An Evertonian crisis seems less rare than many of the other clubs. Considered in the same band as Newcastle and Spurs who suffer from almost annual disasters, the Toffees usually carry on about their business in relatively serene fashion. After the consistency of David Moyes it was expected that transition to Roberto Martinez could be a bit of a risk. Fortunately for the blue half of Merseyside, this needn’t have been a worry last season as they won over many neutrals and claimed 5th in the table. Whether last season was a false dawn for Martinez’s reign is yet to be seen, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the easy on the eye football of 13/14 did wonders for the club’s opinion from other fans after the turgid times under Moyes.
From the swaggering Romelu Lukaku of last season their line is led by a £28 million pound confidence-less flop-looking striker whose deficiencies are beginning to justify Chelsea’s decision to sell in the summer. Averaging just over a point a game for this season with 23 from 22, having been at nearly 2 points a game for the entirety of last season and Martinez looks a distance off knowing quite where it has all gone so horribly wrong. Gareth Barry has gone from a pivotal cog in allowing the full backs to advance to a hideous liability and James McCarthy’s irregular availability has highlighted his importance from the last campaign. Lukaku’s clumsy footwork has always been an issue in his game for the top sides, but his lethal pace and power has hardly been the same threat in the first half of this season, also. As he plods around up front, the questions posed by Jose Mourinho of the big Belgian’s attitude must echo in the corner of Evertonian minds. Does he really want to play? Does he need appropriate competition as he gets complacent easily? Is he actually ready to be the star? How does he adapt? A lot of questions can be thrown at Lukaku right now and he hasn’t even begun to answer them this term. Samuel Eto’o’s brief stint at Goodison looks to be coming to an end with Sampdoria looming and the Cameroonian superstar understandably looking to move.
Lukaku is only a small part of the problem that Everton face currently. Martinez has managed to make his defence look like Wigan suddenly and their individual errors have accounted for the most goals of any team in Europe. Defences rarely look solid without a quality defensive midfielder and maybe it is just so that as Barry is declining it is showing the true weaknesses of Jagielka and Distin particularly. John Stones is coming back from his injury and really need to be the corner stone of the next generation of Everton back line, whilst a new keeper is likely to be signed as Howard is ageing rapidly. Leighton Baines’ claim as the best left-back in the history of football has finally been seen through for what he is; an excellent crosser and average defender. The key to any sort of solidity for Everton may need to see the end of tactical stubbornness from Martinez and accept he doesn’t currently have the players to implement that. Of course luck plays a great part in a run of the Besic-McCarthy midfield and things may work out differently.
Much like the dilemmas that faced Brendan Rodgers until a few weeks back, now is the time for Martinez to change before Everton get sucked into a bottom half battle. First port of call needs to be the addition of a striker to challenge the arrogant Romelu Lukaku and return him to his fearsome form of last season. Give Aiden McGeady specific instructions of keep him away from the pitch at all costs and make sure that combative yet skilled Besic-McCarthy partnership gets a chance to shine. Activity in the remaining days of the January window might not be necessary but Everton have some of the elements that could make a strong side with investment, a side I would look to buy if I happened to be a Sheikh.
Everton are looking like a side with no attacking penetration and a defence that is resembling a colander. At least another number 9 is required and someone needs to have a word with Ross Barkley, but that debate is for another time.
I’m sure Ross will feature in my next column on the next generation for England.
Salif Sane is the centre-back Everton must sign in the summer
The Senegal defender has been in fine form for Hannover 96 this season.
Salif Sane may not be a player well known to many fans in England, but this season he has emerged as a superstar in German football.
The 27-year-old has been in incredible form for Hannover 96 this season. According to the stats aggregator, WhoScored, Sane is rated as the second-best player in the Bundesliga, with only Bayern Munich’s James Rodriguez ahead of him.
His form should surely have caught the eye of Everton.
The Toffees have had a torrid time defensively this season.
Ashley Williams has been in awful form and has lost the backing of fans with his recent red card versus Burnley.
Michael Keane has struggled to replicate his Burnley form at Goodison Park.
Phil Jagielka’s age is catching up with him whilst Mason Holgate has been erratic.
The less said about loan signing Eliaquim Mangala the better. With Ramiro Funes Mori sidelined for most of the campaign, Everton have leaked goals.
Sane could be the perfect plug.
The Senegal defender, who came through the ranks at Bordeaux and later Nancy, is exactly what Everton need.
