Everton transfer policy too slow out of the blocks for top six finish?
As August approaches, with the transfer clock ticking down ever quicker, Everton (11/4 with Coral for a top six finish) are some way behind their peers, having snaffled just two senior players ready for the term ahead.
Pre-season is now in full swing and, with the new Premier League campaign just about ready to kick-off, there is little time to gel any late additions.
That has never stopped clubs before, but Roberto Martinez is treading thin ice with fans as his search for a centre half has not yet been fruitful, leaving just Phil Jagielka and John Stones as recognised rearguard marshals, with the latter linked to a Goodison exit and the former far from his peak.
Can the Toffees really expect to challenge following such an, as of yet, underwhelming summer window?
Where once they were genuinely top four gatecrashing candidates, Everton must now be careful, lest they find themselves trailing savvy spenders such as Crystal Palace (16/1 chances), Stoke City and West Ham United, nevermind Southampton.
The Merseysiders’ rivals will be pushing hard for continental competition and Everton cannot afford to fall behind, with a quick start to the new campaign crucial, as the race for a top six spot becomes ever more lucrative. This means no time for needlessly dropped points, injury-riddled patches without back-up or bedding in a host of new players while the season is in progress.
Just one win from their opening eight league games last time set the Toffees back when coping with a jam-packed schedule later on, a mistake Catalan coach Martinez will not want to repeat again.
The rule has already been run over Martinez’s failure to replicate his first term triumphs, with the Toffees finishing outside Europa League spots in his follow-up, but the evidence clearly shows that the Toffees do not have the squad strength to mount an assault on all fronts.
Bill Kenwright and co did stump up the cash for club-record signing Romelu Lukaku last summer, but these type of ambitious acquisitions have been few and far between for the Blue half of Merseyside, and they must fork out now to avoid future losses later.
Another Barcelona loan of young-gun Alen Halilovic is the most promising rumour doing the rounds, though it looks as the Hammers could win that race, but either permanent solutions would be far more favourable so the Toffees are not in constant transition.
Fledgling winger Gerard Deulofeu has been the biggest outlay so far at a paltry £4.3m, while Tom Cleverley could prove an effective if uninspiring Bosman in midfield, yet Everton are yet to fix their biggest problem area: defence.
Martinez definitely needs depth at the heart of his defensive line, having haemorrhaged 50 league goals last season and allowing Sylvin Distin to depart. However, most of the rumours related to Everton’s rearguard appear to be outgoings, which is a worrying trend, with striker Lukaku and star wideman Kevin Mirallas also tipped to leave.
Reportedly wantaway Mirallas, who has one year left on his current deal, should be the biggest worry as the clubs threatening to prise the Belgian away are not usual suspects such as Chelsea and Manchester United, but rather the Hammers and Tottenham.
To stop this is simple snaring of their best by clubs around them in the standings though is simple. Everton must invest, to provide their top performers with the competition for places, wages and trophy chances that they will otherwise find elsewhere. Shoestring shopping will only take them this far.