GOOD SIGNS IN THE UNDERGROWTH

images (1)

Following the Premier League 2 Title in 2016-2017, Everton’s Under 23 squad had a season of transition in 2017-2018, finishing 7th in the 12 team league. A number of reasons contributed to this mid table finish.

Firstly a number of the players in the title winning team moved on to the first team squad. Tom Davies for example became a first team regular in the second half of the 2016-2017. Jonjoe Kenny and Beni Baningime mainstays of the title winning team were promoted to the first team squad during 2017-2018. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Ademola Lookman also flitted between the first team and the Under 23’s, Calvert-Lewin cementing a first team spot on a number of occasions along with Mason Holgate.

Secondly a batch of players from the title winning team were sent out on loan in 2017-2018, Kieran Dowell (Nottingham Forest), Joe Williams (Barnsley), Antonee Robinson, Harry Charsley (both Bolton Wanderers), Matthew Pennington (Leeds United), while Liam Walsh was sold in January 2018 to Bristol City. Robinson, Walsh and Pennington are again out on loan this season at Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town along with Callum Connolly also at Wigan.

Thirdly the Club signed a batch of young players in the Summer 2017, Josh Bowler from QPR, Boris Mathias from Metz, Nathangelo Markelo from FC Volendam, Lewis Gibson from Newcastle United and Dennis Adeniran from Fulham.

Finally we had the Under 23 Manager David Unsworth taking charge of the first time on a temporary basis in the interregnum between the sacking of Ronald Koeman and the appointment of Sam Allardyce, which disrupted the work of the Under 23”s.

In essence we had a title winning team which had lost a number of players promoted to the first team squad or sent out on loan, while also bringing in a number of young players, who at such a young age would take time bedding in at there new club. When you add to the mix David Unsworth disappearing to the first team for a period following the sacking of Koeman, it is clear the Under 23’s would find it difficult to hit the heights of the 2016-17 season. Losing Captain Morgan Feeney and Denis Adeniran to injury in the second half of the season also did not help. All in all the 7th place position which the team finished in 2017-2018, reflects the great change which had taken place following the title winning season

The gaps created by the loss of a number of players during 2017-2018 did have its plus points. During the season, a number of the Under 18’s squad were given game time for the Under 23’s. Con Ouzounidis, Alex Denny, Anthony Gordon, Michael Collins, Fraser Hornby all stepped up to the Under 23’s and acquitted themselves well at points during the 2017-2018 season. Most supporters will have gained at least one look at these players, as a number of the Under 18’s and Under 23’s got first team experience in the dead rubber Europa League 3-0 win at Apollon Limassol in December 2017.

As the season progressed a number of players brought to the Club in the Summer started to improve. Nathangelo Markelo, who was brought in to take the place of Benni Baningimme, was played out of position at right back for virtually the whole season, were he did well. Only in the second half of the penultimate game of the season against Liverpool and in the final game away at Manchester United was he played, and very impressively, in the midfield position he was originally signed for. Midfielder Denis Adeniran started to show signs of progress before his season was cut short by injury, while in the last couple of months of the season, winger Josh Bowler started to show the promise he was brought to the Club for. Add to this the good form from Anthony Evans and Morgan Feeney, (until his season was cut short), and it could be seen, that for 2018-2019 season, David Unsworth had the seeds of a good team.

 

Which leads us to the start of the 2018-2019 Under 23’s season. As this is written every team has played seven games, Everton stand top of the league from Arsenal on goal difference having won four drawn two and lost one of there opening seven games. Next up in the league is a top of the table clash away at Arsenal on 22 October. Added to the league form are the results in the International Cup, a 2-2 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion and a 2-0 home win against Benfica, with Bayern Munich still to play in December, plus a 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers in the Premier League Cup. The only reverse so far in cup games has been the opening group stage Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Bradford City, were after a 1-1 draw, Bradford equalising with virtually the last kick of the match with Everton down to ten men, we went down in a penalty shoot out

Clearly the season of transition in 2017-2018 is now bearing fruit. A new batch of promising youngsters are emerging. Josh Bowler, Nathangelo Markelo and Dennis Adeniran, after a season at the Club, are starting to show real form this season, while stalwarts Morgan Feeney, Anthony Evans, Nathan Broadhead, Harry Charsley and Matty Foulds are putting in good performances and Bassala Sambou is improving up front. The name on most Evertonians lips though is Fraser Hornby. Moved up from the Under 18’s during last season, Hornby is a Centre Forward who probably in statue most resembles Duncan Fergusson. He led the line well for Scotland’s Under 21’s during the Summers Toulon Tournament and scored five goals in two games for Scotland’s Under 21’s in October. He has even been mentioned by some Scottish pundits for a call up to the full national team. Unfortunately due to an ankle injury he will be out for the next two months, which is a blow to the Under 23’s.

