Everton: An early look at the winter transfer returns

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Morgan Schneiderlin in action during the Premier League match between Everton and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on February 4, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Morgan Schneiderlin in action during the Premier League match between Everton and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on February 4, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /

Everton made two high-priced transfers this winter window.  Just how well are they fitting in after the first few matches?

So often transfers are what make following a club fun.  Will my favorite club splash the cash in an attempt to move up the table?  Can a new 19-year-old develop into a star under our manager?  Everton made an attempt to answer both of those questions this winter in making two signings.

First is the capture of Ademola Lookman, the aforementioned 19-year-old who is a diminutive pacey winger.  The second transfer was Manchester United surplus and defensive midfield maestro Morgan Schneiderlin who helped get Southampton into the Europa League a few years back.

At the time of the Lookman signing, which happened first, Everton fans were left scratching their head.  10 million dollars just seems like a lot of money for a hole that wasn’t exactly there.  On top of that can a winger who is so small and young compete at a Premier League level coming from League One?

Lookman made no hesitation in announcing his presence and relaxing the Everton faithful in scoring a goal on his club debut.  That goal was in the romp against Manchester City:

The goal was more luck than anything as Lookman had a fortunate deflection fall at his feet before a poor first touch almost ruined the opportunity.  That doesn’t matter, though the goal happened and the deflection… was a John Stones led effort.

Since then, Lookman has started two times, the Bournemouth goal fest and the nil-nil draw away to Middlesbrough.  In both instances, the young man has come off after about 70 minutes, so while there isn’t a great deal of data associated with Lookman’s time with Everton we can get a sense of what he is really like.

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The mix bag of those two starts shouldn’t be surprising given Lookman’s age.  Most young players give inconsistent performances and that is exactly the case with Lookman.

Against Bournemouth, he really was able to impact the match in a positive way.  Bournemouth set up in a 3-5-1-1 that gave Lookman the space he needs on the wing.  On the day he rarely made a mistake with a 96% pass completion percentage and four dribbles according to whoscored.com.  It was interesting to note that while he did have some positive stats, Lookman didn’t really contribute as much as you would think from a winger in a six-goal match.  Not only was he not directly involved in any of the six goals, he also didn’t record a single key pass and only one cross.  When getting himself into an advantageous area, Lookman at this point is far more interested in shooting than passing.

The Middlesbrough match was less positive as his passing tailed off along with his ability to beat a much more defensive side.  His shooting profile was still in full display, but ultimately his impact was little as none of the shots when in and well his passing around the area was nonexistent.

Schneiderlin, on the other hand, has done no bag mixing.  From the moment he was named a starter, the Frenchman has been fantastic.  This is to be expected with the type of signing Schneiderlin was.  He was the club lifting 30m dollar signing that raises expectations.

Those expectations have certainly been raised when it comes to Schneiderlin and Everton.  In the three matches in which he has started, Schneiderlin has been the metronome at the heart of Everton’s midfield.

In each instance, Schneiderlin has been among the team leaders in passes and passing percentage.  He also fills up the stat sheet in almost every area, from tackles to dribbles and everything in between.

More than stats, though, Schneiderlin gives the Everton midfield a rock and a sense of belief that Gareth Barry just can’t.  When Barry needs that slight bit of pace to catch his mark, he just can’t summon it anymore.  Not Schneiderlin, he can motor anywhere and with his large frame command the field.

All told, Everton and their two winter transfer signings may not have the impact of Gaby Jesus for Manchester City, but have they changed Everton quickly.  Suddenly with Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye, Everton have a dangerous and explosive midfield when combined with Schneiderlin.  When you add a developing Lookman to the ranks, Everton will have a dynamic duo next season with Yannick Bolasie.

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I couldn’t be more pleased with the two players brought in for Everton and would give the winter window a ranking of an A.  That A becomes even more cemented considering Everton was able to offload dead weight in Tom Cleverley, Oumar Niasse and Gerard Deulofeu (although he has been playing well).  All three of those players were on higher wages than should have been paid for a bench player, at best.  Everton also robbed Sunderland in the transfer of Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson.