With just a few weeks of the year remaining the transfer rumour mill is grinding into gear ahead of the January transfer window. Everton have been linked with dozens of signings already, some realistic, some fanciful in the extreme, but the gossip does raise the question of where David Moyes could improve his squad.
Money, as ever, is tight at Goodison Park. The sale of Jack Rodwell helped finance the arrival of the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Bryan Oviedo in the summer, and while the vultures continue to circle over players such as Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, it is unlikely the club sanction the sale of an important player in the middle of the season regardless of the funds it would raise for the manager. Moyes then will again work on a shoestring, looking for loans and bargain deals.
A year ago Moyes drafted in Nikica Jelavic, Darron Gibson, Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar, four vital signings in both the short and long-term. But Everton of December 2011 were in much worse shape than the side is this year.
At the turn of the year the Toffees were 12th, only six points from the relegation zone and nine points short of Newcastle United, who held Everton’s final position of seventh. There is no need for the same kind of emergency work Moyes pushed through 12 months ago, but patching up any gaps in the squad could be the difference between success and failure come May.
Injuries are bound to take their toll between now and the end of the season – a long-term lay-off for Fellaini would see Everton’s Champions League aspirations come into serious doubt. But there can be no true replacement for the Belgian. The way in which he has dominated most opposing defences is practically unparalleled, certainly among the players within Everton’s price range.
Everton are well-stocked at right-back, centre-back and even left-back, since Oviedo looks a competent back-up for Baines. In midfield, Steven Naismith is nothing if not industrious and can cover a number of positions, while Magaye Gueye has some potential, although bringing it out on a regular basis is a challenge. The flanks though are largely well covered, although Mirallas’ constant hamstring strains must be a concern.
But as well as the Fellaini position, the centre of midfield is arguably were Everton are at their weakest. Gibson’s long injury earlier in the season robbed Everton of their controlling presence in the centre of the pitch and underscored what an important signing he was in January. Finding a value-for-money support for Gibson would represent good business for January, if a little challenging.
Moyes wanted Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe in the summer transfer window but ran out of time to complete the deal, later picking up Thomas Hitzlsperger on a free transfer to supplement his midfield. The German looked tidy when he briefly filled in for Gibson and his presence probably means Moyes will feel Everton can cope in midfield too, so a quiet month should likely be expected.
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