Enner Valencia and Aaron Lennon are hardworking and capable players in the Premier League.
They won’t change a game, however, yet these were the two players brought on as Everton searched for a winner at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday afternoon. And therein lies our problem.
The Toffees failed to breach the Boro backline and had to settle with a goalless draw, losing ground on the top six as Manchester United and Liverpool both won at home to extend the gap.
With ambitions to mix it with the big boys and reclaim our place at the top table of English football, why did we seemingly dismiss a January transfer window to improve the squad? Well in the race to finish in one of the coveted European spots, why are we waiting until the summer to plug very obvious gaps in the team?
It’s a process, Koeman’s project, but you have to be proactive in this game.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the look of the starting XI which took to the field on Teeside and landing Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman were serious coups for the club. However, Saturday highlighted we are short. Plain and simple.
With the current squad, I expect we’ll get by. However, that is not our motto. Why risk four months of a campaign just doing enough?
Romelu Lukaku is our only real recognised centre forward capable of scoring on a regular basis. Should he pick up an injury or suspension between now and May, we will struggle for goals and results will suffer.
As Everton toiled at Boro, Manolo Gabbiadini, long admired by the club, was scoring his second and third goals in two games for Southampton. Signed for £14.5million from Napoli, his capture proves there was talent available in January – yet we passed up the opportunity to sign him and in turn, allowed a smaller club to benefit.
Of course, it is not guaranteed the Italian would have netted a brace against Boro had we signed him. We can’t even be sure he’d have made it onto the pitch, such is the standing and importance of sole frontman Lukaku.
What we can say though, without much doubt, is Gabbiadini would have made much more of an impact on the pitch than Valencia and Lennon. It would have showed a statement of intent too.
Many claim Everton would have struggled to sign a forward willing to consign himself to the bench. However, surely our aim should be to sign players able to compete for a place upfront or play alongside Rom?
Others claimed there was no real quality available in January. While this may be true, an upgrade on Valencia and Arouna Kone was a must.
We don’t know what happened last month. Everton may have made bids for 20 different strikers. Koeman may have decided we were strong enough to cope with the remaining 16 matches of the season. Financial fair play may have restricted just how much we could spend.
For me though, failing to sign a second striker just wasn’t an option. This season was, and still is, very much on – Everton can finish in the top six or higher – we should have given ourselves the best possible chance.
I fear bad luck with injuries could be our downfall. It was a big risk to only bring in two new bodies and, as mentioned, any forced spell on the sidelines for Lukaku would highlight our lack of firepower. It’s clear to see.
We may have had to pay a few extra million here and there to land the players we wanted but qualifying for Europe would have made up for the outlay and would put us in a stronger position when convincing players to join and, just as importantly, stay at the club this summer.
The positions of goalkeeper, centre back and playmaker will also be a focus for Steve Walsh and Co come pre-season but the current personnel in those areas should maintain our place in seventh. Still seems a gamble to wait.
It’s all well and good getting the chequebook out in the summer, not getting fleeced in the January sales but, with the top six also choosing to do very little business last month, they too will be looking to splash the cash, potentially looking to sign some of our own targets.
We should have taken advantage and got ahead of the game.
I would have liked to have seen the club do more last month, show the Premier League and our own fanbase just how ambitious and serious we are.
January wasn’t a disaster by any means but the lack of activity might see us fall short. Just.
But hey, there’s always the next window…