Meanwhile further below Paul Tait’s Under 18’s have started the season in devastating fashion winning the first seven league games before being held to a 3-3 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion in their eighth game. The Under 18’s are a point clear on top of the league from the shower across the park. At such a young age there is still a lot of learning for these youngsters to do, but Centre Back Ryan Astley, who played at Sunderland for the Under 23’s last season, looks a real prospect while Ellis Simms is banging in goals for fun.

The first aim of any Academy is to produce players for the first team, results are secondary to this. In the last few years we have seen Tom Davies, Jon jo Kenny, Benni Baningimme and recruits Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin become part of the first team squad while Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell are now also on the fringes of the first team. After a season of transition the start of this season seems to point to a batch of young players in the Under 23 squad, who may have a chance at the Club, while also hopefully having a good chance at winning some silverware this season. When one sees the talent making its way in the Under 18’s as well, it seems clear that the Everton Academy system is still in good health. Both the Under 23’s and the Under 18’s may actually have a chance of winning some silverware this season, which if not the first priority is always nice and something to aim for.

Advertisements

FORMULA X: THE INTERCHANGEABLES

inter 2

Marco Silva’s first away win of the Season at Leicester City came with two great goals. It was also the best version of a Marco Silva team we have seen so far. The future for the blues is taking shape, it will take time, but it is increasingly looking bright.

The one thing which, more than any other, points to how Silva wants the team to play, is the attacking formation he set up with at Leicester. Although Richarlison has been the teams best player out on the left so far this season, the argument for playing him down the middle, (which increased with his appearances for Brazil in that position in September), had become increasingly louder among Evertonians. Tosun and Calvert-Lewin although working hard have not been finding the net regularly since the start of the season

At Leicester Silva set the team up in a quick counter attacking 4-2-1-3 formation with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing just behind the attacking trident of Bernard on the left, Walcott on the right and Richarlison chosen to play through the middle

Pickford

Kenny               Kean               Zuma            Digne

Davies                                      Gana

Sigurdsson

Walcott                       Richarlison                     Bernard

This formation had Everton on the front foot with an attacking quartet. It also allowed for the work rate of Sigurdsson when he had to drop further back. Gana and Davies were never isolated or out numbered in midfield, as the team were able to quickly morph into a 4-3-3 with Sigurdsson making it a midfield three when Leicester were on the attack. With Bernard, Richarlison and Walcott acting as the first line of defence (although Walcott in my eyes is a weak link in this respect), the team was a dangerous counter attacking unit.

Silva likes his wide players to be able to cut inside and play along the front line. This was how he set his team up at Watford, and how he played Richarlison while manager of the hornets. The attacking front three we deployed at Leicester have the ability to play these interchangeable roles along the front line. Richarlison and Walcott have both played down the middle in the past and on opposite wings, while Bernard can, and has played as a number ten behind the striker in the past. It was noticeable at Leicester that Richarlison, especially, would drift out wide on a number of occasions, while Bernard moved into the Sigurdsson position when Tom Davies was substituted, with Sigurdsson dropping further back.

What this formation allows for, is interchangeable roles between the front three, were they can change positions along the front line. With such a fluid attack the opposition find it hard to pick up the ever changing attacking trident and are dragged around the pitch freeing up space for Sigurdsson playing just behind the three to exploit. Although not perfect as yet, Bernard and Walcott stuck mainly to the wings at Leicester, this formation worked with Richarlison and Sigurdsson netting the goals in the 2-1 win.

With this 4-2-1-3 formation Everton now have a fluid attack, which can cause headaches for the opposition. We also have the option of changing formation to 4-3-3 with a more traditional centre forward with Tosun or Calvert-Lewin and two out and out wide men.

The way the team set up at Leicester was an insight into what we can look forward to at the top end of the pitch in the future, and the fast attacking style Marco Silva is bringing to Goodison Park.

