Whether or not we make the Champions League, we seem almost certain to be involved in European competition next season. As many have noted with regards to Liverpools success this season, playing in Europe can be a burden that makes life difficult for clubs, and the theory is highly prevalent that Liverpool are about to win the league precisely because they failed to qualify for Europe last year.

This has led to a debate about whether or not we want to be in the Europa League, and if it is a worthwhile competition. Im not particularly interested in that debate, suffice to say my opinion is that we should be in it and should try to win it. However, we want to do that in a way that doesnt have a negative effect on trying to finish in the top four (and at times this season Ive even looked at the table and found a way to dream about winning the league).

Our only option then is a strong squad capable of maintaining a challenge in multiple competitions. The accepted wisdom in this regard is that you basically need two experienced first-team players for every position, and a few more options besides. When you look at the names in our squad, with a few caveats, we are not very far away from having this.

Roberto himself has talked about needing around 27 players, and this week specifically four strikers if we are going to be involved in Europe. A look at our current squad should then suggest areas that we need to sign players simply to get up to minimum requirement. All this needs to be considered before we even look at which of our players we consider not good enough and would like to replace.

By the way, I dont just see this as an FM-style who-should-we-sign?’ thread, as reading between the lines of various rumours and the places Martinez has been scouting and sending people, it seems he has identified similar areas, so I think we will see movement in the areas I identify.

Goalkeepers: In goal we have two players whove played in the first team this season, Howard and Joel. Both have their critics and Joel needs to learn about catching, but I dont think there will be any movement in this area this summer. If there was, weve missed a trick by not picking up Hennessey for practically nothing. He was on his way to the top before a serious knee injury two years ago and class is permanent.

Right-Back: I believe we need to sign a backup right-back. Coleman is obviously outstanding, but he will need resting, and Tony Hibbert, God love him, is simply not a replacement for Coleman the way Everton now play the game. John Stones played right back as a young man at Barnsley, but his flourishing in central defence and his poor performance in this position in the derby suggests that he will stay in the centre. We havent seen any links here though, so I dont know if Martinez doesnt agree with this or if backup right-backs just dont make juicy rumours. Kieran Trippier at Burnley is outstanding, but their promotion makes him unlikely to leave or cheap, but I would go back in for Kyle Naughton, whos been awful at Tottenham, but still has that talent and potential that we would trust Martinez to unlock and enable to flourish. Micah Richards has also made noises about leaving Man City, but I dont think hed come to be a backup and I think his future may be at centre-back anyway.

Left-Back: Arguably our strongest area; between Baines, Oviedo and the potential of Garbutt, there will be no movement here.

Centre-Back: We have four first-choice players here. Distin, Jagielka, Stones and Alcaraz have all played and looked good this season. Caveats to this are Distins age and Alcarazs fitness, but there is the backup of three players with first team experience on loan this season in Shane Duffy, Matthew Pennington and Tyias Browning. We were linked with young Forest centre-back Jamal Lascelles this season, but I dont expect to see too much movement. I wonder also if Hibbert would be considered to play here under Martinez. Micah Richards could be a long-term possibility here.

Defensive Midfield: This is the area we most need strengthening. Even without Europe, Barry and McCarthy have looked overworked at times this season, and the resting or slight knock McCarthy had against Crystal Palace looks to have blown the Champions League qualification. Re-signing Barry is a must in most eyes, including mine, but even with a fully fit Darron Gibson (something we shouldnt take for granted) we still need another player just to get up to the four we should have. Thus we may need to sign only one player (if Barry stays and Gibson gets fit and useful) or we may even need three. This is reflected in recent links with and discussion of the likes of Stambouli (who can also play in defence apparently), Jack Cork, Tom Cleverley and Jack Rodwell. I would take Rodwell back for reasons Ive outlined elsewhere, but at the least I think its clear we will be signing players in this position.

Looking deeper into the squad, John Lundstram and Francisco Junior have played first team football elsewhere this season, but at best they will be additional cover beyond the four first teamers next season. I dont consider Osman or Barkley to be good long-term options in this position, although Martinez has talked about Baines playing here and Id be intrigued to see Oviedo given a go as I think he has the attributes. If Garbutt is good enough to be one of two first-team left-backs either is a possibility.