Sane is a no-nonsense defender whose main aim is to keep out goals. Defending is his first priority.
One area of his game where he is imperious is in the air. Not many players beat the 6ft 5 ins powerhouse in an aerial battle.
This season has been a breakthrough campaign for Sane.
This summer he will be in the Senegal squad at the World Cup in Russia, with plenty expected of a side containing the likes of Sadio Mane and Keita Balde Diao.
Sane would join his international colleague Idrissa Gana Gueye at Everton and would arrive more than capable of finally steadying the ship in Everton’s woefully inept defensive unit.
If not Sane, then someone else, but it is fair to say not many players in Everton’s price-range would be able to have the impact the Senegal defender might if given the chance.
Matthew Pennington’s future looks away from Everton after loan woes
The defender has been on loan at Leeds United this season.
This season Everton decided to send Matthew Pennington out on loan to Leeds United. The centre-back had little chance of getting into the Everton first-team. The Toffees had signed Michael Keane in the summer from Burnley. He joined a centre-back contingent containing Ashley Williams, Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate. With Ramiro Funes Mori also on the books Pennington’s chances of football at Goodison Park looked slim.
Leeds needed a new centre-back this summer. Kyle Bartley’s loan deal had come to an end so Pennington looked like a good recruit.
However, he has struggled since his switch to Elland Road. Pennington has battled niggling injury problems throughout the campaign.
The injuries began on the opening day of the season. Pennington played 64 minutes of the Bolton Wanderers clash before limping out of action. He had suffered an ankle injury and was not seen again until the 26th September defeat against Cardiff City.
Pennington also had injuries in November and throughout January. Leeds have not been able to rely on the 23-year-old and that has left Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper exposed at times this campaign.
Everton will no doubt be disappointed to see their talented defender struggling for form in the Championship.
Pennington looked assured, composed and fit in his Leeds debut, but limping out in the 64th minute truly defines the campaign he has had at Elland Road.
This summer his contract at Everton comes to an end. Based on his performances in West Yorkshire the Everton graduate is unlikely to have a future at Goodison Park in the long run.
It is certainly a shame as the 23-year-old has the potential to be a very talented player. Everton however does not look like being his long-term home.
Hopefully this summer Pennington can find himself a new home and find some consistency in terms of form and fitness.
Everton fans will certainly like to see him come good elsewhere and wish him the best of luck.
Sevilla triumph will have Everton fans regretting Steven N’Zonzi failure
The French midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Everton in January.
Manchester United were sent crashing out of the Champions League last night, with Spanish side Sevilla doing the damage at Old Trafford. Two goals from substitute Wissam Ben Yedder sent United on their way and fans were left frustrated at their side’s negative and reactive tactics. United were dominated in midfield, with Steven N’Zonzi in fine form.
His performance would have been hard to take for Everton fans. In January it certainly looked as though the Frenchman was on his way to Goodison Park. The Liverpool Echo reported that Everton were keen, with the player valued at £25 million.
Toward the end of December Everton manager Sam Allardyce made his interest in the midfielder clear, being quoted by the Daily Mail as stating:
“I’d be very interested in Steven but if you have a look at how many footballers there are at the club, then it is impossible for me to block that up even more.
“We would be better served in other areas – like another goalscorer, maybe a full-back. After that who knows.”
It seemed that Everton’s litany of midfield options put paid to any actual deal. Allardyce, who had tried calling N’Zonzi up for England duty and first brought him to England with Blackburn Rovers, was clearly a fan. But unless Morgan Schneiderlin or another midfielder moved on a deal was off the cards for the player.
At the time the French midfielder’s Sevilla career looked over. He had fallen out with manager Eduardo Berizzo and was in danger of being frozen out. When Italian Vincenzo Montella replaced Berizzo, N’Zonzi was back in favour.
Everton therefore never managed to bring in the player in January. Based on the evidence of last night they are clearly missing out. The French international provided the perfect basis for Ever Banega to pull the strings in midfield for Sevilla. N’Zonzi, who also had a successful spell at Stoke City, was composed, athletic and commanding in the midfield.
Everton have struggled to find consistency this season. Much of that has been down to the fluctuating performances of their central midfielders. N’Zonzi would have been an immense January arrival for the Toffees.
Allardyce is a massive fan, but his future at Everton looks to be on the ropes itself. Any dream Everton have of bringing in N’Zonzi looks to be dead. After watching him dominate United last night, that is a bitter pill to swallow.
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