This is our fix up look sharp series, which will look to profile a selection of Premier League teams for their FPL potential. We’ll give some key info on the players, talk about their first five fixtures and pick out five key individuals from that side, then offer a verdict on them at the end.
In this article, Tom has teamed up (n.b. not double teamed) with Twitter bad boy @FPLChef to profile Everton’s FPL prospects for the upcoming season.
Last season, Ronald Koeman fulfilled his objective by steering his Everton side into the Europa League via a 7th placed finish. This was reaffirmed by the man himself (or, at least, his ghost writer) in a column for ESPN prior to United’s UEL final with Ajax in May, in which he reflected:
“As manager of Everton, I am very much looking forward to playing in the competition next season, with the team having realised our objective when we set out at the beginning of the campaign of qualifying for Europe. For us, this was the first step. The final between Ajax and Manchester United will provide a glimpse as to the next step and where we aspire to be as a club going forward.”
It seems to be that Koeman’s overall strategy for Everton is one of calculated ambition. Ultimately, the aim is the Champions League, but he also seems to implicitly accept that achieving the required top 4 finish may be beyond Everton. Instead, he seems to be plotting to take the scenic route to Europe’s top table via winning the Europa League, as United did last year and Liverpool tried to the year before.
To do this, he has already been overhauling the Everton squad to bring in the depth required to sustain challenging on multiple fronts. As Chef says:
“Everton have been doing some good business in the transfer market this summer, quietly going about their business and signing some players with room to grow and improve.”
So what’s going on with Everton’s squad? Let’s dive in…
Koeman is a manager whose approach I certainly like to follow whenever I’m playing Football Manager. This is because he’s a manager with a history of blooding and trusting the young players (I love my regens) whilst buying in a mix of those with great potential and/or experience to build the team. This means the blend of the team includes both the young tyros and the wiser heads who use their experience in games on the field and guide the youngsters’ development off of it.
There is already a nucleus of quality players at Everton, with former Villan Idrissa Gana Gueye perhaps the most unsung. Unbelievably, his average 4.1 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game last season bettered that of Chelsea’s scamperer-in-chief N’Golo Kante, who made on average 3.6 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game. Long-time stalwart (and FPL legend) Leighton Baines and the currently injured duo Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman are other examples of latent quality in the Everton squad. Of the young blood, the likes of Tom Davies, Nick’s favourite Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and bargain bucket fave Mason Holgate also saw some game time last year, and will be expecting to continue their development this season through regular first-team involvement.
On top of this, the big news this summer, as Chef said, has been Koeman’s manoeuvring in the transfer market.
These newcomers are in the shape of ex-Ajax captain Davy Klaassen, former 4.0 keeper extraordinaire Jordan Pickford, defender Michael Keane, the striker Sandro Ramirez, utility man Cuco Martina and a relative unknown called Wayne Rooney all joining (so far) since May.
Those moves are, actually, quite logical when you look at them:
- With Ross Barkley looking to be on the way out, Klaassen seems a more than decent replacement as that dynamic offensive and creative outlet
- With Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles failing to convince in goal, young Pickford could well become Everton’s “Neville Southall of the modern era” for years to come between the sticks
- With Phil Jagielka’s legs giving way, Keane rejuvenates the defence and a partnership with Big Ashley Williams looks strong
- Martina provides extra experienced cover at full back, with Coleman out for a while yet as he convalesces after his horrific injury and young Holgate (who filled in last season) apparently seen as more of a central defender than a full back in the long run
Further moves seem in the offing, with £40m+ bids for Swansea’s Icelandic playmaker (and FPL darling) Gylfi Sigurdsson apparently being made amidst reports the Dutchman is targeting three further big signings to help his squad cope with the demands of European football through acquiring quality in depth.
Of course, I missed out the biggest point behind all of this, which is that the bulk of this revolution in the makeup of his squad was paid for “on credit” as Everton anticipated the departure of their key man last season, Romelu Lukaku.
As Chef says on this:
“Losing Lukaku is a massive loss for The Toffees. His goals are a large reason they finished 7th last term as they seemed to struggle at times under Koeman as he laboured to get his game plan across.”