Attacking Midfield: Im going to include all three positions in this discussion. We are the strongest weve ever been here and Martinez seems to be doing what Moyes never realised was necessary, which is bringing players off the bench to gain points in the last 20 minutes of the match. Pienaar, Barkley and Mirallas have probably been first choice, although Osman has played loads and McGeady and Deulofeu clearly count as experienced first choice players, so weve already got the six for three positions. I think we will see some movement here, even if its only to re-sign Deulofeu. There is a whole thread devoted to this so I wont discuss it too much, but if Deulofeu doesnt come back, Martinez will look to replace him, probably with a similarly talented young loanee from a major European club. We also have the potential of Matthew Kennedy who has been out loan and may get a look-in as an additional player. George Green will most likely get a loan out if anything so wont be seen in our first team I dont think.

Striker: Although we regularly play with only a single out-and-out striker, our tactical flexibility and Martinezs willingness to change styles with substitutions means that he wants the option of having two players for two positions here. This season, we have had Lukaku and Naismith. Traor was intended as back-up and Mirallas made a couple of cameos up-top to good effect. Kon of course was intended to be part of this but has missed the entire season. With all this in mind, it seems we will definitely see movement here. I personally am in the sign Lukaku camp but, even if we do, it seems we will be signing another striker, even if only on loan. Today there is discussion of Lacina Traor spending another season here, and he seems to have been signed by someone other than the coach at Monaco. A recent link with Welbeck interests me, although many seem to react negatively to signing players from Man Utd, with the attitude that If theyre not good enough for them theyre not good enough for us. I disagree with this and see it as an overly simplistic way of looking at things.

So, if youre still with me, I am arguing that we should expect to re-sign or replace Barry plus one other defensive midfielder, we should expect to sign a backup right-back, we will re-sign or replace Deulofeu and we will re-sign or replace Lukaku and Traor.

If we take away our current four loan signings, we need six new players. The good news is that three or even four of those six might be the same people and already integrated into the club. Budget-wise, we should probably expect three of those signings to be on loan, and perhaps not concluded until deadline day after the start of the season, although we will be far better off if we get it done early.

I dont expect anyone to leave, with the possible exception of Hibbert, who doesnt really fit into any of these plans, and anyone else who does leave that Ive mentioned above would need to be replaced. Im a believer in continuity over excessive transfer activity so I would hope to avoid that. It would be the season after that we would look to replace ageing players such as Distin, Alcaraz, Osman, Pienaar and by then, Barry.

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Nick Entwistle
2 Posted 24/04/2014 at 15:18:18
There's no such thing as a completed squad of course, but we are strong with our first XI. The second for next season probably...

Hibbert Distin Alcaraz Oviedo
Gibson Osman
Del Naismith McGeady

Certainly good enough to get through to the more interesting rounds of the Europa.

One of the good things about Martinez's style is that with relatively little chop and change, 1st team players aren't knackered out as with the 100mph style previous and would be in good enough shape to take part in the latter rounds.

And as much as we all hoped for young talent to eventually make their way in under Moyes, we'll know by start of next season if Garbutt, Duffy etc have a future. Obviously the secret weapon will be our key player.

The biggest question as always is how much sales and Sky money Bill wants to give up.

Ray Roche
4 Posted 24/04/2014 at 15:39:22
Just read this on Sports Witness, interesting.

"According to Spanish newspaper AS, Gerard Deulofeu could continue at Everton next season despite previous claims that he would be returning to Barcelona after the current campaign. The 20 year old attacker has repeatedly said how happy he is on Merseyside and how good the loan to Everton has been for his football career. He's adored by the supporters and, in turn, has praised the Goodison Park faithful to the Spanish media. Martinez is thought of very highly at the Spanish club, his Catalan background doing him favours in this respect. Keeping Deulofeu would be a big boost for Martinez as the Everton manager looks to negate the loss of any of this season's loan stars."

Shane Corcoran
5 Posted 24/04/2014 at 15:45:21
Ray, I just posted what appears to be confirmation of this on another thread.
Mike, nicely summarised and I tend to agree with pretty much all you've said.
It saves me analysing it for myself.
Dan McKie
6 Posted 24/04/2014 at 15:41:35
I am in the camp of 'I would like Lukaku signed, but know we have little to no chance of doing so'. The reason I say that is because obviously, Chelsea hold all the cards. I don't understand the 20m figure for a start, as they paid 18m themselves, before sending him out to have 2 very good seasons in the Premier League, and he is still only 20. Secondly, they will wait until after the world cup, as if he has a good one, his value will rocket, teams will queue up, and they also have the option of just keeping him to themselves.

