For the third time in as many decades, Everton entered the final weekend of the Premier League season with their future in the league uncertain.
A vital win at home to Bournemouth ensured the club’s record consecutive stay in England’s top-flight continues for at least another season, despite Sean Dyche having been forced to grapple with injury concerns in key positions.
With Seamus Coleman ruled out for the season after picking up an injury away to Leicester, right-back Nathan Patterson unable to recover after being withdrawn early against Wolves, and left-back Vitaly Mykolenko failing a late fitness test, Dyche and Everton were without a single recognised full-back.
The biggest issue, as has been the case all season, was the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who also left the pitch in the first half at Molyneux.
Demarai Gray filled in up front, but struggled in a position in which he has never looked fully comfortable, and Abdoulaye Doucoure’s strike proved enough.
When the dust settles on a terrible season, many will reflect that, among many failures of planning, recruitment and indecision, the most defining issue is the failure to recruit a striker to compete with, or at least cover for, Calvert-Lewin.
After surviving with only one game to spare last season, and with the need to sell the talismanic Richarlison well known all summer, going into the season with only one, injury-prone striker (the ageing Solomon Rondon, a player clearly well past this prime and no longer up to the rigors of the Premier League, aside) seems almost criminal.
Having secured their top-flight status, this simply cannot be repeated next season.
Even assuming Calvert-Lewin regains full fitness, it is essential the club sign at least one striker to compete and dovetail with him.
Financial concerns mean Everton are unlikely to have a huge amount of money to spend, so we look at three realistic targets to bolster their attack.
El Bilal Toure
The 21 year old Malian forward has been strongly linked with Everton in recent weeks. Having begun his career with Reims, he moved to Almeria at the start of the 2022/23 season.
He made a decent start to his La Liga career, scoring six times in seventeen games, including a winner against Barcelona.
Toure is young, pacy and athletic and would have good sell-on value.
While it’s not yet clear how much Almeria would want for him, he fits the profile of the kind of striker the club could be looking for.
The concern with Toure is that he missed the last weeks of the season with a torn thigh muscle. Having had their star striker missing for most of the season, Evertonians will be deeply wary of another gifted but potentially injury prone striker.
Almeria have claimed he will make a full recovery, but with money hard to come by, the club will be seeking assurances about the player’s fitness before investing.
The Dutch striker has had a mixed eighteen months. After becoming Bunley’s record signing last season, he struggled to find the net, scoring only two league goals as the Clarets were relegated.
Moving to Besiktas on loan this season, the 6’6” striker was largely forgotten about by English football fans, until his unexpectedly impressive cameo at the World Cup.
His performances in Qatar saw his loan in Turkey cancelled as Erik ten Haag brought him to Manchester United on loan.
His signing didn’t exactly inspire United fans, and Evertonians may be similarly unimpressed, but he ticks a lot of boxes.
While not as pacy as Calvert-Lewin, Weghourst is a technically better player than given credit for, and his stature and movement into space allow him to retain possession for his team.
His work off the ball is also impressive, and his pressing ability surprised many on his arrival at Burnley.
The lack of a focal point up front has been a chronic problem for Everton this season, and he would undoubtedly provide that.
With Sean Dyche having been the man to bring him to England in the first place, it doesn’t seem unlikely that he would have an interest in resigning the player, and he would represent a financially viable option, either on a loan deal or a permanent signing.
Along with Jordan Pickford, nobody did more to ensure Everton’s survival last season than the Brazilian.
At times, it felt like Richarlison, often playing alongside or instead of Calvert-Lewin was single-handedly dragging the team over the finish line.
Playing with a hip injury for the last few weeks of the campaign, his vital goals, work rate and determination, as well as a genuine evident love of the club forged a deep connection between player and fan base.
When the inevitable happened and he left for Tottenham in search of Champions League football, it prompted an emotional outpouring from fans rarely seen in recent years.
The feeling often seemed mutual, with the player’s Instagram account often showing Everton-related content, and a plethora of Toffees memorabilia clearly on display in his home.
Despite scoring in the Champions League, the move hasn’t been great for him, with Tottenham having an inconsistent, and at times wretched, season, and him often being fourth choice forward.
While it’s highly unlikely Everton could afford to buy him back, a season-long loan might work for all parties, and a return of one of the most beloved players the club has had in many years would inspire a fan base desperately in need of some positivity.
A wildcard option maybe, but one that might just make sense.