2014-15 Season Preview

The curtain will soon be raised on Roberto Martinez's second season in charge at Goodison Park, the latest page in a new chapter of the club's history waiting to be written.

Lyndon Lloyd 12/08/2014 81comments  |  Jump to last

Can Roberto Martinez go one better than last season?

In just a few days' time, the curtain will be raised on Roberto Martinez's second season in charge at Goodison Park, the latest page in a new chapter of the club's history waiting to be written under the guidance of the optimistic Catalan who took an unexpectedly big stride last term towards altering the perception of Everton in the wider picture of the Premier League.

The Blues may have developed the tag of plucky underdogs punching above their weight under his predecessor, but in a season in which he was expected to struggle under the weight of David Moyes's 11-year legacy and the precedent of his Wigan Athletic side finally succumbing to relegation, Martinez came within a very late stumble of guiding his new club to the promised land of the Champions League.

Having achieved so much because of and not in spite of a significant shift towards possession football and a laudible emphasis on a counter-attacking strategy to beat the top teams in the country and now shattered Everton's incoming transfer record, Martinez goes into this second season with a good deal more expectation on his shoulders than he did a year ago. The media might still prefer to concentrate on the other six clubs that filled the top seven last season but the Toffees outsiders, dark horses... the label doesn't matter; it's a role they will relish are very much part of the equation. What's more, there is belief among Evertonians that the manager can go one better than last season.

The World Cup may have provided a month-long distraction that filled a large chunk of what can otherwise feel like an interminable summer and also given plenty of fodder for the red tops' transfer gossip pages, but it has also left Everton's pre-season feeling somewhat disjointed. With players on differing schedules and fitness programmes, and key players going into the new campaign without having played a full warm-up match, it's been hard judging from the performances in the recent friendlies at least for the management to align things so that everything comes together seamlessly when the real business kicks off at Leicester.

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Things very well may do anyway but there has been some understandable unease among supporters during what has been a strange, winless pre-season. As anyone involved at the professional level will tell you, the results of these warm-up matches mean absolutely nothing but if there is a nagging doubt about the team's preparedness for the new season it has come from the general performances and an apparent lack of sharpness in the players.

Again, Evertonians shouldn't read too much into that either; the reticence among the players to go all-out in warm-up matches given the risk of injury is understandable and where last summer was all about putting into practice a new possession-based game, this time Martinez appears to be doing more of his work with the players on the training pitch. Furthermore, a comparison with the impotent display against Valencia in the last game in the USA a year ago and the disappointing showing that followed against Real Betis (a 2-1 win notwithstanding) should calm the nerves. Neither games were true indicators of the season that would follow, particularly given the infusion of quality that came on transfer deadline day three weeks later, arguably the club's most climactic and influential conclusion to a transfer window since they were introduced.

A similar pattern may play out again this time. With the absence thus far of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas, Martinez has been without two of the most important components of his attack this pre-season and a case could be made for adding Seamus Coleman to that list given his importance to the Blues going forward and that he played just 30 minutes of the Tranmere friendly before being withdrawn with a hamstring strain.

The loss of those three vital players goes a long way to explaining the conspicuous deficiencies the team has exhibited in the final third over the past three weeks and also underscores the persisting lack of cover in those positions should those players be missing for any length of time once the season gets underway. The impending arrival of Christian Atsu will add more peace of mind in Mirallas's position and compensate for the loss of Gerard Deulofeu from the flanks, but with question marks over the timing and subsequent reliablity of Arouna Kone's availability, further reinforcements in attack should, you feel, be a priority for Martinez before the end of the month.

Coleman's position aside, the defensive part of the team looks in great shape in terms of cover, with Shane Duffy and Tyias Browning bolstering options behind Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz in the pecking order for centre-half, and Luke Garbutt pushing Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo at left-back when the Costa Rican eventually returns in a month or two. In the midfield holding roles, Muhamed Besic appears to provide a ready-made alternative to Gareth Barry or James McCarthy while Darron Gibson, although perhaps more offensively-minded, can also step into that position if needed.

The uncertainty over just how many positions the manager aims to address further forward before the deadline is what makes predicting Everton's prospects for the new season somewhat challenging. Should he have two or three aces up his sleeve come 1st September, additions to the team that would add unquestionable quality, then the Blues would quite rightly consider themselves capable of cracking the top four. As things stand, however, a Champions League spot via league placing still feels like a step beyond us, particularly while the question of what happens should Mirallas or Lukaku get injured remains unanswered.

As feared, the flood of new broadcast revenue into the Premier League has inflated prices to the same dramatic degree, thereby keeping Everton's ability to compete with their significantly better-endowed rivals more or less unchanged. The acquisition of Lukaku was a big statement that vaulted the club to greater parity with the company it keeps in the upper reaches of England's top flight but it represented a significant chunk if not all of the manager's budget for the summer.

Some quick and very loose arithmetic on Everton's incomings and outgoings since Martinez arrived in June last year reveals that the club's committed funds out are more or less equal to how much it is due to receive to this point, with around 75m from the combination of player sales and the increase in TV revenue receivables for 2014 balanced against around 67m in payments on transfer fees, sell-on clauses and compensation to Wigan for the manager himself. Once the unknown total of agents' fees and increased wages from the new contracts signed this summer are factored in, the ins and outs more or less balance out. While that doesn't preclude another big-money signing before the closure of the window, it does point to the manager spending most of his energy scouring the loan market.