As for the rest of this article, I tend to agree with it, although if we were to receive bids of 15m+ for Baines, i'd say take it, and again, very possible if he goes/plays well in the world cup. Purely for age/Oviedo reasons, not ability, as barring some patchy recent form, Baines is class, but we have been saddled to often with 30 somethings earning massive money with value diminishing, which is where Baines will be in a couple of years. I still think we will be 'trading' for a good few seasons yet, and would much rather lose a Baines, than a Barkley.

Kevin Tully
7 Posted 24/04/2014 at 15:51:42
Most of the opposition (along with some of our own fans) and T.V 'pundits' seem to think we are going to badly regress next season without our loan players from this term. They tell us as soon as Lukaku is gone we will be up shit creek. Why? Are we only allowed to play with ten men next season? Are his 13 goals in an attacking side aiming for a top 4 finish irreplaceable? I don't think so.

That only reinforces how little these people know what is occurring at Goodison under Martinez.

Take out Jagielka, Distin, Mirallas, Pienaar and Gibson last season and we would be totally lost. We would have probably seen Heitinga and Hibbert taking up central defensive duties, Osman moved to left wing, and Fellaini back as a D.M.

Look at the players on that list above, and the fact we are still massively confident should tell you how far we have come this season.

The fact Barry, Lukaku and Deulofeu may be going doesn't bother me at all. We will splash out on a decent striker like Bony (Guess how many he's bagged in a struggling Swansea side?) and Barry will be replaced by the likes of Cleverley. Deulofeu may even stay, but I fully expect McGeady to seamlessly replace his contribution.

Watch out everyone - we'll be even better next season!

Lee Scully
8 Posted 24/04/2014 at 16:53:35
Excellent article. I agree with this comprehensive assessment.
Patrick Murphy
9 Posted 24/04/2014 at 16:53:36
I tend to agree with your assessment Kevin, however, the likes of Jags and Distin and a couple of others are getting a bit long in the tooth and some of them are now becoming prone to injury on a more regular basis, so it is imperative that we get some defensive cover. If we can get some of the less useful squad members off the books that may give Roberto the chance to overhaul the squad which I believe is long overdue.

As always it also depends on how much money is available for recruitment and history shows it won't be as much as our rivals even clubs such as Villa and Newcastle will probably spend as much or more than we will.

It'll still be touch and go as to whether we can sustain or improve our position in the coming season, but it won't be lacking in excitement that's for sure.

Keith Simmonds
10 Posted 24/04/2014 at 17:09:45
Kalou and Snodgrass to add to forward line. Not sure about defenders. Shame Palace are doing well as Jedinak would be good if we don't get Barry.
Bill Griffiths
11 Posted 24/04/2014 at 17:32:28
Don’t be so pessimistic Patrick, I can’t believe you’re worried about Newcastle and Villa. Anyway spending loads of money is no guarantee to success even mega-loads, just ask Tottenham Fans what it’s done for them.
Trust in Roberto.
Steavey Buckley
12 Posted 24/04/2014 at 18:17:20
Roberto having Everton players being able to pass the ball accurately to each other on a regular basis during a match has been the real great improvement this season. But with Stones being able to pass the ball accurately and able to carry the ball into the opposition's half, there most be doubts about Jags getting his place back. In fact, if any other Everton player who uncomfortable with the ball, there is no much of a future at this club anymore. The days of huff football have gone.
Jeff Beaumont
13 Posted 24/04/2014 at 19:30:07
Strangely for the past month I've thought that maybe we've seen Jags play his last game for us.
Darren Hind
14 Posted 24/04/2014 at 19:08:55
I think people who try to judge Lukaku purely on the number of goals he has scored havent quite fully understood what they have been watching this season.

We were battered at Anfield after he went off, the shite tore into us in the certain knowledge that we couldnt hurt them, Sure we scraped a couple of late wins when he was out injured, but Teams like Chelsea and Spurs just sat and restricted us to long range efforts. Just like the shite they knew we couldnt hurt them. If memory serves me right thats when so many of his critics were bemoaning our " injury crisis" . . .short memories these critics have already forgotten those tortuous performances against Stevenage, Cardiff and WBA ( before Lukaku got here )

Lukaku has his faults, what kid doesnt? But his record would already suggest he the best young striker in the game. You do not improve by letting those go.

