Rafa Benitez has got his Everton rebuild underway with the new additions of wide-men Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray and although the Goodison Park faithful aren’t exactly all thrilled by these arrivals, they could prove extremely useful to their Premier League cause this term.
Townsend has joined the Toffees on a free transfer since departing Crystal Palace and Gray signs from Bayer Leverkusen for an undisclosed fee, six months since he bid farewell to Leicester City. The pair have signed a two-year and three-year deal respectively.
While the signings may not be the kind to get Everton supporters excited for the upcoming season, the two English wingers will provide some much-needed width to the Toffees’ attack which will be music to the ears of forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The towering striker has already shown how he thrives with balls being pumped into him and when he gets up in the air for headers, he can outjump most players in the Premier League.
Benitez has seen that his side is in desperate need of strengthening in wide areas, and with the expected departure of Bernard from Goodison Park this summer, there would have only been Richarlison and Alex Iwobi as the wide options, so these two signings will provide a huge boost heading into the 2021/22 campaign which kicks off in just over three weeks.
Townsend on the face of it does seem to be a strange signing considering he was struggling in South London, with the 30-year-old only mustering a single Premier League goal last season. However, he is clearly rated by his former Newcastle boss Benitez, who believes that he can still offer something for Everton to help progress them to top-six challengers.
25-year-old Gray has been given a lifeline in the Premier League to push on and become the player he was expected to be at Leicester after an impressive breakthrough at Birmingham City – where he was one of the Championship’s most-exciting young players.
Five-and-a-half years have passed since his move to Leicester and Gray is yet to have established himself in the top tier. There has never been any doubt in the quality the winger possesses, it is just being able to show it on a consistent basis, but at £1.8m, he is certainly worth a gamble. He showed glimpses for the Foxes, but he would then disappear again. His strongest assets have always been his pace and his neat footwork, and Benitez has clearly seen something he can work with as Gray is fast approaching what should be his peak years.
“For me, the targets that I’ve set myself and what the club’s ambitions are, collectively everything felt right to me to join Everton,” the 25-year-old told Everton TV.
“I want to push on, be a pivotal player in the squad, and help the team score goals and assist goals.
“I’m a speedy, tricky winger. I enjoy running with the ball, roaming around the pitch.
“I like to play anywhere along the front three and I feel like I can be dangerous in all areas. And with the ability I know I have and the belief I have in myself, I think I can add to this team.
“I feel like I’m at a stage in my career now where I can put everything together. There are areas of my game where I still want to improve and become better at.
“I’m excited to kick on.”
Benitez will demand a lot from his new recruits, with their priority being providing service to target man Calvert-Lewin. Benitez will expect them to run at their opposing full-backs and take the ball down to the by-line and put balls in the cross for the striker to attack. As Gray predominantly plays on the left flank, he will receive a lot of attacking support from one of Everton’s most consistent performers, left-back Lucas Digne. Benitez will be hoping that the two left-sided players will be able to build a strong relationship which will help the Toffees to exploit full-backs and create a lot more chances from wide areas next season.
The Spanish boss has also bolstered his squad’s goalkeeping options with the signing of veteran shot-stopper Asmir Begovic on a free transfer from Bournemouth. He has penned an initial 12-month contract with the option of a further year. These three may not be the glamour signings that James Rodriguez was under Carlo Ancelotti, but collectively, they should make the Toffees a more potent outfit.