It is an absolute miracle that Lukaku’s scored so many times in the Premier League for Everton. Out of the 68 goals he scored for us, just one player got into double figures for assists provided and that was fellow Belgian Kevin Mirallas with 10 assists. The fact he hasn’t linked with anybody during his time – from the exception from Gerard Deulofeu a couple of seasons ago, has boiled down to the severe lack of productivity from Everton’s midfield. Our defensive midfield positions are sorted with Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin, but with the amount of pressure on Barkley to carry the ball and create chances has destroyed him. We’ve really missed the work of Mikel Arteta in our midfield, the man that sprayed balls left, right and centre. It’s time to boost our midfield, please. Who should be the players coming into our midfield? Where would they fit into the system? Here is who I think Everton need to sign to boost its midfield.
What positions in midfield do we need to cover most?
The fact Leon Osman had assisted Lukaku the same amount of times Barkley did before the start of last season is very traumatic; Barkley has improved slightly, but the number is still at 6 in 4 seasons playing with him. Two of our most “hyped” attacking players never linked together, which is a crazy thing to say. In our midfield, we need a natural creator, a play who can play in a variety of different positions and still be able to link with whoever is near him. Also, a player who is dangerous from a set-piece would sweeten the cherry considering how poor we’ve been from them.
Another position we also need to strengthen is on our wings. When Mirallas is there, it usually results in the ball being found in the Park End after he cuts in and shoots with his right. Ideally, someone who can cross and, obviously, a winger who can create countless amounts of chances. If Everton want to score more, it’s crucial these positions are improved.
Why Everton need a Creative Midfielder?
Loaning Deulofeu out to AC Milan proved to be costly, we created very little especially when we were playing away from home. When the tempo is slow, it’s even worse; the entire team goes into pedestrian mode or the “Martinez default” if you will. Not only that but Barkley is way to relied upon to bring other players in the game, considering he’s our only midfielder that can run the ball forward and keep it. Koeman said it himself that we need to “bring in players who will have more productivity.”
In terms of looking for a productive midfielder, he needs to have pace, great vision, the ability to link with other players around him and get past opposition players. It does sound like a lot to demand for, but it’s urgent that this type of player joins the squad, otherwise there will be no improvement offensively.
The Targets: Who Should Everton bring in?
#1. Ryad Boudebouz – Montpellier
About Ryad Boudebouz: Born to Algerian parents, Boudebouz grew up in Colmar, France, and would go onto join the Sochaux academy. He made his debut at just 16 for the reserve team and would sign a professional contract in 2008 at the age of 18. Ryad made his debut against Nice in a 1-1 draw in October 2008, going onto to appear in 25 league games for Sochaux in the 08-09 season, scoring his first goal against AS Nancy. The following season saw Boudebouz play in multiple positions, but his primary was right-wing where he’d make 31 appearances in Ligue 1 as Sochaux finished 16th. He also made his first cap for Algeria, versus Ireland in May 2010.
Ryad would play a huge part in Francis Gillot’s teams push for European football, scoring 8 goals and 8 assists as Sochaux finished 5th in France’s top division. The following season wasn’t as successful, but Boudebouz would still impress, being involved in 11 goals. After another poor finish for Sochaux, the Algerian midfielder would join SC Bastia on the very last day of the 13-14 transfer window, signing a 3-year-contract. He would make 73 appearances for The Lions of Furiani as they finished 10th and 12th, scoring 8 times and assisting 9 over a space of two seasons.
Boudebouz would move from Corsica to Montpellier, signing a four-year deal. In his first season, Ryad would score twice and assist 12 times, only Ibrahimovich and Di Maria assisted more times than the Algerian in the 15-16 season. Last season, Boudebouz went onto be involved in 20 goals in 33 Ligue 1 appearances, his best scoring tally of 11 and assisting 9 times, the third best in the French first division.
Analysis: Creating an astonishing 350 chances in the last 4 seasons (117 last campaign), Boudebouz has been one of the most constructive players in Ligue 1 and it’s mad how he’s gone under the radar. He made an average of 3.5 key passes per 90 in the 16-17 season, which is double the amount any Everton player made from the exception of Ross Barkley. What’s also impressive is that these chances aren’t just created one specific area, 24.8% central from just outside the area, 23.9% on the left wing and 19.7% on the right wing; he is so versatile. Ryad’s also very dangerous from crossing and corners, where most of his chances are created from.
