For Everton to progress next season, the most important issue the club must solve is the endless problems in central midfield.
This midfield conundrum has plagued successive Everton managers and is in my view the most pressing problem that current boss Carlo Ancelotti must resolve this summer.
There are other areas of the team that do need some attention or even major surgery; central defence and full-back, but the key to the Toffees progressing next term is a settled, balanced and much more effective central midfield.
The rest of the season is to a great extent going to be a process of just make do and mend while we wait for the truncated transfer window.
Past Blues managers have had plenty of trouble with this part of the team and have spent a lot of Farhad Moshiri’s money trying to build such a midfield.
Ronald Koeman seemed to be trying to create a a whole team of midfielders with Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaasen joining some previous signings such as Morgan Schniederlin, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gueye.
In fact, ironically, this attempt to add greater choice and creative quality to the team, unsettled what had been an effective central midfield combo; Schneiderlin and Gueye, in Koeman’s first season in charge.
Then after the Sam Allardyce interregnum, came Marco Silva. As I’ve said several times before, one of the problems that Silva had to deal with was the decline in the effectiveness of Sigurdsson and Schneiderlin, while the sale of Gueye last summer was a major factor in the Toffees struggles this campaign.
This of course included Gueye’s successor Jean-Philippe Gbamin getting injured just minutes into his Everton career and he hasn’t played since.
As to Ancelotti, and one part of that probable central pairing going forward if he sticks to a 4-2-2, is Andre Gomes.
However the classy Portuguese player is again a doubt because of injury and following his horrific ankle break last year against Spurs, this does seem as though it could be an increasingly recurring issue for him.
The difficulty is who should or could play alongside him, if indeed Gomes is to start? This question has been a constant one that has filled endless paper and media pages as one player and then another and another, is linked with a move to Goodison Park.
Now there are also stories that one of the Blues underachieving midfielders, Schneiderlin, might well be moving on soon at a much reduced price.
The most fundamental issue though is to decide what exactly Everton want or need from a central midfield partnership.
The question is do the Blues want primarily a defensive, ball-winner like Gueye, alongside a more creative type such as Gomes – the two worked quite well together last season – or do they want two players who will both support the defensive effort and add to the Toffees creativity?
The Liverpool Echo have been looking at a few less obvious choices focusing on several players who might have slipped under the radar. Some are certainly interesting.
I think ideally Everton should be trying to find the best of both worlds, with a player or two who can combine those two roles, especially if Gomes is going to be regularly injured.
Obviously this isn’t easy, but there are players playing in European leagues that could provide this combination in the middle of the park.
Whatever way Ancelotti and Brands decide, it’s important that the Blues get this right this summer as next season really is a vital one.
Everton must make genuine progress with a top calibre manager having had a transfer window to help him mold and shape his side. The Blues need to secure at the very least European football and hopefully perhaps even make a final and whisper it, win something..!?