I've made no secret of the fact that I got on Everton to finish top four before this season started, but I wont be rushing to have the same bet next season. I'd put money on every other team in the top seven being stronger.

IMO its now or never, We must get Champions league football, because we have a lot of players who know they are good enough and will want to prove it.

If Martinez is not up to the task, Every single one of our players will jump at the chance to go and play for a manager who is.

Stronger next season ? I love to think so. . . But I don't think I' ll be troubling the bookies if we fail this time.

Patrick Murphy
15 Posted 24/04/2014 at 19:50:40
Darren what do you mean if Roberto is not up to the task? It's the bloody club that is not up to the task not any given manager. Without Roberto's inspiration and coaching we would probably be at least a dozen points worse off and dreaming of getting Europa.
Peter Warren
16 Posted 24/04/2014 at 21:04:43
I would try to sign a host of players from Manchester being Richards, Rodwell, Cleverley, Lescott and Hernandez.
Sam Hoare
17 Posted 24/04/2014 at 21:13:59
Peter I expect that lot would cost upwards of 40m. More than we have to spend.

The difficulty this summer will be balancing our need with our finances. Lots of people would like us to bring in Lukaku but he would likely cost the entire budget (and possibly then some).

It will be up to Martinez and his team to somehow keep pace with and better the teams around us despite them having two or three times our transfer spend and that will require no little amount of cleverness.

I would say we definitely need a striker, a defensive midfielder and another playmaker.

Mark Frere
18 Posted 24/04/2014 at 21:29:23
Very good article, Mike. I think the attacking midfield area needs adding to - we are okay as far as wingers are concerned, that is if Deulofeu is back next season.....although if the chance of Signing Tom Ince arises , we should grab that opportunity with both hands. Ince is a free agent this summer.

The central attacking midfield area is a position that needs addressing; Osman has played there many times this season, and has been excellent in some games but inconsistency and looking more like 43 year old than a 33 year old has been a big problem for him. Barkley's form has been a bit hit-and-miss. He's been a joy to watch at times and the talent and potential is there for all to see but his final ball is nowhere near that of a top player yet....it does worry me that, that part of his game will never fully develop - that's the only part of his game which will prevent him from becoming a world class player.

A creative player in the mould of Carzorla is needed to play that killer pass and link up play....Naismith doesn't fit into this catergory either. A new RB will be very welcome as this will surely be Hibbert's last season, but please god no! Naughton is not the answer! We should be looking abroad for a right footed version of Oviedo, with a similar transfer fee.

Can't see us spending 20 million plus on Lukaku and with that atrocious first touch of his, it begs the question: is he really the striker we need? The way we play needs a striker who is comfortable with the ball played to feet. Lukaku is better getting on the end of crosses, we don't really play to his strengths. I hope and expect Barry and Deulofeu to be back next season. And personally, I think we will need 2 strikers, a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfieder, and a new RB. The quality and difference in loan and permanent signings will be dependent on weather we are in the CL or Europa League.

Henrik Lyngsie
19 Posted 24/04/2014 at 21:29:22
There seems to be a lot of ToffeeWebbers questioning Lukaku, in particular his first touch, and the argument is we should not spend 20 million on him. (Some argue he is not worth 20 million and others argue that it would be our whole budget on transfers, or even more.)

I would argue that 20 million for Lukaku would be a bargain. He is a fantastic goalscorer himself and he creates chances for others both via his passing but also by keeping the defence occupied. However, I would agree with those saying his first touch is poor. But he is a striker and main objective is to score and create goals and he does that. And he will continue doing that for many years. And he is only 20 so may be his first touch will improve.

Buying him would be a safe investment. If he continues his improvement he will be worth 50 million after three years. And we could sell him back to Chelsea!! Or play him in the Champions League.

Bear in mind, strikers don't go cheaply. For around 5 million, you will get Anichebe or Jelavic. 8.5 million, you get Altidore or Van Wolswinkel. 15 million, you get Osvaldo, and 25 million Soldado or Jovetic.

If we want to challenge for Champions League we should go for Lukaku. Somehow, I don't think Chelsea will keep him but, if he is available for 20 million, I could see both Tottenham and Arsenal being very interested. I would therefore consider ourselves very fortunate if we could buy him this summer for 20 million. That should be our main target. (We can then keep Hibbo as right back cover and save a transfer fee.)

