Kieran Dowell's Pre-Season Displays Will Give Everton Boss Koeman Plenty of Food for Thought
With Everton's lavish summer spending spree still in full flow, it's been somewhat easy to forget about the talented crop of stars emerging from their youth set up.
Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman and Mason Holgate all starred at varying points of Ronald Koeman's maiden season at the helm, but all four have been usurped so far this pre-season by another skilled individual:
Step forward Kieran Dowell.
The 19-year-old won't be an unfamiliar face to the vast majority of Evertonians - after all, he has made three senior appearances for the Blues - but his form since returning from an extended summer break is giving Everton fans cause for optimism that he will be the latest youth product to become an integral member of Koeman's senior squad.
Known for his superb long-range strikes, Dowell is a player who has created a buzz among Everton's staff at youth level, and those supporters who have seen him in the flesh have been left mesmerised by his natural ability on the ball.
So when the attacking midfielder failed to make a single first-team appearance for Everton last term, many suspected that Dowell's chances of making it in one of the world's biggest leagues had been kicked back three or four steps.
True, Dowell's displays for Unsworth's Premier League 2 winners earned him rave reviews - form that saw him notch five goals and seven assists in 22 outings in 2016/17 - but reserve team football is a far cry from the level of the Premier League.
Off the back of a super summer that saw Dowell be part of a historic England U20 World Cup triumph in South Korea, however, confidence is exuding from the young man's veins once more - and his performances in the first-team's friendlies thus far have proved it.
A tremendous 25-yard goal chalked up against Kenyan champions Gor Mahia was followed by another stupendous strike in the 3-0 win over FC Twente, Dowell duking his way through the Dutch side's backline before curling home - and showed the watching Koeman just what he was capable of.
Again, pre-season fixtures are nothing compared to the blood and thunder nature of competitive matches, but Dowell is showing signs of staking a claim for more minutes as a senior Everton player.
There will be plenty of obstacles for the midfielder to overcome in the coming weeks and months if he has ambitions on breaking into the set up this season though.
He may be 6 feet tall, but Dowell could certainly use a bit of bulking up to give him the strength required to hold off more experienced stars in the Premier League.
A possible loan move to a Championship club has also allegedly been discussed behind closed doors, with such a move allowing Dowell to build up his knowledge of first-team football in a less imposing environment.
Whatever Koeman decides to do with yet another prodigious young talent from Everton's academy, Dowell has all the makings of a man determined to force his way into the reckoning at Goodison and follow in the footsteps of his fellow stars.
“There’s loads of people fighting for places - it’s probably difficult to name the side at the moment - so there’s plenty of healthy competition,” Dowell was quoted as saying after the Blues' 2-1 victory over Gor Mahia.
He knows how tough it'll be to feature under Koeman but, if he continues to apply himself ahead of the 2017/18 curtain raiser, who knows what the next 12 months will bring.