While understandably most of the focus and attention in the transfer window will be on finding forwards who can add goals, Everton also have problems to resolve at full-back as well.
The Blues ended last season playing Bournemouth without a fit full-back on the pitch, as Sean Dyche was forced to reshuffle his side for the last day showdown.
He ended up playing a three-man central defence with Dwight McNeil and James Garner operating as the two wing-backs. They did well, but it didn’t feel like an ideal solution.
Going with this three or five-man defensive system longer-term might have some merit it to it, if Nathan Patterson was fit for long enough, as I think he could make an ideal wing-back with McNeil.
But, Dyche let Conor Coady return to Wolves and the England centre-back is ideally suited to a three man defence.
The manager anyway seems to strongly favour a flat back four and it is true that has generally been more effective for him and the team in the second half of last season.
Obviously, in the end having to re-jig like this didn’t matter, as despite the fact that this team looked unbalanced on paper with several players out of their usual position, Everton won through Abdoulaye Doucoure’s strike to retain their Premier League status once more.
However, that game and the formation the manager was forced to deploy, also laid bare his difficulties at full-back.
All three of his orthodox full-backs, Patterson, Seamus Coleman and Vitalii Mykolenko were out injured for that crunch match.
Coleman and Patterson in particular, have had regular injury problems and the young Scot’s issues are very frustrating as he is a talented player who I think could be a mainstay of Everton’s team for years. If he can stay healthy.
After succumbing to a season-ending injury late last season, Coleman is in all probability getting another contract this summer, despite his age and injuries.
That does make sense given his experience and commitment to the team, but he obviously isn’t a long-term solution. Let’s hope Patterson can stay fit next season.
Turning to Mykolenko, the Ukraine international who joined in January last year, the same time as Patterson, struggled badly last season and looks out of his depth in the Premier League.
So, are there any other potentially affordable recruits who could help solve this problem in particular?
One player who is available for free is former Arsenal youth product Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The 25-year-old is not in Mikel Arteta’s plans and has been released after spending some time at Southampton last term.
The Blues were close to a deal for him back in 2021 and so there is speculation he might be in the wanted list again.
Maitland-Niles doesn’t seem the answer to me and I don’t think Everton should be taking a player who has hardly played for over a year.
The best bet might be to raid a relegated side. There is as always the issue of looking to a team that has just gone down for signings, but it doesn’t always mean their players are all poor quality.
And, as we all know, James Tarkowski came from relegated Burnley and he was considerable success last season.
One possibility is to look at Southampton’s players; Mohammed Salisu, Kyle Walker-Peters or Romain Perraud.
Salisu is a versatile defender more at home playing centre-half but who can play left-back too. Perraud is more used to playing full-back and did through most of last season for the Saints.
Both players are strong in defensive terms but don’t offer a great attacking threat, although Perraud did manage two goals and assists last season, better stats than Mykolenko.
Walker-Peters can play both full-back positions and in midfield too also giving versatility but probably isn’t as solid and reliable defensively.
Another player who might be worth looking at to solve the problem at left-back, is Victor Kristianson.
True, he’s also been relegated with Leicester, but the Dane is a solid and strong although also young and relatively inexperienced defender.
He doesn’t offer much in attacking terms but the Toffees have McNeil in front of his position who can take of that.
The final individual who is also now facing Championship football next season, is Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk.
The Dutchman is similar to Kristianson and offer good defensive qualities but very little attacking threat.
Again, McNeil can provide that in fornt of whoever plays left-back and I think the priority has to be a strong defender in that positon first and foremost.
That will also surely be Dyche’s main concern too.
Everton don’t have much to spend this summer and will presumably have to focus most of their spending on forwards and so it will really constrict their options.
The question is though: are any of these players good enough to improve the Blues enough defensively?
The club will have to shop very astutely in the window, something they have conspicously failed to do in the past. Finding another Tarkowski will be a challenge but it might be possible.
Moving away from relegated sides it’s hard to find full-backs who would be available and affordable and so a scour of the European and global market might well be needed.