How Everton should strengthen in January 2022 after a promising summer transfer window

Rafa Benitez brought five players to Goodison Park but will likely want more reinforcements midway through the season.

Everton boss Rafa Benitez. Picture: George Wood/Getty Images

For someone confined by financial fair play constraints, Everton fans will be heartened by Rafa Benitez’s summer recruitment.

Even in the formative stages of the season, the Spaniard’s signings have integrated themselves seamlessly into the Toffees’ new style of play.

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An encouraging summer

Demarai Gray is already proving a bargain for just £1.7 million from Bayer Leverkusen - the only transfer fee the Goodison Park outfit paid.

Meanwhile, Andros Townsend has displayed all of his experience following his arrival from Crystal Palace on a free transfer.

There’s also optimism over the arrival of Salomon Rondon, who joined from Chinese side Dalian Pro for nothing.

The striker will provide competition to Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and knows the demands Benitez requires, having worked together at Newcastle and in China.

Then the goalkeeping department was bolstered with Asmir Begovic from Bournemouth to provide competition for Jordan Pickford, while Andy Lonergan will provide cover to both after his West Brom release.

Even after recruiting astutely, Benitez will still feel there’s still plugs in his squad to fill given the overhaul that was required after succeeding Carlo Ancelotti in the Goodison hot seat.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Demarai Gray of Everton celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Everton at Elland Road on August 21, 2021 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

The ex-Real Madrid supremo will surely again look to add further reinforcements when the January transfer window opens in 120 days.

That’ll creep up sooner than expected and Benitez will have a robust, meticulous plan in place.

We take an early look at how Everton could strengthen midway through the season.

Winger

Benitez injected added pace into his squad by recruiting Gray and Townsend. Both have made scintillating starts.

But the Goodison chief ideally would have liked another wide man in his squad to provide extra quality.

Porto’s Luis Diaz was a name that got plenty of supporters purring after he finished joint-top scorer alongside Lionel Messi at the Copa America earlier in the summer.

However, with a deal complicated by James Rodriguez’s wages as a potential makeweight heading the other way, an agreement couldn’t be reached.

Porto winger Luis Diaz. Picture: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

The Blues were also linked with Burnley’s Dwight McNeil but a move failed to come to fruition.

Benitez will be hoping Gray and Townsend can continue their fine form, while Alex Iwobi has also started brightly despite having his detractors.

But January will offer an opportunity to add more strength and rotate the pair should they need spells of respite.

Right-back

Everton looked to strengthen that area of their squad throughout the summer to provide cover and competition for Seamus Coleman.

Yet their search came up well short despite an arduous search.

Denzel Dumfries instead opted to join Inter Milan, while the Blues gave up on Rangers’ Nathan Patterson after having an £8 million bid rebuffed.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ desperate plea on Instagram to Arsenal to allow him to leave for Merseyside proved an exercise in futility while an enquiry for Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters was snubbed.

Nathan Patterson celebrates scoring for Rangers against Royal Antwerp in the Europa League last season. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Given that it was a position that was high up on the Blues’ priority list, you’d imagine they’ll reassess their options at the next opportunity.

Should Coleman, who turns 33 next month, pick up an injury then Everton do at least have another recognised right-back in Jonjoe Kenny to cover.

However, the academy graduate was someone Benitez was willing to offload at the right price and has been out on loan at Schalke and Celtic in the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, the versatile Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate can also feature there if required.

Left-back

Not too many fans could have predicted Niels Nkounkou leaving Goodison Park without being replaced - especially after 17-year-old Thierry Small departed for Southampton for more first-team opportunities.

Yet Nkounkou was granted a loan exit to Belgian side Standard Liege for the season.

Granted, Nkounkou needs regular minutes to help his promising progress but his departure leaves Everton with just one senior left-back in Lucas Digne.

The France international has established himself as one of the finest performers of his position in the Premier League.

Lucas Digne is Everton’s only senior recognised left-back. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Should he suffer injury, though, it leaves the Blues with no recognisable replacement.

When Digne was sidelined with an ankle problem last term, Fabian Delph deputised before he sustained an injury himself.

What’s more, the former Manchester City midfielder is currently absent with a shoulder problem.

Godfrey then took over the duty from Delph and performed admirably.

However, the general sentiment is that he’s Everton’s strongest centre-back and shifting him out wide would compromise the nucleus of defence.

Evertonians will be praying Digne remains unscathed for the next few months before back-up can be sought.

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