Paul Andrews
20 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:16:23

We won't spend 20 million on any player.

Darren Hind
21 Posted 24/04/2014 at 21:53:19
Its a simple enough point Patrick

You may think that by beliitling our club you are bigging up Martinez, but you simply draw attention to the facts. This club has always operated at a higher level than him
Yet you 'd have us believe the club is holding HIM back ?

The stars were nicely aligned for us this season, we didnt just get rid of Moyes, he fucked off to one of the big boys and wrecked them.

With AVB and Pardew doing similar jobs at Newcastle and Spurs, it could be argued (and I'm arguing it ) that top five with this group of players was a gimee for any manager worth his salt.

Not being David Moyes is not enough for me. I want more from this manager.

Patrick Murphy
22 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:23:58
Darren the same rule applied to David Moyes, Walter Smith and to a lesser degree to Joe Royle - I'm not bigging up Martinez although I do think he has been magnificent in his first season The people who have been responsible for off field matters have held the club back there is little or no doubt about that. Sponsorship deals, high interest loans etc etc not down to the players or the managers. If the board get their act together we might have a real chance but if they don't then Roberto will go the same way as the others to a club who do have the money - but unlike Moyes he will succeed because he is a very good manager.

As for belittling our club are you really happy with the way the club has been run for the past twenty odd years - I know I'm not. But I recognise a good manager when I see one.

Denis Richardson
23 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:01:24
Nice article and I tend to agree with most of it although I think we're actually closer to the 2 per position as most think. My preference in order of importance would be;

a) keep hold of Lukaku, if it needs, spend most of the transfer budget on him and sign him up long term. He's still learning and given his age we wont lose any money. With Kone coming back, we're not in any urgent need of more strikers given we generally play with 1 up front and also have Naismith as a forward. Added to that also probably Traore on loan.

b) Sign Barry up for at least another season if not 2. He can go to the MLS in 2 years time if he wants. The higher TV money must mean we can afford to give him decent wages for a couple of years.

c) I think we should look at AM. Imo Pienaar is done and Osman at 33 isn't far behind. Added to that McGeady looks busy but not much more (yet), Delboy is still learning and young Ross is still developing. If we could sign an experienced (not old) AM with real class, I think we'd see a lot more chances created. Someone like Kagawa, who would presumably be relatively cheap, would be ideal I think - not to mention the fact he's massive in Japan (just need to bin the kitbag deal!).

d) I cannot imagine Gibbo playing for any length of time without suffering further injury so we have to sign a DCM, even if we keep Barry. Gibbo is going to spend at least half a season in sick bay every year so you just cannot plan a season with him in it, sorry to say.

e) last and not least, ideally sign a RB who can also play CB if needed. Distins legs will go at some point (surely!) and we cannot rely on Alcaraz to remain injury free either so CB could be a problem if Distin and Alcaraz are suddenly out. Given the RB will be back up, a young hungry player from the championship or overseas would be ideal here.

Other than that I think we're good to go assuming all 3 current long term injured first teamers are back....above is all obvioulsy assuming we don't lose anyone...

Phil Sammon
24 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:31:53

You seem to be confusing 'Everton' and the people who run it. The club itself is a glorious Goliath of world sport. The people who run it are not fit to shine Joe Parkinson's boots.

That bit you wrote about 'stars aligned' was bollocks too. We are 5th because we have our record points total. It's coincided with a crap season for Man Utd, but also a fantastic season for the unmentionables. Don't sell Martinez short.

Incidentally, as pessimistic as you as, I'm inclined to ask why you'd bet on us to do so well this year, despite our useless Spaniard at the helm.

Darren Hind
25 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:30:17
The three you mention all took over struggling teams Patrick. Martinez took over a group of players who were good enough to take advantage of substandard performances by any of the big clubs.

No I 'm not happy with the way our club is run, The chairman is less than useless ..but he isn't resonsible for all those points we surrendered by simply not being equipped to do the basics when defending free kicks.

I hold Kenwright responsible for a lot of things, but it wasnt him who surrendered our advantage over Arsenal by having is kecks removed by that tactical genius Tony
Fucking Pulis.

