This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Tom Davies broke onto the scene at Everton in the 2016/17 season and looked to be a thoroughly promising graduate of the academy, but his development has stagnated, or even regressed, since his breakthrough campaign.
With the Toffees dipping into the transfer market and spending with a frequency and heft that suggests a top six finish is on the agenda, time is not on Davies’ side as he bids to prove himself to Marco Silva – and that’s why he’s our one to watch this season.
The Toffees were entering a new era under the Dutch manager and with that came the emergence of the English midfielder. Davies earned Koeman’s trust rapidly and was selected for a huge home clash against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Davies started as one of two central midfielders alongside Gareth Barry and delivered a performance that still lingers in the memory bank.
The midfielder pulled the strings in midfield in what was a dominant and overwhelming display from the Toffees, who put four past City. The youngster got on the scoresheet with a wonderful solo effort in that game, and then remained a regular for the rest of the season, registering 24 appearances with two goals and three assists on the board.
Since then Davies has struggled to make the same impact. Despite making 33 appearances in the following season, he only tallied 16 games in Marco Silva’s maiden campaign, and his development seems to have hit a wall.
Davies is facing a sterner challenge this season with Everton bringing in Andre Gomes on a permanent deal along with Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin. Add in Morgan Schneiderlin and the fight for a starting berth looks daunting for the 21-year-old.
The new signings are the key reasons why Davies may struggle. It’s unlkely that Delph, a Premier League winner and England international, has been brought in to warm the bench and watch his teammates control the midfield, while Gbamin looks a shoo-in for the Idrissa Gueye role.
Gomes, meanwhile, adds an element of class in the middle of the park and effusive admiration from the supporters last season, which the player himself acknowledged, will naturally put him in line for regular starts.
Everton aren’t competing in Europe this year and that reduces the need to rotate, leaving Davies in danger of falling into the shadows.
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If Davies makes regular appearances from the bench and is brought into the starting XI on a semi-regular basis, then he will have done well.
He’s still a relatively raw talent but he’ll be eager to re-establish himself this season after a disappointing 2018/19 season.
Plenty of young midfielders have broken through, promised so much and delivered so little in their careers. The likes of Jack Rodwell, Jack Wilshere and Micah Richards all fall on different parts of that particular spectrum and Davies will undoubtedly be eager to avoid becoming another tale of what could have been, starting with a vastly improved season.
He should aim for (all competitions)