When analysing the current state of the Everton squad, it would be wrong to simply compare the number of departing players with the number of new signings as I believe the squad is actually much stronger than these figures would suggest.

Since the end of the 2012-13 season we have seen three players depart Jan Mucha, Phil Neville and Thomas Hitzlsperger, to be replaced by Joel Robles, Antolin Alcaraz and Arouna Kone, as well as the loan signing of promising Barcelona youth player Gerard Deulofeu. In terms of squad numbers, this would show the addition of just one player to what was one of the smallest squads in the Premier League last season. However, based on the quality of the new additions and the likelihood that Martinez will look to utilise the young players in the squad significantly more than his predecessor, it would seem that the squad is significantly stronger than those figures suggest.


Since his arrival from Manchester United in 2006, Tim Howard has been the undisputed number one in the team with very little challenge from a reserve keeper. Jan Mucha made just 10 appearances for Everton in the three years prior to his recent departure, many of which came in low-key cup games. It is therefore apparent that he failed to pose any threat to Howards position in the team.

I would hope that new signing Joel Robles could provide much stronger competition, particularly if we look back at how easily he managed to displace Ali El-Habsi during his short spell at Wigan Athletic. It is also likely that Roberto Martinez will place a greater emphasis on a possession-based approach to games, which may give Joel an early advantage over Howard due to his superior quality of distribution.


The defence is the area of the team where I believe we have the most strength in depth. The only departure has been Phil Neville who, whilst possessing admirable professionalism, was significantly diminishing in terms of footballing ability. This leaves us with two players competing for the right back spot, although I would suggest that Tony Hibbert will simply provide cover to Seamus Coleman who offers greater attacking threat and is defensively much improved. Once again, with a potential switch to a back three, Coleman would also seem better suited than Hibbert to the wing-back role.

The centre of defence is now arguably the strongest area of the team particularly with the addition of Antolin Alcaraz from Wigan which means there are now four senior centre backs at the club with additional competition from Shane Duffy and John Stones. Despite a disappointing last season for John Heitinga, I believe he could have a significant role to play at the club, particularly if, as suspected, Martinez opts for a back three.

In this system there is greater emphasis on distributing the ball from the back, an area of the game in which neither Phil Jagielka nor Sylvain Distin excel. This would leave a place in the team for a centre half with greater ability on the ball, a role I believe John Heitinga would be ideally suited to. However, he would have to compete with Antolin Alcaraz for this position who has the benefit of having previously worked under Roberto Martinez during his time at Wigan.

Regardless of who Roberto Martinez may or may not prefer in this position, what is clear is that it is an area of the pitch in which we possess significant competition for places, compounded by the continued development of Shane Duffy and John Stones. Although I would suggest that Duffy may not be capable of playing at the highest level in the future, he has shown in the past that he is more than capable of deputising for the senior players when needed.

John Stones, however, is a player that would seem to be the ideal long-term replacement for Phil Jagielka. On the few occasions I have seen him, he has illustrated all the qualities necessary to be a top-level centre half, combining both physical and technical ability. Based on the fact that Roberto Martinez attempted to sign him during his time at Wigan, it would seem that he is a player the manager also rates highly.

When discussing the left back spot, only two words are needed: LEIGHTON BAINES.

In my mind, he is with little doubt the best left back in the world. Cover is rarely needed in this position due to his near faultless injury record however in the event that he does suffer injury, Bryan Oviedo is a player that would provide more than sufficient cover, particularly in terms of attacking quality. Luke Garbutt is also a promising young player whose all-round game may make him the long term replacement for Leighton Baines should he leave.


This is one area of the pitch where I believe reinforcements are necessary particularly as it seems Darron Gibson is incapable of playing every game in a season. Last season, Thomas Hitzlsperger offered some cover in this position; however, this was another player that Moyes appeared to have little faith in and so he made just 8 appearances, 4 of which came from the bench. This was despite the fact that Darron Gibson missed 15 Premier League games through injury.

