The season is not yet finished but the transfer rumour mill is grinding away. Already names from both home and abroad have been linked with moves to Everton FC ahead of next season.
It’s understandable why given the Blues’ disappointing season. This crop of players have been partly responsible for what is likely to be a bottom-half finish in 2014-15. There are mitigating circumstances, of course, with Europa League football taking its toll.
But the clamour is obvious: new faces will improve the squad.
That is true and has been recognised by Roberto Martinez, who wants to bring in new additions this summer.
The squad still has scope for improvement, however. New faces next season will not be the waving of a magic wand; instead, Martinez and his coaching staff should also concentrate on extracting even more from the players he currently has.
There is improvement in many, whether that’s because a player has been underperforming or because time and age is on their side.
Current situation: Robles can consider himself unfortunate not to be Everton’s first-choice goalkeeper after a sterling effort in place of Tim Howard earlier in the season. He is an able deputy as it is, but could really give Martinez something to think about next season. Some would argue a team can only be as strong as their no.2.
What he must improve: He is still young, so has plenty of time, but the Spaniard must work on commanding his box with more authority. High balls into the box can sometimes see him panic; he punches too frequently, although has started to catch the ball more. More confidence with the ball at his feel will see him excel, too.
End result: Joel could become first-choice at the club and become one of the league’s most promising goalkeepers. David De Gea, has shown just how a young Spanish goalkeeper can become a hero in this country and Joel would do well to follow that example.
Current situation: Talked up as a future England captain, Stones has cemented his place in central defence alongside Phil Jagielka. His composure on the ball and general classy nature in possession has led to plaudits throughout the season and has been a big part of the Blues’ improvement in defence since the turn of the year.
What he must improve: The message would be for him to keep doing what he’s doing and continue his phenomenal progression. He is already addressing how to be more pragmatic in his play, deciding when to play the ball out and when to simply put it into touch. Not overplaying is something he must fully learn, but he simply has to maintain the levels he’s been performing at.
End result: Everton will have another England international on their books. Stones should be close to the senior squad as it is, but the defender could make a real push for the Euro 2016 if he continues this form. It would also ensure the Blues have a centre back partnership amongst the best in the league.
Current situation: The Bosnian has become a bit of a Goodison hero already with his all-action style but is yet to properly cement his place in the first team. He has made 22 league appearances for the Blues and has enjoyed a solid start to the season.
What he must improve: His temperament, for one. Besic picks up a card every 155 minutes he’s on the pitch and he has spent too many games tackling on egg shells after a booking. That also feeds into his general playing style which, positionally, sometimes possesses too much indiscipline. He can be too keen to move up the field from his deeper position and leave spaces at the back.
End result: An international midfielder with good Premier League experience to boot. Besic has already played at a World Cup and now his adjustment period to English football is over. If he continues to improve, he would allow James McCarthy a bit more freedom in midfield to push forward – something the Irish international has done to devastating effect in recent weeks.
Current situation: Second-season syndrome has been bandied about Barkley’s year but, in all likelihood, it is simply because of the close attention he has received after his breakout 2013-14. It’s been a tricky time for the midfielder who still shows flashes of what he’s capable of, but has not managed a season as good as his last.
What he must improve: His decision-making has been an issue this season, moving into space and then either picking the wrong ball or not picking a ball at all. Too often he has taken it past a player and elected to shoot instead of pass, or pass instead of shoot. He must also figure out what his best role is in this Everton team – although that is a task for Martinez more than anyone else.
End result: The Ross Barkley of 2013-14 will return, bigger and better. It will give the Blues a guaranteed 7/10 performance in midfield – with the potential for me – as well as a goalscoring threat. It would also bring the fear factor back to Goodison as the youngster hurtles down the pitch, opening up space for others.
Current situation: A frustrating season for the Ireland international, dogged by injuries and inconsistency. McGeady is one of the players who Blues would like to see move on after just one goal in 10 starts this season. But he is still a winger who, on his day, can stretch the play and push the team further up the field.
What he must improve: His end product has been a source of contention for a while, and has created just 13 chances this season from an advanced position. He has the speed and trickery to get into good positions but doesn’t always take full advantage. He must also, simply put, toughen up; injuries threaten to derail his Everton career. Injuries are not entirely his fault, of course, but he must do something to ensure it doesn’t happen so often.
End result: Everton have a winger they can rely on. The wide positions have become a problem position for Martinez but McGeady, in theory, fits the profile of what the Blues need. Improvement from him could partly solve a big problem.
Current situation: Lukaku has fired 19 goals for Everton this season and has been the club’s main source of goals. It has been a decent return for the £28m record signing, with plenty still to come from the 22-year-old. He is strong, powerful and gets into good positions.
What he must improve: Strange as it may sound, the Belgian could benefit from more accuracy in front of goal. His composure is a real attribute but he can sometimes skewer his shots under pressure. His first touch also needs work, as does his hold-up play; if he is to remain on his own in a 4-3-3 then his all-round game will have to develop. There is no reason why it shouldn’t.
End result: Lukaku will become one of the best strikers in the Premier League and a guaranteed opportunity to score goals against any side, home or away. With a potential 25-goal striker available in the league to Martinez, the foundations of success are there to see.