CONSOLIDATION

consolidation

Everton announced on 11 September 2018 that majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri had increased his shareholding in the Club from 49.9% to 68.6%. Whereas previously Moshiri had been the largest shareholder in the Club, he has now consolidated his position to become the de facto majority shareholder of Everton. It is reported he has bought all the shares of shareholders Jon Woods and Arthur Abercombie, plus a number of shares from Chair Bill Kenwright. It is also reported that he will be taking his stake in the Club up to 77.2% by no later than July 2019. In essence Moshiri has finally taken control of Everton Football Club.

What this means in the short term seems to be little. Bill Kenwright is remaining Chair and seems to be someone Moshiri still relies on. Over the Summer we gained a new  Chief Executive in Denise Barrett Baxendale and a restructured Board with clear responsibilities for Sasha Ryazantsev (Finance, Commercial) and Keith Harris (Bramley Moore). This Board will be carrying on the work of the Club.

What it does mean though, is that any investors who may be considering becoming involved in Bramley Moore, now know that Everton have one clear majority shareholder. This in the search for finance for the new stadium can only be a good thing. Hopefully Moshiri’s share increase will move things along concerning the plans for Bramley Moore.. We hear at times that things are moving along in the background concerning the new stadium, Moshiri’s share increase may lead hopefully to more information forthcoming in the near future. The Club still at present seem optimistic that we will be kicking off the 2022-23 season in Bramley Moore. I have always thought, and still think 2023-24 is a more realistic date. The planning permission itself for such an historic site would seem to me to be something, which will go on much longer than other projects.

What the Club announcement has done is to bring clarity to who is the major owner of Everton Football Club Farhad Moshiri. Moshiri while consolidating his position has also seemed to learn from his early media mistakes such as leaking things through Jim White and making silly statements such as that about Romelu Lukaku etc. Hopefully Moshiri’s move is one more step in the right direction forward for the Club.

SIGNS OF SPRING

images

Four games into the League season and an annoying international break pops up. But with this early interruption to the season we can reflect on the start of the new era under Marco Silva and Marcel Brands.

Lets start with the clear out of the bloated and not fit for purpose squad that Silva and Brands inherited. 24 players have been moved on in the transfer window since Silva and Brands came into the Club. Some moved permanently (Wayne Rooney, undisclosed but believed to be around £12 million to DC United, Funes Mori £9.5 million to Villarreal, Davy Klassen £12 million to Werder Bremen). Others were released (Jose Baxter, Sam Byrne, Callum Dyson, Connor Grant, Louis Gray, David Henan, Joel Robles). Meanwhile a host of players (Mo Besic, Yannick Bolasie, Callum Connolly, Luke Garbutt, Cuco Martina, Kevin Mirallas, Henry Onyekuru, Matty Pennington, Sandro Ramirez, Antonee Robinson, Shani Tarashaj, Nikola Vlasic, Ashley Williams, Joe Williams) are all out on season long loans. There are still a number of players hanging round the Club who in my opinion could be released, but one cannot quibble. The work in slashing the numbers in the squad during the transfer window has been exceptional. To get this number of players shipped out of the Club permanently, or on loan for the season, has been nothing but a herculean effort by Marcel Brands and is to be highly recommended.

One more note on outgoings should be made in the case of a number of the young players who are out on loan. First off is Antonee Robison. Robinson was in the Championship on loan at Bolton Wanderers last season making 34 appearances, and also becoming a USA international to boot. He now has four caps to his name at the time of writing, including a deep learning curve dished out to him by Douglas Costa in his latest appearance for the USA against Brazil . Having just turned 21 in August, Robinson is a player who has real potential. Robinson signed a new three year contract with the Club and played in most of the pre season friendlies before being sent out on loan for the season to Wigan Athletic. He will only improve further playing another season in the Championship. With Leighton Baines in the autumn of his career, it would seem that the Club see Robinson and new recruit Lucas Digne as the future from next season onwards. The loan to Wigan for the season is a very astute move.

Henry Onyekuru is another player were exception can be made. Signed in the summer of 2017 he spent last season on loan at Anderlecht due to work permit issues. After his season at Anderlecht he is now at Galatasaray for the season. He will again, like last season, play in the Champions League for Galatasaray. It is hoped that he will again do well while at Galatasaray, and that next season he will have a work permit and be given a chance at Everton.

Finally we have three other young players on loan, Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow), Joe Williams (Bolton Wanderers), and Callum Connolly (Wigan Athletic). Connolly also signed a new three year contract before going out on loan. These three may or may not have futures at the Club, (not in my opinion), but they should clearly be seen as different prospects compared to the rest of the dross we have sent out on loan.

When we look at the incomings during the transfer window the early signs are that Silva and Brands have brought in a number of quality players who will/have increased the standard of the squad. First is the recruitment of Richarlison for £40 million. Richarlison it seems clear was the one signing Silva wanted from his time at Watford. He was also a player Marcel Brands had on his radar while he was at PSV and before Silva signed him from Fluminense for Watford. With the frosty relationship between Everton and Watford over the Marco Silva saga, it is a great credit that Marcel Brands was able to pull this deal off. Richarlison has hit the ground running with three goals in three and a half games. The petulant sending off at Bournemouth is something he will have to learn quickly from, opponents will have no second thoughts in chopping him down or trying to wind him up. But the early signs are that the Club in Richarlison have a real gem on their hands. A first call up to the Brazil squad for the two friendlies against the USA and El Salvador during the internatonal break show that his star is certainly on the rise. He came on for the final fiffteen minuets in the first of these friendly games against the USA and may also get some playing time in the second game against El Salvador (this is written before it has been played).

When we add Lucas Digne, Bernard and Yerry Mina signed permanantley plus Andre Gomes and Kurt Zuma on season long loans, the work Marcel Brands has done on incoming transfers is as good as the departure lounge players. Digne and Zuma have both looked very acomplished in the games they have played. With Mina, Gomes and Bernard, (a small cameo apperance at the international break, the squad is much less bloated and higher in quality than the squad Siva and Brands inheriated. We have also signed the 18 year old goalkeeper Joao virginia from Arsenal.

Moving on from the transfer window to the football itself, we have made an encouraging start to the season in our first four league games plus the 2nd round Carabao Cup win over Rotherham United. Nobody could expect Marco Silva to come into the Club and instantanously turn things around. We have been a mess since the final season of Roberto Martinez, while the Koeman/Walsh, and then Allardyce/Walsh eras were to put it politely abysmal. We were a bloated, aging under performing mish mash of a squad, who under Allardyce, hardly ever had a shot on target in a game. Clearly Silva could not change this situation overnight. Pre season went by with the players clearly needing to get to grips with Silva’s new ideas. But the transformation in the first five games since competitive action has started has been as different as night from day.

Stright from the off in the first league game away to Wolverhampton Wanderers we were a team which bore no resembalance to the team which ended last season. We were fitter, faster, playing on the front foot and actually having attempts on goal. This it should also be noted with ten players starting the game who were playing last season under Allardyce. The only new recruit who started at Wolves was Richarlison, yet Silva had the team playing attacking front foot football. Compare this to the Allardyce nightmare, no comparison.

In games against Wolves and Bournemouth away plus Southampton at home we have played attacking on the front foot football. When we take into consideration that we have played the two away games with a player sent off before half time, the way we have regrouped under Silva and still looked to attack and score, even when down to ten men has been a revelation. The only downside to these three games is that we have not taken at lest seven points if not nine from them. The collapse in the last twenty minuets at Bournemouth, throwing away a two goal lead, and allowing Wolves to grab an equaliser in the last ten minuets shows we still have a lot of work to do, to be able to manage and see out games.

The Huddersfield Town home game though was a bit of a reality check to the opening three league games. Against Huddersfield the team were unable to break down a deep siiting opponent who looked to strike on the break.. The team against Huddersfield, with it must be said a number of injuries, was nowhere near as good as it had been in the previous matches. Against Huddersfield we resembled the team of last season moving the ball slowly, a lack of creativity and only one attemp on target, Calvert-Lewin’s equaliser. To be critical on this game, I would say that Silva got his substituions wrong. Kieran Dowell should have been brought on, he was the one player on the bench who was capable of playing a killer pass to break down the Huddersfield defence. But just as this is a learning curve for the squad under a manager with new ideas and tactics, it is also a learning curve for Silva himself as he settles into his role. Teething problems in the way the team plays and in Silva’s tactics are bound to appear. The biggest teething problem being the way the team adjusts to the zonal marking system that we employ under Silva. 6 of the 7 goals we have conceeded so far have all come from set pieces. But as they say practice makes perfect.

