Roberto Martinez has wasted little time at all in getting down to work as he looks to mould his Everton team ready for a push at the Premier Leagues top four.
It promises to be a busy summer for Everton’s new manager and he gave one or two clues in his press conference and subsequent interview over where his initials priorities will lie. He was quite categorical in his wish to retain the existing playing squad, and stated that he would use the funds afforded to him by the Everton board to freshen up the squad with new faces. The Spaniard, also plans to form a new backroom team, mixing new and old faces to build a support network that will ensure Everton are able to challenge at the top end of the league.
Martinez started work at Everton yesterday and stories have already leaked to the press about his wish to offer Leighton Baines a new contract. Everton’s current player of the year and for the second season in succession the Premier Leagues number one left back, Baines is a crucial component of the Everton team. The England international has two years left on his existing deal, and moves are underway to secure Baines on a longer term deal.
Rumours have also begun to circulate over a substantial bid from Arsenal for Marouane Fellaini. It is well known that Fellaini has a release clause in the region of £24m, should a team already in the Champions League come calling. Bill Kenwright has been quick to point out that the Belgium has not indicated at any time a wish to leave the Blues. Arsenal would appear to be the wrong move for Fellaini at this stage of his career. I personally do not believe a move to the Gunners represents the step up in class that Fellaini would be looking for, with the Londoners only just scraping a place in the top 4 last season. That could all change if Arsenal are able to put together a significant spending spree, but although positive noises are coming out of the Emirates, it would represent a marked change on recent club policy.
On a positive note, Martinez has already moved to confirm Phil Jagielka as his club captain, and the England centre back has been in excellent form during the last 18 months. Rumours are rife that transfer moves have already been lined up and it is believed that Martinez met with Robert Elstone yesterday to discuss transfer targets. Ex-Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz has been linked with a Bosman move to Merseyside and former Celtic winger, Aiden McGeady is reportedly Martinez’ first target. As he is about to enter the final year of his contract, the tricky winger would be available for around £4m, which would represent excellent value for the Spartak Moscow man, who cost £9.5m when he left Celtic.
Personally, I would like to see Martinez move for a centre forward, with the Blues in desperate need for more goals. Martinez will be keen to rejuvenate Jelavic, but the Croatian will need competition and support, with a 20 goals a season striker a must if Everton are to be genuine top four challenges. Alvaro Negredo would be an excellent signing, but Everton will have to convince the Spanish international that European football is a possibility and not just an ambition. From the Wigan contingent, midfielder James McCarthy would be an excellent addition. The Irish international has a growing reputation and would fit in well alongside Fellaini or as a direct replacement in a more deep lying midfield role should the Belgium move on.
Whoever comes and whoever goes, I expect Martinez to move quickly and decisively. He has already spoken about the need to hit the ground running and I am sure he would like to have new faces in place before the Blues depart to America for the International Champions Cup.