I'm desperate for CL footy to come to the old lady and if Robbie brings it, I will be delighted with him. but if he doesn't, I will remember an opportunity uneccesarily squandered.

Patrick Murphy
26 Posted 24/04/2014 at 23:06:30
Darren yes Pulis screwed us over and three valuable points were lost, however, in a sub-standard performance at the Stadium of Light we returned with three valuable points. The Palace defeat was our first home defeat of 2014 and the only defeat in nine matches as we won the other eight. we are only a point from having averaged 2 points a game with three games to play, how much more could you have asked from Roberto? The negative net spend was probably another record in recent years - how many teams have had a negative net spend and still managed to get an average of 2 points per game?

When was the last time that Everton could - mathematically at least - finish as high as second place in the PL era? We may well end up in fifth or even sixth but it has been a hell of a ride - if you put your money on Everton finishing fourth at the start of the season you are a far braver man than I.

Darren Hind
27 Posted 24/04/2014 at 22:58:15
As I've stated several times before, I backed us to get top 4 before Martinez got the gig. Having believed Moyes had been holding us back, I was convinced the odds on offer represented value for money... whoever we got.

Btw, Phil Sammon, I have never said Martinez is a useless Spaniard. They were your words. I think he has done a decent job, but while you're happy to applaud that, I think he could / should do better.

And I have said why.

Mark Frere
28 Posted 24/04/2014 at 23:16:10
Wow, Darren! 69 points with 3 games to play and 8 wins out of 9 games.....I guess there's no pleasing some folk.
Darren Hind
29 Posted 24/04/2014 at 23:18:12
"How much more could you ask of Roberto"

I want him not to get out witted by Tony Pullis when the chips are down Patrick. He's light years ahead of him and I'm struggling to find an excuse, let alone a reason.

I 've spent half my life being wrong about footy. Lets hope I am this time .

Anyway, gorra go to work

Patrick Murphy
30 Posted 24/04/2014 at 23:30:25
Have a good shift Darren - I'm sure that even the great managers made mistakes or miscalculations the secret is to keep them to a minimum.
Phil Sammon
31 Posted 25/04/2014 at 07:24:58
I still don't buy this argument that Pulis 'outwitted' RM. Palace came for a point and defended stubbornly for 90 minutes. It just so happened that everything they hit landed in the back of our net. We did this for most of Moyes' reign against the top sides and it only takes you so far. It's also frigging horrible to watch.
Mike Allison
32 Posted 25/04/2014 at 09:43:11
Palace had two swings of the boot that went right into the corner from players who normally struggle with the proverbial cow's arse and banjo combination. Over a season stuff like that is going to happen occasionally. As someone pointed out, it probably happened in our favour in other games, notably Sunderland recently.

As for the idea that the stars aligned, I think the opposite is true. Any other season we'd be odds on for 4th with 69 points and three games to go. This has been an exceptional season for the number of teams at the top picking up points. We're currently in a battle with the team that was top of the league for the first half of the season.

Look at 4th for the last five years, or even fifteen, and you'll see that this year's fourth place could well be a record, or will be the second or third highest points total ever needed in the era of 4th being Champions League qualification.

David Ellis
33 Posted 25/04/2014 at 09:57:57
Darren Hind
Let me get this straight. At the beginning of this season (before we signed Lukaku on loan) you bet on us finishing top 4. Next season you don't think we will be worth a punt for top 4, in large part it seems because you assume that Lukaku is leaving?

Who know what will happen next season. OFM struggled in his second full season and many other managers have suffered the dreaded second season syndrome. But on the other side of the ledger
1. We have introduced an entirely new style and we should get better at it with practice (and we have)
2. We will be able to bring in more Martinez type players year on year and it appears we do have a bit of money to spend in the summer
3. Utd and Spurs will still be re-building next season with brand new managers, whilst Man U may improve it will take a while for them to be the force of old, and I don't see Spurs improving given who runs the club. LFC on the other hand will have European football to contend with (as will we) and may not be so lucky in keeping their strikers injury free.
4. Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal have all gone off the boil since Christmas, this may change, but there has been a definite momentum shift in favour of the Merseyside clubs during 2014.

There is plenty of room for optimism for next season, and for once I am not worried about us losing any key players this time, I just don't think any of them would want to leave.

