The future appears bright for Evertonians with Don Carlo Ancelotti pulling the strings from the Goodison Park sideline.
The Italian's return to a 'structure over stars' approach has seen an improvement in performances after Duncan Ferguson laid the foundations with a fine stint as caretaker boss. The Marco Silva era already seems like a distant memory.
They are far from the complete outfit though; with the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal and 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge highlighting their defensive vulnerabilities if the opponent is able to break though their sophisticated high press and manipulate their compactness.
Their astuteness in the transfer market will be key over the next 18 months with global pandemics preventing the Toffees from spending big - especially in the next window - despite Farhad Moshiri's billions.
Finding players who fit into Ancelotti's 4-4-2 will be crucial and here's what an ideal starting XI may look like for Everton next season - COVID permitting, of course.
GK - Jordan Pickford
Okay, having Jordan Pickford has your number one may not exactly scream 'ideal', but he's still young and England's number one - just - at the end of the day and it might not be so wise to splash out on a new first-choice shot-stopper when there are other obvious positions of need.
Another cover option for Pickford could be drafted in, but he deserves to retain his place between the sticks ahead of a huge couple of years for the national team with Euro 2020(1) and the World Cup upcoming.
For his mishaps, he's equally as adept at pulling off the spectacular.
RB - Max Aarons
Despite often providing excitement down the right flank, Djibril Sidibé has showed off his finest Serge Aurier impression one too many times this term from a defensive perspective.
And with full-backs playing such an aggressive role for Ancelotti in all phases of play, it'd be wise for the Everton hierarchy to bring in a more reliable option at this position - with Seamus Coleman also the wrong side of 30.
Norwich's Max Aarons may well be that guy; he's a smart one-v-one defender with an impressive turn of pace, while in attack he's intelligent with his overlaps and is blessed with a fine technical repertoire which allows him to outfox opponents and play a wide variety of passes.
The 20-year-old shouldn't be too pricey either, especially if the Canaries drop down to the Championship.
CB - Mason Holgate
The 23-year-old Englishman has come on leaps and bounds this term following a loan stint in the second-tier with West Brom.
Overall, he's proved to be a viable long-term option for Carletto at Goodison.
While a sound reader of the game and blessed with a nifty turn of pace, it's his capabilities on the ball which have seen him stand out for the Toffees this term. The technically supreme and composed Holgate may well be the finest ball-playing centre-half in the division.
CB - Gabriel Magalhães
Gabriel should be Everton's priority target at centre-back in order to attain the ideal right-foot, left-foot partnership at the heart of defence.
The Brazilian has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at Lille under Christian Galtier and his capture would be some coup for Ancelotti.
Standing at 6'3, he often uses his size to overwhelm opponents in the air and upper body strength to out-duel dribblers in one-v-one situations. It's his distribution, however, which makes the 23-year-old such an exciting prospect; he has the capacity to play vertically through opposition lines at a canter, while his impressive passing range will come in handy against deeper blocks.
LB - Lucas Digne
One of the few Toffees who shone throughout Silva's tenure, Digne has established himself as one of the division's stand-out left-backs since his 2018 arrival from Barcelona.
A threat from range and a fantastic crosser, the Frenchman has followed up his stellar eight-goal contribution campaign with five assists this term.
Digne has particularly made use of Bernard's occupation of the inside channel since Ancelotti's arrival, with the Italian boss encouraging his full-backs to exploit the space created by the inward movements of the wingers.
There's little doubting the 26-year-old will be marauding down the Goodison left for years to come.
RM - Jose Callejon
The acquisition of the 33-year-old Spaniard from Ancelotti's former employers Napoli may only be a short-term option, but an astute bit of business nonetheless.
Callejon, like half of the Napoli squad, seem to be departing the club at the end of the campaign - with the clubs likely being able to secure the winger's services on a free.
He's continued to be productive amid a dysfunctional campaign for the Neapolitans - registering two goals and six assists in Serie A - following a ten-assist season during Ancelotti's first and only full year in charge.
Overall, he's a seasoned pro with bags of experience and despite the physical demands of the Premier League, Callejon still has enough about him to bring superior quality in the build-up phase and final third compared to the Italian's current options.
CM - Andre Gomes
The miracle man himself, Andre Gomes has shown he could be a key component of Ancelotti's side since his swift return in February.
In his comeback game against Arsenal from the substitutes bench, Gomes quickly reminded us all of his talent; showing off his capacity to shrug off the Gunners' press and willingness to progress play at every given opportunity.
Going forward, Gomes' tactical intelligence and aggression in the pressing game should serve him well in a midfield two under the Italian.
CM - Ibrahim Sangare
Sure, Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph have carried out functional roles in Ancelotti's system pretty effectively since the Italian took over, but for Everton to take the next step they need superior options in the middle of the park.
And they shouldn't look any further than Toulouse's Ibrahim Sangare - whose fee has only decreased following Les Violets' demise to Ligue 2.
The dynamic 22-year-old Ivorian is certainly raw and would need time to acclimatise, but over time he could prove to be a gamechanger; his ability to resist the opposition press and surge upfield the ball at his feet is tremendous, while his ball-winning instincts mean he excels in duels and one-v-ones.
LM - Alex Iwobi
The £35m fee paid to secure Alex Iwobi's services from Arsenal last summer certainly raised a few eyebrows, with those brows raised to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson levels as a result of his debut campaign thus far.
The Nigerian international has made just one goal contribution, although this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise considering he scored just 11 times for the Gunners in nearly 100 Premier League appearances.
Despite his persistent stuggles in the final third, Iwobi is nonetheless a player who could serve a key function in Ancelotti's system going forward. His willingness to occupy and penetrate the half-space is impressive, while he offers a lot of variation, guile and progression with the ball at his feet.
The 24-year-old's work out of possession shouldn't go unnoticed either.
ST - Richarlison
The Brazilian has not only continued to prove why Barcelona were apparently willing to spend £85m to bring him to the Camp Nou, but also why Everton were right to reject the offer.
He's the key spoke in Ancelotti's wheel.
Playing in a freer role behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison has worked remarkably well in tandem with the Englishman and together they play important roles in the combination of man and zonal-marking pressing schemes the Italian has adopted thus far.
The 22-year-old's directness, impressive technique and intelligent movement have seen him score ten times in the Premier League this season - building on his 13-goal haul last time out.
ST - Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Part two of the majestic strike partnership, perhaps no-one has benefited more from Silva's departure than Calvert-Lewin - with ten of his 13 league goals this season coming after Ferguson and Ancelotti took the reins.
His hefty 6'2 build automatically makes him the focal point in this Everton side but it's a function he's carried out remarkably well; his capacity to hold the ball up and combine with Richarlison is superb, almost telepathic.
The 22-year-old's not your typical target man, mind, he's also adept at running in behind and creating separation from defenders as a result of his speed and agility, while his movement inside the area is what presents him with so many opportunities.
Keeping hold of Dominic Calvert-Richarlison will be key to Don Carlo's reign on Merseyside.
Source : 90min