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Mid-table mediocrity: Where do Everton go from here?

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Roberto Martinez will be one of a couple of Premier League managers looking at this campaign and seeing it as a chance missed. The most entertaining league has reached new levels of unpredictability this season with Leicester City topping the table and last season’s champions Chelsea sitting in 13th. Inconsistent form from some of the league’s biggest teams has opened up opportunities at the top of the league to break the ‘big club’ norm. Unfortunately for Everton fans, the Merseyside club won’t be one of them.

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Martinez finds himself in a difficult position with 14 games to go. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder with trepidation of being sucked into a relegation battle but faces stiff competition to achieve Europa League qualification. The Spaniard’s team is floating awkwardly in the middle of the table and have been largely disappointing this season. Occasionally for a club in this position, you’d say that they’re just looking for the season to end to regroup and recruit ahead of an improved showing next season considering the amount of talent that Everton have. However, the Toffees could be slightly nervous to do that heading into the summer transfer window.

Everton have a wealth of young prospects and have had some fine individual performers this season which has shifted the spotlight off what has been a fairly poor season so far. Surely some clubs will be looking at the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley who have both starred in Everton’s formidable attack with the former netting 19 times in all competitions this season and the latter possessing the creativity, strength and intelligence to break open any team, or country for that matter.

Martinez also had to fend off interest from Chelsea in the summer for arguably England’s brightest defensive prospect in recent years. John Stones has come under criticism as of late for some defensive mistakes but it is without question that the composure and ability that the centre back has on the ball means that he will be a cert to be England’s first choice centre back for years to come. If reports in the summer are to be believed, Everton were turning down bids close to £40m for the young defender. However, with another full Premier League season under his belt and the frightening prospect that this ball playing centre back is, Everton would have every right to push the asking price up this summer if interest persists.

Gerard Deulofeu is another player that has impressed this season after re-joining Everton permanently in the summer from Barcelona. The Spaniard is a winger that full-backs hate to play against with his unpredictability similar to that of this Premier League season. In Everton’s 2-1 home defeat to Swansea a couple of weekends ago, Deulofeu was arguably the best player on the pitch. He produced teasing cross after teasing cross, and the skills and tricks that he has in abundance illustrated exactly why Martinez wanted to bring him back to Goodison Park. In midfield, the veteran Gareth Barry has taken the young Muhamed Besic under his wing. The Bosnian covers a lot of ground, is tenacious in his defensive duties and is guaranteed to improve every minute that he is partnered alongside Barry in the centre of the park.

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Everton are one of the few teams left in the FA Cup that have the ability and opportunity to put everything into winning the competition. Sitting comfortably in mid-table with no fears of going down and stiff competition looking upwards, the five time FA Cup winners could see the competition as their only chance to ensure that there is some element of collective success this campaign and make a statement of intent ahead of next season. A first FA Cup trophy since 1995 to add some silverware to the cabinet and a reward of Europa League football would be a good way to end the season to ensure key players remain on Merseyside next year.

If an FA Cup trophy doesn’t materialise you have to imagine that clubs would be looking at some of Everton’s players or some of their players could look towards the exit signs at Goodison Park. It would be extremely disappointing to see such young prospects leave the club in the summer but that could be a possibility if they feel like their impressive form this season has earned them the right to play at a higher level.

However, it would be great to see a team that has a well-structured blend of the experience of Jagielka, Baines and Barry with the exciting prospects of the likes of Barkley, Lukaku and Stones next season. Young talent like those on the Everton books need guaranteed first team football at a club where they know they can perform. Yes, this season for Everton has been disappointing so far and has to be considered an underachievement but, with some shrewd recruitment and if Bill Kenwright puts a firm foot down this summer, another season where Barkley, Lukaku, Stones and co. can mature and develop will mean that Roberto Martinez will have a very dangerous team at his disposal.

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Dan is a Journalism student at UWE and is an aspiring football journalist. His first ever football match was Southampton's 3-2 win over Leeds in 2003 and he has been a Saints fan ever since.

English Premier League

Shani Tarashaj is back in action for Everton, but does he have future at club?

The Swiss international has struggled with injury and illness at Everton.

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Friday evening saw Everton play their final under-23 game of the season. The side battled to a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, with Matty Foulds and Luke Garbutt the unlikely goalscorers. The fixture also saw the appearance from the bench of a forgotten Everton player – Shani Tarashaj.

Back in January 2016, the then Everton boss Roberto Martinez signed Swiss international Shani Tarashaj from Grasshoppers Zurich. The fee involved, according to the Liverpool Echo, was around £3 million for a player that Martinez had high hopes for.

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The young attacker had come through the ranks at Grasshoppers and was immediately loaned back to them until the end of the season. He continued his fine form, which saw him earn a first Swiss cap and make the national squad for Euro 2016.

All the signs pointed to a future Everton star, but that has not been the case. Instead, Tarashaj has flopped at Everton and it would be no surprise if he was sold by the club this summer.

So what went wrong?

Firstly, the change of manager. It was Martinez who brought Tarashaj to the club in the same window he had signed Oumar Niasse. Once the Spaniard left, getting into Ronald Koeman ’s plans was always going to be a more difficult task.

Tarashaj then spent 2016-17 on loan at German side Eintracht Frankfurt. He struggled to make an impact in Germany and to compound his misery, injury and illness have struck.

