Who Everton should sign to save their underwhelming transfer window – data analysis
One Premier League club that has been active in the transfer market as of late is Everton. The club are coming off the back of a mixed season in the English top-flight, finishing in 10th place with a -1 goal difference after such a strong start which left them perching at the top of the table by match week 5. Of course, injuries and suspensions to key men Allan and James Rodríguez did not help, but plenty of clubs tended to injury crises better than the Merseyside team did last term. In fact, there is a stark contrast between this year’s transfer deals and last year’s – at least in terms of player reputation.
Andros Townsend, Asmir Begović, and Demarai Gray are not exactly the signings to send shivers down the spines of your closest competition. Now, none of these players are especially bad, and they can each be competent squad players, but Everton fans worry that these have not been signed as just that – squad players. However, Everton remain linked to some very ambitious deals, and there is proof to suggest that we can expect more business to be done before the window closes. This analysis will provide targets that Everton could sign to improve their squad.
In this data analysis, we will use statistics to find three ready-made first-team players who could join Rafael Benítez’s side and immediately become upgrades on the current roster, or provide competition to a position that needs it desperately. Based on Everton’s transfer targets, and my personal input as to which position’s need improving, we will be looking for a striker to provide Dominic Calvert-Lewin competition, a first-choice right-back, and a creative winger.
Our dataset consists of players inside Europe’s top five leagues, aged between 18-29 years old, with at least 1500 minutes played in the league last season, and we are setting a max transfer value of £50m, assimilating with their current transfer record. We are also removing players who would realistically not move to Everton, despite fitting in all these data brackets. All data used in this piece was correct as of 25/07/2021.
Centre-forward statistical analysis
Firstly, we’ll begin with a search for a backup striker to Calvert-Lewin. The Englishman scored 16 Premier League goals last term, and 7 of them came off his head. He is a physical presence upfront, and in finding competition for him, we ought to find a player who will fit that mould too. Although, rumours linking the club to Joaquín Correa, the nimble Lazio forward, suggest Everton are looking for a different option in rotation, so let’s find a player with a different profile to DCL as well.
Leading the way for goals per 90 in our dataset is Gerard Moreno of Villareal. In the 20/21 season, Moreno scored at a rate of 0.73 in the league, overperforming a still magnificent 0.6 xG per 90. The 29-year-old Spanish forward notably scored a goal in the Europa League final against Manchester United, one of his seven strikes in the competition.
Alternatively, leading the way for xG per 90 in our dataset is Youssef En-Nesyri at 0.61. He matched this with 0.6 goals per 90 in the league for Sevilla. The 24-year-old has been linked heavily with West Ham since January after his impressive performances in the Europa League. He is now rated at £35m+ by the Spanish outfit, partly due to the length left on his current contract (4 years).
Another forward who excelled from a goalscoring perspective last season was Borja Iglesias at Real Betis. The 28-year-old only managed 11 goals in La Liga, but he was limited to a restricted number of minutes, as represented by his 0.66 goals per 90, overperforming his 0.55 xG fairly comfortably. He is yet to reach the heights he did at Espanyol in La Liga, but the signs he showed last season are promising.
Leading the way for headed goals per 90 – by some distance – is Ante Budimir. The 30-year-old Croatian also scored 7 headed goals, the same as DCL, at a rate of a whopping 0.36 per 90. He also contends for a proportionately high 12.58 aerial duels per 90, indicative of the style of play used at Osasuna. He initially joined the lower-league side on loan but has now agreed on a permanent deal.
Another player who scores headed goals for fun is Saša Kalajdžić of Stuttgart. The 24-year-old Austrian forward made waves at the recent EURO 2020 tournament, but in the league last season he was notching 0.32 headed goals per 90. He stands at a towering 6’7”, which helps him battle for 6.68 aerial duels per 90.
Finally, Andy Delort of Montpellier, who impressed majorly in Ligue 1 last season, also notched more than a few headed goals. He scored 0.24 headed goals per 90 – third in our dataset – and contested for 9.85 aerial duels per 90. The 29-year-old, according to reports, is available to be picked up for a cool £14m, which is a snip for any club that manages to get him, based on recent performances.
Right-back statistical analysis
When it comes to Everton’s right-back situation, this is a position they’ve been hoping to fix for a few seasons now. Djibril Sidibé did a competent job in the 2019/20 season, if unspectacular, and now Séamus Coleman is far too injury prone and simply not at the required standards when he is on the pitch. The two right-backs they are currently linked to the most are two who actually ply their trade outside of Europe’s top five leagues, but we’ll discuss them later. Firstly, let’s find a right-back, who can attack, defend, and progress. Wishful thinking to get all three in one player – I know.