Ian Hams
34 Posted 25/04/2014 at 10:42:56
I think the biggest worry is the striker, defence we need only additional back up which should be easy enough to come by. The same could be said of defensive mid I am pretty sure Barry will stay but even if he doesn't he's not irreplaceable.

The striker is the big one, Naismith is the only one we own who has ever really performed for us, Kone unproven and not had any chance to work his way into the team. We do need to keep Lukaku and tie him up fast so he is available for any europa qualifying. Trying to Qualify with only one integrated striker would be madness, as even if we bought in someone different there is no way they would be firing on all cylinders in time.

Mark Pierpoint
35 Posted 25/04/2014 at 11:33:00
Lukaku or similar, is a must. I don't see us affording him personally, but only the club can truly answer that. I would not be too worried about Arsenal or Tottenham's interest if he were available, Lukaku seems genuniely happy here so if it come down to the choice of these I am sure he would pick us. Tottenham don't even have a manager after all and I am sure Mourinho would rather he come to us than sell him to Arsenal under Wenger. The worry for me is that Lukaku is used as part of a deal for Diego Costa. I think Bony may be more likely for us as he would probably be available for under 20m which with the money left from Fellaini would be do-able I bet.

Evidently a new midfielder is needed, this will have to be done on a budget though. Barry, with Gibson to take some of the strain would be an ideal for me, if we can afford a few quid (and after a striker I am not sure we will have it) maybe Rodwell, always chance of a loan though? I am sure RM would reinvigorate him.

Keep Deulofeu, (he can be your number 10 Denis as well I bet) and Traore. Maybe look at bringing in Ince on a free if the deal is right.

Si Cooper
36 Posted 25/04/2014 at 15:39:33
If I am reading this right, most people are comfortable considering Pienaar as a shoe-in for the first team next season, so I must be in a minority for thinking he hasn't performed consistently well all season, we haven't missed him whilst he has been out injured, and he is now pretty expendable.

I am also of the opinion that Tony Pulis didn't out manaouevre Martinez; they played to their strengths, we played to ours and simply because we weren't clinical or robust enough they came out on top. Just one of those games, and Pulis's Palace will trip up others who don't take their chances.

Mike Allison
37 Posted 25/04/2014 at 16:28:22
Si the point is more that we will have two first team players for every position, so we won't particularly miss anyone who gets injured. Pienaar's position is one where we have been strong this year, and have been able to replace him. Likewise with Mirallas injured this weekend, our starting XI won't actually be weaker for having Deulofeu or MCGeady to come in, but we will have fewer game changing options to come on from the bench. At the moment Hibbert and Garbutt have both been on the bench regularly, and now we are two players down on that with Distin and Mirallas out. Pienaar may not be part of our strongest XI next season, but he will be seriously useful if we're going to be play 50-60 games.
Si Cooper
38 Posted 25/04/2014 at 16:34:31
Mike, my point is should we not also consider changes where players have become less important / expendable?

Everyone is (rightly) concentrating on the marquee signings and the areas where we are weakest, but that doesn't mean marginal gains can't be achieved elsewhere. I was just musing on whether others agree / disagree that Peanuts is slipping down the order fairly quickly and may move on (to somewhere like the MLS) during the Summer.

Jimmy Sørheim
39 Posted 25/04/2014 at 15:56:42
I second that Lukaku has a very poor first touch. Even players such as Saha and our old 11.25 million Nigerian had a better first touch.

I just can not fathom why Martinez has not improved that in him this season.

Lukaku is far from a safe option with a price tag of at least 24 million.

I would try Bony or Benteke because they both seem to fit our style of play much better than Lukaku does.

Also I am shocked at how poor Lukaku is in the air, each long ball duel he seems to lose or mishit.

We need a more fulfilled striker then Lukaku.

PL is the toughest league so Bony or Benteke is my first options.

Rodwell IS A SICK NOTE! Anyone that is stupid enough to buy him desreves
to lose their money.

I actually think we need a central midfielder plus an attacking and 2 strikers.

Right back is not really needed. Hibbert can fill in, and Browning can do a job there.

However I do think we need a better goalkeeper then Robles, if we are to get one then Robles has to be sold though.

Pienaar is past his best and it is high time both he and Osman is outfaced.

After next season I expect both of them to be gone.

Darren Hind
40 Posted 25/04/2014 at 19:37:16
Mike Ellis

Lukaku's probable departure is only one of th e reasons I wont be backing us for top Four next season.

