So that’s another transfer window done with, say goodbye to those rumours, speculation and the incessant clickbait headlines for at least another week. Now that the feeling that if you don’t buy anyone on deadline day then it’s a failed transfer window has dissipated, let’s take a step back from repeatedly searching ‘Everton’ on Twitter and look at how the L4 Azzurri fared this January.
January 1st came and went without Everton having lined up four first-team players to immediately sign at one minute past midnight, so there was outrage from some deranged mentalists that think transfers work like football manager. That’s right, let’s agree a £20m+ fee for a player in November, because if they break their leg in December we can just load our most recent save can’t we? So back in the real world it took Everton five further days to secure the arrival of Ademola Lookman, a player that already looks to have an exciting future at Everton, but maybe we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves just yet on that one.
From then, the rest of the first week of January passed us by with not very much happening, apart from Ronald Koeman having his first Everton-induced breakdown after being dumped out of the FA Cup. A message to the board was clearly sent, fingers were removed from orifices and in a matter of days a deal was hammered out for Morgan Schneiderlin. With the Frenchman’s arrival we witnessed the rarest of Everton sights, unanimous approval. With Gareth Barry showing his age during the crammed winter fixtures, it became clear that a quality, ball-playing central midfielder was required. With the club securing their first choice target, I would say they succeeded in doing that.
So that was it, the end of our incoming first-team business, not forgetting that Anton Donkor would arrive late on to join the U23 squad. Despite a couple of very positive additions, there still lingers a nagging voice that it probably should have been one or two more. It must be remembered that there are obvious reasons as to why another couple of signings did not materialise. Firstly, and most importantly, is the question of availability. We know that the club have held a longstanding interest in Gylfi Sigurdsson and Michael Keane, two players who are very much invaluable to their current sides at this moment in time. Selling those players could quite easily spell relegation for either of those sides, so the £20-25m that they would receive just wouldn’t be worth the gamble at this point in time. Would we really rather Everton signed second rate players instead for the sake of a six month stop-gap?
That quite neatly brings us onto Ishak Belfodil. This is a player who has known attitude problems, he was sent off recently when his side were already down to ten men, and he has never really performed in a top European league. Just because a player is an unknown quantity it doesn’t mean they’re automatically better than what we already have, see Oumar Niasse. Domenic Calvert-Lewin has already managed to make the step up to the first team, Bassala Sambou looks like he may get a chance at the highest level before the season is done. So would it really be worth taking a fairly expensive punt as a last resort? I would suggest not.
If Everton remain in their 3-4-1-2 formation, then there does seem to be adequate cover for the forward positions. Lukaku, Mirallas, Valencia, Lookman and Calvert-Lewin are five players competing for two places at a time when fatigue will not be an issue as Everton will only have one game a week until the end of the season. This more than anything shows that the January window had to be more about trimming the squad, rather than adding to its already bloated size. Martinez created a below average Europa League squad, it needed a cull.
So here comes the fun part.
Okay so Kone is still here, but soon enough he will be joining that list. Rather than leaving us short, the dealings of this month have reduced Everton’s squad size to about the right level for a side only tackling one fixture a week. The stable buys of Moyes had overstayed their welcome and the frankly awful signings made by Martinez were probably never good enough in the first place. The squad was not good enough to compete at a decent level, it needed taking apart and starting again. By no means is that process over, with players like Aiden McGeady still needing to be discarded permanently when the summer arrives.
One player that has caused some debate this window was Gerard Deulofeu. For those that would have seen him stay at Goodison, I’ll pose one question, what position would he play? As we saw in pre-season and against Spurs, he does not have the clinical finishing to play as a centre forward in the Premier League. As Ross Barkley is discovering, even the number 10 is not exempt from Koeman’s pressing game, so would Deulofeu really be able to perform that job? I don’t even think I need to offer any thoughts on Geri as a wing back, do I? Players seem to have either knuckled down under Koeman, like McCarthy, Mirallas and Barkley, or they’ve been shown the door. Deulofeu is no exception. If he goes to Serie A and develops a level of tactical discipline, then maybe he will have a future at Everton. If not then a move to Las Palmas beckons in the summer.
The wage budget has been trimmed in preparation for the summer. The club now can now prepare for our most important transfer window in recent times in a very comfortable position in terms of wages and personnel. They didn’t panic buy and they improved the quality of the first team with the signings they did make. If there was a negative to take away from this January, it comes from Everton’s outgoing youth loans. Brendan Galloway should have been recalled from his useless time at West Brom and taken a place in the first team squad as cover at both left back and centre back. Then there’s Kieran Dowell, his development seems to have stalled and a loan to a Championship side may have done him some good, but these are very minor issues with what has been a very positive window.
Everton seem to be moving in the right direction off the pitch and as we sit here reflecting on the 6-3 win over Bournemouth, they seem to be doing alright on the pitch too! Here’s hoping Everton manage to maintain the apparent upward trajectory, they certainly did so in January.
Up the Toffees.