The key areas Everton need to strengthen before next week’s transfer deadline

The January transfer window closes in less than a week and there are key areas for improvement in the Everton squad.

With less than a week until the winter transfer window closes, Everton remain in need of some extra quality if they are to steer away from a relegation scrap.

With Rafa Benitez’s departure following the Toffees’ 2-1 defeat at Norwich City, this month has had it all for Everton so far - except a league victory.

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Before Benitez was dismissed, there were a number of transfer movements coming in and going out of the club. Three players have been added to the squad, whilst one senior member has left.

What has happened so far?

Arguably the biggest piece of business came just days before Benitez left the club when Lucas Digne was sold to Premier League rivals Aston Villa for £25 million.

The 28-year-old made 127 appearances for the Toffees after joining from Barcelona in 201 and was a fans’ favourite.

After a bust-up with Benitez, but before Digne’s actual departure, his replacement, Vitaliy Mykolenko, joined on the first day of the window on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Mykolenko was a key member of the Ukraine side that reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and attracted interest by his good performances with Dynamo Kiev.

Everton paid a reported £17m including add-ons for the defender but he is yet to convince with his few performances to date.

Another wing-back signed was Rangers starlet Nathan Patterson. The young right-back moved to Goodison Park for around £11.5 million, a record fee received by Rangers.

He grabbed an assist in his first appearance for the under-23s on Monday against Tottenham Hotspur.

As part of the Digne deal, winger Anwar El-Ghazi joined Everton on loan until the end of the season.

He was unable to feature on Saturday against his parent team Aston Villa and is cup-tied for the FA Cup game with Brentford, meaning the former Ajax man will not feature until Everton’s trip to Newcastle United on Tuesday, 8 February.

Where do they need to improve?

Two areas that were high on the priority list at Goodison Park have been filled at full-back, meaning the focus on recruiting has shifted elsewhere.

Centre of defence

One area that certainly needs improving is the heart of the defence. Whilst there is a long list of players capable of playing in the position, Everton are lacking real top quality.

With Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate only featuring nine times this season, Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey have been the most common partnership under Benitez.

Mina is the better of the four, but injuries and bad form have affected his availability. The former Barcelona man’s physicality and power are needed and is likely to be someone Ferguson looks to for a reaction.

Yerry Mina suffered a calf injury last month. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Image

A loan departure for youngster Jarrad Branthwaite could be beneficial for both parties, meaning a new man in defence is an area that must be considered.

Barcelona youngster Arnau Comas and experienced Inter Milan centre-back Stefan de Vrij are two players who have been mentioned in dispatches.

A playmaker

Due to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury, Everton often deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation with no recognised number 10 following James Rodriguez’s short stint coming to an end.

However, now the England international is back fit, Ferguson opted for a 4-4-2 against Villa last Saturday with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin leading the line.

Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Abdoulaye Doucoure have all been played in the No.10 position behind the striker, but the trio have only managed to score 10 goals between them.

It’s been made obvious Gray’s best position is out wide, with Doucoure more suited to pulling the strings in the middle of the park, meaning a playmaker capable of playing between the lines should be the aim.

Jesse Lingard’s future looks likely to be at Newcastle United and Phillippe Coutinho signed for Aston Villa, meaning one player who has been linked with Everton and remains available is Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

The Dutch midfielder has collected only 68 minutes of Premier League football this season across eight appearances and has failed to break into Ralf Rangnick’s side.

A player who has recently been rumoured to be attracting interest is Tottenham’s Dele Alli. The former England international has really struggled to impress in the last couple of seasons and seems set for a move to reignite his career.

However, with no permanent manager and no director of football in place following the departure of Marcel Brands in December, it’s unclear who at Everton will facilitate any more transfers this January.

If a new managerial appointment is made, they will not have much time to bring in their own players to suit their ideas.