As he has shown already, Martinez can be a highly skilled operator in that market and his ambitions and success on that front could be key to Everton's chances of cracking that infamous glass ceiling this season. While the Catalan says that the battle to finish in those top-four slots shouldn't be about money, the cold hard facts show that it is. Martinez demonstrated that skillful management could overcome financial superiority to a degree last season when he steered Everton to a higher finish in the Premier League than both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but in the final reckoning the seven-point gap between the Blues and Arsenal in fourth was illustrative of the top four's relative strength in depth. Belief, tactical flexibility and superb coaching could only get Everton so far against the uncompromising reality of the imbalance that exists in the Premier League.

While Spurs will go into the new campaign with a sizeable question mark hanging over their heads as they begin life under Mauricio Pochettino with his Latin style and emphasis on passing football, he represents North London's answer to our Roberto and Liverpool will be weakened to a degree by the loss of Luis Suarez, most of the teams around us in that top seven promise to be as strong or stronger this time around.

Manchester United will almost surely improve. Free from any distraction in Europe, their squad bolstered significantly by the likes of Ander Herrera and with Louis van Gaal's hard-nosed style replacing the uncertain leadership of Moyes, it is too much to expect another season of misery at Old Trafford. Chelsea and Manchester City, meanwhile, have added more expensive talent to their ranks to shore up their respective challenges and both would expect to again be serious contenders for the title.

Given that they were the fourth-placed team last season, Arsenal would ordinarily be the team that Everton would have foremost in their sights but the Gunners look, on paper, to be a much more dangerous outfit this time than they were last season. They led the League for a good while last season before falling away but once they were free of the disruption caused by injuries to the likes of Theo Walcott, Mezut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, Arsene Wenger's side powered ominously through their last five matches with a 100% record, ending our top-four hopes in the process. With the mental handicap of their own trophy drought dispelled with triumph at Wembley in the FA Cup Final in May and the introduction of Alexis Sanchez over the summer, Arsenal look formidable.

So, again, it's still hard to see a way into the Champions League places for Everton without further injection of match-winning talent than we've already managed and, last-minute surprises notwithstanding, Martinez's rhetoric of late suggests that he is more or less satisfied with the numbers and quality in his squad. Concerns remain among fans, though, that the Blues simply don't have the necessary depth to wage a campaign in Europe on top of the usual domestic commitments all four fronts of which could overlap come the New Year should we progress into the later stages of the Capital One Cup and still sustain a realistic push for the top four. Many teams have struggled to balance a challenge on the Continent with domestic league and cup campaigns, though it's worth mentioning that Everton under Moyes were not one of them.

Martinez is pragmatic about his team's chances, though, being careful to maintain that the Champions League remains the ultimate goal without putting a specific timescale on his being able to achieve it. Central to his longer-term aims will be the experience in the Europa League this season, a competition that now boasts the carrot of a place on European club football's biggest stage for the winners. If the manager is able to successfully navigate his way through the Europa League and win it, the Blues could find their way into the Champions League via the side entrance and not have to rely on the more gruelling path via the top four back home.

It's an intriguing aspect to what promises to be a fascinating season. How will our manager fare in his second season in charge? Will another one or two of their rivals stumble and allow Everton to step over them into the coveted top four places or can Roberto prove that the power of good management and psychology can overcome simple economics?

Key to that last point will be what sort of start Everton make, particularly in view of the six points they dropped during a comparatively favourable run of three matches to start the 2013-14 campaign. The trip to Leicester on the opening day offers a tricky but winnable start to the season ahead of the Goodison double-header against Arsenal and Chelsea that will close out August. That one-two against two of last season's top four teams is daunting on its face but provides Martinez and the Blues with a wonderful opportunity to get priceless points on the board before either team has had the chance to really bed in their new players and find some rhythm.

In that respect, the continuity in his team, represented by the retention of Lukaku and Gareth Barry, that Martinez cites as being so important this season could be his greatest asset in the very early stages. Assuming that the Belgians play a part in the opener at the King Power Stadium on the 16th, Lukaku and Mirallas should be sufficiently sharp by the time the Gunners come to town, putting the Blues in a great position to make a statement to the League from the outset.

After that, much will depend on the favour of fortune on the injury front. This Everton side under Martinez, with the lack of fear and never-say-die attitude that he has fostered, will be a match for anyone with the bulk of Martinez's first-choice XI on the pitch. The more the manager is able to call on that core group, the better the Blues will fare. And with optimism high among the faithful and growing, season-ticket sales at the highest levels they have been for many years, and that unrivalled away support, the team should have no shortage of backing from the terraces.

After so many years of treading water, the future at Everton is reassuringly bright and with so much burgeoning young talent on the books plus one of the brightest young managers in the game, the chances are surely good that the thirst for silverware will soon be quenched. The top four may remain elusive for another season but a successful cup run is well within the team's grasp... and if that just so happens to be in Europe, then Martinez can kill two birds with one stone!

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Reader Comments (81)

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Phil Traynor
1 Posted 13/08/2014 at 07:32:39
A fair appraisal Lyndon. Switch the IX to XI tho. Otherwise expect a barrage of Hilarious comments :-).
Derek Knox
2 Posted 13/08/2014 at 08:09:36
Good post Lyndon, let's just hope we don't repeat the stuttering start that we had last season. I know we have a stronger line-up or do we? Lukaku, Mirallas,Coleman? (let's hope they all make it in time)

Phil, Tw'ers would never post a barrage of hilarious comments, would they? :-)

Peter Mills
3 Posted 13/08/2014 at 08:12:05
Pretty much on the money, as usual, Lyndon. However, I fear you may have glossed over a few of the defensive frailties which undid us too many times last season.

We know what to expect from Jags, Distin and Howard, consistent performances with occasional howlers and a weakness against accurate, fast crosses put in just above head height onto the 6yd line. John Stones may develop into a colossus, but it will take time. I don't share your faith in the cover provided by Duffy and Alcaraz, and Robles as first reserve goalie is worrying.

