In their place arrived James McCarthy from Wigan, Gareth Barry from Manchester City and Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea, the latter pair on loan for the season. With Leighton Baines staying on Merseyside it has to be considered a successful transfer window for Roberto Martinez, with the squad looking more rounded today than it did at the end of last season.
The loss of Fellaini would have hurt David Moyes, if he had stayed as manager, more than it will Martinez. Moyes didn’t have the same Ross Barkley, and Martinez has been using Fellaini in a midfield two with Leon Osman that he wasn’t quite suited for, a floppy-haired fish out of water. Whether or not Fellaini would have been stationed there if Darron Gibson had been fit is something we shall never know.
But Gibson, McCarthy and Barry are each more suited to the central midfield berth than Fellaini – or, for that matter, Osman. Both Osman and his now former teammate have looked off the pace and unable to dictate Everton’s tempo, nor lead the charge in regaining possession from the opposition. Fellaini is far more effective as an attacking midfielder and Osman, likewise, is better the closer he is to the opposition goal. With three strong options for Martinez now, however, Osman’s place in the side – quite literally which position he can take – is in question.
Martinez has put his faith in Barkley and, so far, been quite well rewarded. At 19 there’s no reason barring injury to worry about Barkley’s fitness and, indeed, he is capable of lung-bursting runs from the half-way line and deep into opposition territory that suggest he is very much the modern player, technique combined with athleticism. Osman may become Barkley’s back-up, but is liable to spend more time on the bench than the pitch.
While that outcome would be unfortunate for Osman, for Everton to have an England international in reserve speaks to how strong the squad has become under Martinez. Fellaini and Anichebe are the only major departures from last season and each was replaced on deadline day. Long before that mad, last-gasp scramble, Martinez added four players to the squad, improving his options in goal, defence, the wings and attack, and while Everton lack the standout figure of Fellaini they are a more balanced proposition.
Now the questions over potential departures have been answered, for a few months at least, Everton and Martinez can focus on getting the best from the players at hand. The Spaniard’s start has been encouraging but not ideal, enough on offer to suggest he is on the right track but some fairly serious problems to solve. This is more his squad than before and if he doesn’t have the tools, he only has himself to blame.