Roberto Martinez will be one of a couple of Premier League managers looking at this campaign and seeing it as a chance missed. The most entertaining league has reached new levels of unpredictability this season with Leicester City topping the table and last season’s champions Chelsea sitting in 13th. Inconsistent form from some of the league’s biggest teams has opened up opportunities at the top of the league to break the ‘big club’ norm. Unfortunately for Everton fans, the Merseyside club won’t be one of them.
Martinez finds himself in a difficult position with 14 games to go. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder with trepidation of being sucked into a relegation battle but faces stiff competition to achieve Europa League qualification. The Spaniard’s team is floating awkwardly in the middle of the table and have been largely disappointing this season. Occasionally for a club in this position, you’d say that they’re just looking for the season to end to regroup and recruit ahead of an improved showing next season considering the amount of talent that Everton have. However, the Toffees could be slightly nervous to do that heading into the summer transfer window.
Everton have a wealth of young prospects and have had some fine individual performers this season which has shifted the spotlight off what has been a fairly poor season so far. Surely some clubs will be looking at the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley who have both starred in Everton’s formidable attack with the former netting 19 times in all competitions this season and the latter possessing the creativity, strength and intelligence to break open any team, or country for that matter.
Martinez also had to fend off interest from Chelsea in the summer for arguably England’s brightest defensive prospect in recent years. John Stones has come under criticism as of late for some defensive mistakes but it is without question that the composure and ability that the centre back has on the ball means that he will be a cert to be England’s first choice centre back for years to come. If reports in the summer are to be believed, Everton were turning down bids close to £40m for the young defender. However, with another full Premier League season under his belt and the frightening prospect that this ball playing centre back is, Everton would have every right to push the asking price up this summer if interest persists.
Gerard Deulofeu is another player that has impressed this season after re-joining Everton permanently in the summer from Barcelona. The Spaniard is a winger that full-backs hate to play against with his unpredictability similar to that of this Premier League season. In Everton’s 2-1 home defeat to Swansea a couple of weekends ago, Deulofeu was arguably the best player on the pitch. He produced teasing cross after teasing cross, and the skills and tricks that he has in abundance illustrated exactly why Martinez wanted to bring him back to Goodison Park. In midfield, the veteran Gareth Barry has taken the young Muhamed Besic under his wing. The Bosnian covers a lot of ground, is tenacious in his defensive duties and is guaranteed to improve every minute that he is partnered alongside Barry in the centre of the park.
Everton are one of the few teams left in the FA Cup that have the ability and opportunity to put everything into winning the competition. Sitting comfortably in mid-table with no fears of going down and stiff competition looking upwards, the five time FA Cup winners could see the competition as their only chance to ensure that there is some element of collective success this campaign and make a statement of intent ahead of next season. A first FA Cup trophy since 1995 to add some silverware to the cabinet and a reward of Europa League football would be a good way to end the season to ensure key players remain on Merseyside next year.
If an FA Cup trophy doesn’t materialise you have to imagine that clubs would be looking at some of Everton’s players or some of their players could look towards the exit signs at Goodison Park. It would be extremely disappointing to see such young prospects leave the club in the summer but that could be a possibility if they feel like their impressive form this season has earned them the right to play at a higher level.
However, it would be great to see a team that has a well-structured blend of the experience of Jagielka, Baines and Barry with the exciting prospects of the likes of Barkley, Lukaku and Stones next season. Young talent like those on the Everton books need guaranteed first team football at a club where they know they can perform. Yes, this season for Everton has been disappointing so far and has to be considered an underachievement but, with some shrewd recruitment and if Bill Kenwright puts a firm foot down this summer, another season where Barkley, Lukaku, Stones and co. can mature and develop will mean that Roberto Martinez will have a very dangerous team at his disposal.
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