Realistically, what type of transfers can we expect during the January transfer window? Will Bill (Kenwright) be excited by what he has seen and take a financial gamble to ensure European football next season or will he continue his minimal mid-season expenditure?
A good question. I think what we bring in will depend on a few factors. First off, who leaves in January. My guess is Nikica Jelavic and John Heitinga; and if not in January then certainly in the Summer. Secondly, who Roberto Martinez identifies as a player to further strengthen the team. Finally, and which addresses the second part of the question, it depends on how much money is available for the gaffer to spend.
At the end of the previous transfer window, Robert Elstone said the signing of James McCarthy did not depend on the sale of Marouane Fellaini. So then, £28m (approx) will be at the disposal of the manager. We all know this isn't true though, and I think I addressed this in the last mailbag.
There is no doubt that Roberto Martinez's signings have been top drawer. Gareth Barry was shrewd business, James McCarthy is drawing comparisons with Roy Keane and we all know what Gerard Deulofeu is capable of. I think the only questionable signing was Arouna Kone. When he has had his chances he's done nothing to convince me he's an Everton player. I only saw Antolin Alcaraz at Accrington Stanley during pre-season and he looked assured. As a free transfer that also made sense, but the longer he is injured the less sense it makes.
The manager has said he will only buy the right player. I trust him to do so, and if the right player isn't available then I wouldn't realistically expect any signings.
Is this Tim Howard's best stretch at Everton? Is his form a result of better competition or is it the change in coach?
In a nutshell yes. He's started the season very well with minimal error. His distribution has been good and some of the saves he's made have been top drawer. It was abundantly clear that as Jan Mucha's time at Everton was coming to an end last year he seemed less and less interested in pushing for the number one spot. The arrival of Joel Robles probably has raised Tim's game. I personally liked Chris Woods as a goalkeeping coach, and it seems Tim liked him too (he recommended him to Jurgen Klinsmann afterall). However, the new goalkeeping coach seems intensive - and a bit mental! Long may Tim's form continue.
What is the plan for Nikica Jelavic?
For me I think it is the beginning of the end of his days at Everton. However, the manager seems to have faith in him. He names him on the bench each week and has given him game time. I would play him for the full 90 in the Under 21's for a few weeks and let him get his game practice back and hopefully rediscover the form which made him a fans favourite. He's never going to start over Romelu Lukaku though, and with Arouna Kone also on the roster then it will be tough for Jelavic in terms of competition.
If you had to keep one between Deulofeu or Barkley, who would it be and why?
Wow! A tough, tough question. Barkley would be even better than he is now but for two things. One, he broke his leg playing for England and the England medical staff said he wouldn't play football again. This set him back in his development at least 12 months. Two, David Moyes' lack of faith in him. Moyes played him right midfield, left midfield then shipped him out on loan. Roberto Martinez has deployed him in the correct position, with two midfielders behind him to sweep up his mistakes. His style of football suits Ross, a quick tempo passing game involving spacial awareness and movement with a positive attitude. The boss has challenged him to play naturally and push himself, almost encouraging him to make mistakes and learn from them for next time. Ross deserves all the plaudits he is getting.
Gerard Deulofeu is an outstanding young talent with the world at his feet. Barcelona do not put a €35m release clause in a 19 year old's contract for no reason. We've seen first hand what he is capable off, and in the short time he has been here he has constantly improved his game, most notably his work rate. Gerard is a game changer. Every time he gets the ball you get the feeling something is going to happen with it. He is lightening quick on the ball and would be a pain in the arse to mark! Tito Martino refused to discuss extending Gerard's loan beyond this season, saying it wasn't the right time to. Deulofeu himself has said he is very happy here, but he remains a Barca player and when his opportunity comes there he will take it with both hands. Who would blame him! However, if that opportunity is not in the 2014/15 season then no one would love him to stay again more than me.
To answer the question, I'd keep Ross. He's Everton through and through. Gerard Deulofeu is an outstanding talent, no question, and yes I'd love him to stay. But there's always the chance if he did stay permanently then in a year or two's time he could have his head turned. However, I reckon Ross is here to stay. He loves it here. He went to school 2 miles away from where I live and has been at Everton from a very young age. He just gets the club.
Martinez's system relies on passing out of the backline. Are Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin making that transition well, or will we have to look at replacements for them?
Have a look yourself. We have only lost one game all season (Manchester City away). Yes, playing from the back is a big part of the pattern of play Roberto Martinez wants to deploy. However, a big part is also possession, picking the pass at the right time and draining the opposition physically and mentally. Jagielka and Distin get out wider than usual, but this then allows McCarthy or Barry to drop in to give another option. This also then draws a midfielder out which creates more space in the middle of the park for Barkley and Lukaku to receive the ball. It's clever.
As far as replacing either centre half goes, no. No need yet. They're both doing very well. Phil Jagielka has been one of our best performers (again) this season and has become England's first choice centre half.
However, Distin is 35 now and can't go on forever. But, he's in great shape and is certainly doing well. In fact, he's being offered a contract extension beyond this season.
How far away is Leighton Baines from recovery and will he regain his place given Bryan Oviedo's performances?
I don't know how far away Baines is from playing, although I guess it isn't that far. I expect he will be involved over the festive fixtures. Your point though is a good one - Oviedo doesn't deserve dropping as he hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a healthy conundrum for the manager to have though. Baines is world class. No doubt about it. But, given the congested fixtures, a rotation may come into play before Baines once again takes over the mantle.
Is there a realistic possibility of Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu or even Romelu Lukaku being in an Everton shirt next season?
Short and sweet - yes.
Gareth Barry is a free transfer in the summer and told a fans' forum last night that he wanted to stay.
Romelu Lukaku has recently been slated by Jose Mourinho and has gone on record saying he would be happy to stay, especially if we get European football. Also, I was sat next to his brother at Arsenal and asked him this question. His response was "he is happy, I am happy, Dad is happy, we love it. It is up to Chelsea but he wants to."
There is an option to extend Gerard Deulofeu's loan beyond this season, and there is no reason I can see why the club wouldn't look to explore this. However, this depends on Barcelona's plans for him next season.
Where do you see us finishing this season realistically?
Given the teams we have played and the points we have taken from them, there is no reason why we cant push for top four. Beating Chelsea and Manchester United, drawing with Arsenal and winning most of our home games is good form. The only down side are the drawers against Norwich City and the likes (no disrespect there), but this seems to be an early season blip.
Also, look at the teams around us and in particular Liverpool. They have plenty of their first team out injured, and their next few fixtures are Tottenham Hotspur (a), Cardiff (h), Manchester City (a), Chelsea (a) and Hull City (h).
Should be an interesting Christmas period.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below.
Follow me on Twitter - @DarrenMelling