With the season slowly drawing to a close, it’s time to consider what some Premier League clubs will be up to in the transfer market this summer.
And the first port of call, in Football FanCast’s opinion at least, should always be to raid those unfortunate clubs who just have plummeted out of the top flight; firstly for players they can no longer afford to keep and secondly for players who’ve indisputably proven themselves to be too good for another season in the Championship.
With just seven points currently separating Leicester City at rock-bottom and Sunderland in 15th – or perhaps more importantly, just three points separating the Black Cats and a 19th-placed Burnley – there’s plenty of relegation-bound stars on offer at the moment.
And knowing full well how Everton are obliged to reduced costs in the transfer market wherever they can – despite some more sizable coups over the last few summers – we’ve listed FIVE players facing Championship doom the Goodison outfit should target this summer.
Kicking off this list is a player Roberto Martinez will already be well acquainted with from his Wigan Days; Hull City’s Mo Diame, having signed the Senegal international for the Latics in summer 2009.
The 27 year-old is a rare kind of midfielder, offering the somewhat unique combination of shin-shattering tackles and mazy counter-attacking runs – this year averaging 3.7 tackles and 1.4 successful dribbles per-match.
He’s been the best of a bad bunch at the KC this term, with four goals in eleven appearances making him the 17th-placed club’s second-top scorer alongside Abel Hernandez.
Injures have kept him sidelined for much of the season – sitting out from early December until a substitute appearance against Swansea City last weekend – but Diame’s talismanic performances earlier in the campaign, in addition to his consistent showings during prior spells at Wigan and West Ham, prove he’s far too good for the Championship.
Having signed him on a three-year deal only last summer, however, the Tigers are unlikely to let the 6 foot centre-mid leave on the cheap.
Although Danny Ings has grabbed the vast majority of the headlines at Turf Moor during the last few seasons, the contribution of right-back Kieran Tripper has been equally as vital to Burnley’s top flight ascension.
He won consecutive slots in the PFA Championship Team of the Year prior to the club’s promotion last summer and during the 2013/14 campaign amassed the most assists of any player in the Championship – an impressive 14.
This year, the 24 year-old has continued to impress, particularly going forward. He’s claimed four assists in 31 appearances – featuring in all but four minutes of Burnley’s league campaign – whilst creating the most chances per match, 1.7, of any player in Sean Dyche’s squad.
With Seamus Coleman known to be on the radars of several top Premier League clubs, Trippier is certainly worth Everton’s consideration as a likeminded replacement. Even if they plummet back into the Championship, however, Burnley will be reluctant to sell a player so crucial to their attacking efforts.
The heart of defence has been a real problem area for Everton this season, leading them to concede, on average, 1.4 goals per game. With Sylvain Distin now 37 years of age and Antolin Alcaraz clearly not at the Toffees’ level, Roberto Martinez enhancing his centre-back options will be a top priority for Roberto Martinez this summer.
One relegation-inspired solution comes in the form of Aston Villa’s Jores Okore, who turned down a move to Chelsea to sign for the Birmingham outfit in summer 2013.
The Danish international has spent much of his Villa career overcoming an ACL injury, sidelined from September 2013 to November 2014.
But Okore’s impact since returning to the starting line-up has been enormous; the Villians have conceded more than one goal on just four occasions from the defender’s 19 Premier League appearances – against Arsenal, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea – whilst he’s claimed averages of 2.1 tackles, 3.1 interceptions, 6.5 clearances and 2.3 successful aerial duels per match.
At 22 years of age, the Ivory-Coast born centre-back still has a lot to learn. But he’s emerged as Villa’s brightest prospect this season and the Toffees would be wise to launch a bid before the rest of the Premier League cottons on.
With Tim Howard now 36 years of age, the goalkeeper department is yet another area of Everton’s squad requiring some fresh blood this summer – although the USA international probably has a few seasons left in him.
And in terms of goalkeepers at the less flattering end of the Premier League table, Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon has really stood out, making 73 saves in just 22 appearances whilst keeping eight clean sheets – ranking him seventh in the division on both counts.
In addition to his impressive reflexes, the Romanian international offers a beastly 6 foot 8 frame, fitting the ever-growing Premier League trend of monolithic rather than agile No.1s.
After blooding himself in at Manchester City and now performing superlatively for the Black Cats, the 28 year-old appears to be verging on his peak. Although Everton fans will be upset to see Howard go, Pantilimon is a more than adequate replacement.
Although Danny Ings remains obvious choice of home-grown centre-forward to target this summer, having demonstrated prodigious ability during the final year of his Burnley contract, well-documented interest from Liverpool and Manchester City suggests Everton might find themselves eclipsed in the race to sign the 22 year-old.
Fear not Toffees fans, however, for QPR’s Charlie Austin represents an equally enticing alternative. 17 goals in 29 appearances this term has left the 25 year-old third in the Premier League’s goal rankings, making him the division’s second-top scoring Englishman after Tottenham’s talismanic Harry Kane.
Austin combines natural predatory instinct with the work-rate, physicality and enthusiasm of a former non-leaguer, working his way up from Kintbury Rangers to the Premier League in the space of eight years via prolific spells with Poole, Swindon and Burnley.
Often struggling without the assistance of target man Bobby Zamora, if there’s one obvious criticism of the QPR forward it’s his inability to serve as a lone striker, despite a powerful 6 foot 2 frame.
That being said, he’s clearly capable of scoring regularly at Premier League level and would be a strong addition to Everton’s forward cast, keeping the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone on their toes.
With QPR almost certain for the drop and Austin’s contract entering its final year, the west Londoners may find themselves obliged to sell this summer. How highly they value the striker, however, remains to be seen.