The most 11th hour signing of the window…
Among the interesting stories from a quiet Transfer Deadline Day, the player who seemed to be involved in the biggest tug-of-war saga was Bournemouth striker Joshua King. The 29 year old Norwegian was a fixture of the Cherries team during their time in the Premier League, and with Bournemouth’s relegation to the Championship, it seemed to be only a matter of time before a Premier League side brought King in to bolster their attacking options. There was reportedly interest from a number of clubs on Deadline Day, with the ultimate will-he-or-won’t-he saga boiling down to a choice between two clubs: Everton and Fulham. The decision and drama quite literally went down to the wire, with the successful club ultimately needing to submit an offer sheet to the FA in order to finalize the deal.
Now, there is no secret here. There is no suspense. I even put it in the title. King went to Everton.
The Toffees secured the 11th hour signing of King on a six month deal, and, since his Bournemouth contract expires in the summer, this is basically a faux-permanent move. Everton described the fee to bring in the Norwegian as “a nominal fee” in their announcement on Twitter, but a £5 million fee has been thrown around and is the only number I can find, quite frankly, so I am going with it. By all accounts, he is also remaining at the wage figure that he earned at Bournemouth, about £45,000 a week. It is not really a loan, but it is not really a fully permanent move. Everton has the option to sign King to a more permanent deal in the summer, but should they not choose to do so, then he is free to sign with any club he pleases.
Now, I am an Everton fan, and one that clearly has quite a few opinions about things. I had a variety of thoughts after these rumors began, and my mind seemed to change all the way through the deal being completed. This is my attempt to not only report and talk about the signing, but to parse through my thoughts on this move as a fan. This might be the most “fan”-sounding thing I have written, but I do still think this could end up being an influential signing, especially given how close the race for the European places is at the moment. Besides, I support Everton, and it is about time I write a bit more about the club I support instead of about the club Vikram supports.
On paper, King brings quite a few traits that would be handy for Everton. He is a forward that is able to play in any position along the attacking line, offering Carlo Ancelotti some much-needed depth in attacking areas. He is a quick player, adept at playing off the shoulder of the center backs and attacking down the channels, which means he offers something quite different as a forward compared to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He also has the ability to play in a two, able to play off a strike partner and make runs off of a target man. This would be very helpful for Everton when they are behind and chasing a game, as a strike pairing of King and Calvert-Lewin late in games is most likely better than using Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun. He also knows and understands the Premier League and the league’s physical demands, there is not a communication barrier between him and his teammates, and he is not traveling from outside of the United Kingdom, where COVID regulations might understandably get in the way. Again, this move on paper does have attractive qualities.
But if you are like me and automatically think “oh, I wonder how he has gotten on this season?” when the club you support is linked with a player, then you will start to see the negative sides of the deal. King has made 12 appearances in the Championship this season for Bournemouth, amassing a grand total of zero goals and zero assists.
Yeah, that is not quite the return you want from a striker.
Now, to be completely fair, he has three goals and two assists in two FA Cup games this season. Granted, they were both against League Two teams, but still, he has at least put the ball in the goal this season. He also had injury issues early on, which gave the opportunity for Dominic Solanke to cement himself as the starting striker for the Cherries and take away many opportunities for King to see serious time on the pitch. Even then, to not even score one league goal this season is not something that will inspire your new team with confidence.
The main concern for myself, and for plenty of other Everton fans, when these rumors started were his age and goal return in the Championship (and to be fair, his six goals in 26 Premier League games last season is also less than ideal). This seemed to be the characteristic “old Everton” panic buy: wait until you are in absolute desperate need to bring in a player, when you have absolutely no bargaining power, and overpay for an older player and give him a massive contract that will be almost impossible to move in a few years. Everton have already been burdened with too many of those kinds of players in the team over the last few seasons. The years of irresponsible spending under previous managers and previous directors of football were the exact reason why Everton were in this situation this window, unable to bolster the team in January due to Financial Fair Play issues when you finally have a good manager and a chance at European football next season. We all feared that King coming in was a sign that the same old Everton would never change.
