Frustrating as it may be that most of the talk involving Everton and transfers centres around players leaving rather than joining, it shouldn’t be forgotten than we are still at the phony war stage of the transfer window, the time when gossip and speculation is far more prevalent than anything else.
If it reaches the first week of August and the futures of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini are still up in the air, and Roberto Martinez has not yet added any new faces to put his stamp on what is still David Moyes’ side, then there is cause for concern.
Everton have been in both situations before – losing important players with precious little time to replace them, and not drafting in new recruits until after the new season has started, missing out on the important pre-season bedding-in period. Neither scenario is conducive to a strong start to the new campaign, but that is exactly what Martinez needs to help dispel the doubts that linger in some quarters over his suitability to fill Moyes’ seat.
A summer of smart business would help a great deal too – and decisive actions in the transfer market are part of that. Moyes, rightly or wrongly, had a reputation at one point in his Everton tenure for being less than successful with regards to transfers. For every Tim Cahill or Mikel Arteta, fine players picked up at bargain prices, there was a high-profile, high-priced failure, a Per Kroldrup or James Beattie.
No manager gets it right every time but the feeling was that Moyes, when given money to spend, did not spend it wisely. Fellaini, Everton’s record signing, a £15m purchase from Standard Liege in 2008, was at one point part of that belief. His first season as an Everton player was masked by the goals he scored – nine in 35 appearances – but it was a while before he started to show enough promise to suggest what we now know, that it was indeed money well spent.
Fellaini came good in a way another big-money buy, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, never truly did. The Russian’s goals obscured the reality in much the same as Fellaini’s did in his first season – Bily was less prolific but more spectacular, scoring memorably against Manchester United, Portsmouth and Wolves. But he was never at home in English football, never able to find his best position for Everton, and never entering consistent performances. It clicked for Fellaini but Bilyaletdinov continued to struggle, to the point the crowd was on his back and an exit was inevitable.
In the cases of both Fellaini and Bilyaletdinov, Moyes had enough longevity and goodwill to be able to ride out the problems caused by his initially underperforming signings and, in the latter case, the authority to ship out the player when enough was enough. Martinez doesn’t have that at Goodison Park, not yet, and with that in mind it becomes clear why he would want an Antolin Alcaraz or Shaun Maloney to follow him from Wigan Athletic.
They are relatively cheap players he feels he can trust, who won’t let him down or take time to settle in the division. They’re not players to get the heart racing or send ticket sales soaring, but they may be the smart arrivals Martinez surely needs.
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