A January Transfer Wish List for Everton
Following his summer switch to Everton, Roberto Martinez negotiated his first transfer window in impressive fashion. He managed to manipulate the market in a way that bolstered his new squad without denting the Toffees' precarious finances.
Victor Anichebe was replaced by Arouna Kone, while the likes of Joel Robles, Gerard Deulofeu and Antolin Alcaraz arrived to pad out the squad.
A 20-point haul from 11 games represents a promising start for Martinez, and January will provide him with a chance to sustain his progress.
It's already been suggested that his main focus will be the summer market, as The Guardian's Sean Ingle revealed, although injuries and contracts can instantly change this.
At #EliteSports summit. Everton's head of technical scouting James Smith says club more focused on summer 2014 transfer window than January—Sean Ingle (@seaningle) November 5, 2013
Martinez is unlikely to be armed with substantial revenue unless he sells first, but here's a look at his potential wish list in January, considering the areas he will most want to improve.
Leighton Baines Remains at Goodison Park
Before any transfer targets are scrutinised, Everton's primary task this January is to hold onto Leighton Baines, and ideally tie him down to a new contract.
Manchester United aggressively courted the left-back throughout the summer, with many—including The Independent's Sam Wallace—claiming Baines wanted to move. However, United never offered enough to secure his services and this saga seems destined to rumble on in a few months time.
While his current form has been surprisingly mediocre—at club level at least—Baines' value to the Toffees is immeasurable.
He is a creative marvel and losing him this January could quickly dishevel Martinez's promising start.
Add a Ball-Playing Centre-Back
Everton's transition to a short-passing, possession-absorbing side has been prompt, but there are still obvious areas to improve, starting at the back.
Neither Phil Jagielka nor Sylvain Distin have the vision or technique to play out from the back as much as Martinez desires. This slows Everton's build up play and allows opponents ample time to form their defensive shape.
Both players have proven themselves top tier defenders, but Martinez will be scouring the market for a long-term solution, particularly with Distin nearing 36.
John Stones is a potential option, having impressed during preseason, while Bruno Martins Indi is another name Everton should look at.
Height, pace and youth are important aspects for the Toffees' left centre-back, but having a defender more comfortable with the ball will add a new dimension to Everton's style.
Long-Term Striking Solution
Romelu Lukaku has given Everton a new attacking identity this season, scoring five goals in his first seven Premier League games.
His clinical finishing has already proved decisive, enabling the Toffees to win without having to dominate their opponent. Striker has been Everton's major flaw in recent seasons, and the fact Lukaku's only arrived on loan means this solution remains temporary.
If the right option becomes available in January, Martinez must be ready to pounce, especially with Arouna Kone due for a lengthy injury layoff.
Javier Hernandez is a player of Champions League pedigree who most would consider out of Everton's reach. However, should Manchester United again pursue Baines in January, any deal including the seldom-used Mexican should be explored.
Elsewhere, the likes of Danny Ings and Jordan Rhodes are potential cheaper, developmental prospects from the Championship; Philipp Hosiner seems a potential steal from Austria, while Alessio Cerci has been linked to the Toffees before and is currently in inspired form.
Additional Attacking Flair
Roberto Martinez is renowned for his fondness of flair, specifically in his wingers.
Steven Pienaar's natural inclination to drift in has left Kevin Mirallas as Everton's main wide man thus far, but the Belgian has struggled for consistency.
Gerard Deulofeu has provided some exciting cameos and is due a larger role, but Martinez will undoubtedly cast his eye over other potential wingers that become available.
One such target could be Blackpool's Thomas Ince, in the final year of his contract. Everton have regularly been linked during recent windows and, with his asking price set to drop further, Martinez may attempt to lure him back to Merseyside.
The winger's blend of pace, trickery and skill are a coveted combination for Martinez, and Ince's contractual status means he offers substantial value for money.
Darron Gibson's long-term injury leaves Everton short of depth in central midfield.
Gareth Barry and James McCarthy have enforced Martinez's style well thus far, but there aren't many options below them—especially longer term, with Barry signed on loan.
Elsewhere, an ideal but presumably expensive option is Derby's Will Hughes. Still just 18, the attacking midfielder already possesses excellent vision, a faultless technique and a wide range of passing, making him an ideal fit in Martinez's system.
Financially, he's only an option if Baines is prized away, but his career is certainly one to keep tabs on. Regardless of what's sure to be an inflated asking price, it wouldn't prevent his value from rising further over the next few years.