A thousand words of research and two pages of writing on why loaning out Walcott this season was a bad idea have been sat in my drafts for far longer than I care to admit.
I wrote an entire analysis on how he could do better for the team than Alex Iwobi. That was before Everton faced Newcastle.
Though the Toffees still lost that game, his deflected cross that led to the goal was one of the only valid chances that were created in that game (though the formation and Andre Gomes playing behind the striker didn’t exactly help).
Despite inital doubts, Alex Iwobi has made difference in blue and white. Over the summer, off-loading players and the issue of an ever-inflating wage bill, especially in midfield, was brought up when signing James Rodriguez and Allan, and for good reason, so it made sense to loan out Theo Walcott.
But there is a winger on the team that I believe is both a surplus to requirements on the field and is in the way of our success: Bernard Duarte. He came to the toffees on a free transfer in the summer of 2018, from Shakhtar Donetsk. This was the same transfer window Richarlison arrived.
He was a free transfer so it made sense to pay him a larger wage to bring him to the club, as is often the case. With the loss of Wayne Rooney that transfer window, who replaced Romelu Lukaku the summer before, it was important to strengthen attacking elements.
With nine goals contributions in 18 appearances that season in the Ukrainian Premier League for Shakhtar Donetsk, it was a sensible signing.
What doesn’t make sense is the amount paid to him every week. £120,000 according to Spotrac, taking up 7.4% of total wages when he joined in 2018. In context, Anthony Martial is a similar percentage of Manchester United’s overall wages.
To put that into further context, Riyad Mahrez is paid the same amount of money, and Heung-min Son is paid £20,000 more a week. Yerry Mina has the same amount of goals than Bernard in Premier League for the last two seasons and is paid the same amount of money than him.
Am I suggesting Ancelotti should play a behemoth Columbian centre back at left wing? No, of course not.
So what am I suggesting?
The position for first team left winger is taken up by 2019/20 player of the season Richarlison without question.
The position Bernard takes up is substitute winger. Everton do not need to spend £120,000 a week on a left winger when they only need to pay £10,000. That’s what Anthony Gordon is paid.
In my previous article, I compared Bernard with Anthony Gordon, the flourishing Everton Academy Graduate.
I compared them on many elements of their game and concluded that Gordon deserves the spot on the team. One thing I didn’t mention was that Everton pay Bernard twelve times more. Bernard can’t justify being joint highest paid on the team.
Getting rid of an overpaid asset isn’t a new problem in football and found itself in the spotlight with Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United. The only real solution is to loan out the player and pay a percentage of their wages.
If Everton were to pay 50% of his wages at a different club and could use the other half to pay for half a player like Isco’s wages. Isco has 24 more goal contributions in his career than Bernard. This is while spending much of that career in La Liga compared to Bernard spending his time in the Brazilian and Ukrainian leagues.
Comparison to Theo Walcott
The 5’4 Brazilian was making just £20,000 more than Theo Walcott. Since Bernard joined the club in 2018 and for the two seasons they were both at the club, Theo Walcott has more goals (9) and more assists (7) than Bernard (4 and 5).
Theo Walcott only has one more appearance (62) in this time than Bernard (61). In the two seasons the difference in minutes is just 14. The ex-Arsenal player has 489 minutes per goal to Bernard’s 852.
Despite having more passes, through-balls and touches, Bernard can’t compare to Walcott in big chances created and crosses.
It makes sense for Walcott to have less touches and passes. Throughout his career, Walcott has been known to be the man to run onto chances, often finding space and running between the defensive line.
This can also be seen by Walcott being caught offside 27 more times than Bernard. A brief look at both Walcott and Bernard’s underlying numbers, and you can see the difference profiles these wingers.
Bernard offers little in final product. His shot taking is non-existent and his creativity is very limited in quality. His tendency to dribble in possession is a good asset for progression, as well as his linkup play with Lucas Digne being a good combination under the Silva days.
But in the final third, Bernard doesn’t offer that much and in Ancelotti’s system, with Rodriguez switching towards that left flank so consistently, Everton need the quality of Lucas Digne and Richarlison to carry us through.
A look at Theo Walcott’s profile doesn’t offer much in terms of progression but is opposite to Bernard in regard to shooting and quality of chances. This makes sense, with his runs behind the defensive line being Everton’s only consistent mover at the start of last season.
Although Walcott isn’t the elite winger who should be consistently starting, in games where Everton need to penetrate through a defence, coming off the bench and deploying a winger of Walcott’s profile would be more beneficial than Bernard.
This season for Southampton, Walcott has generally played in a more central position, in Southampton’s 4-2-2-2. Though his xA has dipped to 0.07 per 90, his xG has remained the same. So far, he has scored two and assisted two in 12 appearances. Three of Walcott’s goal contributions lead to a point; his assist against Chelsea came in the 91st minute of the game.
Walcott can influence games. Last season both his goals came at the final minutes of the games and directly earned Everton points.
Everton need more goal scorers, especially with key contributors last season like Richarlison scoring less this season. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored 42% of our league goals this season, and he hasn’t scored in his last six appearances.
Does Everton need Theo Walcott?
Walcott offers a different style to our other wingers that could contribute when substituted on later in games. Bernard does not.
If Walcott isn’t needed by Everton, then Bernard definitely isn’t. Everton doesn’t need Bernard as a defensively solid winger, they already have one: Alex Iwobi.
Bernard is a squad player on the wages of a star signing. Last summer, Bernard should have been far more disposable than Walcott. With the introduction of James, Iwobi and Gordon are enough support behind James and Richarlison.