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Everton boss Roberto Martinez is still receiving plaudits for leading his side to a stunning 3-0 win over Arsenal last Sunday, but Gunners boss Arsene Wenger wasn't quite so enamoured with the Spaniard, criticising Everton's policy of loaning players. Key figures such as Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu are all on loan from Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona respectively, but Martinez has defended the moves.
"You accept everyone's opinion. Obviously, the loan system is something that has to be part of the game. People will be against the idea of a club having a player who isn't their property, but that player can be developed and their value increased. It's a system that has its pros and cons. Clearly from our point of view, the loan system was vital. It was something we needed to finish our squad, but to criticise that would be ridiculous," he said.
"It would be the same as criticising us because we give youngsters opportunities. At times in the line-up, we have four under-21s, and two on the bench. That's an unknown quantity. "The loanees have come in with an incredible attitude and desire. Two cases [Lukaku and Deulofeu] are young players who needed the opportunity to develop," he concluded.
But one of the long-serving Toffees stars is returning to action for the big end of the season run-in, as England defender Phil Jagielka will be coming back from his hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for almost two months. Manager Martinez confirmed that the former Sheffield United man will make his comeback in a behind closed doors friendly.
"I want to make sure he’s 100 per cent for the full 90 minutes, so we will organise a behind closed doors game. But he’s reacted well to treatment and will have every chance. Don’t want to take one per cent of risk, hopefully should be okay in next ten days or so," he said.
Meanwhile, the success of the Toffees leaves them susceptible to interest from other clubs, and midfielder Ross Barkley has been attracting attention from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, with new speculation suggesting that the Blues have now lead the race for the £50m rated midfielder.