Everton just might be the most intriguing team going into the 2016-17 season. They have had a massive shake-up in personnel with some of their biggest stars leaving the club and being replaced by some highly impressive summer signings. Proven Premier League players in Jordan Pickford, Wayne Rooney and Michael Keane have all arrived in addition to stars from league’s around the world like Malaga’s Sandro Ramirez and Ajax’s Davy Klaassen. However, despite all these new signings a question still remains about whether or not it will be enough to overtake some of the league’s heavy hitters. The one thing going against Everton this season is that by doing so well last season they now have to cope with several extra fixtures as part of the Europa League. If they go out of the competition early on, they should be able to finish strong but even despite all the new signings they may not be ready for the extra pressure quite yet. Everton still have a massively impressive squad despite losing Lukaku and Barkley and this season will be incredibly interesting to watch.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney, Jordan Pickford and Sandro Ramirez could all come straight into the side as Everton’s lineup is likely to see a massive shake-up in personnel. The question of who starts in midfield is perhaps the most interesting. It would be unfair to Tom Davies if he were to lose his place this season after doing so well in 2016-17 as an eighteen year old but at the same time he will have to compete with just too many other midfielders to really be given a proper chance in 2017-18. Koeman has to figure out how to fit Schneiderlin, Gueye and Davy Klaassen all into the same side, a practically impossible task when Davies, Barry and James McCarthy are also in the mix. Ross Barkley could also be a name on the team sheet should he decide to stay in the end while we cannot forget that British footballing legend Wayne Rooney is more than decent in midfield. Rooney could also operate in Ross Barkley’s role of last season as a winger instead while a selection dilemma in that department is also likely to ensue with Mirallas, Bolasie and Calvert-Lewin all in the mix. Seamus Coleman will return to the side as soon as he comes back from a broken leg while Jordan Pickford is almost certainly going to steal the place of Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles in goal. Regardless of who starts and who doesn’t, this season’s Everton will look massively different from last season’s and it is going to be incredibly interesting to see how they fare against the league’s top teams.
Sandro Ramirez is undoubtedly a top goal-scoring striker but at the same time Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest players to ever grace the Premier League. Koeman could easily decide to go with the more experienced Rooney rather than the much younger Ramirez and that would free up an extra place in midfield. A midfield diamond could easily be in order for the first half of the season given how many central midfielders the club have but once Yannick Bolasie returns from injury Koeman will likely resort back to a 4-3-3. Dominic Calvert-Lewin could also make more of a splash inside of Everton’s XI in 2017-18 despite only recently turning 20 while Cuco Martina and Mason Holgate will compete to fill Seamus Coleman’s boots as the Irishman recovers from that horrible broken leg. Everton really could lineup in so many different ways in 2017-18 and more than any other team it really is just impossible to predict exactly what Koeman will do with his team this year.
KEY PLAYER: JORDAN PICKFORD
Arguably no other goalkeeper in the league was better than Jordan Pickford last season. The 23-year old was Sunderland’s only saving-grace last season and had it not been for him they could have been on the losing side of nearly every single match. This season, even if Everton were fine in goal last season swapping between Stekelenburg and Robles, Pickford looks set to become one of Everton’s most important players. The British keeper just plays with so much passion and energy and makes complicated saves look easy. Pickford is an incredible goalkeeper who looks set to become an instant hit at Everton as he looks to further his reputation as one of Britain’s best in the business.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Coming off of the back of an impressive showing at the U20 World Cup, Dom Calvert-Lewin looks set to shine for Everton this season and could see a whole lot more regular action and playing time under Ronald Koeman in 2017-18. The 20-year old only made 11 appearances last season but after impressing in Everton’s first two Europa League qualifying fixtures he certainly looks set to be a much more important piece to the puzzle this season. With pace, power, energy, defensive quality and an eye for goal, Calvert-Lewin is the perfect player for Koeman to have and with the Dutch manager being someone that always likes to put trust in youth, there is no reason why this can’t be a massive breakout season for the young British star.
WHERE WILL ROONEY OPERATE?
With Romelu Lukaku’s departure, the signing of Wayne Rooney may be all the more important to Everton this season. The former Manchester United striker is after all the second highest goal scorer in Premier League history and one of the best forwards to ever play in the league. There is no doubt that Wayne Rooney will score goals but it’s just a question of from what position he will be doing that in. Rooney is capable of playing a number of different roles, from centre forward to absolutely anywhere in midfield. Wherever he’s playing, he will always track back and at the same time will always score and create goals, making him an invaluable star to have in their ranks. He’s certainly a centre forward by trade but he’s almost become better as a midfielder recently and his role in the team could honestly change game by game. If Koeman decides to go with Sandro Ramirez up front, Rooney would likely still make the lineup but play deeper, as either filling the Ross Barkley role and playing in behind the striker or down the wing, or playing as part of a midfield trio. Rooney has such a spectacular skill-set that he can play with absolutely any player and bring the best out of them. So no matter where he plays, his role in Everton’s squad this season will be absolutely massive, beyond just his experience and leadership off the pitch. But nonetheless here are three ways that Everton could operate with Rooney in their lineup.
Given his insane goal record over the years, Wayne Rooney should be given preference over Sandro Ramirez up front, even if last season the Manchester United great wasn’t at his best. That would allow Bolasie, Calvert-Lewin and Mirallas to all play the way they like to play; counter-attacking football at its finest, and playing with the centre forward rather than for them. Yes it would keep the highly talented Ramirez out of the lineup, but it would also allow Koeman to play the way they like to play without comprising his ability to put an extra man or two in midfield.
