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Royal Blue Mailbag: Pre-season edition

The inaugural edition of the Royal Blue Mailbag answers your questions as we wrap up the pre-season and prepare for the opening weekend in the EPL.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Royal Blue Mailbag. I'm Zach Woosley, the La Liga editor and a news desk writer for SB Nation Soccer, along with being a writer here on Royal Blue Mersey and an Everton supporter.

Each week I'll take your questions about Everton, the EPL and the football world in general and do my best to provide you with informative and interesting answers. I'm looking forward to interacting with everyone and hopefully you'll enjoy this regular column.

So enough introduction, let's get to the questions!

Do you think there are enough fan forums? (@AK4INSURANCE)

There are too many fan forums if you ask me and considering there a quickly becoming a bit antiquated in our more fast moving, social media driven world, I'm surprised they continue to survive. I suppose there's always going to be people that enjoy the more slow paced nature of a forum environment and that's fine of course. The problem is, they often become wretched hives of scum and villainy which are in no way welcoming to new users and outsiders.

I have no problem with them honestly, I just don't visit. I think sites like ours are the future for online communities around teams as we provide both content and a "safe" place for fans to converse and debate.

Assuming Felli goes for £23.5-30m, how much do you think RM will get to spend? Also, how do you or would you like to see that money spent? (@memphistoffees)

Given the debt that's always hanging over Everton's finances it's hard to imagine that Martinez would get every penny of a potential Fellaini sale. He should get it all but that's probably not likely or practical so if he can at least get a solid percentage of the money -- say £15-20 million -- I think that would be extremely useful in filling out the squad.

As far as how to spend any possible money, I think the best best is finding quality depth. I'm not sure there's a glaring need at any position even if Fellaini leaves, so go out and get the best possible players than can both provide depth and push the older starters for their places. I'd like to see another young central defender brought it, possible another young striker.

Who do Everton need to keep more, Fellaini or Baines? Also, is Ross Barkley ready to be the next star? (@knabelism)

There's no doubt in my mind that keeping Baines is more important for Everton's success this season. I love Fellaini and when he's on his game, he brings skills to the table that are tough to match. That said, Baines is consistently more effective and more important to Everton's overall success. Fellaini's tendency to disappear at times sets him back just a bit for me and his occasional disciplinary issues don't help either.

What formation are we likely to line up in on opening day and what are the pros/cons? (@ClashSLF)

I think we'll see a 4-2-3-1 formation as that's the alignment Martinez has been favoring late in the preseason. I think the current roster is better built to utilize that formation, rather than the 3-4-2-1 that we saw frequently form Wigan last year. Everton have strength in the midfield so it makes the most sense to overload that part of the field and take advantage of your strength. As far as cons to using that system, I don't really see any at the moment. As long as the attacking midfield line does their job, the lone striker shouldn't end up on a island.

Does Everton have what it takes to qualify for Europe this year? (@gipnov23)

Absolutely, they've had what it takes for the past several seasons at least in terms of talent. Their downfall has been virtually no roster depth to over come injuries at spots during the season. Martinez has already added some depth this summer with the addition of Antolín Alcaraz -- who needs to stay healthy -- and Arouna Koné. Plus Everton hasn't lost anyone yet and might not. If Ross Barkley develops and John Stones can provide to additional defensive depth, there's not reason Everton shouldn't be in the mix for Europe.

How does this year's team compare to those of the past decade? Does Martinez have more to work with than Moyes did? (@ThelronScone)

From front to back I think this has to be one of the most talented Everton squads we've seen. Moyes left the cupboard in solid shape for Martinez and the new coach has gone out and added much needed depth with a couple solid player that he's familiar with. So because of that, Martinez has more to work with -- at least on the field -- than Moyes has in recent seasons.

That's Moyes fault though as he never seems able, willing or capable of bringing in an extra squad player or two just to provide some coverage at key spots. He instead chose to rely on youngsters to fill the bench, which is fine if you're actually willing to use them. Moyes was a collector of young talent but had a horrible inability to actually develop them. How many young players came to Everton during Moyes' time with high expectations only to fade away and never live up to their potential?

The pieces have been there the last two seasons, now we get to see a new coach with new ideas take a crack at things.

I am curious about the merchandise deal with Kitbag that Everton has. Being a fan in the US, I can get my hands on big news and broadcasts of the games but behind the scenes issues like Kitbag are harder to find. The guys on the Everton forum I frequent often mention that we are held back by the deal we have with Kitbag. I was hoping you could explain the deal we have, how it differs from other Premier League teams, and the benefits and drawbacks of said deal. (Tim)

Good question Tim. I had to do a bit of digging on this topic as I've heard a great deal about it but never really got into the facts. Before I offer up what I found and my thoughts, I want to say there very well may be people who read this with additional information or better viewpoints on this. I encourage them to add their thoughts in the comments and correct any errors I might make.

Here's what I found. Everton signed a 10-year, £30 million deal with Kitbag in 2009 to handle the distribution and retail arm of Everton's jersey sales. Each season Everton receives £3 million from Kitbag no matter how many, or how few kits are sold online and in the Everton One and Two stores. That means that even if there are let's say £10 million in jersey sales, Everton gets their £3m and Kitbag gets £7m.

Since Everton are not responsible for inventory control and all the other aspects of selling jerseys, there is some logic to the deal. It keeps are great deal off financial responsibility off the club and they never have to worry about having excess inventory they can't sell.

The problem is, that £3m is very low compared to other team in the EPL. Based on the last numbers I saw Swansea (£4.5m), West Ham (£15m) and West Brom (£5m) all make more annually on their kit deals that Everton. Clubs like United, City, Liverpool and others make significantly more but that's to be expected. For teams like Swansea and West Brom to be doing better with their deals gives us another reason to laugh in the board's face about another bad business decision.

For me, they chose a long-term safe option rather than going with a potentially riskier, shorter term option that would give the club more flexibility as new jersey makers entered the game and more money was being thrown around. Instead of being able to sign a new, more lucrative deal, Everton are stuck earning £3m a season until 2019.

As other clubs who consistently finish below Everton in the table have bigger deals, we're left with the scraps from, in my opinion, a poorly negotiated deal. Given the board's track record, we really shouldn't be surprised.


Thanks for the questions everyone! Remember, the Royal Blue Mailbag will be back every week during the season on Wednesdays.

You can tweet your questions to the site account (@rbmersey) or my account (@GingeFC) or email them to me at gingesoccer [at] gmail dot com.

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