As well as creating, he is also a very good dribbler. Only being 5ft10, his small build helps him glide past his opposition, as well as producing fantastic skill at the same time. An average of 2.7 successful dribbles per game, a stat only Amine Harit, Oscar Trejo and Saint-Maximin can better in Ligue 1. He’s been significant for Montpellier, 26.7% of their shots being from his player-making attributes.
From a dead-ball situation, the Algerian is very dangerous too. Three goals have come from a set-piece, whilst he’s also scored 3 penalties which has helped him produce his best goal scoring tally of his career last campaign.
Why Everton need Boudebouz: For me, I think he should be Koeman’s number 1 transfer target. The French league is a fairly cheap market to go into, with the likes of Payet and Kante rising to the heights in Premier League football. With the ball, he can be extremely threatening and if he had a good striker upfront for Everton next season, the amount of assists Boudebouz could potentially get looks golden in my eyes.
#2 Hakim Ziyech – Ajax
About Hakim Ziyech: The midfielder represented two of his local teams (Reaal Dronten and ASV Dronten) throughout his younger years before joining the Heerenveen academy in 2004. It wasn’t until 2012 when he made his debut for De Superfriezen, Marco van Basten starting him in his side against Rapid Bucharest in a 4-0 victory, a game competing for Europa League qualification. He made his Eredivise debut 10 days later, a 2-0 home defeat too NEC Nijmegen. Ziyech wasn’t involved much in his first season, just making 3 league appearances in the 2012-13 season.
The season that followed was the season he introduced himself to Dutch football. Ziyech scored 9 times and bagged 10 assists for Heerenveen as they finished 5th place, Hakim was third in the assist rankings, only beaten by Finnbogason and Tadic. After an impressive campaign, Ziyech would joined FC Twente for a fee of around £3m in August 2014. Although they finished below Heerenveen in 10th place, Hakim would be involved in 28 goals in 33 games, including two goals against his former team.
Ziyech would achieve even more the following season at Twente, not only captaining the team throughout the start of the 15-16 season, but go onto score 17 goals and assist 12 times for them. After two extremely impressive seasons, Ziyech would join Ajax on a fee of around £9.25m. The Moroccan was the perfect play-maker in the young Dutch team, bagging 20 assists in all competitions, which included 3 fabulous ones in the Europa League semi-final against Lyon; however, they would not be able to lift the EL trophy, losing 2-0 to Manchester United. Ajax would also lose out on the title by a single point, Feyenoord beating them to it.
Analysis: With Everton already signing Klaassen, it’s unlikely we will snatch another Ajax gem, but Ziyech is undoubtedly a class act with years still ahead of him. Creatively, he’s one of the best around with an average of 3.8 key passes per game and creating 112 chances in last season’s Eredivisie. He has incredible vision and does enjoy moving the ball off the ground. Not only that but he can hold onto the ball for long periods if needed, 1.8 key dribbles made per game in the Dutch league and being fouled the same amount.
He is a very versatile player, he can play on the right wing, central attacking midfield, but his key position for Ajax has been from central midfield. This has given him more space to produce key chances and after creating 286 of them over the past 3 seasons, you can see he keeps his consistency. Koeman used a 433 towards the end of last campaign, a formation Hakim is used to operating in.
Another key attribute he has is his ability on a free-kick. Since August 2014, only Memphis Depay (7) has scored more free-kicks in the Eredivisie than Hakim Ziyech (5). Not only that but 2 of his assists in the league have come from free-kicks, whilst 2 have come from a corner kick.
Why Everton need Ziyech: I think a lot of clubs missed out on him last summer when they could’ve got him on the cheap and, as I’ve already mentioned, we probably won’t get him having signed Klaassen and the amount of money Ajax could demand for him, but signing him for Everton would be an even bigger statement than the last two signings. He can create chances, make through balls, score from free-kicks, he’d be a fantastic buy if we throw money at him.
#3. Kerem Demirbay – Hoffenheim
About Kerem Demirbay: Although eligible to play for Turkey, Demirby chose to represent Germany having been there all his life; and having played for many German clubs too. He started football at the Blue side of Gelsenkirchen, FC Schalke. For 8 years during his youth career he was part of the Miner’s academy, before joining huge rivals Borussia Dortmund, spending 3 years at SG Wattenscheid then returning to Dortmund. After a year in the youth set up, he was promoted to Borussia Dortmund II, making his debut just weeks after his 19th birthday in a 2-0 defeat too VfL Osnabruck.
