In the last ten years or so Everton has established themselves as a European club in the Premier League continuously challenging for a top 4 spot, however they succumbed to a bottom half finish last campaign for the first time since 2006. It was a disappointing year to say the least considering their 5th place finish the previous year, it is always difficult to precisely depict what went wrong but several factors will be contemplated here.
The defensive side of the team is still very strong on the face of things, consisting of two full backs who are arguably the best in the league in Leighton Baines & Seamus Coleman but also two incredibly reliable & decisive centre-backs in Phil Jagielka & John Stones. Bryan Oviedo is also a strong alternative due to his versatility; however good these five are quality lacks as we look into squad depth, beyond these 4 Everton struggle massively when it comes to starters. A £20 million bid for John Stones has already been rejected by the club but Chelsea are rumoured to be planning a revised offer; Martinez must be resilient and not sell Stones as he will be nurtured into a top class centre-back in the coming years. Little needs to be said about Tim Howard & Phil Jagielka as they will unquestionably have another solid year with all their experience keeping the team’s structure in check. Youngster Brendan Galloway has greatly impressed during pre-season consequently one would imagine he will feature as part of the squad this season at either left-back or centre-back when needed, Tyias Browning is also on the fringe of the first team and will likely feature. Even considering the potential of Everton’s youngsters it is doubtful they are yet ready to be consistent starters if one of the others is hit with injury, Martinez should look to strengthen here also to add stability.
Everton’s midfield remains relatively solid it’s very plausible that Muhamed Besic will have an absolutely outstanding season. The German born Bosnian performed persistently well during the course of his first season playing as a deep lying midfielder, his ability on the ball and natural capacity to read the game ensured him regular starts solidifying the centre of the park. Besic’s hard-tackling mentality and consistent performances is becoming overly uncommon in contemporary football which quickly manifested him into a firm favourite with the Evertonians. The potential the 22 year old has is incredible and he will certainly thrive under Roberto Martinez playing in that Everton midfield. Gareth Barry had an incredibly poor season last year by his usual standards; he is starting to show signs that he is nearing the back end of his career but he is a great role model for the many youngsters at the club. Although he has been rumoured to want to leave James McCarthy seems to be improving year after year, his phenomenal work rate contributes so much to the Everton midfield.
It is vital McCarthy does not leave as he has become a significant part of a good midfield, Tom Cleverley may now be there to thicken the squad depth but he is a very different type of player to McCarthy who will be greatly missed if he leaves. Whilst Cleverley adds a more attacking aspect to central midfield academy prospect Ross Barkley will be expected to step up this season, showered with huge potential by football critics alike Barkley certainly has the ability to unlock any defence in the league. Barkley is also hot property at the moment with many clubs showing interest in the Liverpool-born midfielder, it is likely however that he will stay with the club making the attacking force far more formidable.
The lack of goals was certainly a significant factor in Everton’s demise last season. £28 million signing Romelu Lukaku only managed 10 Premier League goals being unable to improve on his loan form, Kevin Mirallas did contribute 7 goals as well as Naismith with 6 but considering they are not out & out strikers they cannot be relied on to consistently score goals. With Eto’o departing the club and Arouna Kone only scoring once last year Martinez may wish to consider investing further in a striker but as of yet no rumours have arisen.
Securing the permanent signature of Gerard Delofeu for £4.2million will undoubtedly give the Toffees an enormous boost, Delofeu quickly became a fan favourite during his loan spell with his direct approach play, flair & pace making him an exciting prospect to observe. Although predominantly a right-winger he can also play as a forward in his endeavours to score goals, this extra firepower and class may prove essential to the upcoming campaign.
We once again return to the same conclusion that Everton are currently struggling when it comes to strength in depth; the starting eleven is easily a European standard side but if they become plagued with injuries they will certainly struggle to push for a European place, which is now almost expected of them. Promoting players such as Browning & Galloway is resourceful to the future but in reality they are not ready to maintain a regular starting place just yet.
Although working with a tight budget Martinez must attempt to keep hold of his best players and possibly make a few astute signings to increase the depth of the squad. Everton will need a lot to go right for them in order to secure European football however they undoubtedly have more than enough about them to be challenging for it.
Predicted Finish: 8th