This article first appeared on Grandoldteam on 28th November 2016.
I’m sure this will not be news to many of you, but sometimes it pays to state the obvious. Despite the talents of a small group of core players, we have a woefully weak squad which completely reflects the challenges facing the club.
It’s clear even our established players are not currently playing to form or ability but that’s not our greatest issue. Our biggest issue is the quality of the squad.
Looking on the official site we have a first team squad of 39 numbered players plus several non first team squad members.
Let’s start with the easy bit, the players who aren’t going to get a game for Koeman no matter what:
Of the remaining players, we’ve McAleny, Browning, Pennington, Dowell and Grant who are unlikely to feature unless there’s an injury crisis.
Currently injured, we’ve got Gibson, Kone and currently Besic on the long term injury list – Besic when fit is the most likely to feature in a starting 11, Kone at best a squad player.
Galloway,Tarashaj, Garbutt and McGeady* are on loan
That leaves us with:
Looking at that table, what is required? It’s a long list
In goal, Stekelenburg is capable of excellent games and moments of brilliance, but it’s his inconsistencies which have held him back. Robles is unfortunately just a level behind what is required in the Premier League. Ideally a replacement for Stekelenburg with him becoming #2, or at least a replacement for Robles.
In defence, Baines despite injury worries is still capable of a couple of more seasons in the Premier League. Jagielka, sadly, and I mean that genuinely is on a swift decline ( in a Howard sort of way) and needs replacing. Williams is in the absence of another candidate, Captain elect. Funes Mori, a worthwhile squad member, but we need at least one additional central defender. At right back Coleman, whilst not reaching the heights of 2 years ago still offers enough – for the time being at least. Oviedo is not the player he might have been, albeit understandably and must be a candidate for replacement.
In midfield, the hope is that Barry can defy the sands of time and continue for a season or more with Gueye alongside – the question of whether we need to play 2 defensive midfielders is a discussion in itself. Cleverly never has been an Everton player in my eyes, and I’m also not a huge fan of McCarthy, so there’s two replacements required. Lennon is reverting to the mean, a useful at times squad player but does not have the finished product to warrant an extended run in a high level Premier League team. That leaves Barkley who could be, should be, an answer to every Blues’ wishes – will he? I don’t know, but I’d hate him to become the player he could become somewhere else…..
Up front we have Lukaku who I’d sign on a 10 year contract this evening if he’d agree to do so. For all the complaints, he is by a country mile our most valuable and significant player, our current squad still haven’t worked out the best way to support him but we’d be in serious trouble without him.
Bolasie, I think is a player with real ability – he’s not going to be consistent, but he’ll produce perhaps 1 in 3 games currently and with more options in the box, and more quality in decision making and delivery, more frequently. Mirallas and Deulofeu flatter to deceive and perhaps in the next stage of our development are useful squad players, but in a CL squad probably superfluous.
So where does that leave us going into this January window and following on in the summer?
If we accept we need around 25 players capable of stepping up into the 1st team squad without weakening our performance significantly we’re short of many players.
Koeman, Walsh and Lawrence Stewart have a huge task ahead, with a minimum of nine replacements required before the beginning of the 2016/17 season, – goalkeeper, centre defence, left back, right midfield, centre midfield, advanced midfield, wide attacker, #10 and another centre forward.
That’s the scale of the task ahead.