Everton Transfer Targets 2018 #3: Forwards – Analysis & Deconstruction

The future of Everton’s frontline has never been so blurred. Countless strikers and wingers have been added to the squad over the last couple of years, and it looks like multiple changes are ahead once again. Will Lookman and Sandro return to playing at Goodison from their loans? Is Vlasic on his way out? Are the likes of Niasse and Calvert-Lewin good enough? Can Walcott perform with a new manager? Not only that but the highly-anticipated arrival of Henry Onyekuru looks to be delayed as Mönchengladbach has had a meeting with him, according to everyone’s favourite Belgian journalist, Kristof Terreur. The main question is, are we good enough? No.

Organisation is desperately needed in all areas of the club and that includes its attack. Silva’s Watford played with width, two box-to-box midfielders with full-backs close to wingers. Fast football is so important in his philosophy, creating space by pulling opposition defences apart with as much width and pace as possible. Tosun could play an important role in this system, making runs into the box and dragging defenders with him, allowing whoever is behind him to have a shot or create another opportunity.

If Lookman and Onyekuru are involved in the first-team this season, then we could potentially see them both playing important pressing roles, maybe something similar to what Richarlison was doing under Marco Silva. I like the prospect of Kieran Dowell coming into the squad, a thunderous left-foot makes him a great danger around the outside of the penalty area. There definitely are a lot of young forwards that could be in the picture, however, there’s not always going to be a good outcome if you play youngsters for 90 minutes each week; it’s a gamble. For me, investment is desperately needed on the wing, bring in someone who can not only complete take-on’s but has an end product to match as well. Bolasie has struggled to make any sort of impact since his move from Crystal Palace, a long-term injury not helping him, whilst Walcott has been hot and cold at times for Everton; consistency is needed if he’s to be a key player in this Everton side.

So, why do Everton need a change in the attack?

Silva has been described as a manager who wants to play a high-tempo game, fast attacking football which could really excite Evertonians. Personally, I am 50/50 with him at this moment in time, but he has a good record at making a very quick impact wherever he has gone. This is needed at Everton. There is deadwood in this team that has lingered for quite some time, with an injection of some of our talented youth products and a proven, exciting, productive winger, we could see improvements quickly in this team.

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Everton chances created last season (Stratabet).

Overall, Everton’s average xG per game was a measly 1.19 and slightly overperformed in comparison to the number of goals they actually scored. Everton needs creativity from all corners of the pitch, a winger with end product is needed. This can unlock Tosun’s abilities and we can see if he is good enough to take us to much more success. I believe another back-up striker would be a good addition also, a young forward who has the time to develop his game but also make a big impact when needs be.

The Checklist:

  • A winger, perhaps two, that has played on the left, can complete 1v1s and also has an end product.
  • A backup striker that can change the game if it’s dead, Calvert-Lewin has the ability but not clinical enough, Niasse isn’t good enough however we will get a good price for him.

 

The Targets: Who Should Everton sign on the Wing?

Honourable Mentions: Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice), Bernard (Shakhtar), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel).

#1. Hirving Lozano – PSV Eindhoven

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Central America has been a breeding ground for very gifted footballers for some time and the latest “superstar” prospect has been talked about a lot in recent times in build-up to the World Cup. Hirving Lozano has had quite the 12 months, joining one of Holland’s biggest clubs, winning the league, signing with Mino Raiola and is bound to announce himself to the world if he produces at the World Cup. Contributing to 17 goals and 8 assists last season, Chucky (his nickname) was a huge part in PSV’s title-winning season; and with Marcel Brands coming over from PSV as Sporting Director, there’s already a good link between us and the Dutch giants to potentially get a deal done.

Analysis: Lozano is a huge talent, cutting in from the left to go on his right foot, already playing in a 4231 at Pachuca and a 433 at PSV Eindhoven. All 17 of his goals in the Eredivisie last season came from open play and in different areas of the pitch. In the box, he’s a threat, outside of the box, he’s a threat. He has proven that he has end-product to be a constant threat. In terms of dribbling, he attempts 3.7 per game, being successful 2.1 times per game. Chucky doesn’t have the success record like AZ’s Jahanbakhsh or Ajax’s David Neres, but there’s no doubt that he can beat anybody in a 1v1 situation, whether it’s with his ability on the ball or his blistering pace to get past you.

