Did Everton win the Premier League transfer window?
With games played after the transfer window closed last Thursday, Premier League clubs and observes can do more than speculate on the moves made. Most express pleasure with their business when time is called but there are some who wish the league didn't vote to end trading early. Everton rank among the satisfied.
Last summer was disastrous for the Toffees, adding to their load this time. New manager Marco Silva and Director of Football Marcel Brands were tasked with overhauling the squad in a shortened window. The World Cup complicated matters. Yet, the pair completed the job in style. Unlike last season’s false belief that Everton won the transfer window, this time around they may have.
First, management removed the squad's dead weight. Everton sank under heavy wages paid to players not meeting their standard. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Williams, Kevin Mirallas and Davy Klaassen were either over the hill or not good enough. The quartet ate up £19 million a year, a total none justified, even last season's top scorer, Rooney. They all departed making room in the clubhouse and on the books for players Silva wanted.
Finding buyers for each required excellent work in itself. Doing so without retaining their salary meant going above and beyond. Brands did. Even better, the Dutchman accomplished it in time to bring in replacements.
With time on his side, Brands made sure the found money wasn't wasted.
Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma strengthened the centre-back options. Vast improvements on Williams and the rest of Everton's defensive corps, the pair will likely be partners in the starting XI when fully fit.
At left back, Lucas Digne could prove superb business. Leighton Baines' loss for 18 straight games last season was a grievous blow, especially considering Cuco Martina was his replacement. In Digne, Brands and Silva discovered a like-for-like replacement and long-term successor to Baines at a very reasonable price in today's inflated market.
Andre Gomes is an upgrade on Klaassen. The Portuguese midfielder struggled at Barcelona. In a less pressurised environment, he has the potential to flourish like he did at Valencia. One expects he has a point to prove. Everton’s midfield options are better thanks to his presence.
Richarlison adds everything Everton lacked in attack last season. Among the Premier League's worst, the Blues forward line wanted pace and creativity. The young Brazilian adds both. His double against Wolves on opening day proved the point. More of the same and his price tag won't look so ridiculous to doubters.
Bernard provides excellent support. He can play across the pitch, pushing Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott for minutes. If he can replicate his form for Shakhtar Donetsk in the Premier League, signing him on a free transfer becomes the bargain of the year. Even if he doesn't, no one would take Mirallas over him.
Wherever one turns in Everton's squad, improvement is evident. Brands assessed the squad, identified the weaknesses, then found solutions for each. He restored the faith supporters lost under his predecessor, Steve Walsh.
Walsh’s failures last summer cast the club as incompetent. Now, following the best deadline day in club history, Everton fans believe again. No one questions whether the Dutchman is right for the job. They're wondering how anyone could do better.
It's always risky to suggest a club won the transfer market before the season finds its stride. Everton learned the hard way in 2017/18. After admittedly early returns, however, there's reason to be confident in this summer's success. Not only did Marcel Brands lighten the dead weight, then replace it with younger, better players, he reinvigorated the fans.
For Everton, support from the stands is better than any big money signing. That Goodison Park is abuzz again makes the transfer window a success all on its own.