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Martinez must play to Cleverley's attacking strengths

Tom Cleverley will sign a five-year deal with Everton on July 1 and become the club's first signing of the summer, arriving on a free transfer from Manchester United after spending last season on loan at Aston Villa.

Cleverley is the latest of a number to move between Manchester and Merseyside in recent history. David Moyes, Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney are the big names to swap blue for red in the last decade. Those moving in the opposite direction include Louis Saha, Darron Gibson, Phil Neville and Tim Howard.

Red carpets and fanfare are likely to be in short supply when Cleverley is officially unveiled next month, but that is not solely down to the player. Cleverley's challenge is to continue disproving the trend of Everton and their perceived recruitment of underwhelming midfielders. Even at a knockdown price, Gibson returned minimal acclaim on arrival, while the signing of James McCarthy for £13 million raised several eyebrows, as did the decision to acquire Gareth Barry from Manchester City. However, while injury has increasingly limited Gibson's impact, McCarthy and Barry soon eased any doubts about their ability and the two began to highlight their influence on this team. Cleverley's task is clear.

This midfielder may require every ounce of the positive thinking Martinez thrives on. While some may not rate the 25-year-old midfielder, Cleverley has a definite fan in manager Martinez. Fresh from a breakthrough loan spell at Watford in 2009-10, a season ending with the club's player of the season award, Cleverley began a season-long loan at Martinez's Wigan the following summer.

Martinez also spoke in defence of Cleverley in response to the online petition set up by fans that tried to prevent Cleverley from playing at the 2014 World Cup while the player was struggling at United. This admiration from Martinez culminated in a failed attempt to sign the player at the start of last season. But now, the Blues' boss finally has his man.

Tom Cleverley started 31 Premier League matches for Aston Villa in 2014-15.
Tom Cleverley started 31 Premier League matches for Aston Villa in 2014-15.

Used unsuccessfully in a deeper role, under both David Moyes at Manchester United and during his time with Paul Lambert at Aston Villa, Cleverley suffered a crisis of confidence and adopted a cautious brand of football alienating him from the supporters expected to back him. Those viewing him on a weekly basis saw a player too often passing backwards or sideways, a player afraid to take risks for fear of failure and further scrutiny.

Last season saw an increasingly agitated Goodison crowd quick to voice any disapproval toward those on the pitch, so there is obvious initial concern surrounding the arrival of a player who has shown brittle confidence and belief in the past, one who could suffer under the expectations and watchful glances of those on the terraces.

In light of those doubts and the inconsistent performances in recent seasons, time will only tell whether this transfer is hit or miss, whether Everton are getting the Cleverley shunned at Old Trafford or the player resurgent in recent weeks at Aston Villa. But there is no disputing the welcome sight of a new arrival boosting the numbers of a squad in need of several fresh faces before the summer is out.

Joining a team in need of greater creativity and an added goal threat, Cleverley offers a different option to the current crop of central midfielders. For all their positive impact, Barry, McCarthy and Muhamed Besic remain heralded more for their destructive work than their attacking finesse.

Versatility is another potential string to the Cleverley bow. Given the fitness concerns surrounding Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman, as the pair near the end of their careers, it would not too surprising to see Cleverley appear as a possible alternative on the left side of the midfield.

Likewise, Villa boss Tim Sherwood oversaw the midfielder's resurgence by switching the England international to an attacking role toward the right side of midfield, while the better football of his time at United arrived in an advanced central position.

This switch to an advanced role transformed Cleverley's loan spell at Villa Park, according to ESPN FC's Aston Villa writer Kevin Hughes. "The final third of the season saw a completely different player," said Hughes. "He scored three goals in three games towards the end of the season, and the latter two really showed him at his best, busting a gut to get into the opposition penalty area and finish off the chance."

The views of those who have seen Cleverley on a regular basis, and the continued faith and appreciation shown by Martinez, suggest this is a (potentially) good player merely needing constant football in a role suited to his abilities; a role focused more on attack than defence. This could be the ideal move for all concerned.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.


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