Due to the financial restraints Everton currently operate under, I would suggest Mohamed Diame to be the ideal player due to his rumoured low release clause. Whilst he may not be able to challenge the starting positions when all players are fit, he would certainly provide more than adequate cover in the absence of either Gibson or Fellaini.

Although Osman is capable of playing there, I believe he is better suited to a more advanced role. If more funds were made available, it would be better if we could bring in a higher calibre player capable of challenging for a starting position. Etienne Capoue or James McCarthy would be ideal players to create greater competition in this position; however, it would seem that, without player sales, we will be priced out of a move for either player.

The aforementioned Leon Osman faces much greater competition for the advanced midfield role, particularly with Ross Barkley, who many expect will have a much greater role in the team this season as Martinez appears much less reluctant to incorporate young players into his starting XI. In addition to Barkley, there are then four other players who I believe are capable of playing the advanced midfield role: Mirallas, Pienaar, Deulofeu and Naismith.

These players also operate on the wings and so it is difficult to fully assess the depth of the squad in this area until the managers preferable formation becomes clear. However, it would seem that any combination of these players should provide a fluid attacking approach to games with each being interchangeable, allowing for a change in emphasis during games.

I also believe that Naismith could be the surprise player for us this season after many fans quickly lost patience with him last year due to a string of poor performances. Whilst I also often criticised him, particularly when games were going against us, on reflection this was probably unfair and we should remember that it was it was his first season back after a long term injury. He also showed that he was capable of scoring important goals, not least the equaliser in the derby; I believe that, if he was played in a more central position, he could begin to win back the support of the fans.

However, what is clear is that there now appears to be much greater flexibility in the team which should allow us to employ different tactics throughout the season, dependent on the opposition and injuries within the squad. Personally, I would like to see a 4-2-3-1 formation with Pienaar, Barkley and Deulofeu operating as the three players behind Kevin Mirallas. I believe those four players could challenge any defence in the Premier League due to the pace and skill they possess and would certainly provide plenty of excitement for the fans.


The addition of Arouna Kone means we now have more options up front than we have had in a long time, particularly if Nikica Jelavic can rediscover the form he showed in his first six months at the club. Victor Anichebe was also much improved last season and has shown that, with the right attitude, he is more than capable of fulfilling the lone striker role. In addition,

Apostollos Velios may be given greater opportunity in the first team due to the departure of David Moyes who was rumoured to have questioned the attitude of the Greek striker. That means we now have four recognised strikers, all of whom have differing styles of play which again means we have greater flexibility and allows us to try different approaches. Whilst Nikica Jelavic provides natural goalscoring instinct, Kone has a more dynamic approach to the game and Anichebe provides the greatest physical threat.

I believe Martinez may favour Kone and he has certainly shown great faith in him by using up a large part of the transfer budget in order to bring him to the club; however, I think, as previously mentioned, Mirallas may be the 20-goal striker we all crave. He illustrated last season that he is capable of scoring different types of goals whilst also being able to take on his man due to the skill and pace he possesses. If he manages to stay fit for a majority of the season then I think he could well be the most influential player in the team this season as he is capable of game-changing moments.

Regardless of the setup, it is clear that with the exception of central midfield, we now have significant depth in all areas of the pitch. This is illustrated by the fact that we can now field two strong starting XIs as shown below:

Everton A:
Coleman Jagielka Distin Baines
Fellaini Gibson
Mirallas Barkley Pienaar

Everton B:
Hibbert Stones Alcaraz Oviedo
Heitinga Osman
Deulofeu Naismith Gueye

It would also be important to add that both of the above teams omit players such as Anichebe, Vellios and Duffy as well as promising young players; Kennedy, Garbutt and Springthorpe which only goes to highlight the strength we currently possess in the squad.

A marquee signing may increase excitement for the new season further, however I believe there is already much reason for excitement. The performances last season illustrated that we are capable of beating any team in the league and if we manage to hold on to both Baines and Fellaini I think we may be able to progress again this season. The squad has improved and hopefully we now have a manager who will utilise fringe players more than Moyes did previously.