After 28 matches at BvB’s second team, he joined Hamburg on a free transfer in July 2013. Due to injury problems, it took him until April 2014 to make his Bundesliga debut – coming off the bench against VfL Wolfsburg. Kerem was loaned out the following season to Kaiserslautern in the 2nd Bundesliga. He featured for most of the season, 22 games under his belt and his first goal in professional football against SV Darmstadt. Hamburg would loan out Demirbay again, this time to Fortuna Dusseldorf where he scored 10 times and assisted 4 for the 2nd division side.
Demirbay would join Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim for just under £1.5m. Kerem was part of a very successful side, Hoffenheim going unbeaten all the way until the end of January. Nagelsmann’s side achieved their first ever qualification into the Champions League and built a fantastic team involving Niklas Sule, Nadiem Amiri, Sebstian Rudy and Andrej Kramaric – Demirbay also played a massive part. He scored goals against the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Muchengladbach, and contributed to 14 Bundesliga goals in the 16/17 season.
Analysis: Not only was his last season very good but it also earned him his first cap for Germany and a call-up to the Deutschland’s Confederations Cup squad this season – which would follow in him scoring against Cameroon. Demirbay is a very good creator, especially from the centre of the field where a third of his created chances have come from. He’s made an average of 2.1 key passes per game for Hoffenheim, only 8 other players in the Bundesliga made more than he did. A big source of his creativity also comes from a dead ball situation; 10 key passes made from a free-kick and 12 from a corner. In terms of assists, 4 have come from a dead ball, which is double the amount of Ross Barkley.
For an attacking midfielder, Demirbay has also contributed to defensive work too, winning two tackles per game for Hoffenheim last season. The German is also a great reader of the game, 1.9 interceptions per 90 which is much, much more than our current options in this field.
His dribbling abilities are also very impressive, making more successful dribbles (2.1 pg) than the likes of Christian Pulisic (1.9), Franck Ribery (1.7) and Serge Gnabry (1.6). Gaining yards up the field isn’t a problem when he’s on the pitch.
Why Everton need Demirbay: Almost turning 24 now, he still has plenty of time to develop. Löw clearly rates him as a hard-working midfielder and Everton very desperately need someone like Demirbay to improve what we do going forward. With Klaassen already signing, it would be great if he had another fantastic midfielder alongside him to feed the striker.
Why Everton need a Winger?
With the likes of Mirallas and Bolasie, surely, we don’t need another winger, right? You must remember for half of the season, Calvert-Lewin and Barkley represented the club as wingers and it clearly didn’t work whatsoever. Not only do I not rate Kevin Mirallas anymore, but I think we’ve got the best out of him. As for Bolasie, he’s never going to return to his former self after his ligament injury. The only person who I’d accept on the wing is Ademola Lookman, but he is still a raw talent. He deserves chances – and will get them – but for the start of the season we need to protect him rather than just feed him to the frustrating Goodison crowd (the same one which soundly rejected Ross for the past 3 seasons).
#1. Dušan Tadić – Southampton
About Dusan Tadic: His youth career began at his hometown club of AIK Backa Topola before signing his first professional contract for FK Vojvodina. He was involved in several European games, including one against Atletico Madrid at one point. His first ever goal came in a 4-1 victory over Hajduk Kula in the Serbian SuperLig, he was just 19. He also scored in a Europa League Qualifier in 2009 against Austria Vienna at just 20 years old. After 107 games for Vojvodina, Tadic signed for Eredivisie’s FC Groningen in 2010, a team that has helped develop the likes of Arjen Robben, Luis Suarez, Virgil van Dijk and even our boss, Ronald Koeman, and for two seasons it would also help Dusan Tadic.
Tadic made his debut against Ajax, picking up his first assist of the season in that game. His first goal came in December of that season, scoring against SBV Excelsior. Tadic would end the 10-11 campaign on a mind-boggling 18 assists, only Ozil (26) and Messi (25) had a higher number of recorded assists in the entirety of Europe, with 7 goals being scored in the process. The next season saw him assist 10 times and score 7 as Groningen finished 14th. In April of the same season, it was confirmed that he would joined FC Twente for a fee of around €7.7 million. Tadic scored and assisted twice on his debut against his former club and would go onto have an incredible season at his new team, being involved in 38 goals in all competitions.
The Serbain would have another fantastic season at Twente, scoring 16 goals and assisting 14 times in the Eredivise in the 13/14 season, before signing for Ronald Koeman’s Southampton for an undisclosed fee. He made his Premier League debut against Liverpool, losing 2-1 at Anfield but contained several promising debuts. He was part of a ridiculously underrated Saints side, involving Sadio Mane, Toby Alderweireld, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and Nathaniel Clyne. Tadic scored his first league goal against Sunderland, the same game he assisted four times in an 8-0 victory. He finished his debut season involved in 12 goals.
