Everton have had a fantastic first half of the season under Roberto Martinez. The Everton players have adapted well to Martinez’s approach to the game and in the process, the Toffees are in contention of finishing in fourth place A top four finish is something that Martinez suggested in the summer to the surprise of much of the media, but his teams performances so far this season have backed up his claims. Everton have lost only two games this season, the least in the league, showing that Martinez’s football has the right blend of attacking and defending. Like Liverpool, Everton have been thriving without the burden of Europa League football, which has allowed a good finish in the Premier League to be their main focus. During this transfer window Martinez has brought in Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore, strengthening his squad further.
McGeady’s arrival has brought more depth to Everton’s squad. Before he left for Everton, McGeady had scored one goal and provided four assists for Spartak Moscow this season. There is no doubt that he will be able to bring even more creativity to Everton’s squad. His arrival means that Everton have more flexibility in positions. In their last Premier League game, Kevin Mirallas was give the chance to play behind Romelu Lukaku with Leon Osman on the left. Mirallas has been mainly operating on the wings for Everton this season, but with Ross Barkley injured and McGeady’s arrival, he could get the opportunity to play centrally. When Barkley and Steven Pienaar return, Everton will have a multitude of players who are able to operate behind Lukaku. McGeady, Pienaar, Barkley, Mirallas, Osman, Gerard Deulofeu, Steven Naismith and of late Brian Oviedo, are all capable of occupying attacking positions. This will no doubt be of great help in their quest for fourth spot.
One problem Everton did have is their lack of depth up front. With the sale of Nikica Jelavic to Hull City and the long term injury to Arouna Kone, the only back up Everton have for the on loan Lukaku is Apostolos Vellios. Although Mirallas and Naismith can also operate as strikers, it seems that Martinez prefers more of a target man for his teams style of play. It was therefore important that they brought in a striker in January as Martinez has suggested. The Toffees have signed Lacina Traore on loan for the rest of the season. The player has been granted a work permit a few days ago, but an injury to Radamel Falcao, which could see him out for the rest of the season, cast the deal into doubt. The deals confirmation now means Martinez has the back up striker he desired.
Traore is very much the type of forward that Martinez likes in his Everton team. He stands and 6 ft 8 and is strong and powerful. He is able to be the focal point that Martinez requires in his system. His signing will also allow Lukaku a break as the goals have dried up for the on loan Chelsea man in the last month. At 23, Traore is still quite a raw talent. He has only just signed in January for Monaco from Anzhi, and seems to be one for the Ligue 1 side’s future. Last season he managed 12 goals in the league for Anzhi before their owner pulled the plug on his investment in the side. He has all the characteristics to be suited to the Premier League and should provide ample back up for Lukaku.
The squad depth that Everton posses has gone unnoticed by many, particular in the attacking midfield positions. The sturdy performances of their defence so far this season has given them a good base for their attacking players to work from. The signings of McGeady and Traore should enhance their top four chances. Whether they can do it given the strength of the other challengers remains to be seen, but their first half of the season has put them in with a shout come the end of the season.