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Royal Blue Mailbag - Your Questions Answered

The Mailbag is back! Darren Melling answers your questions. If you have a question you'd like to ask on anything Everton, tweet it to @rbmersey.

Gerard Deulofeu & Romelu Lukaku - will they be Everton players beyond this season?
Gerard Deulofeu & Romelu Lukaku - will they be Everton players beyond this season?
Jan Kruger

Given the good start to the season, the questions have been flooding in. Here, I will answer questions from Landon Donovan, the mood around Finch Farm and the possibility of keeping Romelu Lukaku & Gerard Deulofeu past this season

<strong>What is the general consensus about Nikica Jelavic? Can he really be a player who contributes to the team going forward?</strong>

There is no doubt that Jelavic hit the ground running after his move from Glasgow Rangers. Everything he seemed to touch turned to goals. However, when you look at the goals he scored many of them were one touch finishes from pull backs after a wide player had reached the by-line. His very first Everton goal against Spurs being the prime example.

For some reason last season, the rise of Marouane Fellaini meant that we stopped playing the ball out wide and went a bit more direct and much more central. This meant that at times Jelavic was receiving the ball to his head, chest or thigh on the edge of the 18 yard box with his back to goal, rather than along the floor facing goal between the penalty spot and 6 yard area. He's been exposed as a player who is instinctive. When he has time he tends to miss. Look at his one on one this weekend against Stoke.

In my opinion, I think he will be cashed in in January.

<strong>How do you see the competition for playing time between Pienaar, Deulofeu and Mirallas playing out? Does Gerard pose a long term threat as a starter to either Pienaar and Mirallas?</strong>

A difficult conundrum, but I'm sure one the gaffer welcomes. Let's face it, up until the Derby game Mirallas looked a shade of himself from last season and had you asked me the same question before that game I'd have definitely said Deulofeu Barkley and Pienaar would make up the attacking midfield. However, Mirallas still has four assists this season and was excellent against Liverpool. Personally, if you sign someone on loan you get everything out of them that you can. If that's playing every minute of every game then so be it.

However, Deulofeu is a young boy with the world at his feet. He's quick, skilful and has an extremely positive attacking attitude. There is no doubt that he gets the fans on the edge of their seats. I'm a believer in selection on form and not on reputation. So, for that reason, I'd currently pick Deulofeu over Mirallas. To answer the question, then yes I think Deulofeu has to be considered a real threat to his team mates' starting places now.

<strong>What are the realistic chances of Lukaku and/or Deulofeu being here next season, or longer?</strong>

My heart says both of them will 100% stay for a long, long time. However, my head says different.

As far as I am aware, if Deulofeu plays a certain percentage of games then we don't have to pay a loan fee for him. And, if it goes well for all concerned, he is here again next season on loan.

As for Lukaku, it's a bit in the air at the moment, especially given Jose Mourinho's recent comments. We all want him to stay. He's a young, strong, hungry goal scorer - something we haven't had consistently for a long time. His goals per game ratio for us is exceptional. The stumbling blocks will be Champions League football and any fee. Plus, the better he does the higher his fee! Lukaku himself has said he would be willing to stay here should be finish top four. I for one hope it happens!

<strong>How bad are Gibson and Kone? Will we see them again this season?</strong>

Quite simply, I doubt it very much. Gibson and Kone both went under the knife and are out for a while.

<strong>Is there a change of atmosphere in the club under Martinez? Has he introduced any specific changes that have made a positive (or negative) impact?</strong>

Yes there is a change of atmosphere. There is also, I think, a heightened self-belief about the players. Let's compare. David Moyes openly stated he played not to lose, especially against the "bigger" sides and especially away from home. Have a look at the recent Derby. Moyes' record against Liverpool wasn't the best at all. Martinez, however, focused purely on us, and how to beat Liverpool. And, for me, he got it right. The players conceded the goals from poor marking at set pieces. Martinez's captain at Swansea, Gary Monk, explained how he hardly ever trained defending set-pieces. Maybe this is something which we need to work on?

As far as the training is concerned, I have asked a few people about Martinez and Graham Jones' methods and without saying too much there are only positives to say. The players are loving it because everything is with a football. He's a breath of fresh air. A winner. And I'm looking forward to him unleashing the side against David Moyes on Wednesday evening.

<strong>How involved is Martinez throughout the club, with reserve and youth teams etc?</strong>

Very. He constantly watches the U21 and Youth games at Finch Farm. He is in constant dialogue with the Academy staff and takes an avid interest in all aspects of the club.

<strong>Any idea how much money Martinez will have in January?</strong>

Simple. According to Robert Elstone, the transfer of James McCarthy was NOT dependant upon the sale of Marouane Fellaini. OK then. That means we will have around £28m to spend in January or the summer, as the gaffer sees fit. At least, as don't forget we sold Victor Anichebe to WBA too. But, are we naïve enough to think that this board will give the manager this? No, didn't think so.

<strong>Do you think we will ever see 3-5-2 under Martinez, or is he playing to our strengths?</strong>

I think we already have seen it in small portions of games. Usually, when John Stones plays then that is in a 3-5-2. However, I think that he thinks our best, strongest system is a flat back 4, with 2 holding midfielders, 3 attacking midfielders supporting a lone striker. And, it works.

<strong>What is the most important position Everton should fill in January?</strong>

In my opinion I'd be looking at another forward to replace Jelavic and should we not be able to hold onto Lukaku step into his shoes. Other than that, maybe a midfielder? I'm not sure how much longer Distin will be able to cope in the Premier League too, although he's doing great this season.

<strong>Is Landon Donovan a good option on loan or is he past his prime?</strong>

My heart would love him back. My head though says this ship has sailed. It would be another loan signing for 8 weeks. When we signed him first time it was very successful as we didn't have a better right midfielder. Now, we arguably have two. And would you drop Lukaku for him? I think not. Sentimentality is a good thing. Let's leave it at that.

<strong>Finally, are you looking forward to Old Trafford on Wednesday night, where will the game be won for us and what is your prediction?</strong>

Yes, very much looking forward to it. For the first time in years I am going to Old Trafford extremely optimistic and with absolutely no fear. As a manager, I would be doing the old trick of putting Moyes' quotes from this week all over the changing room walls, and that would be the motivational box ticked as far as team talk goes.

For us, the game will most definitely be won in the midfield. I think ours is much stronger than Manchester United's at the minute. Scholes retiring, Carrick and Fletcher injured, Giggs a bit part player severely weakens their spine. I really hope Fellaini plays in the middle of a flat four midfield. He tends to ball chase and will leave huge holes for Barkley/Mirallas/Pienaar/Deulofeu to exploit. Plus there is the added threat of James McCarthy bombing on too, aware of Gareth Barry's role an the anchor. Throw into the mix Romelu Lukaku up front and the team is full of goals.

<em>My prediction - Lukaku first goal, Everton win 2:1.</em>

What do you think? Do you agree? Comments welcome below.

Follow me - @DarrenMelling