I know it's all about "sin miedo" but I have to confess to having just a touch of miedo about the daft goals we concede.

Kieran Fitzgerald
4 Posted 13/08/2014 at 08:17:25
I think that by the time we play Utd on Oct 5th, we will have a fair idea of where this squad is at. We will have played Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in the league, two EL games and possibly a couple of league cup games.

You would presume that our strongest thirteen or fourteen players will have played in the league. If they play from where we left off at the end of last season you would be confident of having twelve or thirteen points on the board out of a possible twenty one.

In terms of the other two competitions, it will be interesting to see if both Oviedo and Gibson are back to full fitness and playing games. The squad and younger players, upon whom there seemed to be so much emphasis in the pre-season games, will also have been given the chance to show if they are up to it in competitive games.

If we play well, then confidence and momentum will be in place. With season tickets at a recent all time high, a packed Goodison could add to this. A couple of bad defeats however, or if we struggle against a number of the lesser teams, and much of the optimism carried over from last season and the summer will have quickly dissipated.

In terms of our rivals, you would hope that there are a couple of the Sky created super Sundays early in the season. Lyndon is right to point out that it will take a number of our competitors time to bed in their new players. Some disjointed performances by our competitors against other top four chasing teams early in the season may play in our favour.

Kevin Tully
5 Posted 13/08/2014 at 09:11:08
Nice to hear Pellegrini stating we will be challenging the top teams this season. He had a lot of nice things to say about Martinez and obviously has a lot of respect for us.

Pre-season has been and gone now, so hopefully we can all calm down a little and trust the manager to have the team prepared as best he can.

I know the likes of Pienaar and Osman have been reliable players in the past for us, but until they become our second choice starters we won't make the progress we all crave. Barkley, Besic, McCarthy, Lukaku, Coleman and Stones all have the talent, and more importantly the belief to actually go a step further than the old guard and win some silverware. The older players in the squad have too much of an inferiority complex when facing some sides, I think it may be too late for them to change.

How things have changed in the space of twelve months though, I honestly expect at least one Cup Final this season - hopefully in Europe. Let's hope we can paint Roberto's blank canvas at Finch Farm this season, it's been 20 long years!

Peter Bell
6 Posted 13/08/2014 at 09:28:28
Kevin, did you honestly expect Pelligreni to do anything else but praise Everton?
Phil Walling
7 Posted 13/08/2014 at 09:39:37
I note that the pundits all seem to see last season's top seven occupying those spots this time round – but in a different order.

The 'National' journos are at one in believing that the Vanman will restore Man Utd to something like their former glory and that our near neighbours will again be challenging for top spot.

Man City have it to lose and Mourinho is gearing up to another challenge. Arsenal – and Wenger – are said to be re-invigorated so that leaves just Spurs and Everton to fill the 'back-up' slots. (The experts' view, not necessarily mine!)

I have yet to find one opinion that we can make the breakthrough and it is annoying that, although we managed 5th last time, we are never regarded as art of the Big Six. Indeed, we don't feature too prominently in Sky's ill-chosen slogan of 'More of the games that matter' !

All of which goes to show that although they love Roberto, not too many think he is equipped to 'trouble the judges'. I share that view but cling to the hope that we JUST MIGHT be the team 'that wrecks their coupon'!

Well, you can't be miserable all the time.

Derek Knox
8 Posted 13/08/2014 at 10:25:00
I looked out of the window before, and dark clouds and rain greeted my gaze. I checked TW to see if there was any news, about either impending transfers, or indeed if there were any signs of us fielding at least a stronger side against the potential banan skin that is Leicester on Saturday. Alas there was neither.

I then read the posts on this read, and am really uplifted by the positive rhetoric, and optimism displayed by our loyal support and the contributions displayed on TW. The sun is metaphorically shining again, despite the grey skies, long may it continue.

Keep up the good work Phil! :-)

Barry Stevens
9 Posted 13/08/2014 at 10:02:20
There is definitely the air of something special floating around the club right now. The general optimism of the fans reminds me of when I was a kid again. Judging by what was said in the fabric thing yesterday, it seems the players and staff feel the same way.

If we can get the win at Leicester on Saturday, it sets us up for two big games at Goodison. Get the results in them and we are flying. We beat both Chelsea and Arsenal at home last season. One by hook and crook, and the other with one of the best games I've seen us play at the old lady. Neither will fancy facing us, as Lyndon pointed out, with neither up and running on full steam hopefully.

As a born and raised Londoner with an array of family (mostly kopites) scattered around the Northwest, I can tell you from conversations with both sides, they fear us. The permanent signing of Rom made a statement. We are not plucky little Everton no more.

Squad-wise, I think we are strong in defence and midfield. Like most, I worry about our backup keeper and depth up-front. The latter I think will be addressed by deadline day, and also think a couple of squad players will arrive on loan.

Personally I would love us to win the Europa League with the gobshites finishing 4th in the Premier League. Am I right in thinking that would put us in Champion's League and take their spot, á la Chelsea & Spurs from the season before last? How great it would be at my brother's wedding next July to see my uncles' and cousins' bitter faces.

So, to all my fellow bluenoses, let's look forward to a great season, take care and Lukaku yourselves!

Barry Stevens
10 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:00:28
And yes I'm rinsing that Lukaku line, but I don't care. It's my new catchphrase and I love it. COYB
Mike Childs
11 Posted 13/08/2014 at 10:49:25
Kev (5) some very good points made about the player's attitude. At least OFC Neville is gone who lead the inferiority crowd. Hopefully Besic can keep himself away from too many yellows and play significant minutes for us.