Looking into it, the man’s right; it’s hard to overemphasise just how important Kaku was to Everton last season. His 25 goal final tally in the league was five times as many as the second highest scorer (Ross Barkley with 5). He was also joint-second for assists provided with 6 (Barkley provided the most with 8). We also saw an uptick in Kaku’s goal conversion rate last season too, with a 18 goals from 86 chances in 2015/16 – 20.9% conversion rate, 56% shot accuracy – rising to 25 goals from the same number of chances in 16/17 – a 29% conversion rate, plus an improved shot accuracy of 64%. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, this certainly augurs well for his new side United last season.
What it doesn’t do, though, is help his former club Everton. As Chef points out, last season the onus lay on Kaku scoring in order for Everton to win. The results certainly bear this out, as they show that Everton only managed to win in 5 of the 19 games he didn’t score in, which seems faintly ridiculous. In other words, if Kaku didn’t score, their chance of victory was only 26%. Respun, if Kaku was nullified and/or didn’t fancy it (which was a suspicion in some games, especially if we compare it to games when he did turn it on) there was a 74% chance the men in blue would drop points. Chef therefore hits the nail on the head here, with their reliance on one man clear to see.
Of the new boys brought in to share the offensive burden with Kaku’s departure, we liked the look of Sandro Ramirez (having already looked him for a prospecting the prospects article), and the signs are actually looking not-so-bad in terms of his potential output if he were to inherit the main man mantle at Everton, with 14 goals from 67 chances (according to Squawka) last season; a 20.9% conversion rate which echoes Kaku’s back in 15/16.
The other new man in is, of course, Wazza himself.
Despite some believing that former England captain is a bit past his peak, Chef thinks the opposite, saying that:
“They also have brought Wayne Rooney back home in what will be World Cup year, which may be one of the shrewdest moves of all.”
What we see with Rooney in his historic output for United is a blend of offensive and creative skill. For example, back in the halcyon days of “football genius” David Moyes’ reign in 2013/14, Rooney’s overall level of contribution tracks Kaku’s with 17 goals and 10 assists in 27 appearances, along with a record of 3.5 shots per game which is better than Kaku’s 3.0 last term. But the stats show that his powers have waned (Wayned?) in recent years, and the question will be whether he shares the burden of goalscoring with Ramirez or is played as a support. Interestingly, Koeman spoke about Roonpig’s “fantastic qualities” on signing him, but did not explicitly say where he’d be positioned. If Ramirez is there to lead the line, and with Klaassen and perhaps Siggy also joining as creative outlets, it’s hard to see exactly where Wazza’s spot in the side will be unless Koeman adopts 2 up top. Rooney himself has said he has signed to play, will be keen to push his claim to go to the World Cup in Russia, and does look leaner and meaner than he has for a while, but it will be interesting to see how the pragmatic Dutch manager will deploy him.
In any case, it’s still looking a bit up in the air for Everton at the time of writing. The squad needs time to gel and adapt to a new manager and, perhaps, a new tactical set up. It’s very much becoming Koeman’s side now, with Martinez era failures like Tom Cleverly shown the exit door, which could give us cause for optimism for their Premier League performance. However, the curveball is to what extent their focus is on the league, bearing in mind the emphasis that has seemingly been placed on them progressing deep in the Europa League as part of the Dutchman’s master plan for his “project” on Merseyside.
The first five fixtures
Echoing our view, Chef is not keen on Everton’s start, saying:
“They play 4 of last seasons top 6 in the opening 5 game weeks. They will no doubt pick points up however it’s a risk I am not willing to take to own their players. They also have new signings to bed in and may also have made more moves in the transfer market by the time the window closes in August. Fixture difficulty along with time to gel does not make them an attractive option in my book.”
Here’s the fixture list, which is a study in red after the Stoke match:
Apart from the first game, it makes scary reading for Evertonians.
Let’s use the Premier League’s own “head-to-head meter” here to document the Toffees’ record against the above sides, and give our thoughts on their imminent matchups:
Stoke (H): 18 games played in PL, 7w Everton, 6d, 5w Stoke.