(during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.

Benign angina and severe tonsillitis have disrupted the sickly Swiss’ career on Merseyside before he suffered knee ligament damage last summer, which required surgery.

This season, the attacking midfielder has managed just two appearances for Everton’s under-23s and his career as a Toffee has, so far, been one to forget.

There is still hope for the Swiss international. He still has two years left on his contract at Everton and perhaps there is still a chance he can make it at Goodison Park. But two-and-a-half years after first signing for the club, Tarashaj is still waiting to make his Everton debut.

The Manchester United tie may very well prove to be his last as an Everton player.

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Everton must offer first-team assurances to Ademola Lookman next season

The 20-year-old has found success in the Bundesliga.

Jake Jackman

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It is becoming a more common theme for young English players to move abroad in the hope of gaining first-team football. The Bundesliga is their most popular destination, with the likes of Reece Oxford, Jadon Sancho, Ryan Kent and Ademola Lookman all spending time there this season with differing levels of success.

Lookman only played a total of 154 minutes in the Premier League this season and that caused him to look elsewhere for the game-time he needed to further his development. RB Leipzig came in to take the winger on loan move and the 20-year-old has been an instant success in Germany.

He hasn’t been a first-team regular, but he has been given the chance to impress and has started three more league matches than he did with Everton in the first half of the season.

The young attacker has made quite the impression on the German club as sporting director Ralf Rangnick has already talked about his hopes of making Lookman’s stay at the club a longer one. The official Bundesliga website report the following quotes taken from an interview with Kicker:

“If it were only up to us, then I would already know the answer. But it’s not only up to us – there’s no option in his contract. We’ll have to see what happens in the summer, and it also depends on what happens at Everton.”

Considering the talent levels in the squad, it was unlikely that Lookman was going to arrive and cement a position in the starting eleven immediately. He would have realised that, but he has impressed in the game-time that he has been given.

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On his debut, he scored the winning goal against Borussia Monchengladbach and, last weekend, he got a crucial equaliser against Werder Bremen.

It can be difficult to adjust to a new country, especially at the age of 20, but Lookman has quickly adapted to his new surroundings and emerged as a good squad player for the German club.

The fact that he has only played 360 minutes mean the following stats need to be treated with caution, but the attacker has produced good numbers in the Bundesliga so far. He currently averages 2.25 chances created and two shots per ninety minutes, highlighting the impact he is having on matches in the final third.

This summer will be an interesting one for Lookman as there will be genuine interest in his services, with current loan club RB Leipzig leading the chase for his signature.

The uncertainty regarding Everton’s future means there is an opportunity for a club to take him from Goodison Park, but the Toffees need to do everything they can to keep hold of him.

The current wingers in the Everton side are Theo Walcott and Yannick Bolasie, who are 29 and 28 respectively. They have each had good Premier League careers, but their best years are likely behind them due to various injuries.

(Photo by Chara Savvides/Getty Images)

In Lookman, they have a player that can already impact matches now and has potential to develop into a more threatening attacker in the future.

If RB Leipzig come in with a big offer this summer, there might be a temptation to sell Lookman, but that would be a mistake.

Everton have ambitions to become the best of the rest and challenge to break into the top six, but it has become clear this season that their squad isn’t good enough to do that. They won’t be able to achieve those objectives if they sell their best young players as it will only create more recruitment work for them.

Lookman has proven his talent this season and pushed his development on while on loan with RB Leipzig. He has earned a first-team opportunity and it is now imperative that Everton provide one at the start of next season. Otherwise, they will lose one of their best young players.

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Luke Garbutt signs off with style as Sam Allardyce tells him to leave

The Everton defender has been told to move on in the summer by Sam Allardyce.

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Friday night saw Everton’s under-23s end their terrible run of form in what was their final game of the season. They drew 2-2 with Manchester United to end the run of five consecutive defeats. For some of the Everton players, it may be the last time they play for the club. Belgian winger David Henen has already confirmed he was on his way out of the club this summer.  Now it seems Luke Garbutt will also exit.

This weekend saw Everton first-team boss Sam Allardyce admit that Garbutt would be told to find a new club this summer.

(<> on March 12, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

He is quoted by the Liverpool Echo as stating:

“He’s had a difficult time here and, personally, Luke Garbutt’s future is elsewhere.”

But at least he signed off with style. Everton, whose other goal came from defender Matty Foulds, took a 2-1 lead at the start of the second-half. It came after Garbutt, who joined from Leeds United in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £600k,  scored a fantastic strike with his rocket of a left-foot.

It was a moment indicative of the quality Garbutt clearly possesses, but what has not been enough to take his career to the next level at Everton.

Garbutt looked like he would become a future star of the Everton first-team when he burst onto the scene in the 2014-15 campaign. However, he soon found himself out of contention. A string of injuries curtailed his development with loan spells at Fulham and Wigan Athletic failing to spark a revival.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

At the start of the current campaign, Garbutt was not given a squad number. Despite returning to the first-team squad for the clash with Watford in February, Garbutt has not played for Everton since the May 2015 defeat to Sunderland. This came despite a shortage of left-back options at Goodison Park this season. Still, Garbutt was overlooked.

At one point the former England under-21 international looked like being the natural successor to Leighton Baines but those days are in the past. This summer he will have to leave to get his career back on track, but at least he signed off with a bang.

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