Phil (7) I too have yet to see a pundit give us half a chance. Man Utd haven't repaired their sieve at the back or strengthen their midfield enough imo to challenge for the top 4. They're still Man Utd so everyone else is still going to bring their A-game to the pitch against them. They're a year older, more injury prone and now Mr Moody is the captain.

As long as we can avoid injury, we have the squad to make the top 4. The only missing piece is a good attacking midfield with an eye for a pass. Perhaps Barkley can add the passes to his game this year or Besic's versatility can help here. A last-minute loan deal for Di Maria would be nice. :>)

Kevin Tully
12 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:39:05
Mike, this quote from Steptoe should send shiver down the spine of every Evertonian;

"Only twice in the last 11 years we've finished outside the top 10, that's a massive achievement for a club like Everton..."

Fans shouldn't underestimate the job this manager has, trying to instill a winning mentality back into the squad.

I firmly believe with players like Neville around, and old 'knife to a gunfight' miserable bollocks - we were destined to lose every time we stepped foot in the likes of Old Trafford. The team was beaten before they stepped off the coach. Imagine training the week before going there, or to Anfield?

I bet 90% of the preparation for these type of games was on how best to defend against these sides. Thankfully, we are on our way back to thinking we should be on the same pitch as any side in the League, and we can beat anyone. That's were we have been lacking for many years.

Patrick Murphy
13 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:54:54
Did he mean us are we number 7?

Just saw a brief clip of Richard Scudamore comparing Spain's La Liga and England Premier League he said "competition in the PL is what makes it such an attractive option....I would prefer to have a league whereby we have five, six maybe seven clubs who could possibly come and challenge and win the title."

Denis Richardson
14 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:45:16
Great summary Lyndon, also agree that getting into the CL may be easier via winning the EL than getting top 4 (4th only gets you into the qualifier as it is..).

Problem with the EL is that there will be some top teams left in there come the quarter finals but over a knock out scenario, I'd like our chances on a packed mid week night at GP. I would be VERY disappointed not to at least make it out of the group stages given how poor most of them were last year. After that, its a lottery.

I really hope (and believe) that Atsu won't be our last signing as he's the only loanee we have, so we have room for a couple more to bolster the squad. Would hope for another AM and a striker as we have no cover before Kone comes back and Rom is likely not to be able to play a full 90 for the first couple of games.

7 points from the first 3 games would be a great start, especially if we get 3 points at home to Arsenal as I fancy Chelsea to be stronger.

As the start gets closer, I'm getting more optimistic.

David Chait
15 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:45:00
I am truly shitting myself about the season based on purely the completely irrelevant pre-season games. I just hope everyone who says it means nothing isn't just trying to allay their own worries. Of course the level of worry stems from having hope that we really could break through..... We need our best 11 fit and playing as soon as possible! I have a feeling this feeling will just get worse if we find ourselves riding some crest of a wave ... I'm already feeling ill in anticipation!
Raymond Fox
16 Posted 13/08/2014 at 11:19:53
Impressive preview of the coming season Lyndon, most comprehensive, in fact I'm struggling to come up with any point that you've missed.

All I would add is that I'm going to enjoy watching this team develop over the season and how Roberto goes about mixing the players in the different competitions.

I've said before we should be very proud of this club, we alone almost every season put the wind up the 'money clubs', most of the time with a negative transfer spend or a pittance in comparison with the said opponents or anybody else for that matter!

I know BK and other board members get a lot of stick from us on TW but in many ways the club is a example of how clubs should be run. Okay, I know there are deficiencies in some areas of the club, but nothing's perfect!

We all know the Premier League is distorted by some clubs spending, throwing absolute fortunes on players... whether the FFP restrictions will make much of a difference I don't know; let's hope so.

Graham Mockford
17 Posted 13/08/2014 at 12:43:51
I fear the fixture list has not been kind to us. A newly promoted team away, which is always difficult, followed by two CL contenders invigorated by new signings, at home to follow.

Especially seeing as we seem undercooked with Coleman, Mirallas and Lukaku yet to kick a ball in anger.

I’m hoping to be proved wrong but I’m not expecting much in August.

Tony J Williams
18 Posted 13/08/2014 at 12:52:38
I have just had a bit of a "debate" with a fella in work about the use of the phrase, "punching above our weight"

How many top 7 finishes does it take before we are considered as a Top 7 team and therefore we are not punching above our weight at all but equalling our performances?

We are not 'punching above our weight' — we are a very competent Premier League side that are just that little bit of consistency away from the Top 4.

Ed Fitzgerald
19 Posted 13/08/2014 at 12:54:58
We so desperately need to win a trophy and get some investment. The FFP regulations may eventually bring a little parity to the Premier League but I doubt it.

It looks a tough start on paper at least we have a 'go' at the top 4 these days rather than 'roll over' so who knows. I admire Martinez for sticking to his principles; if we could give him a little more generous financial backing, I firmly believe we could challenge the existing order of things in the Premier League.

Regardless of the money that Man City and Chelsea have, I still don't think they are bigger clubs than us, I know I am in denial!! We are a proud club with a great history.

COYB

Tom Bowers
20 Posted 13/08/2014 at 13:17:34
I certainly don’t think they punched above their weight last season. They played some outstanding football in many games and the overall attitude of the squad was far removed from anything gone before.

The only failing was strength in depth which hopefully is somewhat improved for this season and the return from injury of Gibson, Kone and Oviedo should endorse that.

Jim Potter
21 Posted 13/08/2014 at 12:59:58
Excellent balanced article Lyndon.

TalkSport’s ’Super Computer’ has stated we have a 13.1% chance of the Top 4 and a 0% chance of relegation.

Unlucky 13 for the others I hope.

Right, feet up, fag on, and relax ...

