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Arsenal transfer targets: Rooney yes, Fellaini no

This summer is the first for many years that Arsenal are being talked about for signing other teams’ star players rather than losing their own, and two of the most commonly discussed names are Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. Even as recently as last summer the idea of Arsenal getting either of these, never mind both, would be laughed at, but this summer is different. Next season is when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions really kick in and this is what Arsenal have been preparing for over the last five years or so. Their payment schedule on the new stadium eases considerably and as they are so reliant on generating their own money they are in a strong position to take advantage of the FFP rules. So Rooney and Fellaini are affordable, they’ve got the cash sat ready and waiting. But how realistic is it for Arsenal to get them, and what would they bring to the team?

Wayne Rooney has asked to leave Manchester United. Rooney doesn’t want to play for David Moyes, his wife wants to live in London and Rooney wants to be the star striker. Arsenal could certainly satisfy the last two. In fact, not only would he be the star striker, he’d be their star player full stop. The arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer saw Rooney drift further and further back towards, and even into, midfield. But he is openly unhappy about this. He still sees himself as a pure striker, and his goal scoring numbers back this belief in himself up. In the 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons Rooney was deployed often as a lone striker, but always as a striker. He scored 34 and 35 goals respectively, by far the best output of his career.

Arsene Wenger

The strange thing with Rooney is that his best qualities are often overlooked in favour of his additional qualities. He works hard for a striker and has a good passing range for a striker, and this means managers are tempted to use him further back. But he’s best at scoring goals. At Arsenal, that would be exactly what he is brought in to do. With Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, possibly even Steven Jovetic, in place, they have no need for him to play deep. Olivier Giroud is a decent striker but no more. If Arsenal sign Rooney and play him up front they will have themselves the 30-goal striker they had when they sold van Persie. Even with all of the other talent, he would be the star of the show, and he would revel in that.

Would Manchester United be willing to sell though? Surprisingly the fee discussed so far has only been around £30m because he has just two years left on his contract. Arsenal sound like they can easily afford that. If they can also pay him the circa £200k a week he get’s at United, which again chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said they can, then this could happen. He’d be an excellent signing and a real statement of intent.

Marouane Fellaini

Where Rooney is a clear fit for Arsenal, the same isn’t necessarily true of Fellaini. For many years Arsenal’s supposed weakness was in defensive midfield, they had no shield and thus a flimsy defence. But last season they had the second best defence in the league. This was not least down to a transformed Aaron Ramsey who, over the last three months of the season, was as good a protector as any midfielder in the league. His tenacity in the tackle and particularly his interceptions marked him out. Arsenal fans bemoan his passing and lack of inventiveness, but in his new position he can keep it simple and focus on defending. What does Fellaini offer that is different? Like Ramsey, he is not a particularly good or subtle passer of the ball. He’s an athletic and tough presence when deep in midfield and although there is no doubting he is a little better at that than Ramsey, can you justify spending £24m on a minor upgrade?

Fellaini caused devastation as an attacking midfielder at Everton when supplied aerially. Does Arsene Wenger really want to use Fellaini as a number ten? He’d certainly offer them a Plan B but again, is that enough to justify spending so much on? Unless Wenger is convinced that Fellaini is a significantly better defensive midfielder than Ramsey then he should not make the move. Fellaini after all, gets most of his praise for the carnage he can cause if supplied correctly in the other team’s half. He’s a very good player, but not worth Arsenal spending £24m on when they still need a goalkeeper.

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How Martinez can lead Everton to the Champions League

He probably didn’t want it made public at his introductory press conference, but according to Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, one of the first things Roberto Martinez said to him was ‘I can get you in to the Champions League’. It’s a big statement of intent, but can it be achieved? For a club that has only finished in a Champions League spot once, albeit they failed to overcome Villarreal in the qualifying round, pushing on from their usual fifth – seventh dwelling is a big ask. However, it’s by no means an impossibility. Who would have thought this season’s cup winners would be Swansea and Wigan? Getting themselves above Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool and in o fourth would be a greater achievement even than Martinez’s relegation escapes and the FA Cup win. So, how can he do it?

Keeping Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas is going to be critical. They are the Everton players who are most desired by other teams, who most belong in the Champions League. Keeping them will not be easy, despite Kenwright’s assurances than no players are for sale. However, Fellaini has a release clause in his contract of around £24m, which makes him vulnerable. His physicality and tenacity have been key factors in giving Everton the toughness and multidimensional attacking virtues that have made them top-six mainstays. Although not always the most elegant on the ball he has shown he can play as a rugged defensive midfielder, or even as a second striker. Such versatility is a valuable asset. One of the questions about Martinez’s Wigan was that they had no Plan B. If passing didn’t work they couldn’t figure out another way to score. Although Fellaini is less technical than Martinez’s ideal, he is a key force for Everton and gives them a legitimate Plan B. It’s possible that Man United, Chelsea, or even Monaco, could open up the release clause.

