Everton fail to add forward as they face Merseyside derby test at Goodison

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Everton manager Frank Lampard after during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Nottingham Forest at Goodison Park on August 20, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Everton manager Frank Lampard after during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Nottingham Forest at Goodison Park on August 20, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

The transfer window is closed and Everton weren’t in the end able to add another forward to the squad as they face the prospect of the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park tomorrow lunchtime.

It was not suprising if you know this club that Everton didn’t get another forward in. As they had left it so late and it went to the wire, it was unlikely the club would have enough time to get a deal over the line.

However, they were able to sign two more midfielders as both Idrissa Gueye and James Garner were added, so funds were available and work was going on.

I have to say it’s very frustrating for me that they couldn’t or wouldn’t get another striker in, despite having more than two months to do so.

Surely they should have gone for it and paid what was needed to get a recognised goal-scorer like Ben Brereton-Diaz or one of the European strikers the club were seemingly forever linked with during the summer?

But, there it is the club haven’t for me replaced Richarlison’s goals and there’s nothing they can do now until January at the earliest.

It seems as though the ability of this side to score goals regularly and also potentially the outcome of the season as a whole, will now hinge on the fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. That’s not something I want this team to have to rely on.

While I don’t want to always be the pessimist, I don’t understand this thinking and I am seriously worried that without further options and goal-scoring threat, this team won’t have enough firepower to win Premier League matches. Because Calvert-Lewin’s fitness cannot be replied upon.

Trying to be solid and gain one-nil wins as they have been doing so far this season is ok from time to time but you can’t go through a season in modern football doing this. To me it looks as though that’s what might end up being the plan if, or I suspect when, Calvert-Lewin breaks down again.

Frank Lampard has spoken in his pre-match press conference about the club’s transfer business and the lack of another forward signing on deadline day.

He said that he and Kevin Thelwell didn’t want to just sign anyone for the sake of it and were working to a very specific plan.

That’s fine and good and this club certainly needs to have clearly defined strategic plans in place to make incrimental and sustained progress both on and off the pitch.

Building from the back also makes good sense. No competitive or successful team isn’t defensively sound and strong through the spine. This Everton team certainly weren’t that last season.

To give Lampard and co their due it’s certainly true that the Toffees’ squad looks stronger in defence and midfield than was the case a year ago.

James Tarkowski and Conor Coady, although not spectacular signings, have added greater defensive quality, nous and leadership at the back.

In the middle of the pitch, the return of Gueye is welcome, assuming he can sustain his best form and physically cope still with the frenetic pace of the Premier League.

His class and experience will be needed as he is likely to be surrounded by youngsters. Both the other two midfield additions are in their early twenties with Amadou Onana having joined from France and James Garner moving down the M62 from Manchester.

Neither has more than a few games under their belt in the Premier League and so Gueye’s years in English, French and European football at the highest level, will be crucial.

While both are very young and inexperienced (in Premier League terms anyway) the Blues’ need them to step up quickly because this team can’t afford to carry passengers.

Onana has shown evidence he can potentially do that with strong recent performances at Brentford and Leeds and Garner was a stand-out performer for Nottingham Forest in their promotion from the Championship. However, the top flight is another level.

Then we come to other additions and things aren’t quite so clear.

Most particularly for me the signing of Dwight McNeil. I don’t know what the thinking was behind this move or what the ex-Burnley player adds to the team.

As I’ve previously said Everton had enough wingers and width in their squad with Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend plus the addition of Ruben Vinagre and the emergence of Nathan Patterson as a roving right-back.

Unfortunately, McNeil has been largely annoymous and while he worked hard at Leeds in the makeshift fromt three, what is needed from him is creativity and goals.

To get anything like the best out of him, I think he needs to play as an orthodox winger in a 4-4-2 type system.

So, I’m not sure he fits with what Lampard has been doing tactically playing a back three or five (depending on your point of view) with wing-backs pushed high up to provide the width.

This brings me back to Tuesday’s match at Elland Road and tomorrow’s derby game.

At Leeds, Lampard reverted to a 4-3-3 mainly because of injury to another of his centre-backs after Mason Holgate was hurt at Brentford.

It worked well though and Everton looked solid and in a good shape for most of the match. In particular the midfield was more compact with Tom Davies, Onana and Alex Iwobi.

I’ve been banging on about this for months and I will say again that a 4-3-3 or variation of, is I think the best basic formation to use.

Gueye slots neatly into that if he is going to play as a number six anchor, alongside probably Onana and Iwobi. I think the manager should also stick with the two Coady and Tarkowski at centre-back.

That brings us to who plays up front against Liverpool. Lampard could bring Neal Maupay in alongside probably Gordon and Gray as Calvert-Lewin is of course still not fit.

Unless, he decides to stick with the three he’s generally started with and bring Maupay on later depending on his fitness. Another option is to start with Saloman Rondon perhaps with Maupay playing off him along with Gordon. Who knows.

Tomorrow’s opponents Liverpool certainly don’t lack options up front or struggle to score goals as they showed in putting nine past Bournemouth last weekend.

I always hate these derby games, not least because Everton so rarely win them. I can’t see that changing tomorrow, even though the Toffees’ desperately need their first three points of the season.

Many of these matches have been drawn in recent seasons, especially at the Grand Old Lady, and I think again that’s the best the Blues’ can realistically hope for.