I only mentioned him because I think is contribution is vastly underated by people expecting him to be the finished article at 20. The ironic thing is, many of those who want to claim he has the touch of a lampost, are the very people who want to praise Martinez to the heavens, for signing him in the first place.

I will however bet that during his career, Lukaku will command more in transfer fees than any of our current squad - including Barkley and Stones.

Look David. If you are really optimistic about next year, don't let me put you off, you"ll get decent odds for top four. Lump on. I personally will give that particular bet a very wide birth.

As for the Palace game. Ive just had another look at it, They set up better than we did, They defended better than we did, The passed it better than we did, They attacked with more purpose than we did, They took there chances better than we did, and they wanted it more
than we did, . . Jammy bastards

Mike Allison
41 Posted 25/04/2014 at 22:22:00
I think he's fine for another year at least Si, at the end of my OP I do list him among the players who needs replacing in the medium term, but I don't want us to be a club that takes a good team and makes massive changes as that rarely works.

This year we need to keep everyone we've got and expand the squad slightly to cope with greater demands. Hopefully next year will be about identifying ageing and weaker players and improving the quality.

Si Cooper
42 Posted 25/04/2014 at 23:02:45
I'd question whether we need to keep everyone if there is potential for bringing in some money and investing in younger players for the future.

We don't really want all our senior players to keep playing until they are ready to hang up their boots unless they are integral to the team, and probably only Distin has been indispensible this season.

I don't have a downer on Peanuts and am not campaigning for his transfer, I am just a little surprised that a lot of people still have him in their first choice XI considering his relatvely poor season and the emergence of other creative players. The pertinent question would be has he really been missed since he got injured?

Harold Matthews
43 Posted 25/04/2014 at 23:58:32
We can forget £20m+ players like Lukaku, Bony, Ba and Lallana. What little money we have will be spread around.

Gibson is not the guy to replace Barry, who sniffs out danger before it arrives. While other players are thinking of closing down, Barry is already half-way there. He does it all the time. This is such an important position. In the recent Champions League semi, Mikel was absolutrly magnificent. Almost playing 3rd centre back at times. Shame the yellow puts him out of the return leg. Gibson likes to be slightly more forward. Reading the game and threading passes.

As for McCarthy. How do you replace fierce perpetual motion?

Harold Matthews
44 Posted 26/04/2014 at 04:22:30
Two players of interest are CB Michael Keane and AM Jesse Lingard. Both of Man Utd. Keane partners Stones for the U21s. He's actually the main man and can score from corners and free kicks. Lingard, age 21, is a terrific two footed talent who could replace Pienaar or Osman.

Neither of these boys are likely to make the rirst team squad, especially with a big-time manager coming in, and I wonder how much they would cost. Two kids with a big future but probably not with United.

Tahir Abdullah
45 Posted 26/04/2014 at 06:06:26
Excellent article and well noted on the requirements for our squad going into next season. Retaining Barry is an absolute must; Rodwell as a potential replacement would be regressive. In attacking mid, RM could do worse than going for Bojan. Insofar as strikers are concerned, I agree with Henrik...
Mike Allison
46 Posted 26/04/2014 at 09:04:59
"The pertinent question would be has he really been missed since he got injured?"

Perhaps not this year, but he would be if we were playing twice a week every week.

Like I said before, there are plenty of areas we might improve on the personnel we currently have, but the main point of my OP was that we have work to do to simply have enough quality players at all, before we start focusing on the level of that quality.

We could try to do it all in one go, but I don't think such major upheavals are healthy. One thing Moyes always gave us as an advantage over the likes of Tottenham and Newcastle was a relatively settled squad who knew each other and knew the club. If we find ourselves making 7 or 8 major transfers in one summer there will be a price to pay in this aspect.

My OP says we need six transfers, but that up to four of them could be players who are already here. Who knows, if we get all four current loanees signed on for next season early doors, pick up the right back and DM without much fuss, then we could have time for another move or two without too much unsettling, but given that we're not used to that happening, Pienaar is absolutely good enough to operate within the rotation system we'll need to employ next year. Remember, his position is the one where Martinez makes the most substitutions, so he's likely to play 65/25 minutes at a time, rather than a full 90. If anything, its Osman that I'd be looking to phase out, and the Cleverley rumours have specifically mentioned that this is Martinez's thinking.

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