Shopping at M&S

Everton looking for new playing talent in the Premier League is akin to ordinary folk doing their weekly shopping at M&S

Eugene Ruane pre-empted a lot of this with his excellent article Getting All Philosophical, Lad.

Here are a few thoughts I've had about squad building aspects of that - which is what I'm often preoccupied with.

Premier League shopping

The Premier League is, as I often say, the worst value market for players in world football. Unless you’re loaded, it’s a really bad place to shop. For us, it’s akin to popping into M&S, looking longingly at delicious luxury ready meals we can’t afford, and instead spending £25 on some butter, eggs and milk.

I’d like to be proved wrong but it is highly unlikely we will be signing players like Gallagher, Raphinha, Bissouma, Phillips or Ward-Prowse this summer (not just on price either, but because they’ll all have better offers – including staying put). There is a very small chance we’d get Gallagher on loan but I think he’s now developed beyond that and will be part of the Chelsea first-team squad.

In footballing terms, the alternatives are Tesco (represented by the Championship, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal) and Aldi (Scandinavia, Scotland, Eastern Europe, Mexico, South America and the MLS). This is, after all, where players such as Raphinha, Bissouma, Soucek and others came from.

However, shopping in these markets seems to wound the pride of many on here. If we’re determined to keep up with the Rich 6 Joneses by parking our clapped-out old Mercedes (Goodison) beside their £100k Teslas in the M&S car park of the Premier League, then we need to work hard to hunt out the value.

It’s at this point that my M&S shopping analogy becomes a bit stretched, so I will generally abandon it (one exception) before returning to it with a flourish in the underwhelming finalé you will have come to expect of my articles.

The Phil Neville-type

Steady but unspectacular pros who can’t quite get a game at a Rich 6 club. (See also Tim Howard.) Neville and Howard were good signings because both were driven and very motivated to play for us because we offered them something they were desperate for: games.

In this category, you might include:

• Ainsley Maitland-Niles
• Cameron Carter-Vickers
• Ruben Loftus-Cheek

A lot of double-barrelled names in this category for some reason.

Carter-Vickers would be a good signing after a great season at Celtic but Maitland-Niles has barely had a kick at Roma and looks to lack the sort of drive that made Neville and Howard a success. Loftus-Cheek looks like he might have moved into genuine contention at Chelsea now after injury nightmares, so probably not available.

The Gareth Barry-type

Free transfers with experience and modest wage demands. (See also Andros Townsend.) Two really good pros and very likeable players. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t realise just how good either of them really were until they turned up at Goodison.

This season, this type of player might include:

• Jesse Lingard
• James Tarkowski
• Mohamed Elneny

It seems like Tarkowski and Lingard are after some huge wages and it's therefore best to avoid. Elneny is okay. That's all.

The Sylvain Distin-type

Old but relatively low cost and with plenty of experience. Distin was great but a bit of a risky signing because it was hard to know how long his legs would hold out.

This season, this type of player might include:

• Phil Jones
• Nemanja Matic
• Teemu Pukki

Until he extended his contract with Norwich this month, Pukki was looking like a good value Gareth Barry-type. A consistent performer at Premier League level who was heading for a free transfer. However, because of the contract extension, he’d now probably command of fee of between £5M and £10M which is just dead money for a 32-year-old who isn’t that great in the first place.

Personally, I’m not convinced we’d get a great deal of value out of any of these. There are better options elsewhere. Every so often there might be a decent player in this category. Probably not this year.

The James McCarthy-type

The best players from relegated clubs. (See also Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Ben Godfrey and Jordan Pickford.) These sorts of players are not cheap, but have the potential to occupy a first-team position for more than 5 years – helping to stabilise the first team – and also to increase in value as they develop. They are therefore excellent value.

This season, this type of player might include:

• Ismaila Sarr
• Emmanuel Dennis
• Max Aarons
• Maxwell Cornet
• Dwight McNeill
• James Collins

Out of this lot, Sarr is probably the one to go for. He consistently scores goals and has tremendous pace. Cornet is good too and very versatile. He'd be a good signing if the price is modest.

