Everton have established themselves in the upper echelons of the Premier League during recent years, first under David Moyes and then in Roberto Martinez’s first season at Goodison Park. The ever present Premier League club have been battling for Europe during the majority of campaigns and will hope to return to those heights after a blip last season.
Story of Last Season
The 2014-15 campaign was a disappointing one for The Toffees with the club almost being dragged into a relegation battle after a post-Christmas slump. The Goodison outfit suffered the curse of the Europa League as their good form in Europe was in stark contrast to their poor league form. Despite challenging for the Champions League places in his debut season, many disgruntled fans called for Matinez’s head, suggesting that his inconsistent form with Wigan was going to be the same at Everton. Eventually, Everton’s form picked up but an 11th placed finish was their first outside the top 8 since 2005-06.
The club have made three signings during the transfer window to date, the most notable being the return of Gerard Deulofeu after a loan spell during the 2013-14 season. The Spaniard showed flashes of brilliance during his previous spell with The Toffees but was too inconsistent for many fans’ liking. After spending last season on loan an Sevilla, Evertonians will be hoping he has matured as a player and will now settle down with a permanent deal instead of the loans he has been used to in recent years.
Tom Cleverley has been brought in on a free following the conclusion of his contract at Manchester United and a loan spell at Aston Villa last season. Cleverley was often used as a scapegoat for United’s midfield struggles but with over 100 Premier League appearances will increase the options available to Martinez in his midfield. The Toffees have also brought in David Henen from Olympiakos on a permanent deal after being on loan last season but not making any appearances for the first team. The 19 year old striker adds to the current Belgian cohort at the club but will be viewed as one for the future and continue his development with the U21 side rather than the senior side.
Romelu Lukaku – After impressing at West Brom and during his first season at Goodison, Lukaku struggled to find his best form last season and Everton found things difficult as a result. If the big Belgian can start finding the net regularly again, Everton will have one of the hottest prospects in the league back on form and firing them up the league. If Lukaku endures another tough season though, goals could be hard to come by for Everton and the struggles of last year could return.
Seamus Coleman – The Irishman is arguably the best right-back in the Premier League and his absence through injury last year was a big factor in Everton’s slump. Coleman loves to bomb forward, always giving his teammates an attacking outlet but also has the defensive qualities to match. With Tony Hibbert now very much in the later years of his career and John Stones more suited to central defence, an injury or loss of form for Coleman could have catastrophic consequences for Everton’s season.
John Stones – Despite only having 44 Premier League appearances under his belt, Stones is already an England international and being chased by Manchester United and Chelsea. However, with Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz leaving during the summer, Everton look short of options at centre-back so Stones will have a key role to play alongside Phil Jagielka. With England still undecided on their best central-defensive partnership, the 21 year old has the opportunity to put himself in contention for a Euro 2016 place, something the Toffees faithful will be hoping brings out the best in him. If the youngster fails to live up to his potential, Martinez could find himself with a big headache at the back.
Martinez seems set to stick to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with only like for like replacements likely. The ever reliable Leon Osman should see plenty of game time this season, as will new signing Tom Cleverley and one of last season’s best performers, Steven Naismith. Muhamed Besic impressed last season so Martinez has four quality options in the centre of midfield.
Roberto Martinez is used to taking the rough with the smooth having suffered relegation with Wigan days after winning the FA Cup. His first two seasons at Goodison have provided more Jekyll and Hyde performances with the club threatening Champions League qualification during his first season before being nearer to relegation than Europe in his second. The swashbuckling performances of 2013-14 were replaced by lacklustre displays last season and a growing number of fans became disillusioned with his style. The upcoming campaign will be key for Martinez’s future and the Spaniard will be hoping for the 2013-14 Everton rather than the 2014-15. With no European fixtures to worry about, the club can focus solely on domestic issues with a clear run at the league and cups. Everton haven’t won a trophy since the 1995 FA Cup, so a league or FA Cup success would surely make Evertonians warm to Martinez and his footballing philosophies, whilst Europa League qualification must be the aim this season, even with the headaches it provides.
First Six Fixtures
Martinez’s cause won’t be helped by Everton’s start the season with an extremely tricky opening six fixtures facing his side. Newly promoted Watford visit Goodison Park on the opening day of the season before fixtures against Southampton, Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and Swansea. Whilst many would expect the Toffees to pick up maximum points against the Hornets, the visits of City and Chelsea could see Everton go empty handed from their next two home games. Southampton, Spurs and Swansea are all likely to be around Everton in the final Premier League table, so away visits to all three within the opening two months of the season will be a major test of Everton’s credentials. Seven points from the opening six games along with good performances would represent a satisfying opening to the season for Everton, but anything as low as three; a distinct possibility with the fixtures, could see Martinez’s job come under scrutiny as early as September.
Final Standing Prediction – 8th
Whilst Everton face a tough opening spell, the squad at their disposal should see a drastic improvement on last season. It is hard to see Everton challenging for the Champions League places like in Martinez’s first season but a scrap for the Europa League should definitely be the aim and see the club return to the Premier League’s top 10. The squad is better than most in the league but still lagging behind the top 6. Anything higher than 7th would be a fantastic achievement for the Toffees, but another bottom half finish would be a huge disappointment.
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