Everton transfer concern clear as first Kevin Thelwell signing sets tone

The summer transfer window is in full swing and Everton have been active in the early weeks of business.

Tim Iroegbunam and Jack Harrison are already through the door, while Iliman Ndiaye is on the verge of a deal to join them at Finch Farm. Going the other way, Lewis Dobbin and Ben Godfrey have departed for useful transfer fees that strengthened the club's accounts just before the end of the football financial year.

As we continue to monitor developments, the ECHO's Everton writers discussed some of the best and worst deals during the reign of current director of football Kevin Thelwell.

READ MORE: 'I believe in him' - how new Everton signing Tim Iroegbunam impressed his previous managers

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Chris Beesley - James Tarkowski the resilient leader Everton needed

Kevin Thelwell must hope he hasn’t peaked too early as his first signing as Everton director of football is still arguably his best.

Although James Tarkowski’s transfer from Burnley wasn’t officially confirmed until after his contract at Turf Moor had expired – understood to be due to the delicate situation between the two clubs at the time – it had been an open secret for several weeks in the summer of 2022 that the centre-back was heading to Goodison Park. The Blues were in need of both a leader and a durable figure in defence at the time – while Yerry Mina provided the former when available, the Colombian would depart 12 months later after just seven Premier League appearances that season (and 86 out of 190 in total over five years) – and Tarkowski has excelled in each respect.

The 31-year-old has now been an ever-present for Everton across back-to-back seasons and was part of a defence that kept 13 clean sheets in the Premier League last term, a figure that only runners-up Arsenal could top. Also, we should not play down the role that Tarkowski has played in the development of his centre-back partner Jarrad Branthwaite who in recent months has emerged as a generational talent.

On the flip side of things, Neal Maupay has to go down as Thelwell’s worst signing so far. The Frenchman netted goal returns of 10, eight and eight in three Premier League seasons at Brighton & Hove Albion but has bagged just once in 32 outings for Everton.

That’s a truly dire statistic. The diminutive 5ft 8in frontman was anything but a like-for-like alternative to Dominic Calvert-Lewin so the Blues were unable to rely on him as an understudy for their number nine and neither the team nor the player himself benefitted tactically from the changes when he did come into the side.

At the moment, Maupay’s acquisition looks very much like £15million down the drain given that Brentford did not take up their initial option to turn his loan return to west London into a permanent move and he seems surplus to requirements at Goodison Park. Even if his goal return hadn’t been so poor, he seemed to burn his bridges with some unsupportive comments about the club’s loyal fanbase.

Joe Thomas - I remember the relief in Dwight McNeil's voice

This summer has started well for Everton. I think the business to date has been savvy and the early work to consolidate last season's squad and then take steps to improve it have been positive. The arrival of Iliman Ndiaye, on the cusp of being confirmed as the Blues' third summer signing, is an astute one and I think he could help bolster Everton's attacking threat next season while freeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure to provide another option in the deeper midfield positions.

When assessing the business of Thelwell's previous summers it is hard to disagree with Chris' suggestions. One of my concerns is how Maupay and then, last season, Arnaut Danjuma were brought in but seemingly did not fit into the wider plans for the squad. I think both players could have improved the squad in the right conditions but both appeared out of place quite quickly. On the other hand, Tarkowski has been excellent and a few others have been impressive. For me, I am going to say the best deal overseen by Thelwell has been Dwight McNeil. He had a tough start to his Blues career - I remember the relief in his voice when I spoke to him after his goal in the win at Southampton under Frank Lampard, it was clearly a cathartic moment after a tough introduction to life on Merseyside.

He burst into life under Dyche, perhaps unsurprisingly, and he was pivotal to the effort to stay up that year. That hat-trick at Brighton and Hove Albion capped off one of the best individual performances in Royal Blue in recent years. Last season he was a dependable, trustworthy option in a threadbare squad and his defensive work was topped off with important contributions - including his crucial goals home and away against Nottingham Forest and that thumping opener in the win over Newcastle United.

On the other hand, I think Thelwell's most difficult signing has been Ruben Vinagre. He appeared to offer a valuable option at full back when he arrived on loan from Sporting but even when Everton could have done with expertise in that position due to injuries, managers appeared reluctant to give him a go.