Stronger squad for Roberto Martínez
5 September ~ Everton fans were worried that Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines would be swooped away late on deadline day by Manchester United, leaving Roberto Martínez without two of the team's most important players in exchange for a sum that would fall below fans' expectations, and months to wait before it could be spent. While Fellaini did indeed join United with only a short time left on Monday, the feeling when the deal was confirmed wasn't so much regret but acceptance.
It was long assumed Fellaini was more likely to leave than Baines and so it proved. United clearly wished to sign both, bidding £28 million, then £40m, for the pair. That they paid roughly the first figure for Fellaini alone suggests Everton got a good deal in the end. Adding weight to that belief is that United paid more than Fellaini's release clause, which stood at £23.5m and expired in late July.
If United's strategy, perhaps pioneered by the roundly criticised Ed Woodward, was to wait until the clause lapsed under the assumption Everton would panic at being left with a discontented player and accept a lower fee, it proved misguided.
Around £2m of the transfer fee is due to Fellaini's former club, Standard Liege, which means Everton will receive close to the £25m mark most said would be acceptable. The money was used to sign Wigan's James McCarthy, while Gareth Barry also joined on loan – as did Romelu Lukaku, a replacement for the West Brom-bound Victor Anichebe.
Neither McCarthy nor Barry is a direct replacement for the Fellaini of last season, when he was an attacking midfield battering ram, but Martínez had deployed the Belgian in a different role to start this season. Forming a deeper midfield two with Leon Osman, Fellaini was far less effective, standing by as opposition midfielders strolled past. His frame suggests he's a midfield destroyer but he's not – Fellaini is a powerful playmaker who needs to be fed the ball rather than win it himself.
McCarthy and Barry should be more at home in the heart of midfield, while the return to fitness of Darron Gibson can't come quick enough. The balance of the team hasn't been right yet but having two of the three in midfield should help. Fellaini's place further forward in midfield has been taken by Ross Barkley, whose emergence has been the highlight of the early season.
Without Fellaini supporting the attack Everton have been a little toothless and even Baines seems subdued so far. But at least the left-back is still there, a £15m offer rejected out of hand. It's an outcome most supporters would have accepted when the window opened and Martínez appears to have a stronger team as a result. Andrew Tuft