With a plethora of skillful midfielders, a midfield diamond may be Koeman’s preferred formation. If that is the case, it is very likely that we could see Rooney playing at the top of that diamond as a number ten. He could also play in behind Ramirez with two wingers on on either side of him in a 4-2-3-1 or play off of the former Malaga man as a second striker in any formation the Toffees present. With Rooney playing a bit deeper, Bolasie could also be given the chance to play further forward as he did with success on a couple of occasions for Crystal Palace.
On The Wing
With Ross Barkley seemingly on his way out of the club, a massive void could have been left in Everton’s lineup had they not had Wayne Rooney in their ranks. The British forward is just so versatile and although playing on the wing might be his least favourite, he’d never shy away from it and always give it his all. Bolasie is still out injured, Barkley is likely leaving the club and Calvert-Lewin is still far too young to truly nail down a place in the XI. So if Koeman still wants to play with a 4-3-2-1, Rooney just might have to be the option on the wing alongside Kevin Mirallas. Being decently similar in work rate and playing style, he’d likely form a formidable partnership with Davy Klaassen down that left-hand side while he’d also be the perfect support player to the pacey Sandro Ramirez who actually isn’t too dissimilar in style to Romelu Lukaku.
HOW MUCH WILL LUKAKU’S DEPARTURE MATTER?
Without question, Romelu Lukaku has been Everton’s best player over the course of the past three seasons and the Belgian striker moving onto pastures new will undoubtedly hurt the club. He just offers so much up front. Vibrancy, pace, power, finishing ability, skill, prowess in the air, strength, mobility; absolutely anything you could want in a Premier League striker, Romelu Lukaku can offer. That being said the amalgamation of Rooney and Ramirez may be able to make up for what the Toffees are bound to lose. Rooney is probably one of the most complete footballers on the planet even at the age of 31, while the young and energetic Sandro Ramirez scored 14 goals in 30 La Liga matches as a 22-year old last year. It also has to be remembered that 24-year old Davy Klaassen has been one of the most consistent goal-scoring midfielders in the world over the past four seasons, including bagging 14 league goals in 33 matches last campaign. Koeman and the club have really done excellently well in the transfer market this summer and instead of spending big and making a massive splash by going for someone like a Mertens or a Belotti, they’ve just signed a number of different players who put together could easily fill the void.
Apart from likely losing two of their best players and most promising talents, Everton have had an amazing summer off-season. Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane were probably the two best players of teams in the bottom half of the table last season and will make for excellent additions to Koeman’s squad. Keane was immaculate in helping Burnley steer clear away from relegation and the Clarets likely wouldn’t have survived without him. Pickford meanwhile was arguably the best goalkeeper in the league and Sunderland would have been Aston Villa all over again had it not been for him. As already mentioned, Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez are also likely to make a massive mark. The deal for Rooney is particularly impressive given that they managed to land an all-time Premier League great for free, while Ramirez’s fee of just 5.2 million pounds is also remarkable given his goal-scoring record of last season. Cuco Martina is also a smart signing given the status of Seamus Coleman’s unfortunate broken leg. Davy Klaassen meanwhile should have secured a move to the Premier League years ago and Everton are the perfect suitors for the Dutch midfielder who is still surprisingly young. He may be a central midfielder and it may be only the Eredivisie, but Klaassen has scored 43 goals in the past 4 seasons in league play alone for Ajax. What he can bring to Everton as a box-to-box, goal-scoring midfielder could be game-changing and season-defining. Quite shockingly, a 50 million-pound move for Swansea’s set-piece specialist Gylfi Sigurdsson could also be on the cards.
On the more depressing side of things, Everton have lost their star man as Romelu Lukaku has left for Manchester United. Although they will receive more than £75 million for the sale, replacing him could be a nearly impossible task. He did after all, score 25 Premier League goals last season. Ross Barkley also looks destined to be on the move after Ronald Koeman confirmed his impending departure last week. Tottenham Hotspur look the likeliest of suitors but Chelsea and Arsenal are also interested in the 23-year old. Shockingly, Gareth Barry, Muhammed Besic and James McCarthy all remain at the club despite being replaced several times by several different players since the Roberto Martinez dynasty came to an end.
- Ronald Koeman will favour youngsters in his XI often despite the talents of more experienced players in his ranks.
- Idrissa Gueye will make more tackles than any other player in the league this season.
- Leighton Baines will be one of the league’s highest scoring defenders.
- Davy Klaassen will score 10+ goals in the league.
- Sandro Ramirez will not be a guaranteed starter at any point in time during this season despite being the club’s top scorer.
- Ronald Koeman will be nominated for Manager of the Season and will win Manager of the Month on two occasions.
- The Toffees will keep 12 or more clean sheets this season.
- Michael Keane and Ashley Williams will be in the top ten for most clearances made this season.
- Everton will draw more games than they lose.
PREDICTED FINISH: 7TH
They’ve made several improvements to their squad but the Toffees have also lost Romelu Lukaku and probably Ross Barkley, so a 7th place finish has to be the likeliest of outcomes for Koeman’s side in 2017-18. They’ve improved in every single position other than up front but that still likely won’t be enough to beat out the league’s established outfits. They’ll likely be up there all season long towards the top of the table but come the end of the season they won’t have what it takes to beat out the Manchester clubs or Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. The added pressure of the Europa League could also make the start of 2017-18 particularly difficult and the Toffees may have to play catch-up for a little bit to get back toward the top of the table. Still though, this season is likely to be another great one for Ronald Koeman, Everton and the majority of players in their ranks.