Bill Kenwright and Roberto Martinez

Keeping Leighton Baines is more important but could be just as difficult. There is no more consistent player in the league than Baines and his attacking forays from left back in tandem with Steven Pienaar or Mirallas give Everton as good a flank as any team in the league. Baines is a good defender but it’s his attacking output that is staggering. He gets goals and assists as if he’s a winger. For Martinez this is vital. He plays with extreme width; his 3-4-1-2 system at Wigan was designed to space the pitch out as much as possible. Baines could be unstoppable as the left wing back if Martinez brings the system with him. He’s wanted by Moyes at United to replace a possibly Monaco-bound Patrice Evra though.

Kevin Mirallas is the final jewel in the crown but keeping him should be easier. He was arguably Everton’s best player in 2013, regularly putting in performances of devastating thrust in attack and started to score more and more goals. Everton’s attack was their weakness last year, so keeping a major livewire threat in Mirallas is key. Martinez needs pace and width in attack, which he offers in abundance.

Buying a striker is the next most important task. Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe are not strikers who can propel a team in to the top four. Whatever money Everton have, they need to throw it in to getting a proper striker. If Man City are willing to let Edin Dzeko go they could push hard for him, they could get involved in the Christian Benteke bidding or even look at a move for Michu. One way or another, they need a forward who can get them 20+ goals, and be reliable. They can get one for the £15m club record the brought Fellaini to the club, but without one they won’t have a chance.

Combining solid defence with sophisticated attacking play
is the key to Martinez’s possession-based system working for Everton. The defence was good last year, rarely conceding more than once in games. That can be left alone. What does need the Martinez touch is the attack. Everton have been increasingly fluent over recent years so it’s not like he’s inheriting footballing philistines but his tactical set up evolved over his four years at Wigan so might be hard to teach straight away. Everton were excellent at Goodison Park under Moyes but never great away from home. If Martinez can get them dominating possession and playing with the creativity they need, matched with the inherent will to will and desire infused by Moyes and Phil Neville it will be a potent combination.

Lastly, they need luck. If Spurs keep Gareth Bale and Arsenal recruit strongly it’s going to be very hard to overthrow them. They need to be flawless in the transfer market themselves, hope others make errors, and allow Martinez’s brand of football time to bed in. They have the winning, tough mentality, and if they can combine that with added attacking flair the top four is in reach.

Is Marouane Fellaini a good fit for Manchester United?

With David Moyes assuming the Manchester United hotseat, the transfer of Everton’s best players Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford could well be on the cards. With Baines’ form and Patrice Evra in need of some top competition, the England international’s signing would make sense. But do the Premier League champions need Fellaini?

The Belgian has offered Everton a versatility that could well be useful for United. Fellaini has played most of his football this season as a brutish second striker, but has admitted that he prefers playing as an enforcer in front of his side’s defence.

United could potentially use one new signing in both of these positions. Michael Carrick has been devoid of support over the last 12 months in the centre of the park, while doubts remain over Wayne Rooney’s mindset.

Marouane Fellaini

In the attacking role, Fellaini certainly would provide an addition offensive option. His direct approach, ability in the air and endless running have made him a star in a good Everton team, and Fellaini has proved a nightmare for many a defence, including United’s, over the last 12 months.

In the centre of the midfield, Fellaini would certainly offer United more energy and a physical presence that has been missing since the retirement of Roy Keane. With Paul Scholes hanging up his boots, a creative central midfielder needs to be a priority, however Fellaini’s ability to be a stopper in the centre of the park could also be a sensible signing. Phil Jones has filled the enforcer role well in the recent past, but his preferred position is yet to be determined.

However, whether Fellaini has the ability on the ball and craft to fit into the United passing game is questionable. The Old Trafford faithful will want to avoid a scenario where the side compromise style for a direct approach, and utilising Fellaini in an attacking position could result in this.

Fellaini’s transfer fee is likely to be sizeable given Everton’s financial position, but it appears that he does not have a definite place in the United set-up. His versatility may well be asset, but the Red Devils may well end up signing a player that is good at two positions but great at neither.

Is it time for Everton and David Moyes to part company?