Denis Richardson
22 Posted 13/08/2014 at 13:50:57
Graham #17 - I'd rather have had Arsenal and Chelsea at home at the start of the season than away, better to have them now before their new players are fully bedded in (hopefully anyway).

Also I don't think either of them will be jumping for joy having to play us away so early in the season. We beat Chelsea at home last year (admittedly luckily) and stuffed Arsenal 3-0 just a few months ago. Lets not get too down, our home record both them is pretty strong.

Matthew Roberts
23 Posted 13/08/2014 at 13:41:32
Nice article, well written. There seemed to be huge optimism after Rom signed and then it fell away a bit after the friendly results.

I think the start is really tough, but i’m feeling good, just hoping Rom and Kev will be fit to start as they’re both in my fantasy team! I still feel confident of a one or two more loans on deadline day. COYB

Brian Denton
24 Posted 13/08/2014 at 14:13:33
Ed, Chelsea and City are not 'bigger' clubs; they are 'richer' clubs. As soon as we accept that 'bigger' and 'richer' are synonymous we might as well give up.
Jim Knightley
25 Posted 13/08/2014 at 14:22:44
They are bigger because they are better. Football is about prestige now, not history, anymore. Players would not flock to Real Madrid if they came 10th/11th every season, just as Liverpool struggled to attract top quality when they dropped out of the Champions League places. The summer tactic has been been admirable: We've signed our top younger players for longer, and brought in one of the world's best under 21's in Lukaku, and a promising talent in Besic. Our chances for progress must follow a youth route, supplemented with the considerable experience we have in the squad (Barry, Baines, Jags, Distin, Howard, Osman and Pienaar). I feel that our pre-season forebodes a poor start, as we look a little behind where we should be. That said, I'm confident in progress in cup competitions, especially in Europe where future Champions League progress depends in part on improving our co-efficient and getting the squad use to juggling the demands of European and Premier League football. I fear that these demands will cause us to drop off in the league unfortunately, and I especially fear United and Spurs as both have the ability to finish above us. I can't view top four as a realistic proposition, as I feel that we have not done enough to breach the 7 point gap from last season, and that European football will make it even more difficult. Champions League football will come from an unlikely Europa League win or not at all for the moment, I fear. It's refreshing to be an Everton fan at the moment however, because we can document our progress. Our squad looked old under Moyes, but Martinez has progressed the players Moyes brought in, and supplemented them with Lukaku, Besic, McCarthy and now Atsu. We can beat anyone on our day, and now we must take that potential into the big matches. Players become stars when they perform on the big occasion, and we've flattered to deceive too often when it matters. If we can get that right, then we can add the trophy we all want and deserve as the best pound for pound team in this league.
Bill Griffiths
26 Posted 13/08/2014 at 14:37:29
I think you have summed up things pretty well Lyndon. I have always been of the opinion that pre-season games mean nothing but for some reason this time I am feeling a bit apprehensive after the way things have gone.

Personally I think we will finish 2 or 3 places lower than last season for several different reasons. If that is the case I will not be too worried as I feel Roberto has a long term plan and that he will succeed eventually in the next few seasons.

What do others think? Are you prepared to give him a few seasons for his plans to develop or will you see a lower finish and no silverware as a failure?

Ed Fitzgerald
27 Posted 13/08/2014 at 14:47:00
Brian

I do take your point and I suppose that is what my heart says, but can we really say we are a big club when we haven't won anything for nearly 20 years. I think as Jim says they are bigger than us at present as they are winning trophies regularly, have better grounds than we do, attract better players (in general than we do) and yes most importantly have more money than we do.

I do take issue with BK's leadership if he is big a blue as he says he is, we could surely have attracted more significant investment into the club over the past 10 years and he could have got out of the way and enjoyed us winning things and competing for the top honours on a regular basis and thought 'I made this happen'. The irony is I don't think we need a Man City or Chelsea sized injection of cash to make the difference. It seems all kinds of teams can attract considerable investment compared to us.

Patrick Murphy
28 Posted 13/08/2014 at 14:48:18
I don't know what to expect in the coming season for Everton or indeed anybody else - but what is depressing about the game as a whole and particularly in the Premier League is this constant harping on about how it is such a great brand and how it attracts a global audience and lots of TV money. My fear is that those that run the game are only interested in the game as a money making machine

Is it inconceivable that the officials are briefed to ensure that those clubs who can generate large audiences and big sponsors should be favoured or given the benefit of the doubt as often as possible? But that clubs like Everton who won't be able to generate huge audiences or add to the brand as far as those in charge are concerned will be hampered by questionable decisions throughout the season?

Richard Scudamore is once again trumpeting the 39th game scenario a match which most football fans are against but obviously sponsors and TV companies are hoping to see.

Football has always been a business we all understand that but has it always had such disregard for the regular match-going supporters? Celtic were given a second-chance last week and re-entered the CL but what if one of the more glamorous teams had made the same mistake as Celtic's opponents would they have been kicked-out out of the competition? I somehow doubt it.


Peter Z Jones
29 Posted 13/08/2014 at 16:23:31
Tony #18. Thank you! There is no such thing as a perennial overachiever. I find it hilarious how many articles are written about why Everton can't make CL. And it's always the same tired reasons that aren't even applicable any more. I actually heard Steve Nicol on ESPN say that we "got lucky" with injuries last season! Then you've got the "well they haven't got any money" argument. Kinda blew that out of the water with the Lukaku signing. "Everton just don't have the depth to challenge." Oh really? I guess 20 internationally capped players isn't deep enough for you.

