How Do You Fix A Problem Like Everton In Four Signings

THE short answer is – you don’t. Not with the budget currently available to Roberto Martinez.
But the Blues boss seems to think it’s possible, so lets indulge him for a minute.

By @pbsportswriter

Martinez is on record as saying Everton “will be fine with an extra four players” – a centre half, a playmaker, a wide player and one other.

He spent £28m on one player last summer to bring in Romelu Lukaku, but insists “we haven’t got £28m now”.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what is possible, what isn’t, and what is likely to happen.

The impossible dream – Milner, Butland, Alderweireld, and Austin/Hernandez

James Milner is on wages Everton can’t afford and is quite rightly seeking one last big contract at a club with a good chance of offering him Champions League football and a medal or two before he ends his career.

He’s also 29 with virtually no sell-on value. So economically and from Milner’s point of view, it was never going to happen.

But if we allow ourselves to dream, he’d be absolutely perfect at Goodison. He wants to play in midfield and could frankly play anywhere in Everton’s.

He has the vision and dsicipline to take over from Gareth Barry as the deep-lying playmaker, and has the legs to track runners that Barry no longer has.

He could also play in front of Barry as one of two more forward-looking players, breaking into the box or getting wide to deliver crosses.

He could even fill in on the right wing. His delivery from wide areas is comfortably better than anyone else’s at the club except maybe Leighton Baines (at his best), and if he played on the right he’d give Seamus Coleman all the insurance he needs to get forward a lot more.

I don’t see another player on the market who could do all those things and who is available on a free transfer. Que sera.

Martinez is not officially in the market for a goalkeeper. But he should be. For every outstanding save Tim Howard makes (Ballotelli at Anfield etc) there is a horrendous, game-costing howler (Stamford Bridge 2014 etc)

Joel Robles is not ready for No 1 honours yet. But Jack Butland is. He is only 22 but is already an England player. He may lead the U21s to glory this summer.

Everton missed out on him once before and may regret that one day. He’s ready for a No 1 spot somewhere, and could go on to be Joe Hart’s successor for the national team.

He would be an ideal back-up to Howard, and it probably wouldn’t take long for him to take the American’s place in the first team.

Why won’t it happen? He only recently signed a new deal to stay at Stoke until 2019 and will probably be their No 1 next season as Asmir Begovic looks set to leave.

Which brings me on to Toby Alderweireld. A straw poll of Blues on Twitter brought his name up repeatedly, and it’s easy to see why.

He was part of one of the best defensive units in the Premier League last season at Southampton, and is on the market.

Saints can sign him for around £7m because of an agreement with his club Atletico Madrid, but the Spaniards could pay a small fee to remove that clause and test his value on the open market.

He is likely to fetch closer to £10m should they do that, putting him well out of Everton’s price range. But again, he would be perfect for the Blues.

A Belgian international, he has bags of experience, and while right-footed, he mostly played as the left-sided centre half for Saints, meaning he could slot in alongside John Stones with ease.

Signing him (or a player like him) would give Martinez more chances to rest Phil Jagielka, who looked shot physically at times last season.

Alderweireld can also play at full back, adding valuable cover in both those positions. Sadly, his sights will be set a lot higher than a mid-table team with no European football to offer.

Then there’s Charlie Austin. Again, quite a few Blues on Twitter want him. He would provide Lukaku with genuine competition and could play alongside him in a diamond or in front of him when Lukaku is pushed wide.

He’s proved he can score goals by bagging so many in a struggling QPR side, and would add another dimension going forward.

But he wants to be the main man at his next club and again would cost around £10m, which basically rules him out of a move to Goodison.

Similar is true of Javier Hernandez, who is also available. He may even be had for less than Austin, and his pace would be explosive alongside Lukaku.

The thought of him running in behind to create space as Lukaku drops off to receive the ball and run at defenders is frightening.

But it’s doubtful he would even consder a move to Goodison after playing at two of the biggest clubs in the world for the past few seasons.

The likely alternative – Cleverley, Evans/Dann or Van Dijk, Lennon (or Deulofeu on loan)

I know, I know. This is the point where we all groan in frustration…

Despite being widely regarded as an average player at best, Cleverley’s name cropped up a few times among Evertonians suggestng signings.

This probably illustrates how far the club’s stock has fallen in just 12 months, and how realistic the expectations of some Blues have become.

On the plus side, he’s a free transfer (although his wages would be high), he’s only 25 so he would have sell-on value, and he knows Martinez.

He could also fill a hole in a key area. As Martinez put it: “we have had a big tactical problem this season which has been not having replacements for Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar.”

He’s basically looking for someone who can pop up in key areas around the box, make the right runs to free up space, find the occasional killer ball, and be a regular supply line for Baines.

That is certainly something Cleverley should be able to do, and he is younger and quicker than both Pienaar and Osman.

On the down side, he had a nightmare in the FA Cup final and since he first broke through to rave reviews at Manchester United, he has always seemed to flatter to deceive.

He doesn’t score many goals a season, and he doesn’t collect a whole lot of assists either. But as a cheap option who’d fit right into Everton’s passing game, he wouldn’t be a risk either.

Martinez also said: “We are missing someone who can get deeper, as deep as James McCarthy and Gareth Barry, but get into the box as well and have a real effect on the final part of the pitch by scoring goals.