The players we don’t seem to go for-type

Up-and-coming academy players and serial young loanees who can’t quite get a game at a Rich 6 club. I expected this to be a decent source of talent for us over the years given our financial limitations… but perhaps not.

I’m probably missing someone obvious but the best I could come up with here would be players like Romelu Lukaku (almost a category of his own of potential young world-class talents who are surplus to requirements), Kevin Sheedy (a bit before my time to be honest), or (also going back a bit) John O’Kane (plucked from Man Utd’s youth system but not very good).

This season, this type of player might include:

• James Garner
• Tommy Doyle
• Tino Anjorin
• Billy Gilmour
• Ethan Ampadu
• Callum Hudson-Odoi
• Armando Broja
• Eddie Nketiah

All of these would be decent value signings and could hold down their first-team position for up to 10 years – or be sold at a healthy profit.

Broja and Nketiah (both out of contract) look to have hit sufficient form to be retained by Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. Especially after Lukaku played like an overweight 35-year-old in the FA Cup Final.

Gilmour and Hudson-Odoi might only be available for loan rather than to buy. But they might fall in love with the place if they do come and end up staying.

To Conclude

If we manage to leave the M&S Food Hall of the Premier League with the likes of Garner, Hudson-Odoi and Carter-Vickers, then that will stand us in very good stead. The real value, however, is often found elsewhere.

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Reader Comments (14)

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Ajay Gopal
1 Posted 26/05/2022 at 10:14:54
Having only shopped on their online store, I cannot comment on M&S' Restaurant, but I get the point you are making, Robert. Thank for what is, hopefully, the 1st of many such articles over the summer. I enjoy the speculation and I will also contribute with my own fantasy posts.

From the demoted group of players, someone mentioned Jaoa Pedro at Watford. He seems to be a good one to look at. And, if Everton decide to encash on Pickford, then my favourite to replace him would be Nick Pope from Burnley.

My 1st speculative list of the summer - especially keeping in mind the need for FFP - is:

(Figures in brackets are in million Pounds)


Gomes 0
Richarlison 60 (reluctantly, let go to Real Madrid/Bayern)
Mina 20
Allan 5
Pickford 60
Gbamin 5

Total proceeds from player sales: 150 million


Nick Pope (GK) 30
Calvin Bassey (CB) 20
Ward-Prose (MF) 25
John McGinn (MF) 30
Joao Pedro (Forward) 15

Total spend: about 120 million

Net spend: -30 million

Would also patiently wait for 2 good loan deals (Gilmour and Hudson-Odoi would be fine).

And loan out: Dobbin, Onyango, Branthwaite, Price, Warrington, Broadhead

Our squad would look like this:

GK: Pope, Begovic, Virginia
Full Backs: Mykolenko, Nkounkou, Coleman, Kenny, Patterson
Centre-Backs: Holgate, Godfrey, Keane, Bassey
MF: Ward-Prowse, McGinn, Doucoure, Davies, Gilmour
Forwards: Calvert-Lewin, Simms, Joao Pedro, Hudson-Odoi, Gordon, Gray, Townsend, Iwobi, Alli

Tony Everan
2 Posted 26/05/2022 at 11:05:46
Robert, I like the players in the shopping trolley. Young hungry players and possibly realistic signings.

We need to source Sainsbury’s ‘taste the difference’ players. Cheaper, but find out you have a bargain as it’s more tasty than the equivalent M&S meal at half the price.

I agree Conor Gallagher is highly unlikely but is what we need. Can Thelwell come up with an inspired alternative? Bassey is interesting, but Rangers will want big money and his ex manager Gerrard is interested, but that’s a good sign isn’t it. It’s a position that we need to find a great player for, so we may have to find a creative way of funding it.

Also I like Joe Worrall and particularly Brennan Johnson who is a player I have been following. Born and bred a few meters from the Forest ground and been there since the age of 8 so if they get promoted he will stay. A young and quality player that needs consideration if they fall short, but he is widely coveted and will be expensive.

Hudson-odoi could flourish given the game time at the right club, it is a move that could be win-win. Garner the Man Utd youth player is well worth a gamble at the right price, energy, aggression and gets forward and can shoot and score from CM. Both young fringe players we could offer a home to and improve.

There must be some young African prospects in the French league that are worth looking at. I am hoping that we can uncover a diamond at central midfield from somewhere. Any we should be looking at ?

It’s going to be a big 10 weeks for Kevin Thelwell and Frank that will shape our 22/23 season. I get hopeful (delusional) at this time of year because there’s a chance, with the new manager and DOF, that we will get recruitment right for a change.

Paul Cherrington
3 Posted 26/05/2022 at 12:03:58
There is no doubt that player recruitment will be very important this summer, perhaps more so than any other in recent memory. I would agree that we need to be smarter with how we use our transfer funds and who we bring in. Hope Lampard & Thelwell look into any potential buys character too, as well as their technical ability.

The other thing I think those higher up at the club need to deal with this summer is the shocking refereeing/VAR decisions we had across much of last season. I know all clubs suffer from this a bit but we seemed to have it worst. If the officials are as biased against us next year, we will be in for a rocky time again. Our board need to be getting stuck into the Premier League and whoever manages the refs over summer to make sure we get a fair crack of the whip next year

Stu Darlington
4 Posted 26/05/2022 at 12:35:59
An interesting take on things Robert.
Personally I would have put Matic in the Gareth Barry category and I think he could do a good job for us for a couple of years.organising and controlling just in front of the defence.Also ( and I know I’ll get slaughtered for this on here!) I wouldn’t dismiss Phil Jones to quickly.I know he has mistakes in him ( but so did Distin! ),but he would give you 100% every game.Something we have sadly lacked recently.
Of the other players mentioned I like Sarr,Cornet, McNeil,Garner,Gilmour and Broja.
I also like Worral and Johnson mentioned by Tony.
I think it would be a good step in the right direction if we could land any of these in a nice mix of experience,youth and loanees.
I know you haven’t included European,African,South American or the MLS in your article but I’m sure there must be some gems to uncover there,although I don’t have enough knowledge on these to comment.
This is Everton though so I won’t hold my breathe we’ll get any of them!
Andy Crooks
5 Posted 26/05/2022 at 21:17:32
Some people hate this type of article, Robert; I love them. Waiting for Sam Hoare's next one. The knowledge and enthusiasm you guys have is amazing. Recent times have demonstrated that the club should have been in touch with you long ago.

The only thing slightly disappointing with this one is the focus on players we should be swerving. (Let's hope no-one at the club reads this and gets confused!)

Now, don't get me wrong, such a list could have saved us millions over the last number of years. I reckon if you and Sam had a look round Lidl or Aldi, you could find a gem in the middle aisle with the wrong price tag on it.

Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 26/05/2022 at 23:51:24
Did someone mention Kevin Sheedy?

Great and very detailed analysis Robert. Your understanding of the wider leagues of British and European football never ceases to amaze.

I would concur, the Premier League very rarely gives value for money. I'd much rather look outside and you know me, I'm an advocate of going to the continental leagues, although there is good potential in the Championship and even down to League 1.

I won't go through all of your player and type comments, but one that stuck out was Distin. I wonder if Zouma would be available? He fits that category.

You forgot Waitrose. Germany, Spain and Italy. Although you pay a premium, you will uncover hidden gems in those aisles if you look hard enough and get more value for your money than shopping at M&S.

Robert Tressell
7 Posted 27/05/2022 at 13:01:16
Thanks Andy, the comment numbers suggest you're in a minority!

Really the point is to illustrate that we don't need to spend big money on average Premier League players and indeed shouldn't attempt that. It's a failed approach that's seen us slip down the table and deteriorate rapidly.

There are bits of value to be found but, if players start to demand big wages or command high fees, then we should quickly move on.

Like Stu at 4, I like Phil Jones as a player. The only problem is that he just doesn't play. Zouma is also good fit for us but he's a ship that sailed a few seasons ago and is a prime example of a type that can be found in France etc at much, much lower cost.

The Championship and other leagues around Europe and beyond offer quality at good prices. Who wouldn't want Olise, Bissouma, Zinchenko, Raphinha and others?

As for players to target rather than to swerve, it's hard to know until it's clear who is leaving, but we are very likely to need centre-back and central defensive midfield positions reinforced – and more goals.

Jay Harris
8 Posted 27/05/2022 at 14:19:01
Robert, good and knowledgeable post but I am sure, like many others, I go shopping for the item I want, not necessarily dependent on the store.

Although you are correct in principle about the various shopping levels, IMO, you first have to define need and the urgent need is for a mobile centre-back who can lead and communicate with his teammates and particularly the goalkeeper. Secondly, two midfield players who can contribute goals, defend and pass.

My biggest disappointment this season has been the speed and accuracy of our passing which has had to be amongst the worst in Everton history.

We need to identify the targets for those positions which leads me to my next observation that our scouting system has been extremely poor and has been subjected to the Bill Kenwright, Farhad Moshiri and Kia Joorachim treatment.

I would hope Kevin Thelwell and Frank Lampard have sufficient knowledge and contacts to make good decisions if they are allowed to, and I pray that this is the case.

Personally speaking, for centre-back, I could tolerate Tarkowski but he wouldn't be amongst my preferred options, such as Ake, Coady, Simakan (Leipzig) and Zouma (swap for Keane).

My preference for midfielder{ Gallagher (on loan), Gravernbech (Ajax), Locatelli (Juventus) swapped for Kean, Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkeusen), Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig).

In addition, I think we should do everything we can to keep Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Pickford and Gordon – who are all under contract, so we need to stay strong on this issue.

Sam Hoare
9 Posted 27/05/2022 at 18:39:49
Robert, I'm sorry! I didn't see your article or would not have posted my own one this afternoon! Needless to say, there is some overlap.

It will be interesting to see who Thelwell and Lampard go for but I suspect there may be a few people no-one suspected.

Rumours today that we've bid for Kane-Potter at Hull who is a tricky winger in the vein of Brennan Johnson. Should be an interesting summer but I bet we don't pay any transfer fees till July which I believe is the new year, accounts-wise.

Mike Gaynes
10 Posted 27/05/2022 at 19:16:16
Robert, I'm always happy to see us interested in signing Yanks, but in the case of Carter-Vickers I am... well, let's just say hopeful rather than excited.

I hasten to point out that I saw him play only once for Celtic this season, and reports say he has raised his game tremendously, but before that he was a flop. The US national team manager, himself a retired center back and needing reinforcements at the position, kept looking at Carter-Vickers and waving him off as too slow and mistake-prone. The kids has now finally been called into the US camp only because CB starter Miles Robinson blew an Achilles and is out of the World Cup.

I look forward to seeing him in the USA friendlies next month. If he's as dominant in the air as the reports say... AND he shows some pace... I'll be delighted. But I'm holding judgement until I see it.

John Keating
11 Posted 27/05/2022 at 19:31:32

I've seen Carter-Vickers quite a few times this season and seen nothing whatsoever that would imply he could cope in the Premier League.

Maybe in the future he will come good but right now his level is mid-to-lower Championship.

Robert Tressell
12 Posted 27/05/2022 at 19:35:40
Don't worry Sam. I'm looking forward to reading yours as I always do. It's silly season after all. I think my message is really that whilst we can't afford some of the players we admire, there's no need to be defeatist because the players are always out there. I'm sure your post picks up where that sentiment leaves off.
Jason Li
13 Posted 27/05/2022 at 20:26:16
Josh Dasilva of Brentford. Skills like Ronaldinho, pace, strength and lots of end product. With Frank guiding him on how to be a top midfielder, and 23 years old, would be a lovely addition. Wouldn't be crazy money either.
Andy Meighan
14 Posted 05/06/2022 at 09:55:04
Another great piece Robert well researched.

Like Andy said, if you shop carefully, you'll pick up some good bargains in Aldi and Lidl. The players you mentioned in the ones we don't seem to go for aisle are the type we should be going after. Young hungry and desperate for game time.

Personally, I wouldn't touch Gilmour – he looks too lightweight, and whenever I've seen him, especially for Norwich, he seems to get bullied out of games. But then that's only my opinion. But they are the type we should be looking at.

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