The new era at Everton under Marco Silva and Marcel Brands has begun. As this is being written it is two weeks into pre-season. A week at Finch Farm has been followed by a weeks training camp in the Austrian Alps finishing with a bizarre 22-0 win against Austrian 5th tier outfit ATV Irdning. But more importantly this pre-season represents a massive opportunity or turning point for many of the young players who were part of the Title winning Under 23’s team of 2016-17 (Dowell, Robinson, Williams, Connolly). This opportunity is also there for the young players such as Adeloma Lookman, Nicola Vlasic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin who have been brought into the club over the last couple of seasons.
Marco Silva as First Team Coach/Manager, is a person not afraid to blood young talent. Marcel Brands as Sporting Director has a track record of spotting young talent and has made it clear that the Club aim is to promote youth. A golden opportunity is in front of Everton’s young talent to really impress during the pre season and so cement a place in the first team squad for the up and coming 2018-19 campaign.
With Everton seemingly in the market for a left sided winger and short up front Lookman, Vlasic and Calvert-Lewin can help alleviate this part of the equation. Ademola Lookman had fleeting first team opportunities last season before taking his career into his own hands by rejecting Everton’s, (or was that Allardyce’s), preferred option of a loan move to Derby County Instead he chose to move in January to RB Leipzig for six months. Goals and assists followed his six month Bundesliga adventure, with Leipzig making it known they would like to sign Lookman permanently.
Similarly Nicola Vlasic was given some early season games showing promising form before being bombed out of the first team squad as the chaos of the season ensued. Both Lookman and Vlasic have the chance to claim a wide berth this season especially on the left wing were Bolasie and the returning Mirallas are very vulnerable (and should be moved on in my view). Both have the versatility to also put pressure on Walcott for the right wing spot. Interestingly Vlasic has shown he can play further inside in his fleeting appearances for the Blues, while Lookman has played behind the striker at times for England’s Under 21’s and also fulfilled this role a few times for Leipzig, very impressively in a game at Mainz which Leipzig actually lost. Silva as a coach likes to play with wingers who can also play inside when the fullbacks push high up the pitch, Richarlison is an example of this in Siva’s tenure at Watford. Both Lookman and Vlasic can fulfill this role and both showed glimpses of this in the ATV Irdning kick about. An opportunity for both players is clearly in grasping reach and it is hoped, and I expect, both will take it in pre season.
Calvert-Lewin is in a different position in as far he was a first team player throughout the whole of last season with an ankle injury curtailing the final few weeks of what was a full season for the young striker. At 21 Calvert-Lewin ploughed a furrow by himself up front for long periods last season as well as being played out on the right and even on the left at Brighton away, not to mention the unfathomable right wing back position in the opening game of last season against Stoke City. This pre season is the chance for Calvert-Lewin to kick on, and show the experience he gained from last season. If he can add goals to his game maybe a viable 2nd striker option for the forthcoming season can be achieved.
When we come to midfield three of Everton’s loan rangers have a chance to make a mark this season. The name which all Evertonians know best in this department is the talented left footer Kieran Dowell. Dowell made his first team debut for the blues in the last game of the 2015-16 season aged 18. A prodigious talent with a fantastic left foot Dowell has scored great goals both at under 23 level, playing in friendlies for Everton, and for Nottingham Forest in the first half of last season while on a season long loan. Dowell’s form fell away in the 2nd half of the season but this can partly be put down to the upheavals at Forest with the sacking of Manager Mark Warburton and the more conservative style of new Manager Aitor Karanka under whom Dowell found himself mainly on the bench. The season long loan at Forest will have been a good learning curve for Dowell who looked good for England in the Summer Toulon Tournament. He has goals in him and can be a creative player for the Blues in midfield this season. It is now down to Dowell to grasp the opportunity.
Calumn Connolly stood out for a very average Ipswich Town team playing in a defensive midfield role and ended up with 35 apperances in his season long loan. He also performed well for the England at this Summers Toulon Tournement, scoring in the semi final win over Scotland. Connolly has even made one substitute apperance for the first team replaceing Seamus Coleman against Southampton in April 2016. Although now playing in midfield Connolly is a very versitile player who can play anywhere along the back line.
Like Conolly and Dowell, Joe Williams was part of the 2016-17 Under 21’s title team. Last year he had a good season on loan at relegated Barnsley in the Championship playing 34 games with Barnsley actually trying to sign him permanantley. According to the Liverpool Echo Williams has impressed in the first week of pre-season although an injury prevented him travelling for the week in Austria.
Finally in defence we have the ever improving Antonee Robinson who I consider was just as good at left back as Jonjo Kenny was at right back in the Under 23’s title winning season. Robinson was in the Championship at Bolton Wanders on loan for the whole of last season making 34 appearances and also becoming a USA international to boot, he now has three caps to his name including a good showing in the Usa’s friendly against world cup Winners France in June. It is clear that the blues want to recriut a left back in this transfer window but Robinson is an option in this position and has a great opportunity to impress this pre season.
Three more players can be mentioned here Jonjo Kenny and Tom Davies who were stalwarts of the Under 23’s title winning team and Benni Baningimme who has come through the Under 18’s and the Under 23’s last season. Davis and Kenny have clearly broken through to become members of the first team squad while the even younger Baningimme broke through last season and will also proabably be around the first team this season. These three along with Calvert-Lewin are examples for the other discuused players to look up to and emulate. The opportuntity is there for some of the crop of young players whose names have been on Evertonian lips for the last 18-24 months to shine this pre season and crasp the opportunity to become first team squad members in the new Silva/Brands era. The question now is will any of them grasp it ?