Should Fellaini depart, replacing him is an unenviable task

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesMarouane Fellaini has said that he prefers to play more in a defensive midfielding role.

Occasionally entertaining, more often frustrating, transfer windows have descended into footballing purgatory for Evertonians. The nervous excitement intended for impending signings usually turns into fear over possible departures.

Supporters have sat through numerous high-profile departures in the last decade. Several represented tremendous value for money, most notably Joleon Lescott, but the fans had reason to feel aggrieved with acquired funds rarely reinvested. The final years under David Moyes are testament to this; the departing manager made over £20 million profit on transfers from 2009-2013.

Firstly, of those continually linked with the exit door, Leighton Baines is indispensable. The most creative player in the league and second only to Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena across Europe, the England international is simply irreplaceable given his importance to the team.

The other much-discussed player constantly tipped to leave is Marouane Fellaini, with the Belgian sure to boast a number of potential suitors; Arsenal appear to head the queue at present. Fellaini has made no secret of his preference for Champions League football and the most recent failure to secure European qualification may be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

- No bids yet for Fellaini

Should the transfer materialise, the troublesome part is still ahead -- the replacement of the influential midfielder. Already short in central areas, the sale of the big-haired Belgian would leave a gaping hole in the squad. Fellaini is adept in the advanced role, though at his best in central midfield, and Everton need a player in each role to capitalise on any exit.

Referenced once more in a recent interview, Fellaini often stated his preferred position: "My best position is defensive midfield, stopping the opposition and then looking to impose myself on a game. When I play up front, it's hard. It's not my position and I find it difficult."

Thrust into the advanced role during his debut season and again last season, the goal returns of nine and twelve were commendable. Nevertheless, his absence from the spine of the team was clear, especially last season, with the engine room lightweight minus the tackling ability of Fellaini.

A brief comparison of the last two campaigns highlights a drop in key areas for Fellaini, a result of misuse in the advanced role. The season before last saw 99 tackles with an 85% success rate, including a two-month run without losing a single tackle, while 2012-13 bore witness to fewer tackles (82) at a lower rate (73%).

Although capable of troubling any defence at his best, thanks to an assured touch and giant frame, Fellaini is easily frustrated at times when further forward; away matches saw a number of ineffective performances, namely the disastrous trip to Stoke in December.

Moving forward, whether Fellaini stays or leaves, it is imperative that Roberto Martinez looks to obtain a creative number 10. For all his attributes, Fellaini in the advanced role crippled the contribution of Nikica Jelavic and the lack of a permanent supply line merely hastened the Croatian’s decline in 12-13.

Despite the recent claims of some supporters, the likely departure of Fellaini does not suddenly transport the player from a top class midfielder into an overrated one. Highly influential and a big part of this Everton side, the task of replacing Fellaini (should he depart) is an unenviable one for the manager and those chosen to fill the void.

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