Without wanting to be too critical, it often seemed that Moyes was reluctant to drop players who were struggling for form due to his lack of trust in the squad players. However, with greater squad rotation this season I think we will be able to maintain a challenge for the top four places for a much longer period as players will suffer less with fatigue and loss of form. 22/1 for a top four place looks like a good bet to me!


1. Ross Barkley will make more than 20 starts.
2. Everton will win a trophy.
3. Kevin Mirallas will score more than 15 goals.
4. Joel Robles will win the number 1 spot from Tim Howard.
5. Seamus Coleman will be named in team of the season.

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Reader Comments (36)

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Derek Knox
1 Posted 02/08/2013 at 13:10:31
Good article Jordan! I have to agree with what you say and wholeheartedly hope we can get a bit of quality in Centre Midfield sorted before too long!

Whether Fellaini stays or goes this must be achieved, and if he goes we will also need a decent utility player, this was evident against Juventus, which thankfully we manged to cope with!

I am also very disappointed in Fellaini's casual attitude at times! I have faith that it will turn out okay in the long term!

Dave Lynch
2 Posted 02/08/2013 at 13:25:14
I was watching last seasons prem review last night and the thing that really hit home was how poor Wigan's defence was.

It honestly gave me the heebeegeebee's. I just pray he has learnt a few things defensively since then.

David Nicholls
3 Posted 02/08/2013 at 13:42:19
Great analysis Jordan! I think I'm more positive than ever after looking at your 2 lineups. Although I think I'd give Big Vic the nod over Gueye in Everton B.

Agree about centre mid, we could really do with an extra body in the engine room. I got really excited about Fransisco Junior last pre season but he doesn't seem to have kicked on.

I totally agree about Naismith. While he's no world beater he's nowhere near as bad as some people on this site have made out. I predict he will do himself justice this season and prove a valuable squad member.

I hope your predictions come true, I would love to see Super Kev given a central role. I think he could be something quite special.


Adam Luszniak
4 Posted 02/08/2013 at 13:57:46
Hope you're right about Naismith, although I don't think he's a world beater. That said whenever i'm swearing my head off at him on the tv for being useless, he inevitably does something minutes later like scoring the equaliser in the derby, or that tackle against city which set up fellaini then jelly for the goal.
Mark Tanton
5 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:02:29
Did Velios go to the States? Is he anywhere near the first team? I cannot remember seeing him since Accrington.
Brent Stephens
6 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:02:53
A good read, Jordan. That 2nd eleven would not embarrass us against many Prem sides (esp if Vic was in there instead of Maggie, so I agree with David).
Brent Stephens
7 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:07:19
*David! Or maybe you're Spanish?
David Chait
8 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:03:38
Team A is a heck of an outfit and is my starting 11 man for man, without seeing what Deulofeu can offer... Or that marquee signing... Moutinho anyone?
Phil Sammon
9 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:33:44
Martinez has stressed the importance of different playing styles. A major criticism of Moyes was his inability to change games - partly due to personnel, partly to do with his own tactical ability. This year we seem to have a manager very keen on using youngsters and exploring every dimension the players can offer. Whereas last year it was nailed on that Naismith, Hitzlsperger and Heitinga would be coming on at 70, 80 and 88 minutes respectively, this year I'm hopeful we will see much more fluidity.

Deulofeu can come on for Jelavic and push Mirallas up front. Kone can play wide right or as a central striker. Pienaar and Osman don't have to play 90 minutes each week when they're off form - Barkley can come in and add drive and flair.

I'm always excited for the new season, but this year feels so different. I'm just dying to see the team and how we adapt to the new manager's way of thinking.

Jon Ferguson
10 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:45:17
David - Mountinho moved to Monaco earlier in the summer, hence ruining the annual Mountinho to Everton press speculation game.
Jon Ferguson
11 Posted 02/08/2013 at 14:53:45
I agree with most of what is said.

If we keep Fellaini then we need a defensive midfielder (who can pass) to play with him. Fellaini can tackle but his defensive positional sense is poor.

If we do sell Fellaini we need 2 midfield replacements, I'd then try for another winger (Ince maybe).

