With hours remaining of a transfer window that had been first drenched and then drowned in speculation surrounding many of the Barclays Premier League’s major stars, it was with an air of inevitability that once the dust had settled on the future of ‘wantaways’ Bale, Rooney and Suarez, it should once again be Everton who would foot the bill for a club that has shown an apparent lack of transfer strategy and forward-thinking during the Summer.
James McCarthy’s eleventh-hour switch from Wigan Athletic to The Toffees will help to offset the huge loss of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United, but at more than £13 million, it is a huge gamble. With only one of Sunderland’s 14 signings being British, it is to be applauded that the Merseyside club have opted to give home-grown players the chance to establish themselves at an elite level, but the undeniable truth is that there has been a real dearth of quality emerging from big outlays by clubs in recent times on the next potential wonderkid to come from our shores.
For this reason, the Goodison outfit’s move to secure the year-long services of Gareth Barry – an established England international – can be viewed as one of the shrewdest moves of the summer’s transfer activity. Solid if unspectacular, Barry’s decision to leave Eastlands may’ve gone under the radar by those who were taken in by some of the more mouth-watering prospects thrown up in the final splurges of Monday night, but the wealth of experience and versatility he shall bring will help the precocious talent of McCarthy to steadily develop in much the same way that Jack Rodwell showed signs of doing so towards the latter stages of last season alongside Barry at the Etihad Stadium.
While McCarthy’s arrival may be viewed by optimists as one for the future, and Barry’s short trip up the M62 by cynics as one coming a few seasons too late, surely most Evertonians will be buoyant at Martinez’s surprise loan move for Romelu Lukaku, who will be expected to hit the ground running following his impressive 17-goal haul last term at this level for West Bromwich Albion. Having seen Victor Anichebe follow Fellaini out the door in a £6 million move to the Hawthorns, Lukaku’s arrival is a welcome boost to a squad that would have otherwise been shorn of a physical presence.
The opening three games have seen a team struggling to adapt to the new manager’s desired style of play, dominating games without being able to penetrate teams through attacking with the necessary guile or tempo. Martinez would appear adamant that with patience, positive results will come to bear under his methods, and rather it was personnel that needed changing. The arrival of McCarthy was said to be in no way dependent upon Fellaini’s move to Old Trafford, and while a few may baulk at the fee paid for the Irishman, a case could be made that Martinez saw the Belgian’s presence as both disruptive to his system, as well as a hindrance in the development of McCarthy. Whatever the intentions of Martinez, £27.5 million represents a good deal for a player who signalled his desire to leave the club with only three hours of the window to spare – and who reportedly made up one half of a £28 million joint-bid which included Leighton Baines earlier in the summer.
It remains to be seen how this new-look Everton side shall line up when their Premier League campaign resumes at home to Chelsea in a fortnight’s time; likewise, only time will tell whether Martinez’s late trolley dash was fraught with panic, or a bold move at further strengthening a squad that had slowly been assembled by a predecessor whose overly cautious approach may still be his undoing as a manager.
Yet perhaps the most telling contributing factor to the Spaniard’s willingness to do business with Moyes over Fellaini was the huge promise Ross Barkley has shown in the month of August. Having made his debut over two years ago in a 1-0 home defeat to QPR, Barkley found his first team opportunities restricted under the old regime. Given the opportunity under new management, he has added a maturity to his undoubted talent thus far this term which suggests he is ready to become the new talisman idolised by the Gwladys Street faithful.