The following season was a much better one for Dusan, scoring 8 Premier League goals and assisting 13 times, including 3 assists against Manchester City, becoming just the fourth player to achieve three or more assists in more than one game in the Premier League. Last season saw Tadic be involved in 9 goals, assisting 6 times.
Analysis: It may be a bit surprising that I’ve mentioned Tadic, but with a release clause of £13m and working with a manager that did get the best out of him, a move to Goodison could be a good one. During his time under Koeman, Tadic registered 2.2 key passes per game during 2014-2016. He remains a creative player, creating 66 chances for his teammates in the Saint’s side, nobody got more in their team.
Tadic loves to cross the ball, 2 of his 5 assists have come from a cross or a corner. He also has a good ability keeping the ball, 66% of his take ons in the Premier League were successful. In the Europa League qualifications, he had a total of 2.9 dribbles per game, 2.4 of these were successful.
He can play in multiple positions going forward, but he isn’t the type of midfielder to drop back into defence to help. Only being 5ft11, Tadic isn’t the strongest in aerial battles either, but on the ball he’s very good.
Why Everton need Tadic: Some people may suggest that his time has peaked, but working with Ronald Koeman could be the catalyst to reviving his Premier League career. If he has a good striker ahead of him and already having the likes of Klaassen in the team to carry the ball if needed, Tadic could be a surprise package and with a release clause intact, it could most certainly be a good shot if we try to sign him.
#2. Felipe Anderson – Lazio
About Felipe Anderson: Santos have been responsible for producing some of the greatest Brazilian players past and present, such as Pele, Robinho and Neymar; this was also the place that began Felipe Anderson’s career. After 3 years in the Santos academy, he made his debut as a last-minute substitute against Fluminese when he was just 17. It would take another season to fully break into the Brazilian side, scoring his first league goal against Avaí in September 2011. The following campaign did see Anderson get more chances alongside Neymar and after 68 matches in all competitions over 3 years, it was announced Anderson would join Lazio.
Anderson missed the first few games of the 13/14 campaign for the Eagles due to a Malleolar injury, but he wasn’t involved much in his first season in Italy. Anderson only racked up 526 minutes on the field in Serie A, whilst only scoring 1 goal in a Europa League fixture against Legia Warszawa. His second season was much more of a success, Felipe got more game time and as a result, he scored 10 times and assisted 8 for Lazio as he helped their push back into Champions League qualification.
The Brazilian was involved in 35 league games during the 15/16 season, also making 7 appearances in the Europa League. In total, Anderson scored 9 and assisted 6 in his third season at Lazio, playing in a variety of different positions on the pitch. As interest in the winger increased, his performances got better too and last season he achieved the 4th highest recorded assists in Serie A, scoring 4 times in the process.
Analysis: None of our wingers are creative enough, that’s probably the easiest statement I’ve made; Anderson would change all that. With the ability to play on either wing, Anderson has become one of the top creative players in the Serie A, making 2.1 key passes per game and creating 75 chances in the Italian first division. A large amount of his chances created have come from the crosses he produces – 24 in all, whilst 6 of these have turned into assists.
During his time at Lazio last season, he also developed into a role as a right-wing back. This produced some fantastic statistics on his defensive work rate, making an average of 2.8 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game. His time in this role can be applied at Everton if we would go into a 352 formation, he can still create whilst also track-back too.
Like most Brazilian wingers, Anderson is very capable of dribbling past defenders in a 1v1. He went into a total of 5.8 dribbles per game, 3.3 being successful in the Italian league. Felipe is very capable of beating any full-back.
Why Everton need Anderson: I know that I’m slightly pushing for us to sign him, yes it’s extremely unlikely, but Everton are in desperate need for a creator especially from the wings. In comparison to clubs above us, we are light-years below in terms of creating efficient chances. If we want to make a gigantic statement and show we can hang with bigger clubs by taking players of them, signing Anderson will do that.
Conclusion to Part Two
If we didn’t need the crucial re-packaging of an ageing defence, I would comfortably say that this would be the most important business we must make this summer. Announcing Klaassen was a brilliant start, now if Ross and Rom are sold we need to replace them and with the players I have mentioned I do believe it’d be a brilliant midfield going forward. Having players like Arteta and Fellaini made our midfield unbelievably solid – bloody hell they made Osman look good! Make Everton’s midfield great again…
Who would you want to see in Everton’s midfield?
Stats via Squawka, Whoscored and transfermarkt
Final Part is coming soon…
Up the Toffees!