If analysts were as skeptical of our competitors as they are of us, they'd actually realize United, Liverpool, and Spurs have much more glaring weaknesses. United doesn't have ONE decent center back nor do they have many of them. That's a huge problem, especially if you're gonna play three at the back under an attacking manager. Wenger still hasn't signed a defensive midfielder or a striker. Depth at these positions is the only reason Arsenal hasn't won the title and most likely won't again. Liverpool just lost 45 goals scored or created from the former best player in the league, only to replace it with four 20 year olds and decent players from an 8th place team. Spurs (and United really) have to make up 8-9 points on us and hope we regress, which, given our young core, is pretty unlikely. But I digress.

Lyndon, you write beautifully and just about always sum up our prospects well. One small thing I disagree with. You say money always winning is a cold hard fact. In a paradigm where all the clubs take a short term view and buy ready made world class talents, the teams with the most cash will always win. Agreed. But, say we train our young stars, develop them into world class talents, and successfully hold onto all of them long enough to win for an extended period of time? Doesn't that alter the playing field?What if Southampton didn't sell Bale, Walcott, Ox, Shaw, Lallana and kept them all? I would say that this is what we are trying to do under Martinez. And if we have the stones to follow through by raising the wage bill rather than our transfer expenditure, couldn't the dream become the reality?

John Daley
30 Posted 13/08/2014 at 17:34:42
I haven't watched every pre-season game but what I have seen hasn't left me worrying about what the season holds.

Results and performances during pre-season have been shown numerous times to be no barometer of how things will bear out in even the first few fixtures. I don't even believe it's primarily due to players being conscious of picking up a possible injury. There's just a psychological barrier that players are unwilling to bypass when they know there's nothing riding on the result. Why push yourself when there's nothing to be reaped from it? Pre-Season's made for going through the motions. Nothing more.

It's for that reason that i've been a bit bemused at some of the criticisms and snap judgements people have been making in which they seemingly view below par pre-season performances as blazing portents of impending doom.

It's like your wife laying into you for being a bit half arsed when you were sat at home stroking Yoda behind the ears while she was out getting her hair done.

Just because any 'romance' and foreplay on your part was prematurely binned off in favour of furious fist pumping, a box of tissues and a bizarre mental image of 1960's Catwoman nuzzling on the minge of the midget medium from Poltergeist, whilst a suspender clad 'Wee Jimmy' Krankie stands in the background clapping...before giving you a strangely big thumbs up for someone with such small hands, doesn't mean there's going to be such a shocking lack of effort, tenderness and technique when it comes time for the real action to get under way.

There's a massive psychological difference between palm and real life partner, just as there is between pre-season friendly and full on competitive fixture.

All in all, a long winded way of saying that a friendly is basically the wank of the football world. A league game's a shag, a cup games oral and...err...i guess that makes Champions League anal.

I'm mildly confident that Martinez can maintain the standards of last season and, if he can instil a bit more ruthlessness within the ranks, we could quite possibly go one better and all be reaching for the lube this time next year.

Mike Oates
31 Posted 13/08/2014 at 17:03:56
Have we made progress on the field under Martinez, sure we have , with some great football, with a real positive attitude which we haven't had got years and put together on a shoe string budget . But don't forget it was done last year with no European distractions, no League Cup distractions and only marginal progress in the FA Cup. I don't think we've done enough in the close season to bring in the extra 5-6 quality players we need to maintain a challenge on all four fronts this year.
I believe our biggest weakness will come if and when Lukaku gets injured, and to a lesser extent if we lose Howard for any length of time. Unless we buy/loan a quality forward before the deadline then I fear we will lose the momentum from last year.

I think both the Premiership and the Europa Cup will be too much for us, and I can see a 5-7th place only and reaching the last 8-16 in the Europa Cup. Both competitions have just to many good clubs in them, and you can see what the likes of facing just Porto and Celta Vigo has done to us.

To me we need to ensure that we play our strongest team in the domestic cup competitions as this is where we could win something, only 6 games are required to be won, not 30 odd in PL and 15 in Europa Cup.

Dan Brierley
32 Posted 13/08/2014 at 17:17:33
Peter, we have just paid 28 million for a 21 year old striker! I am not sure this fits in with your view that we are shifting the paradigm by developing our own talents. Especially considering the lad we bought had been developed by a rival team. Last season we paid 13 million for McCarthy who apparently still has to develop his game. Again, hardly loose change. We loaned a Barcelona winger last season who had a couple of good games, but surely we would have benefited from blooding a young player like Matt Kennedy more? Ultimately only Barcelona and Deulofeu himself benefited from that loan. Our country won't ever be able to produce a steady flow of decent youth players, until the FA step in and do something about like the DFB did after Germany's poor showing in Euro 2000. The FA do too little to stop foreign players coming into our league, if anything they actually encourage it.

I personally don't think there is unfair bias from the media regarding our chances to finish in the top 4, ironically our own bias is much stronger! We have never played in the Champions League, and you have to go back to 1971 for the last time we played in the European Cup. Another sustained assault this season might change the perception, but one decent season under Roberto is hardly grounds to see us progressing, especially considering the strengthening of teams like United and Arsenal.