If Fellaini was to go, it'd be good to get Heitinga off the books as well as use the joint funds towards another centre back. I think we'll mix it up between a back 4 and 3 next season. Distin Jags Alcaraz, you would imagine will be our back three. I hope Stones gets some chances, then there is the unproven Duffy. We the need another quality centre back (preferably left sided) for competition.

Whether Fellaini stays or goes I think we are in good shape for the year. Can't wait for it to get started!

Ben Dyke
12 Posted 02/08/2013 at 15:45:15
I would like to see us add a very good midfielder in to the mix but I suspect that will only happen now if we sell Fellaini. Fellaini at his best we want, but at his inconsistent worst then we want the money. Lets hope he gets over the fact noone wants to spend 20m+ on him and knuckles down to consistent performances at the heart of the team.
Sam Hoare
13 Posted 02/08/2013 at 19:51:58
Pretty good analysis. I certainly agree that centre of the park, specifically in the holding/defensive roles is where we are lacking.

At the moment a huge amount rests on Gibson. He is in effect our Pirlo, orchestrating moves from deep and controlling the tempo. After him I don't see that we have anyone who can fill that role. At a push Pienaar perhaps but i'm not sure he has the same passing range and clarity of thought.

Peter Jones
14 Posted 02/08/2013 at 21:56:10
Love the analysis and positivity. Really good read definitely Jordan!

I would say that Kone will almost certainly be starting over Jelavic come the Norwich game though. A bit strange if we paid 6 million and gave him the #9 shirt only to have him start on the bench. Other than that, I think that's my preferred 4-2-3-1 also.

I really like Diame too and I hope we put a bid in although it looks unlikely now. Only difference is I don't think he struggles at all to start in our midfield, especially if we roll out the 4-3-3. Him next to Gibson and Fellaini in a central midfield 3 would be ridiculous.

Anybody hear anything else about that bid we supposedly made for Jorginho? He's a 21-year-old deep lying Brazilian playmaker that got his team promoted to Serie A. Apparently he's a spraycan like Gibson. And given his injury history, we need someone in the same mold to back him up. Currently, if Gibson gets hurt we don't have anybody else that can ping balls when our ground game stagnates. But whatever. I can't fucking wait for this season! Ahhhhhhhhh!

Trevor Lynes
15 Posted 02/08/2013 at 22:59:35
I'm afraid that, as soon as you started being positive about JH, I began to lose interest in your otherwise well thought-out post.

I cannot say that JH has displayed anything last season to be kept at the club. As far as I'm concerned, he is without doubt the worst Dutch International I have ever seen and proved to be an absolute liability in every game he played.

He is slow, cannot tackle or compete with the beefy strikers he comes up against in the Premier League. I do not see him as being superior to old Distin and Jags in any way at all. He is stopping good youngsters from getting a chance by taking up bench room.

If he is on the teamsheet, I become apprehensive.

Ernie Baywood
16 Posted 02/08/2013 at 23:28:04
I would have said we'd play 3 at the back:

Jagielka Alcaraz Distin
Coleman Baines
Fellaini Gibson
Mirallas Pienaar

But apparently Alcaraz is to have hernia surgery. So either Heitinga or a youngster come in or we revert to a back 4.

Personally I don't think Ross will get 20 starts. Maybe 10 plus sub appearances.

Nick Armitage
17 Posted 02/08/2013 at 23:31:53
You say that Phil Neville was significantly diminishing in terms of footballing ability.

Does this mean he had some to start with?

Jay Harris
18 Posted 02/08/2013 at 23:23:28
I agree with much of what you say. I agree that the squad strength is much better now but I am concerned about Martinez's tactics to play it around at the back. We do not have the quality or the movement to maintain that over 90 minutes in the Premier League.

It might be OK in La Liga where the sun shines all day and the pace is slower with more emphasis on retaining the ball but it is highly dangerous in the Prem where forwards press on the back 4.

I think you will find Stones playing more than we might expect and Anichebe is not mentioned in your squads.

