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50-50 Challenge: Merseyside derby

Liverpool vs. Everton Sep 25, 2014
Read
Sep 3, 2014

How did Everton do in the window?

Romelu Lukaku spoke of his desire to help make Everton "one of the best teams in England" after completing his club-record 47 million deal to Goodison Park.

Ins and outs

Players in: Gareth Barry (Manchester City, 1 million pounds), Romelu Lukaku (28 million pounds), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros, undisclosed), Brendan Galloway (MK Dons, undisclosed), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, loan), Samuel Eto'o (Chelsea, free), David Henen (Olympiakos, loan)

Players out: Apostolos Vellios, Mason Springthorpe (both released), Shane Duffy (Blackburn, undisclosed)

Sum up the window

Excitement briefly hit uncharted heights earlier this month, when Ross Barkley signed a new contract and Besic and Lukaku arrived within days of each other, but business has ticked over at a steady pace otherwise.

Using this window to add to a squad that so nearly gate-crashed the Champions League party, central midfield and attack has received the necessary strengthening.

The arrival of Besic -- a disastrous competitive debut aside -- and Barry ensures the Blues are strong in the middle of the park. Ahead of them, the record signing of Lukaku and the recent acquisition of Eto'o maintain Roberto Martinez's preference for having three centre-forwards at his disposal.

Youngsters Sam Byrne and Brendan Galloway will link up with the under-21 side, while the loan signing of Atsu covers for Deulofeu returning to Spain.

Elsewhere, those on the fringes deemed surplus to requirement found their path to the exit door.

Aside from the incomings, though, the doubts accompanying each transfer window linger on, and this latest incarnation was no different.

No matter how good it gets, there is often a sense that an opportunity went begging somewhere along the way, but more on that later.

Overall, Everton's transfer window gets an 8 out of 10.

Best piece of business?

Naturally, the record fee parted with for Lukaku is the dominant story. However, with the fee more reflective of his potential than his current standing, the best business may lie elsewhere.

The permanent addition of Barry is an astute move, but with supporters already well versed in his qualities after last season, the deal for Eto'o looks the shrewdest of the five main transfers this summer, especially if his lively, goal-scoring debut against his former club is a sign of things to come.

As expected, there was an air of excellence about his work. From the flick that almost created an exquisite goal for Kevin Mirallas to the through ball narrowly evading Lukaku to the deft header landing in the corner of the net, Eto'o was a joy to watch in his home debut.

Offering a wealth of experience, quality and finishing ability, the wily Cameroonian is a different, welcome alternative to Lukaku and Arouna Kone.

Averaging a goal every other game throughout his long and illustrious career, the hope is the 33-year-old can replicate this scoring rate at Everton.

Samuel Eto'o may just be Everton's shrewdest piece of transfer business.

Worst piece of business?

With each of the new (major) signings essential, and having shown their ability, either since joining or beforehand, the worst piece of business looks to be the decision to hand Tony Hibbert a new two-year deal.

Now, before his staunch supporters start up a lynch mob, let me clarify: This is not necessarily a slight on the player, rather the questioning of a seemingly baffling Martinez decision.

With Seamus Coleman only deemed fit enough for the bench on the opening day at Leicester, young centre-back John Stones found himself preferred to Hibbert, despite having never looked comfortable when previously employed as a full-back.

If Martinez is not going to use an experienced player in his rightful position, then there really is no logical explanation for the new contract afforded to Hibbert.

If his experience and defensive qualities are useful assets to have, which is something Martinez has referenced in the past, a coaching position is surely the option best suiting the parties involved.

Aside from Hibbert, the final deal of the window raised many eyebrows. Having trained with Everton for a month, only to sign for Olympiakos then be loaned to the Blues on the same day, the complicated Henen transfer was a head-scratcher, especially for a player touted as an under-21 player throughout the summer.

What remaining issues are there?

The squad is the strongest in recent memory. Glancing through it, there are, with one or two possible exceptions, two first-team players for every position. There is also a collection of youngsters on the periphery, hoping to break through and replicate the progress made last term by the likes of Barkley and Stones.

Still, in spite of the quality added this window, the nagging issue over the depth of the squad remains. As mentioned earlier, the lack of genuine (trusted) cover at right-back is a worry, while few would have frowned upon the loan arrival of a creative midfielder to temper the absence, albeit temporary, of Barkley and Steven Pienaar.

With a long season ahead, perhaps the biggest concern is central defence. Discounting Stones, the remaining three are on the wrong side of 30, and one of those, Antolin Alcaraz, appears to have limbs made of tissue paper. The addition of further defensive numbers may have eased fears surrounding a defence currently leaking goals.

Following on from that, it is a touch disquieting to note that, not counting goalkeepers, Alcaraz is the only defensive first-team addition in three transfer windows. It is important that this department does not go neglected for too long.

Who can help in January?

On the edge of the first team at the Etihad, and with Everton suspect in central defence thus far, a January move for Manchester City's Matija Nastasic, a player linked in this window, would bring a smile to the face of supporters. Young, composed and left-footed, Nastasic, on paper at least, would seem the ideal long-term replacement for an aging Sylvain Distin. The former Portsmouth defender turns 37 in December and cannot have many years left.

Another on the radar is Tom Cleverley. Despite his season-long loan switch to Aston Villa at the 11th hour, Everton might yet revive their interest, with the player out of contract at the end of the season. Or, with talk of a January break clause, the Blues may return to their pursuit in the next window. Working under Martinez at Wigan, Cleverley is seen as a potentially useful addition, one capable of filling various midfield positions.

Until the next window, though, with a packed September fixture list and beyond, the Blues may have to cross their fingers and pray injuries and suspensions are kind to a talented squad looking just a tad short.

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