18 November 2014
A look at some areas where Roberto Martinez could improve on the squad given the gaps that currently exist and those that will open up as some of the older players are eased out.
Everton are 16 games into their second season under Roberto Martinez, and so far they have flattered to deceive. Comprehensive wins in the Europa League have been followed by disappointing league results, while the amount of points dropped against lesser teams is even more alarming than usual.
Of course, injuries have played their inevitable part in halting our progress, but their impact would be lessened with a bigger squad. Here are some of the areas within the squad that might need addressing.
The options we have on the wings look good on paper: Kevin Mirallas, Aiden McGeady, Christian Atsu, Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo. But in reality, three of the five aforementioned wingmen are injured, leaving the inconsistent McGeady and the raw Atsu as our only recognised wide-men. A new winger would add competition for places and bring more depth to an injury-hit area of the squad.
Martinez clearly has little faith in Atsu's ability to influence matches at the moment. The Ghanaian has only started two games for Everton, and he was hauled off at half-time in one of them. The Chelsea loanee seems to be lacking in confidence and belief whenever he steps on the pitch, but with the universally positive Martinez that shouldn’t be a prolonged problem. Hopefully Atsu finds his feet at Goodison, but at the moment it looks unlikely his loan spell on Merseyside will ever become permanent.
McGeady has become something of a whipping boy for some Evertonians. The 28-year-old has the pace and skill to beat a man but many feel his end product is often non-existent; it’s all well and good getting past your opposing full-back with fancy skill but when the cross comes to nothing, or if the shot balloons over the bar, what’s the point? Another winger would make it imperative for the Irishman to improve if he wants a regular place in the starting line-up, as the stakes are too high for Everton to carry people who aren’t consistently pulling their weight.
Mirallas is the only Everton winger with genuine top class, but the no.11 is fast approaching the last 18 months of his contract with the Blues. It is of paramount importance that the Belgian is signed up to a new long-term deal; it’s bad enough that we’ve lost him to injury, but to lose him to another club would be a nightmare.
Pienaar is approaching the twilight years of his career, and although he is still more than capable of making an impact on games, he no longer holds a regular starting spot at Goodison Park. Southampton’s Dusan Tadic would have been an ideal replacement for the ageing South Africa, but there is little chance of that happening now.
Finally, Oviedo. The Costa Rican cult hero is an excellent squad player who performed admirably when he filled in for Leighton Baines in the middle of the last season, and it was truly saddening to see him succumb to such a horrific injury just as he was starting to make a name for himself. Oviedo has been played at left-wing in the past but from what he has shown so far in a blue shirt, his true position is at full-back.
Taking all of this into account, a new wide man must be high on Roberto Martinez’ agenda come the January and summer transfer windows. Someone like Iker Muniain or Nolito would be fantastic, but both would command a high fee.
The heart of Everton’s defence has come under some severe scrutiny this season. Though the 6-3 mauling by Chelsea did blow things slightly out of proportion, given the age and reliability of our centre-backs, defensive reinforcement is a must.
Sylvain Distin has been a good servant to Everton over the years. Limited technically, the big Frenchman more than makes up for it with his defensive qualities and his pace and strength have bailed the Blues out on many occasions. Approaching 37, time is beginning to creep up on the former Pompey man, who isn’t suited to the possession-based philosophy Roberto Martinez is implementing with the Toffeemen.
After a World Cup hangover Phil Jagielka has returned to his usual, resolute self. At 32, the England international has a couple of years of good service left within him. He is comfortable enough in possession, dependable and is a good influence to have around the younger players that are making their way to the senior squad.
John Stones is a ‘footballing diamond’. The England defender has the potential to be one of the best defenders in world football, and his composure and ability on the ball is sorely missed in the heart of the Everton defence. It’s a real shame that he’s injured as he was starting to really nail down a place in the starting 11, Martinez should be thinking of finding a long term partner for the prodigious youngster.
Antolin Alcaraz is useful cover for Everton, when he’s fit. However, the Paraguayan’s seemingly never ending injury problems mean there is less competition for places, making him unreliable and, at times, verging on worthless. The 32-year-old is a capable deputy who reads the game well, but cover of better quality and reliability would be beneficial if the Blues are to challenge both domestically and abroad.
Martinez might not see fit to buy a new centre-back just yet, as the gradual emergence of Tyias Browning, who is comfortable playing at centre-half or right-back, will add strength in depth to the defensive ranks. If the Catalonian does decide to delve into the transfer market to bolster his centre-backs, however, then Nicolas N’koulou or Fabian Schar would both add quality and solidity. Or what about Shkodran Mustafi and Eric Dier?
The Everton goalkeeping position has predominantly been filled by one man for the past 8 years. Tim Howard has had his good and bad moments, but on the whole he has been a very good buy for the Blues. This season however, the American has not been at his best, with some bizarre decisions and poor mistakes littering his start to the campaign.
Howard has always been a good shot-stopper, but his inability to command his area heaps pressure on the defenders in front of him. His distribution is okay, but Martinez should definitely be thinking about replacing the former Manchester United man in the not too distant future.
The only realistic competition for Howard at the moment is Joel Robles. There is no way of knowing whether the FA Cup winner will be able to usurp the American as he simply does not get enough game-time. He played a handful of cup games last season without really impressing, and he hasn’t figured at all this season. It could be useful for both Everton and Robles’ career if he was loaned out to get regular first-team football, as he simply won’t progress if he sits on the bench. If Robles gets loaned out in January, Everton could bring in Chelsea’s Mark Schwarzer as short-term competition for the goalkeeping position.
Kiko Casilla of Espanyol could be a potential target for Martinez to exploit, while Stephanie Ruffier could also be a long-term replacement for Tim Howard.
There might well be other places of the squad that will need rejuvenating sooner rather than later, but if Martinez and Kenwright address the three aforementioned areas quickly and effectively, Everton will reap the rewards.
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