After another immensly frustrating season ended with Everton again failing to win anything or qualify for Europe despite being in the hunt right up to the final day, attention has turned to who the club might get in this summer.
One of the many positions where it is clear Everton are still lacking is the centre of midfield. Last summer Carlo Ancelotti brought in Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure to inject more defensive solidity, energy and workrate to a failing midfield.
But while both have been good, given Allan’s injury problems the pair sometimes haven’t been able to play together after the first couple of months of the season.
And in addition, Allan was often needed to play in a deeper defensive role taking away from his ability to contribute offensively. Doucoure too has been unable to add the goals that were hoped from him and he’s also had to fill in for his Brazilian team-mate when Allan was injured.
This negated any attacking contribution they both might have been able to bring to the Toffees team and was part of the reason why the Blues attack so often failed to fire as there was a real lack of support from the middle of the park.
Given all this transfer stories floated around that Everton were interested in signing another defensive midfielder in particular Adrien Rabiot of Juventus.
The obvious answer of course to this problem was Jean-Philippe Gbamin. But the 2019 summer signing has been cursed with endless injury problems ever since he joined Everton.
His size, strength, athleticism and pace would have been ideal to fill that number six position at the base of the midfield and free up Allan and Doucoure.
And as the season moved towards it’s climax, it seemed that after eighteen months of hell for the Ivory Coast international he was finally ready to return to the side with a few weeks of the season left.
He made his return (which seemed almost like a full debut as it’s been so long since we saw him play) when he came on late against Crystal Palace in what was given the context of the game a strange substitution when Everton needed to win the match.
Still it was good to see Gbamin back and fit at last. But then almost unbelievably a few days later it was revealed he had suffered another knock, this time in training. The lad really does seem to be jinxed!
This injury has re-awakened fears that he will never be healthy enough to fulfill the role that the club bought him for. So, there have been renewed discussions about whether Everton will be forced to go into the transfer window this summer and buy another centre-mid dynamo.
But this might be difficult as the Blues have a lot of other pressing needs to fill at right-back, on the wing and up front and I don’t get the impression the club are looking to spend a huge amount this summer.
So, is there a solution to this problem in the current squad? I’m thinking that might be Ben Godfrey the Toffees deadline day signing from Norwich City who has staked a pretty good claim to be Everton’s player of the season.
The young defender who has just made the provisional England squad for the upcoming Euros, has impressed with his pace, power and commitment to the cause. He’s also shown the ability and willingness to bring the ball out of defence and even pass accurately too.
These are exactly the sort of qualities that Everton need to suppliment their existing midfield options and give Allan and Doucoure the freedom to get forward more and hopefully contribute a lot more to the Toffees attack.
Godfrey has plenty of past experience paying in midfield and so it wouldn’t be a totally new position for him. And it’s difficult to sign these sorts of players with so much competition as everyone looking for such players.
Of course the issue is that by moving forward you would lose that pace and defensive quality from the backline. However, there seem to be a lot of hints that Ancelotti is considering moving for another centre-back this summer.
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He is it seems concered at the lack of top class options when Yerry Mina isn’t fit and given the Colombian’s injury problems which seem to be a constant issue, he’s unlikely to be fit for more than two thirds of a season.
The other senior centre-back Micheal Keane hasn’t convinced he is really top class and lacks pace and ability to cope with mobile, fast forwards. And so that only leaves yougsters Jarrad Branthwaite and Lewis Gibson both of whom have been on loan and with uncertain futures.
If Everton do bring in a defender like Khalidou Koulibaly then perhaps he alongside Mina – presuming he stays – would give the club two genuinly top draw centre-halves.
This could then free up Godfrey to move further forward as a deep-lying centre midfielder who could also drop into the backline to give the team a flexible formation particularly when they play away from home.
Anyway, it’s an option for Ancelotti to consider and if it were to work it might save the Blues a small fortune which could be put to use elsewhere this summer.