Everton may have become accustomed in recent years to frustrating summers with little transfer activity and persistent rumours linking their better players with moves away from the club, but that does not mean it gets any easier to experience. This pre-season may have been the most testing of all, as David Moyes begins another Premier League campaign with the same squad as the one that ended the last.
Still lacking a reliable, prolific striker, Everton’s aims are largely the same ahead of this season as they were last season – a top eight finish, with an outside chance of Europa League football. For a club competing with teams whose budget dwarves that of Everton’s this sort of achievement would be respectable, but the question becomes how much longer Moyes can work minor miracles in keeping Everton in the group of teams that sit above mid-table but below the Champions League. Concerns over the long-term fitness of Louis Saha remain, while Jermaine Beckford, who grew into the Premier League last season after a shaky start, the inconsistent Victor Anichebe and the unwanted Yakubu are the senior strikers available to Moyes, with a handful of youngsters providing back-up. Moyes’ preferred forward addition, believed to be Reading’s Shane Long, is on the verge of a £7m move to West Bromwich Albion, a fee Everton could only match by selling first.
Having tried, and, so far, failed to unload Yakubu and Joseph Yobo, Everton have been unable to finance any purchases. Charles N’Zogbia moved to Aston Villa with a lack of cash dictating that Everton’s interest was only cursory – if money was not so tight, an offer to Wigan Athletic would have been forthcoming. Despite such a restrictive situation Moyes has not been tempted to cash in on interest in his more important players, as seen by the rejection of Arsenal’s offer for Phil Jagielka. The Gunners bid around £10m for the England international, a figure given short shrift at Goodison Park, and baulked at offering the kind of money it would take to force Everton’s hand, which would be roughly double the initial sum. Whether the manager would repeat the trick in the face of a substantial offer for a Jack Rodwell or Marouane Fellaini remains to be seen, but it appears Everton’s only hope of new additions before the close of the window rests on selling their unwanted Nigerian pair.
If Everton are to again breach the European places a Herculean effort may be needed, with a squad of around 20 senior players almost certain to be hampered by injury and a raft of youngsters eventually called upon. Ross Barkley, a 17-year-old midfielder, is the latest in a long line of home-grown Everton players tipped for big things, and would have been part of the first team squad regardless of Everton’s woes in attracting new faces. Unless the situation changes before the close of the transfer window, however, Everton are facing an uphill battle to qualify for the Europa League this season.
Key signing – None: Young centre-back Eric Dier is the only transfer completed by Everton this summer, and the 17-year-old will join the reserves, not the first team, on loan. The money simply is not there for signings without sales first, but the players Everton are willing to sell have yet to attract concrete interest.
Key departure – None: If there is one bright spot about this summer, it is that the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jagielka are still Everton players. It has been the club’s policy recently that if they cannot add to the squad, the least they can do is keep hold of what they already have, with long-term contracts signed by a host players, although Fellaini has yet to put pen to paper. James Vaughan is the only senior departure.
Neville – Jagielka – Distin – Baines
Coleman – Osman – Fellaini – Arteta