Last season: EVE 1-0 stk / STK 1-1 eve
Everton beat Stoke at a similar point last season but, as Chef infers, there’s a big question regarding if the new team will have gelled sufficiently. Though last year it elicited only 3 goals, this matchup can see some high scores, as with the 4-3 away win for Stoke in December 2015 which included a brace for my captain that day, Kaku, and a last minute goal by my Stoke midfielder Arnie. Perfect.
Man City (A): 40 games played in PL, 18w Everton, 8d, 14w Man City
Last season: MCI 1-1 eve / EVE 4-0 mci
The surprise trouncing of City in last season’s game at Goodison probably put Pep’s hope of a maiden season title to bed (this was in GW21, when Marcos Alonso scored his brace). This’ll mean that City’s players (those who remain, anyway) will no doubt be wishing to gain revenge on the Toffees. Expect a big test for the Keane/Williams partnership in this game, with a big defeat possible if they can’t deal with City’s plethora of attacking threats.
Chelsea (a): 50 games played in PL, 9w Everton, 17d, 24w Chelsea
Last season: CHE 5-0 eve /eve 0-3 CHE
Everton’s tricky fixtures continue. As we noted in our Chelsea preview, the champions thoroughly dismantled Everton in both fixtures last season, racking up an 8-0 aggregate score across their two matchups. Things may not be quite so easy this time around with Everton’s new look-team but I still fancy Chelsea to come away with a result.
Spurs (H): 22 games played in PL, 8w Everton, 19d, 23w Spurs
Last season: EVE 1-1 tot / TOT 3-2 eve
Gameweek 4 sees Spurs rock up at Goodison for a game which might be tougher than the past history would suggest. As they only won by a 1 goal margin on aggregate last term, much depends on whether Koeman sets out his stall to contain or assault a Spurs team that ended last season in such exuberant form.
Man Utd (a): 50 games played in PL, 8w Everton, 9d, 33w Man Utd
Last season: EVE 1-1 mnu / MNU 1-1 eve
A game which was historically David Moyes donating 6 points to United looks a bit different these days. The next edition will have added spice, with Lukaku facing his former club and, conversely, Rooney returning to Old Trafford as an Everton player once more – expect Sky Sports to trail this “drama” heavily in the run up to the match. Ex-United man Keane may also have added incentive to try to shut his old club out. However, I wouldn’t bet against both attacking threats registering some sort of contribution in the game.
The key players
Chef and I picked out 3 key players each.
The top targets
Jordan Pickford (5.0m; 13% ownership): a bit of a points machine last season given his price and team. He amassed 102 points last season as Sunderland had an awful season and finally, after many years of surviving, went down. Pickford proved himself a good shot stopper, which is great for those bonus save points. You would expect at Everton he will not have to make as many saves but his clean sheet potential will be greatly increased. Once the tricky opening fixtures have been navigated he could well be a snip at 5.0. Chef
Seamus Coleman (6.5m; 0.3% ownership): he’s injured currently, but the Irish wing back was at times near-essential last season (the choice between him or Baines drove many to distraction), with him recording 4 goals, 4 assists and 133 points in just 26 games before being horribly injured playing for his country. Still, the overall tally of 4.92 points per game means that, when he returns (and, hopefully, is still the same player as he was prior to injury) he may be one that we keep an eye on, especially in the hunt for differentials as the season goes past the midway point. Tom
Wayne Rooney (7.5m; 21% ownership): what more is there to say that you don’t already know? He did everything there was to do in his time at Old Trafford and Rooney looks to be leaner and fitter on rejoining his boyhood club. He had a stop-start campaign last year as injuries hit, aided and abetted by falling out of favour with Mourinho, meaning he could not get a sustained run in the team. He is a cut price £7.5m in FPL this year and is a good enabler for your 3rd striker slot. He has already attracted a lot of managers and has over 20 percent ownership. But, as I’ve said, going with Everton players from the off represents a risk given fixtures. Chef
Davy Klaassen (7.5m; 2.9% ownership): Klaassen was a key player for Ajax last season, spurring them on to the Europa League final where they lost to Manchester United 2-0. He seems to me to be a typical Dutch attacking midfielder, amazing technically and at home playing deep further forward or even out wide. The eye-catching thing about Klaassen is that he has goals and assists in his game. He scored 13 goals and had 9 assists in the league campaign across last season. The Premier League is a massive step up from the Eredivisie but if he can get anywhere near that form he will be a massive asset (and differential). His partnership Rooney could be key one to watch as the team settles down. Chef
(n.b. if Siggy signs, he would be in contention to take this spot, but that hasn’t happened at the time of writing).