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Infographic on Hirving Lozano in comparison to other wingers and attacking-midfielders from Europe’s “Top 5” (@the futebolist).

As you can see, the number of dribbles he completes is more than most attacking players in the big leagues. He likes to cut into the area when he’s playing on the left, which enable him to have a shot at goal or to win free-kicks in very dangerous areas (he is a very good set-piece taker too). Not only that, but he’s a great creator as well; his tally of 2.6 key passes per game is only beaten by three players in the Dutch league. Lozano is a brilliant crosser, making 2.4 per game; which can really help out the likes of Tosun and Calvert-Lewin if they make runs into the penalty area.

Hirving Lozano has an insane ability for a player of his age, PSV will be making some serious profit on the £7.2m transfer they made on the Mexican youngster if they sell him this summer. I’m not saying he’s the perfect player, he doesn’t make that many passes and can be frustrating at times, however, he has outrageous skill and would be a brilliant signing at any club.

Why Everton should sign Lozano: The chance of him leaving is quite high, however, I’m sure PSV would want to wait after the World Cup to see if his performances affect his market value. Either way, if there’s one big signing I’d want Everton to make in the summer, it would most certainly be Hirving Lozano. He contains a lot of what Everton are missing, end-product, a danger from outside the box, creating chances and pace. Get it done Brands!

 

#2. Ryan Sessegnon – Fulham

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I’m not going to go on about his age as you’ve heard it enough times already from Sky Sports, but Ryan Sessegnon’s numbers are very, very impressive even if he was 10 years older. Sessegnon is probably England’s most talked about the youngster and you can see why, making the transition from left-back to left-wing, being equally as brilliant in both positions. His 16 goals in the Championship last season were vital to Fulham’s promotion back into the Premier League and wanted by a lot of good teams across Europe.

Analysis: Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to move Sessegnon further forward turned out to be a gem of a decision. The young English star was making very good attacking numbers even when he was playing more frequently as a left-back, moving him further forward enabled him to have more of possession in the opposition half and to some great effect. Overall, 14 of his 16 goals came when he was moved further forward up the pitch (as you expect). He doesn’t take many shots per game, only 1.3 per game, but clinically he was up there with some of the best in the league.

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Sessegnon’s attacking radar (@FussballRadars)

All of his goals came from open play and inside the penalty area, give him the ball in good positions and he will score you goals. He has a very good goal conversion rate at 26.4%, which is more than most attackers in the Championship. In terms of creating chances; he doesn’t actually create that many (1.2 per 90 minutes) but has still racked up 8 assists which is a very respectable amount. That also includes getting an assist in both the play-off semi-final at home to Derby and at Wembley against Aston Villa to send Fulham back up to the Premier League.

In take-ons, he isn’t afraid of taking the ball forward, attempting 2.4 dribbles a game and being successful 1.2 times. Sessegnon has the pace and drive to go past full-backs into the space that’s left behind them when the balls on the other side of the pitch you always see him in the box ready to pounce. He’s far from the finished product, but without doubt, he’s so much further than a lot of players at his age.

 Why Everton should sign Sessegnon: He’s the type of player you’d just give a blank cheque too and tell the opposition club to fill it in themselves. Sessegnon still has a very long way to go until we see somebody who is a world-class talent, but he is certainly on the way to becoming one. Everton is in desperate need of somebody like him, clinical.

 

#3. Emil Forsberg – Leipzig

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“I think I got the best of football on both sides: my father’s speed and my grandfather’s technical skills,” stated Forsberg in 2015, referencing his family’s bloodline of success in football. His grandfather Lennart played for two different top-flight Swedish clubs (Sundsvall and Djurgarden) in the 1950s, whilst his father Leif “Foppa” Forsberg scored 147 goals in 428 games during the 80s and 90s, setting a fine legacy for his son to follow. He sure did, terrifying Bundesliga wingers since he moved to Leipzig three years ago, moving from the second division with them and establishing himself as one of Sweden’s finest players in a struggling period for their national team.