I also think we need to get rid of Johnny while he has some value. We cannot afford to let players run their contracts down.

David Greenwood
19 Posted 02/08/2013 at 23:41:51
I'd offer a sixth prediction, we will beat the RS home and away this season.

Love the positivity on here, is this really TW?

Jordan Marsh
20 Posted 02/08/2013 at 23:43:51
I agree that it would seem Martinez favours 3 at the back and also agree with Jay that this may be a risky approach in the Premier League; however, I think that there will be a lot more flexibility in our approach to games this season and so we will likely see several different formations, dependent on the opposition. We also now have a lot of options for the winger/Number 10 roles and so a 4-2-3-1 may be the best formation to get the most out of these players: Deulofeu, Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar, Osman as well as Naismith and Gueye.

I also think that, if we are to adopt a back 3, then it becomes even more necessary to recruit an extra central midfielder as they will in my opinion become the most important players in the team. They will be expected to provide defensive cover to the attacking wing backs as well as pick the ball up in deep positions and begin attacks. In this case we will definitely need top-quality cover for Darron Gibson who it seems will not be able to play every game in a season and I don't think this position will suit Leon Osman.

Either way, there is now a lot more flexibility in the squad which I expect will be fully utilised by Roberto Martinez.

Mike Hughes
21 Posted 03/08/2013 at 00:39:15
Agree with David @403

If I can offer prediction #7
Fortress Goodison is back. Unbeaten at home all season. Away teams will truly crack their pants at the prospect of coming here.

Prediction #8

Prediction #9
The League Cup. It may be relatively minor but we're the only big club never to have won it.

Mike Hughes
22 Posted 03/08/2013 at 00:47:46
Correction to # 410
Crack is a hybrid term of crap and cack
Copyright mh 2013
David Greenwood
23 Posted 03/08/2013 at 00:53:39
Nice recovery Mike!
Harold Matthews
24 Posted 03/08/2013 at 01:44:13
David. I was enjoying this thread till you brought the other mob into it.

Unlike you, there are thousands of Evertonians who only care to think about them for two 90 minute sessions a year.

Will others please take heed. Believe it or not, I'm actually quite annoyed.

Eric Myles
25 Posted 03/08/2013 at 03:08:19
Jordan, you mention Howard's poor distribution but then later on give the reason for it, "In this system there is greater emphasis on distributing the ball from the back, an area of the game in which neither Phil Jagielka nor Sylvain Distin excel."

So Howard was faced with a choice of 'distributing' the ball to one of his backs who he knows will hoof it up the park, or hoof it up himself. By doing it himself he eliminates the chance of an errant back pass or the loss of the ball by the defender.

With players of greater ability on the ball we may just see Howard improve in that area, or with the same players see Joel adopt the same tactic.

Ernie Baywood
26 Posted 03/08/2013 at 03:55:58
In feeling very positive, but also nervous. Under Moyes I always felt positive with a sense that conservatism would negate our potential. RM is risky - could all go wrong. Although it might well go right and build on DM's work and take this club into the CL.

One thing is certain... The days of thinking "player X is nowhere near good enough to get a game" and then watching as they rack up 40 appearances are over. That feels really good in itself.

Edward Simpson
27 Posted 03/08/2013 at 05:44:27
Barkley is at the stage now where he needs to be playing regularly.

He'll only improve and learn when given opportunities to play in the first team, so he'd be in my team A like Jordan said.

Osman has his uses in some games but he does get out paced often when left stranded in midfield.

But clearly we have depth now, Oviedo, Stones, Alcaraz, Osman, Naismith and Anichebe can all come in if needed. And course Deulofeu, who could be a nailed on starter. Who knows? Hopefully he'll get a chance pre-season.

Kone could also be a nailed on starter but none of us have seen enough of him to know whether he will be or not. One thing he does add is pace, something we've lacked for a long time now.

All looks very good though.

Wayne Smyth
28 Posted 03/08/2013 at 12:55:13
Edward, I think Barkley is not only at the stage where he needs to be playing to develop further. In my eyes, he's actually one of the best players at the club already and deserves a first team spot on merit.

