Can Everton Mount A Genuine Challenge For 4th Place?
Everton broke their transfer record last night to secure the services of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea in a deal worth 28 million pounds. By shelling out such a huge amount, the club have clearly signalled their intent to push for a finish in the top 4 and qualify for the Champions League.
Lukaku, who was on loan from Chelsea last year, was a central figure in Everton’s campaign last year as they finished 5th, missing out on Champions League football by the narrowest of margins. Scoring 15 times, he quickly settled in at Goodison Park and became the main man up front for manager Roberto Martinez. Along with Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deolofeu, loaned in from Manchester City and Barcelona respectively, formed an integral part of Everton’s squad last season.
It was expected, therefore, that this season would yield testing times for the Toffees. Along with their loan players, their other stars like Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley were expected to be targeted and signed by bigger clubs.
Martinez though, has done a stellar job in the transfer window. Deulofeu has gone back to Spain, but the club wasted no time in signing Barry on a free transfer from City, where he had fallen out of favour. The Englishman was one of Everton’s best players last year, operating in a deep-lying midfield and providing some much-needed stability in the middle of the park.
Coleman and Baines have been convinced to stay, and are likely to move elsewhere from here on in. Also, Barkley has signed a four-year extension to his contract which will keep him at the club 2018. The 20 year-old was a revelation last year, and was said to be the target for several top clubs including Manchester City and Chelsea.
Earlier this week, Everton signed highly-rated Serbian midfielder Muahmed Besic from Ferencvaros. The defensive midfielder impressed at the recent World Cup, and at 21, looks like one of the stars of the future.
Lukaku’s addition means that Martinez doesn’t have to look elsewhere for a striker and has a tried and tested player to lead the line next season. It also means that the Everton squad is more or less the same from last campaign, something that is sure to be a factor in the upcoming season.
The competition for 4th is tough. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United will start as favourites to finish above Everton, while Tottenham will give themselves a good chance too.
Last season though, when David Moyes left the club to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, no one gave Everton a real chance to challenge for a Champions League spot. But Martinez not only met expectations, but also exceeded them. He introduced a more attacking style of football which caught everyone’s eye, and pushed Arsenal right to the limit.
You wouldn’t put it past them to defy the odds again.
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