Everton are certainly one of the more curious cases heading into the new Premier League season following their impressive battle to seventh place last year, eventually falling just short of the top six.
The sale of influential striker Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United allied with the uncertain future of England midfielder Ross Barkley, who looks destined to leave before the end of the summer transfer window, has left spirits on Merseyside a little dampened just days ahead of the new season.
But boss Ronald Koeman has been making waves himself in the transfer market, making seven new additions at an overall cost of over £100million as he looks to break into that top six once and for all.
Throw in a possible Europa League adventure should they make it past tough opposition in Croatian outfit Hajduk Split and reach the group stage, and it could be a thrill-a-minute nine months.
The Boot Room takes a look at three of Everton’s key men to watch out for in the upcoming season…
Idrissa Gana Gueye
If there was one man at the front of Everton’s push last season, it was Idrissa Gueye.
Seemingly out of nowhere the 27-year-old has stepped into the first-team at Goodison Park and revelled in his deep midfield role, and comparisons to N’Golo Kante have been more than merited.
If anything, the statistics suggest that Gueye was more efficient and industrious last season; the Senegalese man made a staggering 103 tackles compared to Kante’s 82 – not surprisingly being the highest number in the top-flight – and he made more key clearances (46) than the Chelsea man.
Ronald Koeman often sets his side out with an intent to press, and Gueye’s natural tenacity around the centre circle, forcing opponents into mistakes, has added a whole new dimension to their midfield.
The Dutchman will be expecting big things from Gueye once more this season and if Everton are aiming to get anywhere near the top six – or succeed in the Europa League – he will be absolutely vital.
Of all of the new arrivals at Goodison Park so far this summer, the general consensus is that the most eye-catching one is the addition of technically-gifted Davy Klaassen from Dutch giants Ajax.
The 24-year-old roaming midfielder has moved to the Premier League with 55 goals in 180 appearances for Ajax under his belt and it’s well known that Koeman holds him in high regard.
He may take a while to settle in after his switch, not particularly hitting the headlines in Everton’s laboured Europa League qualifiers so far, but he’s already shown glimpses of just what he can bring.
Klaassen is undeniably sharper than most Premier League footballers, being incredibly intelligent whilst on a football pitch, and once he begins to develop an understanding and a sense of chemistry with his new team-mates then it’s only a matter of time before his own game begins to thrive and click more.
His clever movement in opposition territory opens up gaps for other players to exploit and he has already shown such a deft touch on the ball; there’s certainly good reason for Everton to be excited.
Yet above all, there’s little doubt that all eyes will be constantly trained on Wayne Rooney on his Goodison Park return after 13 years spent at Manchester United, looking for a fairy-tale campaign.
Can he still cut it at the top level at 31-years-old?
The same questions that reverberated around Old Trafford for the past few years will be heard on Merseyside for sure, but the class that Rooney can bring to any side simply can’t be underestimated.
He won’t be scoring 20 plus goals a season or spear-heading Everton to the Europa League final anytime soon but his vast experience across his career will influence that dressing room in ways that are unimaginable, rubbing off on the youngsters in particular and making the Toffees a much better team.
Where he fits into Koeman’s system, and how much game-time he is awarded, is yet to be seen but it’s almost certain he will add a sense of composure and calmness that can take them to the next level.
Ronald Koeman admits he wanted Memphis Depay at Everton
But would Everton have benefited from his arrival?
Ronald Koeman is about to kickstart his managerial career with the Dutch national team. It is his first role since getting sacked by Everton and his first foray into international management. Speaking about his new role he discussed the former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay.
Speaking to the press, as reported by Football Oranje, Koeman revealed that he had tried to convince Depay to join Everton whilst he was manager at Goodison Park:
“I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon.”
Depay was with Manchester United at the time, where he had struggled to live up to his potential. Instead of joining Everton he headed to Lyon in France in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £16 million.
So have Everton missed out?
