Japansese Full-Back on Everton Radar and PL Rivals

One of Everton's weakest positions is fullback, and they are targeting
AZ Alkmaar right back Yukinari Sugawara
Go Ahead Eagles v AZ Alkmaar - Dutch Eredivisie
Go Ahead Eagles v AZ Alkmaar - Dutch Eredivisie / BSR Agency/GettyImages

EDITORS NOTE - This article was previously published on May 13th, but was taken down and reposted to correctly attribute its author

With Everton safe from relegation, the coming summer months provide an opportunity to build a squad that can compete in the Premier League and no longer have to fight for survival.

Unfortunately, the club is still a mess with numerous financial issues with 777 partners unable to finalize the takeover from Farhad Moshiri and the construction of Everton Stadium at Bramley Moore Dock sucking the funds from the club. Football director Kevin Thelwell must tread lightly to balance the pressing needs of the team and ensure sustainable financial longevity.

According to Florian Plettenberg of Sky Sports, Everton is one of several teams interested in AZ Alkmaar right back Yukinari Sugawara. The 23-year-old Japanese player has started for the Dutch side for the past three seasons, where Alkmaar has finished in the top five each season.

This season, Sugawara has 10 goal contributions (4G, 6A) across 41 games. His attacking ability makes him an attractive option for the top European clubs. In addition to Everton, fellow English side Brighton, Italian giants Inter Milan, and Bundesliga team Wolfsburg are interested in Sugawara.

His high ranks in shooting and passing offer an attacking dynamic from full backs that Everton lacks. According to DataMB, Sugawara ranks in the 94th percentile in expected assists and 95th percentile in progressive passes.  The likes of Ashley Young, Ben Godfrey, and Nathan Patterson did not muster the same attacking threat this season.

The last time an Everton fullback recorded five or more assists was Lucas Digne in 2020/21 with seven. The Toffees rank 19th in the premier league in goals per match and 18th in average possession. Sugawara is someone who can provide quality passing and chance creation from the full back spot and make Everton a more dynamic team.

However, Sugawara is not strong defensively, especially in the air. He has good recovery speed but is average or worse in tackles won and duels won. There is a risk to the player in terms of their ability to transition to the Premier League and not be a liability on defense.

If anyone can take on a player like Sugawara, it’s Everton because of their strong defensive metrics despite struggling to find a suitable right back for several seasons. Everton is fourth in the league in goals conceded per match and is second in clean sheets with 13.

As mentioned before, Godfrey and Patterson have been unable to nail down that spot and club captain Seamus Coleman has missed several matches due to injury. Young should be a one-season stop-gap and Coleman cannot be relied on to take on the minutes load in that spot.

Currently, Sugawara is valued at 6 million euros, a relatively inexpensive option for a player with room to grow. Everton will be looking for cost effective players this summer, and Sugawara can certainly be one of them.