Everton in 2014/15 – Luk who’s spending now

Read Crystal Palace in 2014/15 – Building on solid foundations

Read Hull City in 2014/15 – Bruce still looking to earn his stripes

Roberto Martinez was a revelation last season, proving many doubters wrong and building upon the stability of David Moyes’ legacy. After selling Fellaini for an incredible price, he perhaps overpaid for James McCarthy from his former side Wigan. Nevertheless, his signing, plus the loan additions of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu turned Everton into genuine European spot contenders.

The form of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman were stand out helping Everton become the highest scoring defence in the league (13 in total; six for Coleman and five for Baines), while Kevin Mirallas and in particular young starlet Ross Barkley were able to progress their development. After pushing Arsenal all the way for the final Champions League spot, the plucky Evertonians had to settle for a Europa League place as they finished the campaign in an impressive 5th place.

Aims for the season ahead

Everton need to maintain themselves as European challengers and build upon the successes of last season. The toffees certainly signalled their intent paying a club record £28m for the permanent signing of previously on-loan Romelu Lukaku, whose talent is not in question. A proven Premier League goalscorer, with the same manager and squad – you would expect the powerful Belgian can be a success once again at Goodison Park. The pressure, however, is now on Martinez to vindicate Bill Kenwright’s investment as anything outside the top six would be regarded as a somewhat of a failure.

This may seem harsh given the suspected return of Man Utd, but such an outlay would signal that European football is a must. Martinez will need to replace the wizardry of Deulofeu, and a similar loan deal may suit the Spaniard, particularly if, as suspected, Mr Kenwright’s pockets are now empty. Martinez’s continental attacking approach should serve them well in Europe. England U21 defender John Stones must also be further integrated into the first team if his development is to continue. Everton also can’t rely on the goalscoring exploits of their defenders once more, so the likes of Mirallas, Kone and Naismith will need to step up and support Lukaku in the goalscoring stakes.

Key summer signing so far

Romelu Lukaku. Martinez’s ‘difficult second season’ might be alleviated by the arrival of the striker, whose price tag nearly doubled that of previous record signing Marouane Fellaini. His Premier League pedigree is clear and his link up with countryman Mirallas and Barkley burgeoned last season to spectacular effect. He has the physicality to succeed and an eye for goal that makes him one of the most clinical finishers in the league. Chelsea’s loss is Everton’s gain, and this signing will raise the profile of the new-look Merseyside club. The prospect of a now happy and settled Lukaku means his best is yet to come.

Predicted finish: 7th

Despite such an historic and marquee signing in Lukaku, and the more understated but just as important transfer of Gareth Barry, I still think Everton will fall short of a top six finish this season. Coping with European competition as well as three domestic competitions will significantly challenge Martinez’s relatively shallow squad, as they currently have the second smallest squad in the Premier League. The chairman may need to invest in further squad depth if they are to cope with what promises to be an exciting but difficult season ahead.

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