Everton end of season loan verdict: Midfield

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa collides with Mo Besic of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final second leg match between Aston Villa and Middlesbrough at Villa Park on May 15, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa collides with Mo Besic of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final second leg match between Aston Villa and Middlesbrough at Villa Park on May 15, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images) /

We assess the performance of every Everton player who spent time on loan this season. In part three, we look at the Blues’ central midfielders: Muhamed Besic, Joe Williams, Conor Grant and Callum Connolly.

Change is afoot at Everton. Rumours are swirling about Marco Silva’s wishlist. Marcel Brands meanwhile, has promised a mass exodus of players with the aim of streamlining the squad in time for 2018-19.

The Blues will, for the second successive season, have a new-look side come September.

In this midst of this revolution, it’s crucial to assess the performance of Everton’s players returning from loan. Last week, we covered the attacking midfielders. This week, we turn to the centre of the park.

Muhamed Besic

Club: Middlesborough

Appearances: 17

Goals: 1

Muhamed Besic was an unfortunate casualty of the regime change at Everton in the 2016 off season. The Bosnian International had been a regular contributor for Roberto Martinez’s Everton team, and looked to be a capable understudy to James McCarthy in the midfield engine room.

Sadly, Besic couldn’t get a look-in with Ronald Koeman – which was only exacerbated by consistent injury problems.

Fast-forward to two years later, and Besic was jettisoned to Middlesborough in the 2017-18 January transfer window. He had played just eight games for Everton in the past two seasons.

Besic has flourished at Middlesborough. Consistent game-time has allowed the 25-year-old to demonstrate his calibre. A dearth of playmaking talent with the North-Eastern club has given him ample opportunity to display his dynamism too.

As mentioned in previous loan reports, he has received rave reviews from the local press, although his stock dropped slightly after a poor display in the play-offs. Still, it looks likely that he could leave Everton permanently to join up with the Championship club.

Besic has had a decent Everton career, but deserves a new start. Hopefully, he can find a good fit in the summer transfer window.

Performance on loan: 8/10

Likelihood of exit: 8/10

Likelihood of impact: 5/10

Callum Connolly

Club: Ipswich Town

Appearances: 39

Goals: 4

At just 20-years-old, Callum Connolly should be commended for his solid loan spell with Ipswich Town this season. The midfielder spent his entire season with the Suffolk club, and maintained his position in the first-team, despite managerial changes in early 2018.

Thanks to his consistent play with The Tractor Boys, Connolly earned a cap with the England under-21s

Connolly is a water-carrier, and if he blossoms into an Everton first teamer, he won’t be expected to be a consistent contributor on offense. Despite this, he seems to have far more to his game than his rivals in defensive midfield. Connolly notched four goals this season for Ipswich and a single assist too.

For comparison, Morgan Schneiderlin has scored just twice in his last three Premier League seasons. Connolly is also strong in the air, a skill that is sorely missed in the current Everton engine room.

The future looks bright for Connolly, but in all likelihood, he isn’t ready for a first-team place next season. The Everton management should look to offer him to a high-calibre Championship club, or a newly promoted team in the Premier League.

Performance on loan: 7/10

Likelihood of exit: 5/10

Likelihood of impact: 5/10

Joe Williams

Club: Barnsley

Appearances: 38

Goals: 1

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Joe Williams. The 21-year-old had a solid first half of the season on loan at Barnsley – his first ever spell away from the Everton youth set-up.

The youngster demonstrated composure, and maturity, quickly becoming a staple in the Yorkshire side’s midfield. Sadly, Williams picked up a season-ending injury in April.

This was deja vu. He spent most of the 2016-17 season out with a damaged lateral collateral ligament too.

In the games he could play, Williams received consistent acclaim, and even managed to score his first professional goal in late October. It was a screamer too, which earned him a Goal of the Season Award, as selected by Barnsley fans.

Not bad for a player, who like Callum Connolly, prefers to operate in the defensive midfield rather than in the number ten role.


Competition will keep Williams out of the Everton first team next season, although he could feature for the club in cup games if he doesn’t go out on loan again.

After three seasons dogged with significant injuries, it is key that the youngster can gain some game-time in 2018-19. Hopefully he can put his problems behind him and build on his successful season with the Tykes.

Performance on loan: 7/10

Likelihood of exit: 6/10

Likelihood of impact: 4/10

Conor Grant

Club: Crewe Alexandra

Appearances: 28

Goals: 0

At 23, Grant is a veteran of the Everton loan system. This year, he found himself at Crewe Alexandra in League Two. In 2016-17 he had a decent season in the same competition, helping Doncaster Rovers to secure automatic promotion to the year above.

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Despite playing the lowest tier of the English league system, Grant was unable to dominate. Really, a Premier League calibre prospect needs to excel at this level, and invariably Everton youngsters do.

Ryan Ledson for example was a cut above the competition during his loan spell with Cambridge United in 2015-16.

However, Grant could not turn the screw, and failed become the playmaker the Crewe management expected he would be.

To be sure, Alexandra had an average season, and have a real dearth of competent attackers, but a legitimate youth prospect would be expected to out-perform his team-mates at this level.

It was telling that the Crewe manager, David Artell, decided against extending Grant’s loan spell in January.

Grant will not have the opportunity to compete for a place at Everton next season. His contract is due to expire in July, and he has committed to playing with Plymouth Argyle in League One next year.

Next: Brands unveils ruthless transfer policy

This is good business for Grant however, considering that he did not set the league below alight. Hopefully he will be able to carve out a niche for himself in Devon next year.

Performance on loan: 5/10

Likelihood of exit: 10/10

Likelihood of impact: n/a