Everton have long-term ambitions of closing the gap on English football’s elite.
The odds though are against the Blues, 14/1 with Betway to reach the Premier League’s Top Four in 2019-20 as of 13th May. Without Champions League action to offer potential recruits this summer, they must find ways of acting smarter and getting ahead of the curve.
One option is to look at the best talent from the Championship – we consider three options.
3. Jarrod Bowen
Theo Walcott has always relied on pace, something he is no longer able to do at 30.
In the same way that a player who spent the start of his career in non-league can make their playing days last longer due to having spent fewer years playing full-intensity training, Walcott reached the top of the game at a remarkably early stage of his career and 14 years of demanding fitness work could be catching up with the wide forward.
The Southampton academy graduate would be best off moving to a slightly lower level, if he can be shifted with two years left on his contract.
The ideal replacement would be Jarrod Bowen, who has scored 36 goals in 88 Championship appearances for Hull City and is only 22.
The forward, who has played on the right of an attacking quartet in a 4-2-3-1 setup not unlike Everton’s, has been a revelation over the previous two campaigns.
He possesses bags of energy and loves to make direct runs from the right channel into goalscoring areas, sometimes even popping up at the near-post from a left-sided cross, such is his unpredictability.
Marco Silva is likely to have contacts at Hull from his days managing there and would be the perfect manager to help continue Bowen’s development.
2. Max Aarons
Seamus Coleman has been a wonderful servant to Everton since signing in 2009 – and he remains a reliable top half Premier League performer, as well as an influential figure to have around the club.
However, full-backs have become increasingly important in the modern game, at least for a club with aspirations of closing the gap on English football’s elite.
They must be bold, athletic, attacking, technically accomplished, intelligent, a good passer as well as possessing reasonable defensive qualities.
Coleman ticks a few of those boxes, but at 30 he does not have the potential to become better than he currently is – and in Everton’s position, it is important to be brave and sign players who can improve.
Max Aarons certainly comes into that category.
The 19-year-old has been a huge part of Norwich City’s Championship title-winning success, providing width through his direct runs down the right flank much like a classic winger.
The power Aarons generates in his runs is quite something for a teenager; the qualities he brings forces opponents back and creates space for teammates.
Aarons might not yet be an elite technician – it would be unreasonable to expect as much – but there is no reason why he cannot follow a similar path to Trent Alexander-Arnold over the next five years.
It is important that Everton become alert to his potential very early and offer him an opportunity of regular games next season while Coleman is gradually and respectfully faded out.
If Marcel Brands and the recruitment team were to wait to see his potential in the Premier League, then there is a danger that the top six clubs will pounce and make it difficult to compete financially.
1. Jack Grealish
There are no guarantees that Everton can keep Andre Gomes, following his loan spell from Barcelona – if not, then reinforcements are needed in midfield.
The Toffees have accrued 16 points from eight games against bottom-four opposition – not a disastrous return, but one that leaves room for improvement when we consider they have been held at home to Huddersfield and lost at Brighton and Fulham.
That suggests Marco Silva’s side could perhaps do with a midfielder who can offer control and creativity simultaneously; Bernard could potentially have the skill-set to do that but he has tended to make runs in from the left and link up with Lucas Digne.
Jack Grealish has all the attributes to become an elite footballer, and if Aston Villa fail to win promotion again this season he could be tempted to Everton.
He can pick up half-spaces between lines, he holds onto the ball in good areas, he turns opponents, he buys free-kicks, he picks out through balls but he can also drop deeper to influence play if needed.
Although his goal and assist statistics are judged with the vigour of that of a number 10, Grealish tends to operate deeper than John McGinn in Villa’s midfield and makes huge contributions in the middle third.
Everton’s best performances in the second half of the season have mainly been counter-attacking displays, but introducing Grealish would allow them to have more joy when they see more of the ball.