“We have a very, very exciting young player in the system that will be that but we need to give him a couple of years.”

That player is surely Ryan Ledson, who looks set to become a top, top player. At just 17, that is not going to happen overnight.

But it means Everton only need to sign someone with a similar profile for the next three years or so. Cleverley will be 28 then. Everton could still sell him for a profit and give his place to Ledson, if the youngster is ready.

Martinez has also been linked with Jonny Evans, Scott Dann and Virgil Van Dijk this summer.
He undoubtedly needs another centre-half with Sylvain Distn gone and Antolin Alcaraz largely a liability, so it’s easy to see why.

Martinez believes Brendan Galloway will be ready to fill a first-team spot alongside Stones in about two years, so he is clearly looking for an experienced option until that can happen.

Dann is 28 and has two years left on his contract at Crystal Palace. He’s also a Liverpool fan. He’s been outstanding for Palace, who don’t want to lose him, but the are question marks about his distribution. Everton signing him therefore looks unlikely.

Evans is “only” 27, and has obviously had a good grounding at United, where he’s been playing high-pressure games for years.

His best years do seem to be behind him though, and he’s suffered quite a few injuries in recent seasons. And then there’s that spitting incident…

At £5m he may not be a bad option, but he surely wouldn’t get in the first team ahead of Stones or Jagielka, and would he want to trade a back-up spot at Old Trafford for one at Goodison?

Again, possible but unlikely.

Van Dijk looks the best of the three. But he’d also be the most expensive. He’s only 23 so probably a few years away from his peak. He’s also comfortable on the ball, a must for a defender in the Martinez system.

Celtic have just signed Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City, making it slightly more possible Van Dijk could leave.

But he’s likely to have better offers with the likes of Tottenham interested.

If the money is there (and he may cost £10m, which would seem to be most if not all of Everton’s summer budget) he could be worth the risk. But he’s never played in the Premier League before.

Looking further forward, there are plenty of Blues who want Lennon back. Personally, I don’t think he’s worth it.

Why? Because £7m is a lot of money for a winger who’ll be 29 next year.

He did OK during his loan spell, is still quick, and surprised many by showing he can dig in defensively as well. But his numbers have been coming down for years. On loan? Maybe. For £7m? No chance.

Which brings us to Gerard Deulofeu. Most Blues would love to see him back, and another short-term deal may be possible despite Barcelona’s transfer ban meaning they are less likely to send all their fringe youngsters like him out on loan next season.

His spell at Sevilla ended in acrimony when he was dropped from their Europa Cup-winning squad and slammed by coach Unai Emery as a selfish soloist.

He can be incredibly frustrating at times, and definitely runs down plenty of blind alleys. But he is probably the most naturally gifted player to play at Everton in my lifetime, which is saying something.

As a loan signing he is surely worth the risk.

Honourable mentions – Nolito, Schar, Kieran Clark, Konoplyanka

A few Blues, when polled, wanted Celta Vigo forward Nolito, who has been linked with Everton in the past.

But his £13m release clause and the fact Atletico Madrid are interested would seem to rule him out.

Similarly, there was some love for Fabian Schar. But he has at least three Champions League clubs chasing him and Everton’s chances of getting him seem non-existent at this point.

One surprise name was Kieran Clark. He’s only 25, plays for the Republic of Ireland, and is a big lad at 6’2″. But no. Not good enough, for me, even on a free.

Konoplyanka, who seemed set for Liverpool not so long ago until they made a mess of signing him, is an interesting one too.

He’s out of contract and so likely to go to whoever offers the best wages. At the time of writing he was on the verge of a move to Stoke, which would be a surprise. But I’m not sure he’s what Everton need anyway.

Conclusion

Martinez is clearly going to have to pull a few rabbits out of hats.

Everton spent a lot of money last summer (compared to what they usually spend) and it didn’t work. They clearly don’t have anything like the same money available this time around.

You can argue about why that is until the cows come home. But it doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Whoever Martinez does bring in, the squad will be stronger next season.

There is no World Cup to tire out the likes of Lukaku, Jagielka and Baines before the season has even started.

Stones should benefit from a prominent role in what could be a very successful England Under 21 side this summer. While Ross Barkley, despite a disappointing second season at Goodison Park,  remains one of the country’s brightest prospects.

And the lack of European football will mean Everton should have the focus – and the legs – to do a lot better in the Premier League.

How far they can go now teams have started to work out how to play against them remains to be seen. But the raw materials are there.

Next season is a big one for Martinez. He needs to win back the trust of the fans after such a miserable campaign.

If he doesn’t, it could cost him his job – which is why he will have to make the most of his meager transfer resources this summer.

Evertonians may feel like the club is a long, long way from Nil Satis Nisi Optimum right now.

But if it has to rely short term on signings like Cleverley, Evans and Lennon, they deserve to be given a chance.

McCarthy, Deulofeu and Barry susprised many when they first came in. Who knows? This summer’s intake might too.

Follow Paul Brown On Twitter
Follow Paul Brown On Twitter

Paul Brown

Freelance journalist for Express Newspapers & others #London football #EFC #NBA #NHL #sport #travel #Blues. Half-Finnish. Bullying & racism upset me. Beware

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *