Rooney (foreground) and Klaasen (background) were just two of many signings for the Toffees so far this summer.
Jordan Pickford: The first big signing of the summer for the Toffees was one that brought about a collective sigh of relief as the Everton faithful would have a young keeper to carry the team to the next level defensively. Initially to me, the Premier League statistics on Pickford didn’t exactly raise any eyebrows. Pickford had just four clean sheets in 29 tries throughout league play. That doesn’t seem like many, folks, but when considering that Sunderland’s best defensive players were their screaming 40-year-old fans, six lagers deep, that’s quite the impressive feat. With a commanding presence inside of his own box, punching out aerial balls into his own box with the ferocity of Floyd Mayweather after the 8th round with Connor McGregor.
Couple this aggressiveness with a Tom Brady- like accuracy from his thunderous dropkicks, Pickford brings an added ability to stretch the opposition and quickly start a counter- attack. Don’t be surprised if Pickford’s efforts in the buildup leads to 5-10 goals this season. Pickford has shown his mettle in solid performances against Stoke and Man City, and at around £30 M is starting to look like a steal. Everton have also displayed an adept, progressive mentality towards keeping him away from the dumpster fire that is being England #1 (keep nursing that thigh “injury” Jordie), insuring the preservation of his sanity in delaying this cloud over his head…for now.
The shouts of the Sunderland faithful were one of the few defensive assets Pickford had at his disposal last season.
Michael Keane: Holy s&%t the £30 M spent on defender Keane was enough to beat out Manchester United (who opted to go forward with signing Centre back Victor Lindelof), and added another stalwart to what is quickly proving to be one of the most tenacious defenses in the Premier League. As an underrated aerial threat Keane has the potential to provide some offense from set pieces, as well as defend aerial attacks on what used to be a vertically- challenged defense (sorry Leighton). A recent call- up to the England squad from manager Gareth Southgate has shown validation in his defensive progress under the watchful eye of Ronald Koeman. Look for Keane to quickly become a favorite target from set pieces and lead what could be the PL’s most improved defense. Flashes of a lethal long ball ability could be extremely beneficial when the wing- back position is stabilized over the coming months. (Looking at you, Seamus)
Wayne Rooney: I was 9 years old the last time Wazza donned the Everton kit, but that still didn’t prevent me from getting goosebumps upon hearing that he may return to the club. This Odysseus of Everton has seemingly reached all his greatest achievements in the sport outside of Goodison Park, apart from his consistent in- game trolling of the Toffees as a member of United. The return of Rooney to Everton motivated me to watch the grainy, YouTube footage of him running circles around defenders and curling in ridiculous long- range shots that would serve as a prelude to his illustrious career with Man U and the Three Lions. 25 goals, and 6 assists: this is the extremely specific pressure facing Wayne Rooney that was absent the last time he wore the Everton shirt. The predictable departure of Lukaku demonstrated the need that Rooney’s return simply must be bigger than symbolism, it must have substance. Scrappy goals against Stoke and City showed us the trajectory of how Wayne will gradually be chipping away at replacing the goal tally left by Rom. Attitude will be the determining factor in judging the success of Rooney’s return, the man no longer has the abundance of speed possessed in years past, and his first touch still has its trademark sporadic endings.
The actions of Rooney, especially prematurely retiring from the national team, show that he is dedicated to winning trophies in the short timespan we all know he has with Everton. Early games this season have evidenced that his mind and creativity can overtake in crevices where his speed and control used to be adequate. His experience is invaluable in the club, especially as Everton has hedged so heavily on the development of young talent to take the club into the future. Fans can take solace in the fact that a young DCL and Tom Davies will be receiving pointers from the leading active goal scorer in Premiere League history, not Stevey Naismith. Much has changed in the 13+ years that Wayne’s been away, however there is a contagious attitude to improve at the club that fits the profile Rooney brings back home. Truly, this will be one of the most fascinating storylines of the season.