Is the time right for Moyes to move on?

Next week marks the 11th year anniversary of David Moyes taking charge of Everton but after Saturday’s 3-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Wigan he may feel it is time for a change for both himself and the club when his contract runs out in the summer.

After such a lacklustre performance in such a big game for the club, Moyes may wonder how much longer he can continue getting so close to that elusive first trophy only for his players to seemingly freeze when the opportunity presents itself. Just like last year when they held a 1-0 half-time lead over Liverpool in the semi-final; they seemed to go into their shells and not have the belief to grasp the chance of glory.

He will certainly not be short of offers if he does decide to call time on his tenure at Goodison Park. His record in the league has been outstanding considering the budget he has had compared to the teams he has been competing with. For the last six seasons Everton have finished no lower than eighth and they are likely to finish higher than that this season as well. Add into that Champions League qualification once and three times qualifying for the Europa League and Moyes has unquestionably regalvanised the club.

David Moyes

Moyes has completely rebuilt the team as well to include players who are now coveted by some of Europe’s top clubs. His record in the transfer market has been exceptional. The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic have all had an impact to make Everton an attacking force, not forgetting the now departed Mikel Arteta. He has also turned Everton into a solid defensive unit with the consistent Tim Howard in goal, the experience of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka at centre-back and the ever improving Leighton Baines at left back.

Having these good players though may provide another reason for Moyes to consider his future in the summer. Fellaini seems almost certain to leave in the summer with Chelsea rumoured to be preparing a bid. Baines also seems certain to attract interest in the summer having been the league’s most consistent left-back this season. Manchester United continue to be linked with him, and a move could especially be on the cards if Patrice Evra makes his way to PSG. If these types of players are sold and with no news on the horizon of new investment, Moyes may feel there is no more that he can achieve.

A couple of months ago Moyes already stated his ambition to manage abroad at some point, citing Germany as his ideal destination.

“I always had the hope of being a coach abroad. If I had the choice, I would probably go to Germany, in part because of the mentality, which is similar to mine. I’m also fascinated by what happens in German football.”

Decision time is inching closer and closer for Moyes. There is no doubt that the board and fans want him to stay, but is the constant saga about whether he will sign or not beginning to have an unsettling effect on the players? Does a defeat like the one on Saturday make him even more determined to come back fighting next season? Or does it just confirm to him that enough is enough and he now needs to seek a new challenge?

These are all questions that need to be answered quickly, ideally with a decision from Moyes himself, otherwise Everton may find themselves wasting their good work from the first three quarters of the season.

By Chris Newman

Manchester United will be wary of Everton after last season’s fixture at Old Trafford

With Manchester City slipping up against Southampton yesterday to be beaten 3-1, current Premier League leaders Manchester United have a glorious opportunity to push their lead at the top of the table to a considerable 12 points with a win over Everton. With only 12 games to play after this afternoon’s fixture at Old Trafford, this lead would be almost unassailable, however Sir Alex Ferguson will be wary of the travelling Evertonians.

United found themselves in a similar position last season, with a sizeable points advantage over cross-town rivals City. However poor form towards the end of the campaign ultimately allowed Roberto Mancini’s charges back into the title race, with the blue side of the city celebrating on a nail-biting last day of the season.

One of the fixtures on footballscores.com football results that will stand out in the minds of United fans will be the 4-4 draw against Everton at Old Trafford. The Red Devils relinquished 3-1 and 4-2 leads over David Moyes’ men that day, which ultimately proved costly at the end of the season.

Steven Pienaar scores against Manchester United

United have suffered no such downturn in form this time round, with an excellent record of picking up 35 points from a possible 39 over their last 13 league games. With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in form, the hosts will be confident of matching the four goals they scored in the fixture in 2011-12.

Everton showed a never-say-die attitude last season in the fixture, and Moyes’ charges have improved again over the last couple of months. The Toffees are eager to contend for a top-four berth and Champions League qualification, however with Tottenham and Arsenal winning on Saturday the Liverpudlians need to pick up points to maintain their ambitions.

Marouane Fellaini’s future has been constantly questioned in the press after impressive performances this term, and the Belgian will be a key man if he shakes off injury to feature. Along with the in-form Steven Pienaar, Nikola Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas, Everton have the potential to make it difficult for a less-than-solid United rearguard. After a 1-0 win over United at Goodison Park on the first day of the season, the hosts would be foolish to underestimate their opponents today.

Both teams want the three points; if Everton manage a shock win it will show the Premier League that they are a real contender for Champions League qualification, whilst if United win the title race could well be over.

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