OVERLOOKED: HAS EVERTON'S SUMMER BUSINESS GONE UNDER THE RADAR
Heading into the 2019/20 season things were looking up at Goodison Park. Ancelotti had settled and brought in the likes of James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan. However, a 10th place finish was to come, and Ancelotti would be replaced by the unpopular Rafa Benitez with holes littered across the squad. With all the transfer talk focused on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku, Everton quietly made a few additions. But have they proved to be the right additions at this early stage?
So, who are these signings?
Firstly, a couple of reinforcements were brought into the goalkeeping department. Those being Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan. Then moving up the field and some English talent in Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend were added for a combined £1.80 million. Finally, at the top of the pitch Salomon Rondon has been reunited with his old Newcastle manager.
How have they fared?
Between Begovic and Lonergan there has only been one appearance and that was to be expected with England’s number one, Jordan Pickford, playing whenever fit. Therefore, it isn’t fair to pass judgment on them.
He has had considerably more game time than the two keepers, much of it unexpected due to the injury to the club’s number nine Dominic Calvert-Lewin. However, despite four separate appearances, he is yet to get into gear with his finishing touch very evidently lacking. Nevertheless, he has still had a role to play with his ability to hold up play and act as a wall for this fellow attackers to bounce off. Something that is crucial in building attacks.
When Gray arrived back on these shores after his brief foray into German football with Bayer Leverkusen, no one knew what to expect. After all he had been struggling for any sort of form for a few seasons.
Though, under Benitez he has been reborn. The most enjoyable element of his play has been his decisiveness and clear decision making when receiving the ball. Take his goals against Leeds and Brighton as perfect examples of this. He has been willing to take his man on, down the outside before firing a low shot back across the goalkeeper. Moreover, he showed the mature side to his game in the build up to Everton’s equaliser at the weekend. He ensured he got his head up and after showing off his upper body strength against Fred, picked out the right option in Doucoure. After seven games he is only one goal off his best tally for a Premier League season and is showing no signs of stopping.
Townsend arrived at Everton at the opposite end of his career compared to Gray. A 30 year old who had been a regular under Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace and showing off his magic on a regular basis.
Just like with Gray, no one could have foreseen the impact he would have in the early weeks of the season. An assist on the opening day against Southampton got the ball rolling before a trademark Andros Townsend cracker against Burnley set the touchpaper alight. Then in recent weeks he has shown his composure from the penalty spot against Norwich before firing home the pivotal goal against Manchester United in a cool manner. It is also important to note his two goals and assist in the EFL Cup. Eight goal contributions already for the man from Leytonstone and just like with Gray, the end doesn’t appear to be in sight.
The combination of Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend
Going into this season, Everton fans would’ve seen losing both Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin to injuries as a nightmare scenario. However, the fact progress without them has been rather smooth sailing is testament to the effect these two have had and how they have established themselves as key figures in the squad. The perfect example being the second half turnaround at home to Burnley where both scored, and Townsend got an assist in that chaotic spell.
Returning to the question posed at the start of this piece and in short, the answer is yes. Those signed aren’t your standard big names that attract all the media attention and equally as important is the fact that they didn’t come with a big price tag.
Moreover, it is all well and good being astute in the transfer market but if it doesn’t translate onto the pitch then it’s a waste of time. However, that is not the case here. Gray and Townsend have made themselves indispensable and have played their role in Everton being sat in a very respectable 5th going into the October international break.
Whilst all the attention was focused elsewhere, the hierarchy at Everton silently made moves and are reaping the rewards.