It is probably fair to say that there is more than one problem right now at Everton Football Club, but their main issue right now appears to be their defensive play. This caused a real headache for the recently departed Ronald Koeman, and it looks like being something that won’t go away easily. Despite spending a lot of money in the summer, Everton may have to spend again to solve this problem, and one player who could be a good fit is Brighton starlet Lewis Dunk.
Everton have the third-worst defensive record in the Premier League, with 18 goals conceded from their opening nine games. They are in trouble right now and find themselves in the relegation zone; one way of escaping is to improve this record. After signing a lot of players this summer, Everton were expected to finish in the top half of the table, and potentially challenge the top six, something that looks a long way off right now.
While the Toffees are also struggling in attack, they do have many creative players in their team that can change those fortunes if they are deployed correctly and can find some chemistry. Defensively that doesn’t appear to be the case, so while two areas need fixing, it may be that they have to spend more money on their defensive issues and hope that the attacking players can eventually click and play together.
Amongst their summer signings was centre-back Michael Keane, a player they brought in for £25 million. At just 24, and after impressing when playing in most of Burnley’s games last season, he looked a good buy during the summer. However, things haven’t quite clicked for him so far and his own performances could be much better than they have been. It could be argued that the problems Everton have are bigger than anything that Keane can solve on his own, and the England international needs help in order to turn around the clubs fortunes.
Those problems should have been solved in the transfer window this summer, but ultimately they weren’t. Everton spent a lot of money on attacking talent, buying six players, four of which it could be argued need to play in the same position, that is Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Nikola Vlasic. That appears to have created nothing but confusion for the club about who to play in what positions and they find themselves in a situation where they are playing square pegs in round holes.
Had they spent more money on their defensive issues, not only would they have been better defensively, but they would also have less to think about going forward. It may not be that Everton have bought bad players during the summer, simply that they have bought too many of the same player, which has caused them chemistry problems.
There is likely to be some money for Everton to spend during the January transfer window due to their change in manager. Ronald Koeman spent well in excess of £100 million this summer, so he may not have had the luxury of further cash in January. However, the new boss, whoever that may be, is likely to have something to spend, and signing another centre-back would have to be the priority for the incoming manager.
Lewis Dunk, who has been with Brighton’s first team since the 2011/12 season, has progressed to the point where he is now a key part of their squad. Such have been his performances in the Premier League, bookies have slashed the odds on him going to the World Cup next summer. This is despite him not going the traditional route of playing for the England U21 team, before promotion to the first team squad.
From 2014 to 2017, Dunk dominated in the Championship and was one of the main reasons Brighton were promoted last season, and indeed why they have been close on occasions before. The Championship is a tough place to learn your trade, but that the job the 25-year-old did just that is testament to his resilience. Regardless of how long his current club survive, he can now look forward to enjoying his best playing days in the Premier League.
He has played in every top-tier game this season for Brighton and has taken the step up to the division firmly in his stride. While many may have expected him to do well in the league, few thought he would impress as much as he has done and be on the verge of an England call-up.
With a World Cup on the horizon, it is likely that Dunk could seriously enhance his value over the coming months and, if someone wants to buy him, it may be wise to do so sooner rather than later. He is under contract until June 2022, so if anyone did want to make a move for him, Brighton could command quite a fee of their potential suitors.
Despite being one of the favourites for relegation at the start of the season, Brighton have so far performed better than expected. A big part of that is due to their defensive play, something Dunk has been a central part of. They have conceded just ten goals from their opening nine games, a figure hardly anyone would have predicted at the start of the season.
Brighton took a couple of games to find their feet and conceded four goals in their opening games, which saw them lose 2-0 to both Manchester City and Leicester. However, they then found their feet and, despite not winning their next game, they kept a clean sheet against Watford, a game that started a run of conceding only six goals in seven games. While Brighton still may not survive the drop this season, they have set their stall out first and foremost to defend well and keep the goals out, and with Dunk at the heart of this mission, it certainly gives them a chance.
With a new manager coming into Everton after the sacking of Ronald Koeman, it is highly likely there will be money to spend in January for whoever is in charge. That may not have been there had Koeman stayed, but with a new man wanting to stamp his authority on the team, there will be the temptation for owner Farhad Moshiri to back him where it matters.
A player like Lewis Dunk could come in and help this Everton team out for a number of years, and being a player that wouldn’t be classed as a big-name signing, he would be allowed time to come in and adapt to how the club works. That would take a bit of pressure off him, which should ease his transition into the team, something that Michael Keane hasn’t been afforded since joining.
Should Dunk be called up to the England team as is expected in November then that would really enhance his reputation, potentially alerting others to his ability. If Everton want him they will need to act fast and land him before other teams can.
It is going to be an intriguing few weeks following both Everton and Lewis Dunk, with The Toffees looking to resurrect what has been a terrible start and Dunk looking to continue his great run. Should they come together in January they could be an ideal match and Lewis could do a lot as an Everton player when they desperately need his help.
However, if the next few weeks go to plan for Dunk and his England call-up materialises then his signature may not be easy to come by for Everton. Other clubs will join the race, putting Brighton in a position of power, allowing them to raise his price tag.
Whatever the outcome, Lewis Dunk is going to really help a Premier League team over the next few seasons, the team that could most do with him right now is Everton.