Everton FC: Grading the Club's Summer Signings Until Now
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Over recent seasons, financial difficulties on Merseyside have made it so that Everton are not usually very busy in the transfer windows.
In fact, manager David Moyes usually loathes these periods as they leave his more valuable players vulnerable to bids from wealthier clubs. It is what has seen important components of the team such as Wayne Rooney, Joleon Lescott and Mikel Arteta, among others, jump ship for the more elite or financially powerful in the Premier League throughout the Scotsmen's tenure
However, beginning with the January window that permanently brought Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic to the club, Moyes has been particularly active in the bargain market this year.
As Everton continue to fight for their place in the EPL Top Four and a shot at qualifying for the UEFA Champion's League, these are the new additions to the squad and how they have been fairing so far in the 2012-13 season.
Steven Pienaar (£4.5m, Tottenham Hotspur) 8/10
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For many followers of the Premier League, the South African may not at all seem a new signing for Everton. In fact, after his £3 million transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in 2011, Pienaar only spent less than a calendar year with the London club before returning on loan to Everton last winter.
During his short loan spell, the midfielder reignited his partnership with left-back Leighton Baines and managed 4 goals and 6 assists in 14 matches. David Moyes made it a priority to bring back Pienaar for this campaign, and while he was forced to splash more cash than the original transfer to Tottenham, the former Everton Player of the Season has not disappointed.
While he has only managed 1 goal and 3 assists in 11 matches (along with one red card), Pienaar is a constant threat down the left hand side, and his versatility in other midfield positions has created massive defensive issues for opposition trying to cope with both him and the explosive Kevin Mirallas.
Kevin Mirallas (~£6m,Olympiacos) 9/10
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The 25-year-old Belgian international is proving one of the signings of the entire Premier League season so far. As Mirallas showed in the first-half of the Merseyside Derby against Liverpool (before injury ruled him out of the second half), his trickiness in possession and vision make him a nightmare for backlines across the country.
Arriving as the Greek league's top scorer from Olympiacos FC, many had high expectations for the player who made up much of Everton's transfer kitty in the summer. But, surely no Evertonian has been left disappointed by his thrilling displays, already tallying 3 goals and 5 assists in all competitions.
Mirallas will miss the club's visit to Reading this week due to a minor hamstring tear, but keep your eyes on this gem of an attacking midfielder.
Steven Naismith (Free Transfer, Rangers FC) 7/10
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Everton’s first major signing of the summer came to Goodison Park under a cloud of uncertainty. Following the dissolution of the original Scottish Rangers and the arrival of a “newco” club under Charles Green, Naismith refused to transfer over his contract and became available as a free agent.
Despite the fact that Everton’s star striker Nikica Jelavic claimed his former (and current) teammate was his best forward partner to date, supporters were not fully convinced of the Scotsman’s ability, partly as a result of an almost career-threatening knee injury suffered just under a year ago.
However, Naismith bagged a hat-trick in Tony Hibbert’s testimonial match against AEK Athens, and began to show that with the injury troubles behind him he could fill the vacuum on the right-side of Everton’s midfield.
The 26-year-old scored recently in the Merseyside Derby, and although he has fluffed his fair share of goalscoring opportunities, he has provided much needed depth and quality to Everton’s squad.
Bryan Oviedo (~£4-5m, FC Copenhagen) 6/10
Versatile left-back and midfielder Bryan Oviedo arrived late in the summer transfer window for Everton. After his former club FC Copenhagen were eliminated from Champion’s League qualifying, the Danish club took several bids from Everton before agreeing to a fee approximately between £4-5 million.
The 22-year-old Costa Rican international was bought to provide cover for Leighton Baines at left-back, but has also proven able to play anywhere from the back-line to defensive midfield, and in the role either occupied by Steven Pienaar or Magaye Gueye ahead of Baines in midfield.
The Costa Rican international has only made three appearances in the EPL, but David Moyes seems to favor him as a regular substitute and we will likely see more of him once Everton’s FA Cup campaign kicks off next month.
Thomas Hitzlsperger (Free Agent, Wolfsburg) N/A
The former German international only officially signed with Everton last month (a long way from the summer window), but trained with the club for quite some time following his departure from Wolfsburg last season.
A strong and athletic central midfielder, Hitzlsperger has the experience in both club and international football to hold down a steady place in top tier football. While the 30-year-old’s constant injury problems since joining West Ham United in 2011 make him a liability (and also resulted in the termination of his Wolfsburg contract), the German showed positive signs in his first league appearance against Sunderland last week.
If he is able to keep fit and fight off pressure from the returning Darron Gibson, the manager might make him an improved offer as Hitzlsperger is still five years younger than captain Phil Neville, who has been slotting in at centre-midfield temporarily during Gibson’s absence.
Other Signings Not to Feature in the EPL
Matthew Kennedy via EvertonFC.com
Ben McLaughlin (Undisclosed, Dundalk FC)
The 17-year-old Irish right-back was purchased for a nominal fee from Dundalk FC in the League of Ireland over the summer. Everton caught the luck of the Irish when purchasing Seamus Coleman, another local right-back, from Sligo Rivers for a paltry £150,000 in 2009. McLaughlin may still have a lot to learn, but Everton are certainly hoping to have once again discovered a diamond in the Irish U-19 international.
Matthew Kennedy (Undisclosed, Kilmarnock)
Kennedy is currently with the Everton reserves team, but the 18-year-old Scotsman is already a youth international and featured more than a dozen times for his previous club Kilmarnock in the SPL. Traditionally a winger, Kenny can also play up-top and will be hoping to make the bench for Everton’s upcoming FA Cup campaign, although he is more likely one for the future.