It has been a customarily quiet summer transfer window for Everton thus far, with Roberto Martinez adding just two players to the squad that finished last season in an underwhelming 11th place.
The Spaniard’s second season in charge of the Merseyside club failed to improve on his first, in which a fifth-place Premier League finish was achieved. However, it could be argued that the wearing effects of playing in the Europa League stunted the Toffees’ domestic growth under the former Wigan boss.
Never the biggest squad in the top-flight, the additional air miles and Thursday outings of Uefa’s second-tier European competition looked to take a toll on Everton’s ability to defend more than anything.
After allowing just 39 strikes in 2013/14 – the third-best defensive record in the division – the Toffees slipped to concede 50 last term, the seventh most.
Although it wasn’t expected that Everton would be watertight under the former Swansea hero’s guidance, with the possession-loving tactician known for his preference of attacking football, their maiden voyage with Martinez at the helm proved what could be achieved.
Indeed the slip in standards left manager, players and fans frustrated in equal measures. Martinez called for his charges to “get back to being a strong side with a good defensive record” in December, but chose not to add any defensive muscle to his squad in the winter transfer window.
Now, in a summer that has seen him release Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz and receive at least one bid for John Stones, Martinez must dip into whatever transfer kitty he has to replenish his defensive stocks.
When he does, finding error-free defenders should be a priority. Of the six Everton players to make multiple errors leading to a chance last season, five of them were defenders. The club’s total of 35 led the league.
Phil Jagielka made the most with three – sharing that spurious honour with Gareth Barry – while Distin, Alcaraz, Stones and Seamus Coleman all made two each.
In addition, Jagielka, Distin and Stones all made at least one error that led to a goal, while goalkeeper Tim Howard made four. Again, Everton’s combined total of 15 errors leading to goals was the Premier League’s “gold standard.”
Finding players less prone to costly mistakes is of an obvious importance to Martinez this summer then, with two players from around Europe possible recruits to solve such a problem.
The first is 29-year-old Estonian centre-back Ragnar Klavan, who plys his trade in the Bundesliga with Augsburg.
The former AZ Alkmaar defender only made one error last season (which didn’t end up leading to a goal) despite playing 34 times for his club and racking up over 3000 minutes of league action.
That consistency helped Augsburg to finish fifth in the division last season and has impressed Everton enough to prompt the Merseysiders to enquire about his availability.
Should that move for the Estonian fail to materialise, then Hannover 96’s Portuguese stopper Marcelo is a worthy alternative.
The 28-year-old, like Klavan, played every single minute of Hannover’s Bundelisga campaign. Making it all the more impressive that he too registered just one error leading to a chance and none that led to a goal.
With transfermarkt.co.uk valuing him at just £2.8m, the former PSV Eindhoven and Wisla Krakow man is certainly within Everton’s price range and would add considerable stability to a defensive unit in dire need.
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