The mad trolley-dash would appear to have started early for some clubs, while others may only just be realizing their freezers aren’t fully stocked for the long winter nights that lie ahead.
Mario Balotelli’s £16million move to Liverpool has inadvertently created a void that Harry Redknapp may now wish to fill at QPR: the knock-on effect of Loic Remy replacing Fernando Torres at Chelsea, with AC Milan choosing to replace one mercurial talent with another. It often takes a deal involving great sums of money to light the blue touch paper for fireworks elsewhere and while the media strive to cover all angles in the build-up to the final few hours, the permutations of one money-laden Premier League club choosing to part with their surplus stash are endless.
The domino effect of Marouane Fellaini joining Manchester United for £27 million was felt greatest by Wigan Athletic after losing a Championship play-off semi-final nine months further down the line. The Belgian’s exit immediately activated the arrival of Latics midfielder James McCarthy at Everton, and the cocktail of desperation and tough negotiation will no doubt again lead to there being outright winners and losers come the early hours of Tuesday morning. The biggest losers, however, may be those who only identify a growing cancer once the window has shut.
It’s been a gruelling start for Everton. Buoyed from an excellent campaign under Roberto Martinez in his first season at the club and fresh from making Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku’s presence at Finch Farm permanent, the Toffees cruelly lost Ross Barkley to a knee injury sustained in training 48 hours before the season opener at Leicester. The results, and most glaring the defensive performances in the opening three games have left the Blues looking like an ageing squad in need of an injection of players in their pomp. McCarthy has shown himself to be an exceptional talent, and at 23 he has many years at this level ahead of him, while Seamus Coleman and indeed Lukaku can claim to be shy of their best years. But only the front three behind him on Saturday – Aiden McGeady, Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas – out of a 25-man squad can be classified as ‘at their peak’.
Losing to title favourites Chelsea in a game more akin to a Sunday league match, not only in score line but in refereeing, is not enough on its own to warrant Martinez to flick the panic switch, but the perfectionist that he is will demand far more from his preferred defensive partnership of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, who looked every inch the oldest Premier League centre-half pairing against a rampant Chelsea front-line.
John Stones performed with great composure and fearlessness during Jagielka’s absence in the second half of last campaign, but after a summer in which he narrowly missed out on World Cup selection, a spate of erratic pre-season outings would suggest throwing the 20-year-old into a defence low on confidence and high on goals conceded (10) may exacerbate Everton’s Achilles heel. Antolin Alcaraz is the other alternative, as well as being the other side of 30. The Paraguayan has only made six appearances since joining on a free transfer last summer, and will be remembered more for his unfortunate own goal which ended the side’s Champions League hopes at Southampton last April than the glimmers shown of being a deputy capable of taking the club onto the next level this time around.
The cameo from Samuel Eto’o was one of the few positives the ever-optimistic Martinez should rightfully glean from a performance bereft of defensive considerations against Jose Mourinho’s side. His instant impact at Goodison is all the more welcome given Lukaku’s unexpected poor start and Arouna Kone’s expected absence. Steven Naismith is most certainly doing his level best to offset the creative absence of Barkley, not least in terms of goals, but if Everton are to come through a winter schedule complicated by a tough Europa League draw unscathed, any money that remains in chairman Bill Kenwright’s coffers ought to be spent on reaffirming the Gwladys Street hymn of ‘playing from the back’ without the current tinge of irony it possesses.
Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 7/10