The first player worth highlighting is Ruben Aguilar of Monaco. The 28-year-old has proven he can attack and defend competently in equal measure, for a side who sat 3rd in Ligue 1 last term. He has mixed 0.21 xA per 90 with a 68.1% defensive duel success rate, which is an impressive duality. At Monaco, he has improved on his time at Montpellier, becoming far more well-rounded.
Léo Dubois is another French full-back excelling in Ligue 1. The 26-year-old joined Lyon on a free from Nantes in 2018, but it took him a couple of years to get up to full speed. His 0.24 xA per 90 is the best in our dataset, whilst his 60.91% defensive duel success rate is above average. The Frenchman has moulded into one of the best full-backs within the French top division.
Another player worth shouting out in this regard is Kenny Tete, the 25-year-old Dutch full-back at recently relegated Fulham. Despite demotion to the Championship, Tete still managed 0.17 xA per 90 and a 64.66% defensive duel success rate, in fairly limited minutes. Ola Aina was the nominal right-back of choice for Scott Parker, but Tete still managed to impress in just over 1500 minutes of football.
When it comes to ball progression, Thomas Meunier had a good season with Borussia Dortmund. Despite having his critics, 29-year-old Meunier still managed to achieve a dataset-leading 4.11 progressive runs per 90 and a still mightily impressive 11.65 progressive passes per 90. Defensively, sure, Meunier underwhelmed, but he still has his upsides as a footballer on the whole.
Luke Ayling at Leeds United shocked a lot of Premier League fans with his performances last season. The 29-year-old has been a mainstay in Yorkshire for some time now, but in the top flight he produced a superb 13.1 progressive passes per 90, as well as 2.47 progressive runs, and he was vital to the way that Leeds wanted to play – fast and direct.
On that note, Kevin Mbabu showed there was much to be proud of in what looked to be an off-season for the Swiss defender. Despite losing his first-choice status to Ridle Baku, the 26-year-old still managed 11.9 progressive passes per 90 and 2.48 progressive runs per 90 for a side that achieved fourth place in the Bundesliga table – a Champions League spot fiercely battled for.
Winger statistical analysis
If rumours are to be believed, Everton have been after a pacey, creative winger for some time now. James Rodríguez showed he has what it takes to perform in the Premier League, especially as a right-winger, but he can’t be expected to start the majority of the minutes over a league season. What Everton could do with is a creative winger who can also be deployed as a #10 if needs be, and for the performance, level to not drop significantly. Ideally a right-winger.
Filip Kostić is the one distinct outlier in the dataset from a creative regard. For Frankfurt, the 28-year-old has been magnificent, truly finding a system that suits him down to a tee, and his whopping 0.48 xA per 90 and 0.47 assists per 90 is testament to that. He is a left-footed wing-back-cum-winger in their 3-4-3 formation, and his crosses are of sublime quality consistently.
Over at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Jonas Hofmann had a great season, being utilised in several different positions. The 29-year-old German was predominantly used as a right-winger, but he also played on the left and down the centre as well. He was a consistent performer across all positions, achieving 0.35 xA per 90 and 0.42 assists per 90.
Finally, another player who had a great season at wing-back was Borna Sosa at Stuttgart. The Croatian wing-back, now 23-years-old produced 0.26 xA per 90 which he was duly rewarded with 0.38 assists per 90. Stuttgart impressed on their return to the Bundesliga, and Sosa was one of the many incumbents of Sven Mislintat’s reign who showed he can play for a Europa-level side.
Sometimes, an important part of being a winger is how capable you are at taking the ball past your opponent. Jeremie Boga, formerly of Chelsea produces these moments in spades for Sassuolo. He attempts 9.94 dribbles per 90 at a below-average 44.71% success rate. Now 24-year-old, the Frenchman is surely hoping his 19/20 season was not his magnum opus, where he excelled.
Pedro Neto is a player who shone for a Wolves side who regularly bored viewers to sleep. He was often the only attacking player worth keeping tabs on, and his 8.49 dribbles per 90 at a 58.14% success rate are both very impressive. He would cost a penny and a half, but the 21-year-old would surely pay off a hefty investment in dividends, such is his quality.
A surprise name on this list, Wilfried Singo, is currently playing for Côte d’Ivoire at the Olympics. At club level, the 20-year-old plays for Serie A strugglers Torino, sometimes at right-back, but largely as a right-midfielder. He mixed 7.32 dribbles per 90 with a 67.68% success rate, which is mightily impressive at such a young age. Big future for him it seems.