Sandro Ramirez (7.5m; 1.8% ownership): a good prospect to lead the line for years to come, with 14 goals for Malaga (who finished mid table last season) and bags of potential, we could see Ramirez threaten to break through this year if given the responsibility for leading the line for Everton. At 7.5, and likely to see price drops with Everton’s initial stiff run of games, he looks a good price for a 3rd striker to enable upgrades elsewhere once the time comes to bring him in. A shots per game ratio of 3.1 last season was similar to Lukaku’s 3.0, which is further grounds for encouragement. Tom
Kevin Mirallas (6.5m; 3.2% ownership): a man who has graced my side many times as quite a selfish player who in theory is good for FPL, he always seemed to flatter to deceive, being unable to better 13/14 when his 9 goals and 7 assists saw him become quite popular. I feel like he was as surprised as anyone to be given a new 3-year contract this summer. Another for whom my past history with them rules then out of contention (see Rondon). Tom
Chef’s overall thoughts on Everton reflect the views of many an FPL manager (including both of us) going into the new season:
“I will be honest: I do not see me touching Everton players till Gameweek 6 when their games improve.
“I expect Everton will finish around seventh spot again: it is too soon for them to make a run at the top 4 spots and Champions League football. They have also qualified for the Europa League which, as seen with Manchester United and Liverpool going deep in that competition, can have a real detrimental effect on your league form as fatigue and rotation can hit squads.
With attractive fixtures from Gameweek 6 till the run up to Christmas I fully expect managers to make the most of some of their favourably priced players.”
He’s right to pick out GW6 onwards as a time for bringing in those kindly priced Everton players, with their match-ups between GW6-8 reading BOU BUR bha, which is highly alluring. As noted in our “Gameweek 6 Wildcard” article, a notable number of teams’ fixtures suddenly become kinder then (including Arsenal, Spurs and City), setting up Everton’s players as ideal, budget-friendly assets to bring in along (with any big hitters from those sides not already owned). The poor fixture list from the outset also allows us an opportunity to watch and wait to see who from the new-look Toffees emerges as the man to own, with potential price drops due to that fixture list (and the losses that could come with it) further promoting their potential cost effectiveness.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is, as both Chef and I (at the top of the piece) have mentioned, is that if they do get deep into the Europa League competition we may see rest and rotation really bite come the latter stages of the season. We saw it with United’s assets last year, and Liverpool’s the year before.
This is relevant because Everton have an excellent run-in, with their fixture list between GWs27-38 reading CPL wat bur BHA sto MCI LIV swa NEW hud SOU whu. The two tough home games apart, all of those are eminently winnable.
What could be problematic is if Koeman prioritises Europe and plays the kids in the league; though there may be bargains to be had (e.g. if 5.0 Calvert-Lewin nails down a league starting place), they may end up being one of those sides that has so much uncertainty about who is playing that they will be avoided by more engaged managers. This period is also the key time for double game weeks, meaning it could be really inconvenient if Everton assets are off the table.
However, if they do fall out of Europe, it could be the opposite is true; if they’ve gelled, are gunning for European qualification once more and have those fixtures, a doubling or even tripling up on Everton could be in vogue.
In summary, then, a lot of unknowns and a poor start makes them ones to monitor rather than invest in from the off for Chef and me, with the emphasis being on when their fixtures soften after GW6 (and also their run-in, maybe) for when their assets come into our sides.