Analysis: In July last year, I went to watch the 2017 Emirates Cup, a pre-season tournament between hosts Arsenal, 5-time Europa League winners Sevilla, Portuguese giants Benfica and controversial club, RB Leipzig. Even for a pre-season friendly, I was in awe whenever Forsberg got possession of the ball; he was dangerous, having the potential to go in any direction possible and created opportunities whenever he was on the ball. The Swedish winger was by far the most progressive player on the pitch and since then, I’ve been a huge fan of him. Unfortunately, a season riddled with injury problems delayed him from having another fantastic season; but he still created 2.56 key passes per 90 mins last campaign.

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Forsberg’s expected radar over the last two seasons in the Bundesliga (understat.com).

Forsberg recorded 19 assists in the Bundesliga two seasons ago, with 0.46 xA90 to match, which is a crazy amount. The Swede is a very impressive crosser, 6 of his 19 assists came from crosses in game, whilst 5 of them were from corners. He is a great set-piece taker, which is something that can be used to our advantage with players winning free-kicks in good areas. He can also score from free-kicks, hitting 4 in one season back when RB Leipzig was in the second division. Forsberg loves to dribble with the ball, cutting inside onto his right foot is a big threat for opposition full-backs but he is capable of playing with his left. He can complete 1v1s to some success, making 2.8 successful dribbles in the Champions League last season, this lowered down to 1.9 in the Bundesliga, but still has a good percentage in this ground (60% success rate).

Creatively, he is a brilliant player, but he’s also a threat towards goal too. He’s scored four Bundesliga goals from outside the area, including a scorcher away to Wolfsburg during Leipzig’s first-ever season.

Why Everton should sign Forsberg: Admittedly, the chances Everton sign him are extremely slim, however, the summer clear-out needs to be underway and if you get a good price for Sigurdsson/Schneiderlin, we’d have the funds to at least throw something at it. Forsberg will be a gigantic player for Sweden in this World Cup, if he plays well then Sweden can go far.

 

Who should Everton sign for Striker?

Honourable Mentions: Luka Jovic (Benfica), Sebastián Driussi (Zenit), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax).

#1. Maxi Gómez – Celta Vigo

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“Suarez is my idol. I admire him a lot for the way he works. People in Uruguay say that I am going to be his successor in the national team, and I hope that will be the case.” Scoring 17 goals in 36 games is an impressive tally for any striker, but for 21-year-old Maxi Gómez who signed for just €4.3 million, it has been an incredible tally for his first season in La Liga. Celta Vigo’s squad is rather impressive, Iago Aspas scoring 22 times and being called up for Spain in the World Cup, whilst Sisto and Wass have very good assist records. Gómez is, without doubt, a goalscorer in the making, strong, aggressive and most importantly, deadly.

Analysis: One of the most important elements of any attacker is scoring from any position with any part of your body. When you watch Gómez play, you’ll notice his abnormal strength is to head the ball into the net. 9 goals out of his 17 last season were scored from his head, which tally’s a 0.13 xG per game from headers; which is mental. Put any decent crosser in our team with him up front and he’s a major threat, his strength keeps defenders away from beating him in the air. He’s not blessed with pace, but he doesn’t need it, whenever he’s in the area the opposition are on edge.

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Gómez’s expected radar last season in La Liga (understat.com).

A problem with some “big” strikers is that they can struggle to be involved in build-up play, but not Maxi Gómez. A 0.66 xGChain90 is a very respectable tally and unlike most, he actually makes some very good forward passes when he finds himself deeper on the pitch and wingers overlap him. He is strong on both feet also, scoring 8 goals on his right and although not scoring with his left in La Liga yet, he has still reached a 3.14xG from shots with his left foot.

As well as scoring plenty of goals, he gets fouled quite a lot as well, in fact being fouled 2.7 times per 90 minutes. This can enable any free-kick taker the chance to go for goal or even try and pick out Gómez himself if he’s in the penalty area. He is great at keeping possession, using his strong build to shield the ball away from defenders before releasing the ball to whoever is around him.