So as we endure the international break were does our start to the season stand. We have off loaded a large amount of dross permanently or at least for the season, while making some extremley good incoming transfers. We have gone four games undefeated, and although we should proably have more points than we have at present, the Bournemouth slip being the main disappointing, the start of the season has been very encouraging. We play on the front foot and actually play attacking football. When we add the Carabao Cup victory into the mix, with a very winnable home draw against Southampton in the next round, then the start to the season looks brighter still. It is early days and there is a long way to go in the Sivla/ Brands plan. I don’t think we will really have a real Marco Silva team until two transfer windows from now, meaning the start of next season. But the start we have made has exceeded what could have been expected. The cold dark winter of Allardyce is well and truly gone. The buds of spring are now starting to sprout under Silva and Brands. There is a long way to go and we will have setbacks along the way, but we can look forward with optimisim.

THE NEW TERM

images

The Silva/Brands era starts at Wolves, what can we expect in the 2018-2019 season from our new duo?

Silva and Brands came into a Club with a bloated not fit for purpose squad of players. Some of the players stretched back to the David Moyes era while others had joined under Martinez, Koeman and Allardyce. A mishmash of aging and young players with no direction and some just not up to standard is the legacy which Silva and Brands inherited. With such a squad it is inconceivable that Silva and Brands could come in wave a magic wand and we would be set to crack the top 6. When appointed Silva had the mammoth task of assessing the squad and to be fair he said he would do this, giving everyone a chance to impress. As the pre season went on its merry way it became clear to Silva what all Evertonians knew, the squad needed a total overhaul if we were to have a team able to play the way Silva requires.

So we move to the deadwood of the squad, players who Silva and Brands have assessed and deemed surplus to requirements, many which I named in The Cull. It is goodbye permanently to Robles, Henan, Funes Mori, Rooney, and Klassen. While we have shipped out Mirallas, Williams, Garbutt, Tarashaj and the man who cant get a work permit Onyekuru on loan. Part of a ruthless purge has taken place freeing up positions in the first team squad. Along with the above, second string players Dyson, Grant, Byrne, Gray and Baxter have also been released. It is hoped more of this ruthlessness carries on in future windows. The squad still has a number of players lounging around the Club, Bolasie, Besic, Pennington, Sandro, Martina etc who have no futures. With the loan market for non Premier League clubs and the European windows still open we hopefully will see some more of these players shipped out.

The pre season games highlighted the deficiencies in the squad. The defence and midfield especially needed reinforcements to fit the Silva plan. Silva likes to play a high line at the back. With an aging Jagjelka and Baines plus the incredibly slow on the turn Michael Kean fresh blood in this area was a priority. Lucas Digne come in at left back while transfer deadline day saw Yerry Mina permanently and Kurt Zuma (season long loan) arrive to bolster the Centre Back positions. In one swoop Brands has brought in two Centre Backs who should, when fully up to speed replace Jagjelka and Keane. Once Mason Holgate is fit we will have three young highly regarded Centre Backs, which will also gives us an option of playing three at the back. All three of these players will be much more comfortable in playing a high line and playing the way Silva foresees.

 

Deadline day also saw Andre Gomes signed from Barcelona on a year long loan. If Gomes can come to terms with the speed of the Premier League he will add some required passing guile to the midfield. With the signing of Richarlison and Bernard adding pace and flair to the wings, and both able to play across the front line, the top end of the team is also starting to take the shape of a Silva team. Silva likes to play what I term a 10 and a half, wingers who can also play inside freeing up the space for the wing backs. Richarlison and Bernard are both adept at this role, Walcott can play more centrally and Lookman played this role a couple of times while on loan at RB Leipzig. He has also played this role for England Under 21’s. Thus an interchangeable front line can be employed behind Tosun.

Finally on signings three young players Kieran Dowell, Callum Connelly and Antonee Robinson have all signed new three year contracts, a clear sign the Club has faith in them. Dowell it would seem will be around the first team squad this season while Connelly and Robinson have gone on year long loans to Wigan Athletic. Robinson in particular came on leaps and bounds during his season loan at Bolton Wanderers, becoming a USA international with three caps to his name along the way. I fully expect him to come back for the 2019-20 season ready to challenge Digne for the left back spot, this season being the swan song of Leighton Baines.