Depay’s struggles to settle in English football are well known. Since his move to France things have certainly improved. Depay has scored 18 goals since his move to France. However, considering he scored 28 goals in his final season at PSV prior to his United switch it is still not a massive amount.
In the time he has been in France those 18 goals have come from 61 games. His form has been good at Lyon but certainly not to the standard many expected of him when he made the move to Manchester United.
That said, £16 million today in today’s market is not a lot of money. Looking at Everton’s team, having Depay playing from the left side would have been a massive bonus for Koeman, and now for Sam Allardyce.
Depay still has plenty to improve upon and hopefully Koeman can get the best out of him during his time as the Netherlands boss.
As for Everton, they did not get their man and paid a lot more for the man he would be battling for first-team football Yannick Bolasie – who has not yet been a hit at Goodison Park.
So, all things considered, Everton probably should wish Koeman had managed to convince Depay into a Merseyside switch last January.
Everton signing Rodrigo at £35m would undermine Cenk Tosun position
The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Everton over the weekend.
Reports today have suggested that Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion are all keeping tabs on Valencia striker Rodrigo.
Calciomercato claim Rodrigo is wanted by all three clubs who are looking to bolster their attacking options.
The report also mentions his whopping €120 million (£105.4 million) release clause. Everton, though, are expected to start their bidding at around €40 million (£35 million).
Rodrigo is a fine striker. This season the Spanish international has netted 16 goals in 35 games for Valencia and he could head to the World Cup with Spain in the summer.
But, for Everton, his signing would only further undermine the man they finally brought in to replace Romelu Lukaku in January.
It has not been plain sailing for Turkish striker Cenk Tosun since his Goodison Park arrival. Signed for a fee reported to be in the region of £27 million by the BBC, Tosun has had to wait for his chance under Sam Allardyce.
That tactic now appears to be paying off dividends with Tosun scoring four goals in his last three games for the Toffees.
Next season, after a full pre-season schedule, Tosun will rightfully expect to be the undisputed starting striker at Everton.
No doubt, the Merseyside club could look to bring in other strikers, but splashing out this amount on a player like Rodrigo would send the wrong message to Tosun.
Rodrigo, who spent time on loan at Bolton Wanderers earlier in his career, will not be willing to play second fiddle to Tosun. Everton will also not want to pay that sort of money for him if that’s the case.
Everton should instead give Tosun a try. With the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Oumar Niasse and Ademola Lookman in reserve, they would have a good striking department without any recruits.
Spending so much money on Rodrigo would just seem a lavish expense for a side that would do better bringing in someone lower key, and lower priced.
After shock international call is Antonee Robinson a future Everton star
The defender has been in good form for Bolton Wanderers this season.
Bolton Wanderers have recently seen one of their players called up to international duty for the first time. Antonee Robinson has been included in the senior USA squad for the upcoming fixture against Paraguay
The left-back was born in Milton Keynes but his father is from New York state so qualifies for the USMNT. Robinson has previously played for the USA under-18 side and received a call-up to the under-20s but this is his first senior call.
For Everton fans, it will be a sign of the excellent work he has been putting in with the Championship strugglers. Robinson is on a season long loan at the Macron Stadium from Everton.
The 20-year-old has been a revelation for the Trotters, performing brilliantly and featuring in 26 league games this campaign. Despite recently losing his place to the more experienced Andrew Taylor it has been an excellent campaign for Robinson.
Everton must be keeping track of his development, especially considering that left-back is a position that they need to improve.
This season has seen Cuco Martina play out of position to fill the role. Leighton Baines is still an excellent operator, as he is shown since his return from injury. The issue however is that Baines seems to be picking up injuries on far to regular a basis for Everton’s liking.
Robinson therefore could be the answer on the long-term. There has been talk of Everton diving into the transfer market to fill the role but in the 20-year-old the Toffees have a potential long-term replacement.
Everton have a long history of bringing through young talent and at the moment have a queue of youngsters knocking at the first-team door.
One of those players is Robinson. Considering the problem area that is left-back, it should not be ruled out that Robinson is a potential solution to Everton’s positional trouble.
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