Everton transfer focus – Naismith a versatile early arrival

As the return of the Premier League looms into view Everton have made their first steps in the summer transfer market, picking up Scotland international Steven Naismith on a free transfer following his departure from the liquidated Rangers. The sight of David Moyes conducting his transfer business well before August is likely to please Evertonians a great deal.

The year before saw Everton forced to wait until the very last day of the transfer window for any real activity, and very little of that appeared positive at the time. Strikers Jermaine Beckford and Yakubu left for Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers respectively, while Real Madrid winger Royston Drenthe and Argentine striker Denis Stracqualursi arrived on loan. As the hours ebbed away Mikel Arteta was sold to Arsenal, depriving Everton of their creative hub with no time to draft in a replacement.

How big an effect the late flurry had on the start to Everton’s season may never truly be known – it could have been as awful or even worse even with Arteta – but it certainly did little to improve the mood of the supporters during what was a summer of discontent between fans and the board.

So far the pre-season has lacked the same kind of tension, partly because of the arrival of Naismith but also the lingering good feeling from the end of last season, when Everton’s form was strong and their play was a joy to watch. There is also the hope of the full-time return of Steven Pienaar to sustain Evertonians, with Moyes himself admitting he wants to bring the South African back to Goodison Park on a full-time basis this summer after his extremely successful loan return between January and May.

The will is there from the player and Everton, leaving the ball firmly in the court of Tottenham Hotspur and their new Head Coach, Andre Villas-Boas. If Spurs are willing to sell and the two clubs can agree a fee Pienaar is likely to return to his spiritual home before long.

The confirmed arrival of Naismith however throws up some tactical and selection issues. The 25-year-old is versatile enough to play as an out-and-out striker, but the presence of Nikica Jelavic and Moyes’ preference for a lone striker would seem to rule that out. Naismith can also play off the lone striker, but Marouane Fellaini excelled in that role in the latter half of the season and Tim Cahill remains at the club, having in the past made that position his own. Naismith is also capable of playing on either flank, but as more of a wide attacker than an orthodox midfielder.

A Pienaar return would rule out the left side, pointing Naismith towards the right, an area in which Everton are not strong and one that would allow Naismith to link up with Everton’s forwards and provide a target for Leighton Baines’ left-wing crosses. Most likely Naismith will pop up in a number of roles throughout the season, his versatility making him a more than useful first signing of the summer.

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