Teaching youngsters like DCL how to antagonize rival supporters is one of many intangibles brought by Rooney
Sandro Ramirez: Everton upon losing Lukaku immediately sought to improve their striking options by triggering the low-cost release clause of the former Barca and Malaga talisman Sandro Ramirez (£5.5). Sandro had scored an impressive 14 goals in La Liga play, and was rumored to also be chased by Atletico and Real Madrid, by all accounts an impressive race for the Toffees to win. Sandro brings a strong on- ball presence, as well as the ability to score an array of goals from different spots on the field, landing both poacher’s and distance goals. Sandro throughout the preseason showed to have a high work rate for the team, scoring impressively in a friendly against Sevilla. As the Premier League has begun, progress has seemed to slow for the Spaniard. Whiffing on a breakout play against Man City seems to capture the “wear and tear” physicality that league play has imparted upon Sandro, and heading into an international break will be a welcome reprieve. Still, all indications point to patience being the proper course of action for the player, after all we’re a rich club now, right???
Despite some early season struggles in the Premier League, Mr. Moshiri is still pleased that his purchase price for Sandro was equivalent to repairing the stands following the Hajduk tie
Gylfi Sigurdsson: The club- record fee of £45 M± spent on the Icelandic international brings about its own set of challenges and expectations for the upcoming season. No longer doomed to Wales and the constant “will they, won’t they” of relegation we have the opportunity to see a truly quality player try and push the Everton squad towards a top- 4 finish and European glory. Granted, in a summer where we’ve seen Paris St. Germain ownership diversify their holdings from oil fields to footballers to the tune of hundreds of millions, our ownership relatively splurged when bringing in Gylfi. The Goodison faithful, rightly so, expects immediate returns on the investment with quick turnaround on the pitch in the form of goals and assists.
There is pressure on Sigurdsson to provide the fans with what they so desperately desire, a tall order for any player, but then again, so is routinely leading a team that seems destined for relegation. My curiosity from Gylfi stems from the question of how long it will take for him to adapt to the current framework of the team, and in doing so, creating his unique Everton identity. I predict that this is a process that could take well into October, but just as “water always finds its level” Gylfi will be in fine form in due time. A courteous reminder of this was his casual 50 yard goal against Hajduk Split, in which a relatively quiet game from him quickly morphed into a game- defining moment that lent the squad a burst of energy enough to finish the job at hand. There is no doubting Sigurdsson’s talent, his Wikipedia page is littered with reminders of his ability to make an immediate impact at several different clubs throughout Europe, and with the improved cast of characters now around him at Everton this only seems to be an inevitability. Look for Gylfi to net between 10-15 goals this season, and his assist tallies to be in a similar region.
Davy Klaasen: The Ajax midfielder has gone somewhat under the radar with the vast amount of activity that Everton undertook this offseason. Coming off of a 20 goal season across all club competition Klaasen shows the teeth to ber an immediate contributor to the Toffees. Despite the premature hair loss, Klaasen is only 24 and his creative midfield abilities will be well- suited to be developed running through the gauntlet of Premier League and Europa play. Early season play from Klaasen can appear to be underwhelming, but much like Gylfi this is an issue of the player establishing connections with the overhauled attacking front of the side. Klaasen needs to establish better touches in transition with the defensive backline and figure out the deeper attacking midfield play of Rooney. Overall getting Klaasen was a good deal for a young player at an affordable price.
Creative midfield play and male- pattern baldness are just some of the similarities between Klaasen and the great Bobby Charlton.
In addition to these big names who are having an immediate impact on the first team, Toffee fans can be excited about the purchase of Henry Onyekuru, the young Nigerian striker who will be playing on loan at Anderlecht this season. I have frequently heard some moanings from Evertonians about the fact that he will not be at Merseyside this season, but as a 20 year old one of the most pivotal parts of his development will be the abiltiy to get quality minutes this season. Simply put, this is something that would not be available at Goodison this season, and there are legitimate concerns as to whether he can handle the physicality of the fixtures that await Everton this season.
Overall a very, very productive transfer window for the Toffees. The fresh faces that await Ronald Koeman puts the onus squarely on his shoulders to use these new players to instill his vision into the club. Standard, speculative drama still surrounds the team heading into the Thursday transfer dealine, and RK still appears adament on finding a new striker, and additional defensive cover to help with the aging Jagielka and Williams on the backline. The biggest issue with these signings is, of course, imprinting an identity on the philosophy of the team as they enter the beginning of the season, coincidentallly, the most trying faction of their fixtures. There is a palpable sense for the need of instant gratification from the new signings, and any sort of delay to the squad’s progression will surely cause angst among the Everton faithful. As for the ability of these new signings to make a difference in the table? Stay tuned!
Premier: Sun 17 Sept (16:00); Manchester United at Old Trafford
Carabao Cup: Weds 20 Sept (19:45); Sunderland at Goodison