At the age of 31 many Evertonians have written off the potential signing of Ashley Williams from Swansea City (by the way, I’ve just heard we’ve had a bid rejected for him, but still expect him to sign) and I’ve seen plenty of mixed opinion of the Welshman across Social Media and from people who I’ve spoken to. Some are suggesting that we should be looking at younger prospects, players with potential rather than a 30+ year-old player who realistically could be a replacement for John Stones if Manchester City eventually get their way – which is likely. However there are others who believe this could be a good move by the Club – and I have to admit I am certainly one of the latter, as the Toffees look to bolster their ranks ahead of the new campaign. My argument would be that we probably are looking out for younger defensive acquisitions as well as players like the experienced Williams, so rather than just assume he is being bought to directly replace Stones, I’m looking at it from the point of view that of the seasoned, reliable centre halves of the Premier League, Ashley Williams is very much high up there and we look set to sign him regardless of what is going on elsewhere. When you look at defensive options in this league he’d be right up there with the top picks for defenders and I’m happy we’re in for him.
There’s been panic amongst Blues about our lack of transfer activity so far this summer but I am remaining calm; I have faith that Koeman will bring in the required acquisitions which will see Everton kick on, regardless of any imminent outgoings. Obviously as football fans we grow impatient – especially when we’ve had to endure some nightmare transfer windows as Evertonians – but this time with more financial clout and a new manager in place I believe we will eventually see developments at Goodison Park and the signing of Ashley Williams from Swansea and the capture of midfielder Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa could be the starting point.
Koeman has taken time to cast his eye over his squad, some old faces have left but there are lots of young, fresher faces emerging, such as Tom Davies who is being tied down to a new long-term deal. Our Dutchman at the helm will know where he needs to strengthen and be clear on who is part of his plans, and I believe over the coming days and weeks we will see some healthy activity in terms of additions, and a few unpopular faces shipped out too (McGeady, Kone et al). Through the spine of our team we need strength in depth – without a doubt we need a new goalie, a centre half is a must with Stones’ future unclear, and ahead of that we still lack someone who can grab the game by the balls in the middle of the park – Gueye could be just that man. Described as an enforcer, Gueye’s statistics from last season were certainly impressive, but he did somewhat go under the radar in a side that was eventually relegated. Up front a lot depends on whether or not Lukaku stays, but putting Everton first in my thoughts I feel that if we do lose our Belgian striker and our talented centre half Stones then we will bring in players to replace them and put them behind us. Obviously I’d rather keep both Stones and Rom but if they want out, it is only going to go one way. The old saying is bang on – no player is bigger than the Club – we would bounce back if they left and we have to start building our squad back up, that starts with the additions of Gueye and Williams and I get the feeling they will be the first of a few new faces through the door at Finch Farm. The most critical element this summer is that we add some creative acquisitions, only then would the team and squad start to take shape, it’s just a shame we’ve left it so late because the fume is rising with less than two weeks to go before the big kick off. Replacing Lukaku is a huge task, just for his sheer goal ratio, but I’m at an age now where I’m not going to lose sleep over it, if he leaves then we move on, we’ll have to go out and buy big, because it would be big boots to fill. As for Stones he’s a raw talent and a shame if we couldn’t fend off interest for a second time – but ultimately he’s made it public he wants to go, so it’s about us getting the right price for him. Same with Lukaku I suppose if the rumours are true about him wanting out too.
As for Ashley Williams, if the speculation is to be believed we are close to signing him and as I say, this news has been met with varied views from our supporters. For me personally, this signing makes sense, regardless of whether John Stones stays or not. Ideally, Williams comes in to compliment what we have already got – he and Jags are the experienced, dogged defenders with Stones and Funes Mori as their younger, football-minded colleagues – it’s healthy competition for places and two players for each position at the heart of our defence. With numerous defensive youngsters coming through – the likes of Galloway, Browning, Holgate amongst others, the signing of Williams will only benefit their development in terms of experience. I know bringing players in limits the chances of others but I am confident the talented core of youth will be involved regularly at Everton from now on regardless of who we sign, many of these lads simply cannot be ignored.
Williams is a captain, a leader, a proven Premier League player, a seasoned international and I don’t know about you but every time I’ve seen Everton play Swansea City he has been the stand-out performer. He is everything we’ve lacked in recent times; vocal, marshals the defence well, puts himself on the line, comfortable on the ball, someone who stands up when it counts, leads by example – we haven’t had many of them at Everton in the past two to three years have we? At ten million people will say this is expensive, but that’s what you pay for proven Premier League talent – even if we got three or four seasons out of him, and he nurtured upcoming talents alongside him, then so be it. Williams isn’t a long term option, neither is Jagielka who isn’t getting any younger, but with players like this in your team it will only benefit their successors long term. Funes Mori has the ability to grow into a talented centre half, he has a long way to go but you can see the quality is there, and Koeman will look to bring in a younger option to play alongside him eventually, we just need to get ourselves ready for the here and now.
Links with some big-named players have seen some Everton fans get carried away and don’t get me wrong I’m the first to speak out against the Club for their slowness of deals and lack of action, however on this occasion I’m quietly confident that we will be OK – the potential Williams signing and Gueye deal are hardly the most exciting deals of the century, however they know the league, they’ve proved their worth, we need numbers, and I believe the rest will follow. I also remain optimistic the marquee name will sign too. I must be on some sort of medication.
It’s difficult for many of our fans to fathom how we can gain major investment but then go on to have a slow transfer window, but people need to realise that we are in transition, Moshiri, Walsh and Koeman will not jump the gun, splash the cash for the sake of it – our majority shareholder is a shrewd businessman with a long term vision, meanwhile Walsh has a reputation for eyeing talent, as does Koeman who bought well during his time on the South Coast. The foundations are there and unfortunately these things don’t happen overnight, however I do feel that many of our fans need to chill out a little bit, stick behind Koeman and his ideas for Everton and get excited about the new season ahead.
In times gone by I may have been a lot more worried about Everton potentially losing a couple of their star players and obviously the aim is to keep them, however I am far too optimistic about the future of the Club to be too downbeat about this now. As much as it has upset me when major players have departed in the past, I’ve realised that it doesn’t really matter to me anymore in football and I won’t get disheartened by it. If the likes of Stones and Lukaku want to leave then let them, but only for a price that Everton are entitled to. If they don’t want to be part of this new project then sell at a high price. Everton will continue, and we’ll find other players, and we focus on Everton and nothing else.
There is young talent coming through, some real quality in the side that just needs setting free, we have financial stability and plans to improve our infrastructure, and a new Manager who will be keen to give Evertonians something to shout about once more. There’s certainly no panicking from me over transfers and for once I actually feel quite relaxed about it all.
Up the Toffees.