Who should they sign?
So, of course, Everton do not have an unlimited transfer budget, but with the names they’re currently being linked to, there is reason to believe that they are willing to spend somewhere just shy of £100m on transfers. With the three positions we have selected as areas Everton are looking to improve in, we should be able to acquire all three targets for much less than that figure. Especially considering we are just looking for a backup striker to DCL, not a starter, a first-choice full-back and winger.
With that being said, here are six targets, two for each position, that would be wise pickups for Everton:
Andy Delort, Montpellier, 29-years-old, 6’0”, market value: £14.4m
Andy Delort has just come off the back of his best campaign in professional football, and now, if rumours are to be believed, he wants to test himself in England again. For those without a strong memory for Championship flops – Delort failed to impress with Wigan in the 2014-15 season, scoring zero goals. Now, Delort is a 29-year-old striker playing his football for Montpellier, a team who just finished 8th in Ligue 1. He produced 15 goals and 9 assists for the south-coast side last season and combined extremely well with teammate Gaetan Laborde. Under Michel Der Zakarian, Delort got used to playing in several systems at a high level, performing both with a striking partner or without one.
Delort is a vital cog to how Montpellier like to play in every formation. His 9.85 aerial duels per 90 are testament to that – although smaller than your average centre-back, he still manages to win 53.3% of them, which is a very impressive figure for a striker. It is Delort, out of all our dataset, who fits the Calvert-Lewin mould the most, whilst being a well-rounded striker in his own right, and also being seemingly willing to join a Premier League outfit, even as a backup option. Rumours are suggesting that Newcastle want the Frenchman, but Everton certainly have the financial muscle to muck up any potential deal there. He is clinical, possesses decent pace, can score headed goals, and would, on paper, slot right into this Everton team in place of Calvert-Lewin no problem.
Terem Moffi, Lorient, 22-years-old, 6’2”, market value: £9m
Another Ligue 1 forward who just completed his best senior season to date is Terem Moffi of Lorient. Moffi, though, is much younger and resembles a different type of player to Delort or DCL. Despite being taller than Delort at 6’2”, Moffi is not as strong of an aerial presence, yet, but he still scores goals at a high rate, and is a slightly more direct threat with his dribbling. It is also worth noting that Lorient are a considerably weaker side when compared to Montpellier, yet Moffi still managed 14 goals in his debut Ligue 1 campaign. As mentioned earlier, with Everton reportedly interested in Joaquin Correa, it is worth highlighting another forward who does not fit the DCL mould and would provide a different option coming off the bench.
Moffi is a left-footed striker with good finishing instincts and like Delort – Moffi has been used in a plethora of formations, including systems that had him up top on his own, and with a striking partner. He is a striker whose goals most commonly come from running the channels, much like we saw with Lukas Nmecha last season at Anderlecht. Moffi is agile – we see this every time he pulls off an acrobatic celebration – but in the game itself, he uses his quick feet and electrifying acceleration to go past defenders well. He’s attempting a respectable 2.13 dribbles per 90, emblematic of his direct nature. Outside of his goalscoring, he also angles his large frame nicely to manipulate defenders and create space for himself and others, a good trait to have if he heads into the physical Premier League.
Honourable mentions: Aleksandar Mitrović, Alexander Sørloth, Breel Embolo, Gaetan Laborde, Joaquin Correa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ludovic Ajorque, M’Bala Nzola, Rafa Mir, Saša Kalajdžić, Steve Mounié, Simy, Wout Weghorst, Youseff En-Nesyri.
Max Aarons, Norwich, 21-years-old, 5’8”, market value: £19.8m
Now, Max Aarons was not a part of our data analysis breakdown due to playing in the Championship last term, but of the two right-backs Everton have been linked to the most, Aarons makes the most sense, over Denzel Dumfries. While Dumfries is linked heavily to Inter, Everton are battling with Arsenal to purchase Aarons, and there is certainly a way to sell the Everton project over the Arsenal one. Everton would also suit Aaron’s skillset much more. They utilise a back four for starters, and will likely continue to do so under Rafa Benítez. The Englishman just earned over 4000 minutes in the Championship and was arguably the standout right-back in the division – and certainly looked much improved on the 19/20 Premier League campaign.
There are signs to suggest that he can assimilate to Premier League football better this time around than last. He has improved the cautious nature of his passing and confidence with such efforts. He has a better understanding of match tempo, learning when to rotate possession or play the penetrative pass down the line. His most frequent method of ball progression, though, would be through his marauding ball-carrying. He was attempting 2.4 dribbles per 90 last term, at a 58% success rate, and many of these were acting as a method of ball progression from deep. While his final-third output is nothing to shout about, it is subpar in statistical terms, in Everton’s system, Lucas Digne spends a lot of time in the final third of the pitch, so having a stable defender on the other side of it would help balance things out.
Léo Dubois, Lyon, 26-years-old, 5’10”, market value: £14.4m
Léo Dubois, our third choice from Ligue 1, was statistically the pick of the bunch in search of a well-rounded full-back. He has been at Lyon for three seasons now but only was it the 2020/21 season did he cement himself as a first-choice starter. It was last season where he stood out as one of the best full-backs in the division, yet he is still valued at just £14.4m. Defensively, he is more suspect than some of the other right-backs that could have been chosen, but he provides much more going forward than the rest. In Lyon’s 4-3-3 formation, from right-back, no one in the squad provided more than his 218 progressive passes, which just goes to show his importance in the build-up.
As mentioned before, his 0.24 xA per 90 is the best within our dataset, and he has shown a variety of creative passing. He can produce whipped crosses into the path of a forward, and he can also combine with Lyon’s wingers to create angles for dangerous cutbacks from the byline. He is tricky to stop in the final third, while not an unstoppable dribbling force, he does provide 3.39 shot-creating actions per 90, indicative of his varied talent in the final third. Defensively, Dubois would slot right into a side that presses high and wide. Although his pressure-volume has not been the highest till now, a 33.7% success rate certainly is. He is tall enough and strong enough to battle fiercely against opposition wingers and win the ball back more often than not. Ready-made for the Premier League.
Honourable mentions: Denzel Dumfries, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Gabriele Zappa, Kenny Tete, Ruben Aguilar, Thomas Meunier.
Romain Faivre, Brest, 23-years-old, 5’10”, market value: £11.7m
Yet another Ligue 1 player on the list. Must be something in the water over there? This time we have another forward thriving for a side that is struggling in the division. Links to Gladbach in the Bundesliga should say a lot about the talent of the young winger. His rise to consistent minutes in the top flight has not been as smooth as some of the other Ligue 1 youngsters, but his hardship has helped him grow both on and off the pitch. 6 goals and 5 assists are impressive in a side who finished 17th in Ligue 1, after all. Nonetheless, playing for a poorer side has helped Faivre develop his all-around game further – he has to defend in their 4-4-2 formation, and he has to make the most of his ball-carrying ability to drag this Brest team up the pitch.
Faivre can thrive for a team that plays in the transition. He never seems afraid when he has the ball at his feet, and four or five opponent defenders are ahead of him. He sets himself up masterfully to receive the ball, beat his man, and work passes through congested areas. His dribbling technique is unique – he places touches on the ball with his toes, rather than his in-step, which goes against traditional coaching. It allows Faivre to beat his opponent with greater ease as he can change direction much sooner. This has helped him produce 4.67 shot-creating actions per 90 from the right flank, despite operating rather deep in many of the games he played last term. That sort of dynamism, creativity, and pace from the right flank is exactly what Everton are after.
Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen, 23-years-old, 5’11”, market value: £31.5m
Finally, we have the most recognisable name on the list – Leon Bailey. The Jamaican winger broke out in the 17/18 season, which feels like an eternity ago now, then he had two relatively lowkey seasons before the 20/21 campaign where he flew into the limelight once more. 9 goals and 8 assists beats his best goal contribution tally since his first full season at Leverkusen. He can play across the frontline but his best position is as a right-winger in a 4-3-3. Bailey also put up some big performances in the Europa League, which gives us a nice view into the transferability of his performances too. He also has experience as a left wing-back in a back three system if need be as well, which is useful to know in case Lucas Digne picks up another injury again.
Bailey is an explosive winger at his very core – he is one of, if not the fastest, player in the Bundesliga. This translates into his dribbling, where he uses his quick feet to take the ball past his opponent with frequency. Often Bailey does not need to pull off any flair skill move, he just needs to push it past his opponent if there is green space behind him. He couples nice close control with cutting inside frequently and driving into the penalty area, which in of itself can earn penalty calls, and given the current state of VAR, he could earn a lot in the Premier League. Overall though he is more of a goalscorer than a creator, with 0.36 npxG per 90 and 0.25 xA per 90, this just adds to the young winger’s dynamism. Worth noting though, depending on what exactly Everton are looking for.
Honourable mentions: Armand Laurienté, Dwight McNeil, Filip Kostić, Jonathan Clauss, Moussa Diaby, Pedro Neto, Raphinha, Vincenzo Grifo.