 

What we have seen through the transfer window is a duo of Manager and Director of Football working on the same wavelength and working to a plan. Brands has worked quietly on deals behind the scenes and has brought in players suited to a Marco Silva team. As the season starts we have a team more suited to the long term plan of Silva and Brands. What needs to be stated here is that Gomes has had a shoulder injury and will not be fully fit till around September, Bernard has not had a competitive game since March and Mina only returned to training with Barcelona a few day before he signed. Silva himself has said that he will have to have a mini pre season as the season begins for these players. The new signings must be given time to get fully match fit and in the case of Bernard and Gomes get use to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

In essence Silva and Brands have started exceptionally well. But the club has a new Manager with a totally different idea of how football should be played compared to the dross of Koeman and Allardyce. He will need plenty of time to instill is ideas on the team. Can we break into the so called top 6 I don’t think so. Can we get 7th yes, but a top 10 finish anywhere between 7-10 is what I am expecting. This is a team needing time to gel, playing a totally new way and taking on new ideas. Silva likes to attack and we will see a vast improvement in the football from the dark days of last season, We can also expect to see better performances against the so called top 6 especially away from home. But this is still a team in development and it will take another 2-3 transfer windows before we can say we have a team in Silva’s image. We are going to have better football, and will be a team showing real progression this season, but Silva and Brands need time and patience to get this right. They are definitely on the right path and if this does prove to be a season of transition the future is bright.

One more thing Marco two derby victories please.

 

LOOKING SOUTH

 

south and cent am

With the signing of Richarlison is this the beginning of a much needed expansion of Everton’s recruitment horizons to the football honey pot of South and Central America? One of the things, which Everton are exploring under new Director of Football Marcel Brands, is rejuvenating and expanding the Clubs appalling South American scouting system.

It must be said that when it comes to the South and Central American markets the Clubs recruitment record has been, to be candid, absolutely awful. The list of South Americans to have played for the Club is a select group of not very good players. Think of the Brazilians who have played for us, Jo, Rodrigo, Anderson de Silva, Felipe Mattioni (always a strange one, an eternally injured player who never played for the first team), not a group of players to live long in the memory. Then we have the Argentinians the mighty Straq and Funes Mori and the Ecuadorians Enner Valencia and Segundo Castillo. And lets not forgot our very own Paraguayan Antolin Alcaraz. Looking at Central America it gets no better with Bryan Oviedo being probably the best, Cuco Martina although born in Holland does play for Curacao. Incredibly when you think of Landon Donavan, Brian McBride, Tim Howard, Tomasz Radzinski even for gods sake Joe-Max Moore we have had easily more success in the North American market than the South and Central American.

Which brings us back to the signing from Watford of Richarlison. Is this the first sign of a new South American and Central American transfer strategy? True Richarlison is not a signing straight from South America, he was brought in by Watford in the Summer of 2017. But the Manager who had identified Richarlison and persuaded him to come to the Premier League when he looked like he was on his way to Ajax was Marco Silva. Richarlison had also been on the radar of at the time PSV Technical Director Marcel Brands while playing for Fluminense in Brazil. During this summers transfer window we have been heavily linked with Colombian Yerry Mina who moved to Barcelona in January. We have also been linked with Mexican winger Hirving Lozano from PSV, a winger who was bought from Mexican Club Pachuca by Marcel Brands when he was PSV Technical Director. But as well as Lozano Brands has also brought to Europe Santiago Arias, Hector Moreno, Gaston Periero and Maximiliano Romero. Clearly South and Central America is a market were Brands has good contacts and likes to explore.

It obviously is easier for Spanish and Portuguese Clubs to pick up South and Central American talent because of the language but many other Clubs do have good contacts in this area. A number of Italian Clubs do this and a plethora of South Americans can be found playing in Europe, many in the Eastern part of Europe. Shaktar Donetsk for example have a good recruitment strategy especially of Brazilians. Not all South and Central Americans turn out to be great footballers many, Gabigol anyone, just don’t make it in Europe while many of the South and Central American playing in Eastern Europe are journey men footballers just making a living.

But it has to be agreed that Everton’s presence in South and Central America has been non existent. With Marcel Brands ensconced as Director of Football this will now hopefully change with the Club looking to recruit young talent form that area of the globe or even from clubs in Europe who have brought in young talent from South and Central America such as Richarlison.

Richarlison may well be the first of a new transfer operating strategy from the club in the South American and Central American market.

TIME TO SHINE

images

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 ?