his development, the January window may prove to be the only time that Everton would stand a chance of signing a player of Berardi’s quality and potential. With both Juventus and Inter Milan allegedly ready to move for Berardi again in the summer, acquiring Berardi, although an undoubtedly difficult task, would be a real statement of intent for Everton.
That’s your lot anyway. There are a fair few more realistic choices out there at the moment, but who knows, maybe Everton will surprise us all and lash the lot at Julian Draxler? Or, as is much more likely, we’ll end up with Robbie Brady and a pickled egg. Whoever the targets are, there’s a big month ahead.
Up the Toffees.