All the latest news, views and transfer rumours from Goodison Park...
Everton pushed Arsenal all the way to the finish in last season's race for fourth spot, and the club's £28m signature of loan striker Romelu Lukaku is a sign that the Toffees believe they can go one step better this time. Forward Steven Naismith believes that having had a full season under Roberto Martinez's stewardship, they could well get into the top four - but that they need to get off to a good start.
"We’ve had a full year of working under him and knowing what is expected so we’ll hopefully push on and better what we achieved last season," said the 27-year-old. "We definitely want to do that but we’ll not look too far ahead. First of all you want to start the season well with some good performances and results. We were so close to the Champions League last season and this season it would be really nice to have the same fight again and maybe make that fourth spot, if not higher."
The aforementioned Lukaku wasn't the only loan player that Everton snapped up permanently, as midfielder Gareth Barry also stayed on Merseyside following the expiration of his contract at Manchester City. The 33-year-old formed an excellent pairing with James McCarthy in midfield, and the Manchester United-linked star praised Barry for helping him through last season.
"He’s an experienced head and he gives you so much," said the Republic of Ireland international. "He helped me kick on last season and now he’s back here full-time, which is brilliant for the Club and also each and every one of us. He was always there for me last season. If I got caught out of position he would cover for me and vice versa, I would try to cover him. But he’d always be talking – on and off the pitch – and it’s brilliant to have such an experienced head alongside you."
Elsewhere, Everton look set to allow youngster John Lundstram to leave the club on loan. The 20-year-old has already had temporary stays at Yeovil Town and Leyton Orient, but now Blackpool are closing in on a deal for the midfielder as the Tangerines look to finally cobble together a full squad ahead of the new season.