Peter Z Jones
33 Posted 13/08/2014 at 17:45:15
Dan. What I'm saying is that the team's core is built around players that aren't the finished article. The teams spine of the future is Stones, Besic, McCarthy, Lukaku, and Barkley. They're 20, 21, 23, 21, and 20 respectively. None of them, as yet, are world class performers. We have to improve their overall skill to challenge for honors long term. Then, you have all our supposed wonder kids like Garbutt, Green, and Ledson. Galloway and Henen (if he signs) all fit into the same long term plan. The top teams that challenge for the title every year buy big for established world class talent. We don't. Manchester City and Chelsea gobble up young talent, send them on loan to up the value, and then huck them for profits like a bank does with a foreclosed home. We don't do any of that. We nurture our young talent, as it's the only way for us to compete with the moneybags. As for our signings that you might say fall out of the narrative… Barry is here because he's an absolute steal at 2M and he can show the young midfielders how it's done. McGeady fills a need and was also dirt cheap, considering his resume. Kone, for all the crap he gets, just so happens to be good at all the things Lukaku is not, namely holding up play and passing. Look up the stats at Wigan. Once again, a veteran to show the kids how it's done. We quite clearly do buck the trend by going with the youth movement. Whether or not the transfer fees are high for acquiring said talent is just a reflection of the current market.
Denis Richardson
34 Posted 13/08/2014 at 17:48:58
Dan - agree with your sentiments although the FA does f all because it has little power when it comes to the Premiership. Unfortunately the prem calls the tunes and they're currently more interested in the sky money than developing a decent national side.

Simply put, world class foreign stars sell more shirts in Asia than a Henderson, Milner or Lambert.....

Incredibly, Real Madrid got 20.7m in shirt sales revenue for Rodriguez within 48 HOURS of signing him (within 2 days of getting him they already got 1/3 of their transfer fee back!). That's about double our entire annual commercial revenue!!!!

Andy Crooks
35 Posted 13/08/2014 at 18:17:13
Good post, Brian Denton. Dan, if you continue making sensible, pertinent posts you will stifle debate.

James Martin
36 Posted 13/08/2014 at 18:11:47
I truly believe that the challenge of cracking the top 4 is more difficult on paper than in reality. As we improve I believe the top clubs merely fluctuate up and down. They move out world class players who are past their peak or out of favpur to finance their latest toys. Are Chelsea better now than in 04/5 or 09/10 ? Probably not. Are Man City really better than when Tevez and Aguero were firing in tandem? Probably the same. Arsenal are im a good cycle no doubt. Are Liverpool better than 08/09? Probably not. United certainly aren't.

Unless these sides hit Barcelona under Pep levels they will always hit a ceiling, a very high ceiling but one they fluctuate underneath. We on the other hand have improved continuously over the last 10 years. No matter how much the teams above us spend in every window we get closer and closer. Now we've breached the 70 point mark we are in their territory. It doesnt matter how much they spend, if we remain consistent against the lesser sides and keep up results in the heads to heads we will challenge.

There's always the 'what if Lukaku gets injured' argument. Its valid, but what if he stays fit and Sturridge gets injured, or Costa, or Soldado? 3 of our rivals with forward lines led by Lambert Torres and Adebayor - is that really that menacing?

With my sensible head on I can see City and Chelsea being far off the rest, Arsenal a clear third, but why oh why cant we challenge Spurs Liverpool and United, three sides we have finished ahead of in the last two seasons at some point, for fourth?

Repeat 72 points and we'll be close again. Better it and we are right in the mix no matter what anyone says about squad depth. Liverpool almost won the league using a small core of players. Our core of players is very strong if we stay injury free in the right areas.

Peter Z Jones
37 Posted 13/08/2014 at 18:53:31
Damn straight James.
Denis Richardson
38 Posted 13/08/2014 at 18:57:18
James 36, that kind of post doesn't belong on TW, its not going to go down well with the masses.......

But I agree with you......average 2 points a game and CL will be there or there abouts.

Dan Brierley
39 Posted 13/08/2014 at 18:34:37
Sure Peter, I agree that Roberto is trying to build a core of young players that will hopefully stay together.

The bit I am not sure I agree with is about the shift in paradigm, as the group of players you mentioned have cost the club nearly 50 million pounds, and you could argue with exception to Barkley that they have all been nurtured and developed elsewhere, and we have only bought them once they have actually shown a decent amount of promise. Three of them were full internationals before they even joined us. If these lads work out, then it will be great. If not, are we gonna have another 50 million to fork out in a few years?

Mark Tanton
40 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:13:18
Talking about forking out - 12m for Shane Long to Shane Long is insane. O get annoyed and frustrated with my dear club’s transfer activity but, man, we are much smarter than throwing that kind of money at mediocrity.
Kieran Riding
41 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:32:05
Mark #40
You wait till E'to signs for us, the place will go into meltdown.
Mark Tanton
42 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:37:45
I’ll know when we complete our next signing because I won’t be able to get on ToffeeWeb for two days.
Patrick Murphy
43 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:42:48
Reading the various posts it seems that both sides of the argument are forgetting that this will be first summer for many a year where we have kept our star players and have added to the squad albeit mostly by securing loan players into permanent members of the squad.

Of course there are a few weeks left of the window but it doesn't seem as if any of our key players are about to up sticks and move to a 'bigger' club. That to me is a sign of progress, if we can also integrate and develop our youngsters such as Garbutt into the first team over the next twelve months that will show more progress.

It's not so long ago that the absence of one key player such as Pienaar, Felliani, Baines would have had the supporters fretting about how we would or could cope, we now have players in most areas of the pitch that can come into the side and do a good job.

At 3pm on Saturday, Everton the team has to make a statement and declare themselves as a team that means business regardless of which players are picked to represent the Club. It won't be easy it never is against newly promoted clubs on their own patch, but that is the challenge to whichever players are chosen. Expectations are fairly high and the players should want to keep them that way, it's no longer enough to work hard and eek out a result it is now about showing how good they are in all the games they play, if they can do that more often then we could and should have a very good season. If however, they retreat into their shells they could find themselves in unfamiliar territory which nobody wants to see.

Dick Fearon
44 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:43:51
My main concern is lack of a commanding voice in the team. Everyone can look good when things are going alright but when the pressure is on we need a motivator to stand tall, issue orders, instill confidence particularly into these young players.

In the heat of battle we need at least one of our senior players preferably the captain to provide an example and calming influence for the rest.

