What Position Does Everton Need to Improve Most in January?
In just over seven weeks time, David Moyes will have an opportunity to bolster his squad, as the January transfer window opens.
With the Toffees enjoying such an impressive start to their season, procuring the right new recruit could prove pivotal in prolonging any top six, or even top four challenge for his in-form side.
Finances will always enter the equation at Everton, but what area most needs replenishing and where are the Toffees most sufficiently stocked?
In goal, Tim Howard is certainly secure as his side's number one stopper. He could do with some sterner competition than Jan Mucha, but it's not something requiring an urgent remedy by January.
In front of him, Phil Jagielka, Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin are three quality centre-backs that could grace most Premier League lineups. Heitinga's expiring contract and Distin's age may mean this position also needs attention soon, but again, it's not an imperative matter to solve in January.
As long as Leighton Baines stays, Everton's left is in superb condition. The England man is arguably the Premier League's elite left-back and the Toffees now have newly acquired Bryan Oviedo on hand to provide cover.
Six months ago, the answer to this title would have been on the wing, but having had such a dearth of wide players, Moyes made a deliberate attempt to rectify this in the summer. Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Steven Naismith all came in, suddenly leaving the wider areas in fine condition, too.
Further forward, in Everton's 4-4-1-1 formation, the support striker is another role the Toffees are secure with. Marouane Fellaini has been imperious all season, but Leon Osman, Naismith, Mirallas and Pienaar would all be able to perform in his absence—as well as a returning Ross Barkley, perhaps.
Dissecting the squad, these are all areas Moyes should feel confident with the personnel available to him, which leaves three remaining positions—right-back, central midfield and striker.
The Toffees actually possess three right-backs to choose from, in Tony Hibbert, Seamus Coleman and Phil Neville. However, with two of the three approaching the twilight of their careers and Coleman's contributions marred by too many errors at present, there's room to improve.
No right-back option is currently a player of obvious international caliber, which would need addressing if the Toffees aim to establish themselves as a top six side again.
Up front there are also worries. Nikica Jelavic is one of the most lethal finishers in the Premier League, but injury to the Croatian would have severe consequences and could easily derail Everton's season.
Only the perennially injured Victor Anichebe or the largely untested talents of Apostolos Vellios would be viable options to replace him, something that can hopefully be rectified this winter.
Both these positions could do with attention, however, the most pressing issue for Moyes to resolve in January lies in central midfield, where the Toffees have become rather limited.
Where do Everton most need to strengthen?
Leon Osman has had a fine season so far, and when partnering Darron Gibson, Everton looks secure enough to compete with most midfields. Both are sturdy in the tackle, confident spreading the play and help their side get on the ball and dictate the tempo.
Problems arise when either has been unavailable, a scenario that has forced Phil Neville into midfield. Not only does the club captain offer a fraction of the input his midfield colleagues provide, but he also leaves the Toffees looking far more penetrable through their core.
Selling Jack Rodwell was undoubtedly the correct call from Everton this summer, but his energetic presence is something yet to be replaced in the middle.
Adding a contrasting style into the midfield mix would make a lot of sense, especially if Moyes could locate a combative option capable of disrupting play, the way Fellaini did from midfield last season.
Any injuries suffered over the next few weeks could quickly alter the urgency and order of these needs, but certainly for now, Everton are most short of bodies in the middle of the park.
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