After a mainly dismal 2014/2015 campaign, Everton will now be looking to move on and start building for next season.
Decision Time At Everton: Who’s In And Who’s Out?
By Eoin Leeson
It’s around this time that the rumour mill goes into overdrive and players and fans alike begin to wonder what the future holds for them and their team.
In this article I’ll be discussing the Everton squad and who I think we should be looking to move on and who we should bring in to improve the squad.
First things first, there should be no change in the managerial department. Roberto Martinez was sensational in his debut season and although this campaign didn’t live up to expectations, it would be outrageous not to give him a chance to improve the squad and develop the players in it.
I firmly believe he is a good manager and will prove to be a great one as long as he learns from his mistakes, many of which he made this season.
Although many will disagree with this, I don’t think we need to make any personnel changes in the goalkeeping department.
Obviously Tim Howard has had a poor season but we know how good he can be. It wasn’t that long ago that there were claims he was the best stopper in the league.
This season has brought him back down to earth after his World Cup exploits and he needs to come back next season and endear himself to the Blues faithful once more. There is still a top quality keeper in Tim Howard, some of his saves this campaign showed that, and I think we will see it again next season.
Joel Robles proved he is an able deputy for Howard when the American was injured this season. He was truly shocking in his first year with us but he has matured as a player and I now feel confident with him as our back up goalkeeper.
No changes are needed at right back. Seamus Coleman has had a bad season but I’m content with him there especially with young Tyias Browning and veteran Tony Hibbert as cover.
Centre half is a different story. Phil Jagielka and John Stones struck up an impressive partnership in the second half of the season and Martinez will allow that to continue to flourish next season. Player of the Season Jagielka should have at least another season of high quality performance left in him while Stones is one of the best young defenders in the world.
Making sure he doesn’t leave should be one of our main priorities this summer.
However, two centre backs will not be enough to get us through a season. Sylvain Distin, a fantastic servant to the club, bid an emotional but timely farewell to everyone on Sunday while Antolin Alcaraz also seems to be on his way out.
I actually rated Alcaraz as a good footballer at times in the 2013/2014 season but he just isn’t cut out for playing for teams anywhere near the top half of the league. I met him in April and he seems a really nice guy so it’s a pity that he won’t make the grade here.
With those two departing, bringing in cover at the back is essential. I think we should be targeting Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk and Burnley’s Jason Shackell.
Van Dijk is an imperious Dutch man who possess great pace and strength. He is an expert in tackling and in the air as well as at free kicks. A threat from set pieces, the 6’’4, 23 year old is a freight train when he gets the ball at his feet and is well known for running the pitch and scoring for Celtic. The Scottish side are rumoured to be looking for about 10 million for the colossus.
Shackell is a slightly unusual one but without their captain, Burnley would have been relegated a lot earlier than when they were. He is an alarmingly similar player to Jagielka and has a year on him in terms of age.
With the Lancashire club dropping down to the Championship, the former Derby and Barnsley man will be keen to return to the top division while the asking price for him will have dropped too.
Browning would also be a suitable centre back option as he plays there for the U’21s regularly.
At left back, Leighton Baines hasn’t had a wonderful season but like Coleman is almost undroppable. Bryan Oviedo is consistently plagued by injuries but should be given another season to show he still has the talent he displayed when Baines was injured in the 2013/2014 campaign.
Brendan Galloway looks a really good player and will hopefully be challenging Baines for a starting berth in the season to come.
As for Luke Garbutt, I wouldn’t be that disappointed if he left. If he truly believed in himself and felt he could earn his place in the team, he would have signed a new deal by now. I didn’t think he was outstanding when he played this season either.
In defensive midfield, James McCarthy and Muhamed Besic should be our two regulars next season.
Gareth Barry has had a disappointing second season with us and should no longer be a guaranteed starter. Besic has been really impressive and him and McCarthy playing together is the stuff of dreams. Barry will become for us what John Obi Mikel is to Chelsea. Someone to come on and see out games.
At 34, his performances are dropping and he won’t have the legs to consistently play matches next season.
I’d love to see Ryan Ledson given more first teamin the coming months. He has a big future ahead of him. I also think another midfielder would really sure that position up.
We should target Spurs’ Mousa Dembele. He is a Belgian engine whose strength, dribbling and ability to put a stop to counter attacks make him a top player. He isn’t getting regular game time at Spurs so a loan deal might be an option.
As for Darron Gibson, it’s time for him to move on. He’s a good player but is injured too much and if we are to compete effectively we need great players who stay fit.
Ross Barkley has been diabolical this season but is a massive talent and will be brilliant next year. PFA nominations await him.
This season has been a massive learning curve for the youngster and he should be playing regularly through the centre next season, not out wide where he has been wasted.
Leon Osman, our best technical player, is great to have as an option to come in for Barkley or anywhere else in midfield.
That said, we really lacked service and creativity for Romelu Lukaku at times this season so another option in that department is necessary.
Leroy Fer, of QPR, who we almost signed a couple of years ago, would be a smart buy. He is infuriating at times but makes up for it with some fine goals and excellent attacking play. Like Shackell, his club have been relegated so he will be looking to return to the highest level and hopefully won’t cost as much as he would have.
On the wings, Christian Atsu will return to Chelsea after a disappointing loan spell that won’t be renewed.
Aaron Lennon will also return to his parent club but hopefully only to say goodbye. Signing him on a permanent deal would be a fantastic capture.
The English man was brilliant for us. He really suited the club and already feels like an Evertonian. Spurs are likely to want around 6 million for him which we should be more than happy to pay.
If we can land Lennon, we need to back that up by getting Mirallas tied down to a new contract. Although inconsistent at times, the Belgian is our main attacking spark and can light the place up when on form. He grabbed 11 goals this season and he will push on next season even more.
Although both have been fairly poor and rocked by injury, I believe it’s worth keeping Aiden McGeady and Steven Pienaar around for at least another season. Both have lots of talent and will hopefully show it again next season.
However, that is not guaranteed to happen so I think getting in at least one more winger is important. Nolito, of Celta Vigo, who netted a hattrick against us in pre-season last year, scored 13 goals and assisted 13 goals in La Liga this season.
He is said to be happy at Celta but is not ruling out a move. Atletico Madrid are said to be interested and he would cost about 15 million so it could be a difficult deal to pull off.
If it doesn’t happen, I’d love to see Gerard Deulofeu back at Goodison.
Up top, Romelu Lukaku will continue as our main striker after a decent season with Steven Naismith another option there, or in behind him.
Arouna Kone remains on the books but after two seasons I think his time at the club is up. I just don’t see his Everton career taking off. We would be better off getting some cash for him and bringing in someone else. One goal in two years isn’t acceptable at Everton.
The striking department needs to be reinforced with the promotion of Chris Long into the first team and the addition of someone like John Guidetti on loan from Manchester City. The Swede will definitely give us more than Kone did.
He hit 15 goals for Celtic this season.
As for the other youngsters on the fringe of the first team, John Lundstram, Conor MacAleny, Jindrich Stanek, Conor Grant, Sam Byrne, Russell Griffiths, Gethin Jones and Kieran Dowell, I can’t see them getting much of a chance to feature for the first team this season.
Looking for loan moves is their best option for the moment.
That is how I think we can get back to our high standards and have another crack at Champions League qualification next season.
Let’s hope Roberto and the board agree!