Why Everton should sign Gómez: The Uruguayan has been called up for this summer’s World-Cup, alongside Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani already making a fierce strike force. Gómez has the potential to lead Uruguay’s national team for the considerable future, being deadly through all sides of the pitch. He is a raw talent, but Everton need to inject the frontline, Tosun isn’t enough at this moment in time, bringing in a natural goalscorer would be a brilliant investment and potentially give us the choice of going for 2 strikers.

 

#2. Tammy Abraham – Chelsea

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We’ve already mentioned Chelsea’s academy and the lack of its use in the first-team when we talked about Loftus-Cheek, but another player who’s been criminally unused is 20-year-old, Tammy Abraham. He got off to an amazing start during his loan spell at Swansea, scoring four times in his first six Premier League games, but Swansea’s difficulty to create chances and Carlos Carvalhal not using him enough damaged his campaign. However, 28 goals for a striker before the age of twenty-one is a rare occurrence and he has showcased the right instincts to become a quality striker for any team.

Analysis: I’ve often praised Calvert-Lewin for being incredible at winning aerial duels and actually producing opportunities, but there’s one thing he lacks in which makes me doubt him; he hasn’t got a finishing touch. Tammy Abraham does. It sounds a bit rich for me to say that for a striker that’s only got 1 more goal than him, but Abraham gets into really, really good positions. He has a great ability to find space between defenders when the ball is out on the wings, you’ll see him just in front of the defenders or peeling away towards the back post. Abraham is great at finishing rebounds and gets into really good positions in areas you’d expect him not to get a shot at goal from.

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Tammy Abraham’s shot map last season at Swansea (@footballfactman).

Tammy Abraham scored 26 goals in all competitions for Bristol City during his loan spell, just watch where he is positioned, every single one is just a few yards away from goal. Give him service, he’ll score goals. At 6ft3 inches tall, you can expect him to be good in aerial duels as well. He is a threat at indirect set-pieces, often positioning himself towards the back post where he can either head the ball towards go or back into the six-yard area for somebody else to have a go at goal.

The English striker isn’t the finished article yet, he can miss good chances and he isn’t able to be part of build-up play, but do strikers need to be? If you have creators behind him, then he will thrive, just look at Lukaku when he had Deulofeu producing great crosses into the area. Abraham is a lethal striker when positioned inside of the area. Not only that, but he isn’t that bad at dribbling either, 0.9 out of 1.5 dribbles attempted being successful (which is 60%).

Why Everton should sign Abraham: He is far from the final product, but Abraham has the intelligence and awareness to get into brilliant positions and would be any wingers dream forward to get the ball in too. Abraham has a good record in all levels of his football development, with the right players around him, he could go far.

 

To Conclude…

“There has to be, let’s say, 25-30 players. Now there are 38 and a lot are not young any more. They are players who have arrived. We have to be honest when we take the decision with these players. Do they have prospects here at Everton? Some of the conversations will not be nice but I think Marco must start with a squad that everyone is eager to play for and has prospects to play.” Words from Marcel Brands are ringing around a lot of Evertonians heads. We’ve been promised change before when in actual fact we haven’t seen much change since Moyes’s last season.

There are players who are simply not good enough or old enough in our squad, but there’s actually a lot of promise in the club’s youth, footballers who, if grown right, can spark a memorable Everton side. Lookman, Dowell, Onyekuru, Vlasic, Baningime, Kenny, Calvert-Lewin, Holgate, are the future alongside many others that are coming through our ranks. Everton needs investment in great players, yes, but it also needs to inject itself with a new way of thinking… our academy can be the answer.

I’m getting behind any team that starts on the first matchday of the 2018/19 season, but let’s not forget just how bad we were last campaign and turn it into a positive. It should urge the fans as well as the club to demand better, a new way of thinking… that’s what Everton has always been about.

“Everton’s the team that play beautiful football”

Data includes WhoScored, understat.com, StrataBet, @FussballRadars, @thefutebolist and @footballfactman.

 

Up the Toffees

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