I can't think of anyone who would be better in the advanced central attacking midfield role. When he came on against Juve, he did more in 5 minutes than some of the others did the whole game and was really unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.

Tom Bowers
29 Posted 03/08/2013 at 14:39:27
I think Barklay is the key to all this. He could be ready to step up big time. Ossie is the weak link and so the opportunity will be there for young Ross now that Moyes has gone.

However, if Ross does not seize the chance, then I believe RM has to buy as I do not see someone at the club who can make good in that central midfield attacking role with Fellaini.

David Holroyd
30 Posted 03/08/2013 at 15:14:58
It is the strongest squad we've had for a long time but the teams that finished above us have a shitload of money to spend.

Prediction: 7th again.

Does anyone know how season tickets sales have gone for this season?

Mal Christopher
31 Posted 03/08/2013 at 15:42:54
The optimist in me says we can challenge around the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th mark.

The pessimist in me worries what will happen if RM gets off to a bad start.

The Realist in me says we will finish around 7th, 8th, 9th, with a cup run thrown in with a little luck.

Colin Glassar
32 Posted 03/08/2013 at 15:52:17
That's Alcaraz out for the start of the season. Hernia op next week.
Raymond Fox
34 Posted 03/08/2013 at 19:29:04
Good article Jordon, I agree with most of it.

Would be nice if we had the money now to go out and buy 1 or 2 more quality players, we would then have a real realistic chance of fighting for a top 4 spot (the bookies have us down to finish 7th according to the betting, were 3/1 for a top 6 place, 14/1 to finish in the top 4 and 1/5 for a top 10 finish)
Its a pity Alcaraz looks like missing the start of the season, his passing from the back will be missed.
I don't think Fellaini will be here when the season starts, could be wrong who knows!
McCarthy looks likely to be his replacement, and he will suit the system better.
If Barkley, Stones and some fringe players improve enough under RM's training and style of play we may be surprised at the outcome, lets hope so.
Been impressed with Oviedo and we've not seen Deulofeu yet, prob tonight.
Whatever, its going to be fascinating to observe.

ps. Hope we don't get thumped tonight while were chopping and changing

Christopher Kelly
35 Posted 08/08/2013 at 06:12:46
Fantastic article and I agree with the starting 11.
Love that Moutinho still gets a shout 6 years later or what have you.

I don't think this side "could go all wrong" @Ernie,
Unlike Moyes, RM knows that he'll need to play multiple styles as he's mentioned in previous articles. If we do begin to go tits up with 3 in the back, then he'll slide a defender down and potentially play like Jordan has illustrated above.

Regarding Barkley, I think he's going to turn out but he's still young and should not be counted on just yet to lead the line. Maybe Next season/ mid season at the earliest. I agree he needs minutes and he'll get them. Seamus sure did well with extra minutes despite fan's calling for his head.

Max Wilson
36 Posted 09/08/2013 at 08:55:03
All my Blues mates seem to share doubts about "three at the back" and we are disillusioned with Heitinga, Naismith and Jelly baby. We are weak in midfield, especially when Gibson breaks down again, and as it looks like Fellaini will go in this transfer window, we need two not one recruits there, unless we draft in one of our promising juniors.

Otherwise please accept 7 out of 10 for scholarship and being Blue. Real Betis will be a good opportunity to have a look at how we are playing.

Clive Rogers
37 Posted 09/08/2013 at 10:48:39
Agree with most of what you say. I must admit though a few doubts have crept in since the Valencia game. There were a few poor performances. Also if Baines and Fellaini are to go, which looks likely, the squad would definitely need strengthening. Gibson was poor against Valencia and Kone has not really done anything yet. Alcaraz is very injury prone and needs an op already. Not a good sign. Deulofeu looked very immature, losing the ball persistently and had words with RM on the touchline.

Don't forget every other PL club is spending much more than us, even the likes of Norwich, Saints, Swansea and Cardiff. Spurs have spent 58M already. This is bound to tell in the long run.

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