After all, things were supposed to be different! Responsible signings, emerging talents, a clear direction with a competent director of football and manager at long last. And it has been that up to this point. Despite all of that, it does seem disheartening that we loan out Moise Kean back in October, knowing all too well that Cenk Tosun is not good enough to be our back up striker, and our solution is to wait until the final day of the transfer window to bring in a 29 year old forward with zero league goals this season on an expensive deal. I was quite frustrated with the rumor. While necessary depth for this season, I was worried about King becoming another Tosun or Sigurdsson, a player that was almost impossible to move if things did not go well.
Then, reports about the structure of the deal came out. Six month deal, on his Bournemouth wages, £5 million fee, he walks in the summer if it does not work out. This is significantly less irresponsible than I feared. Honestly, I am kind of a fan.
Now, I do not think that King is that good of a player. He had his moments in the Premier League, but he was never the best attacking player on those Bournemouth teams. The main threats were usually Callum Wilson and David Brooks, with King popping up with the occasional good performance. But in this case, he does not have to be a great player. He is not coming into this Everton team and needing to be a significant source of goals or even a consistent fixture in the starting team. At best, he is a “break glass in case of emergency” player, and given how little attacking depth this team has, I am fine with this. King offers a different sort of attacking player off the bench, able to come on in place of any of Everton’s main attacking starters or play alongside them should the situation arise. When you are playing nearly twice a week and exist two or three serious injuries away from having to call up youth team players, having extra depth is never a bad thing. It could also act as a nice bit of motivation for the players already at the club, knowing that there is a better player waiting to come into the team if they do not play at a high level.
The structure of the deal probably means Everton are bringing in a very motivated King. This is not a cushy deal or a sign of a player wanting one last Premier League payday before his career began to wind down. This is a very short term deal on the exact same money he was making at Bournemouth. King knows he was leaving Bournemouth at the end of the season, and given how much he has struggled this season, it is possible that the list of teams that would want to sign him on a free transfer this summer is not as long as it would have been a year ago. Everton have given King a chance to show his ability on the biggest stage. He has four months in a good side to show he is good enough to play at a Premier League level again. It is a gamble, but it takes a player being confident in their ability and motivated to succeed in order to bet on themselves in this manner. If he comes into this Everton team and plays well, helping them finish in the top six, then it is very possible that he finds a Premier League home in the summer, whether it be on Merseyside or elsewhere.
The last added benefit of this signing is it allows Everton the comfort of knowing they can loan out the players that need to be loaned out. Part of Director of Football Marcel Brands’ strategy is investing in young talent, either within the club structure or from outside. This has led to four very prominent and promising young players looking on the verge of breaking into the first team: Niels Nkounkou, Jarrad Branthwaite, Ellis Simms, and Anthony Gordon. Simms and Gordon, being the two attacking players of these four, are pertinent to this discussion. Both are incredibly promising young players, maybe the two most promising to come from the Everton youth set up since Ross Barkley came though back in the early 2010s. And young players need to play. Neither are able to play regularly for Everton at the moment but might have been needed to alleviate depth concerns. With the club bringing in King and also holding on to Bernard, they are able to loan out both Simms and Gordon without any concerns. Simms went on loan to Blackpool, where he has since made his debut, first start, and scored twice. Gordon went on loan to Preston North End on Deadline Day and looks to be a crucial player for them. This is what Everton need to do in order to progress in the long term, so bringing King in on this deal gives them that added benefit of allowing the kids to go on loan and play.
Well, that is my mindset on this as a fan. I went through a wide range of emotions from when the rumor came out to when King signed on the dotted line. I had my doubts, but this seems to be a sensible, low risk move for Everton in order to provide immediate depth, and it is a very good chance for King to come in motivated to prove he can still play at a high level. Despite some recent struggles and injury issues, Everton can still finish as high as the top four. Champions League, while a bit unrealistic, is within the realm of possibility, and even making it into the Europa League would still be a great accomplishment. If this move does not work out, then so be it. If it does, then Everton and the player still have options aside from being committed to each other for a long period of time. King can find a more permanent home, and Everton can move on and look to bring in more talent in the summer window.
If King scores a few goals that help to bring Everton into Europe, then it will be worth it a thousand times over.
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