From Peter Farrell to present day I have seen a small number of outstanding Everton captains. In their case a fancy arm band was not required to recognize who was the team leader. In my opinion, Jags who I greatly admire lacks those vital leadership qualities.

Daniel Ford
45 Posted 13/08/2014 at 20:04:40
Great article Lyndon, only thing I would question is about the extra Sky money, I think the extra money gives us a far bigger boost than other teams, there is no way we could have afforded to buy Rom in other years. I think us having an extra £30m is a far bigger boost than £30m Man Utd, Spurs or Liverpool have got personally, I don’t think Lukaku is priced massively more than he would have before the TV deal.

However, the likes of Lallana, Shaw, Lovren, Long, McCormack and any number of other deals this summer are way higher. Whether that boost will be enough is all dependent on whether the gamble to spend all that extra money on Lukaku pays off.

I think long term it will pay off in spades but in the short term we are massively over reliant on him! I just hope we can get cover in on loan that allows us to see the short-term and long-term benefits of signing arguably the best young striker in the world, at least looking at his stats.

Michael Winstanley
46 Posted 13/08/2014 at 19:31:56
I expect us to do better than last season. I would like to think the staff and the players think so too.

Can our young stars reproduce what they did last year?
Or will they improve and move us onto a higher and more consistent level of performance?

I'm going for the later.

Iain Love
47 Posted 13/08/2014 at 20:32:40
Everton friendly against Malaga, start of 2012-13 season:

Howard – same as now
Hibbert – Coleman much better
Baines – same
Heitinga – Distin much better
Jagielka – same
Neville – Barry much better
Osman – McCarthy much better
Pienaar – Atsu / McGeady jury's out
Coleman – Mirallas much better
Naismith - Barkley better
Jelavic – Lukaku much better
Substitutes
Distin (45 Heitinga) – same
Junior (74 Neville) Besic – much better
Anichebe (63 Coleman) – Naismith better
Gueye (80 Naismith) – Pienaar better.
What I'm getting at is the squad has massively improved since Bobby's arrival and is much younger. Whilst I don't think we'll crack the top 4 this season, we are a lot closer than we were. Onwards and upwards!

Graham Mockford
48 Posted 13/08/2014 at 21:58:00
Iain Love

I agree with your premise that overall our squad is stronger than two years ago

But fuck me trying to work through your logic has done me in

Coleman is better than Hibbert but not as good as Mirallas

Distin is better than Heitinga but not when he’s substituted.

When you replace with Gueye with Naismith, Pienaar is better.

I found string theory easier.

Patrick Murphy
49 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:07:07
Graham - thanks for that I began to wonder if we had signed another Distin.
Mike Hughes
50 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:00:38
Well, there's a mix of responses on here but as far as I am concerned, I'm starting to feel sorry for the opposition.

I'm slightly anxious about the first game as surprises can be sprung by the newly promoted teams. After that, I expect us to make mince-meat out of all and sundry.

Nobody will look forward to playing the Mighty Blues.

I'm particularly looking forward to our first win at Anfield in 14 years. Then trouncing them at Goodison for our first double over them in ages.

Top 4 is on.

Iain Love
51 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:19:56
Graham (#48),

Coleman is better than Hibbert at right back but not better than Miralles at right wing. I prefer to play players in their correct positions , in that game Moyes obviously played Coleman RM in front of Hibbert.

Martinez has moved us on in leaps and bounds I used to look at a fixture, ie, Manure away and think "I’d be happy with a draw" but expect a loss, now I believe we can win games like that.

Our team is capable of beating anyone and with a bit of luck top 4 is possible, a bit more luck and Lukaku and Barkley becoming the players they can be why not Champions.

Andrew Rimmer
52 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:26:03
WOW! Good Luck.
When do we sign a good striker?
Graham Mockford
53 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:43:23
Iain,

I love your optimism, I’m very tempted to respond but it has been a long day.

Ian Bennett
54 Posted 13/08/2014 at 22:42:38
I guess we need to be targeting 75 odd points to get top 4.

For me we still lack goals. Lukaku has the potential for 20, whilst Coleman and Baines are good for another 10-15. Our midfielders need to be looking for nearer 10 a piece. They don't, whilst without a Remy type, plus goals from a Lescott type, we will still be short.

Greed is good, and I still want more in through the door.

Harold Matthews
55 Posted 13/08/2014 at 23:17:17
According to Roberto there will be lots of goals. For and against. He witnessed in Brazil, the way teams are stopping opponents from having easy possession by "Being dynamic, with high intensity and being brave." With slight tactical changes, this is going to be the key of it. A trend which will evolve and develope over the next 3 or 4 years. Wide open games with reams taking chances and chucking bodies into the box. No room for Fancy Dans or casual strollers. It will be all action, high pressure stuff with keepers playing a major role.
Rob Preston
56 Posted 14/08/2014 at 03:49:55
It seems that common opinion has it that the "top teams" have all strengthened; well, if that's the case, it may well follow that if they are all capable of knocking each other off, and do so, it means we may well be closer to them by the end of the year.
Ernie Baywood
57 Posted 14/08/2014 at 03:54:52
Haven't been this excited about getting a season started for years.

Yet reading the previews it all seems a bit pointless. Apparently we're just playing Spurs for 6th place.

Dennis Ng
58 Posted 14/08/2014 at 04:07:29
Ernie, "conventional" wisdom is not always the wisest :) COYB

I might put a quid on Pelligrini being a one and done.

Darren Hind
59 Posted 14/08/2014 at 05:50:00
Good article covered most things.

There's no two ways about it, the pre season has been pretty shambolic, but does that matter ? probably not, JD in his own inimitable way kinda sums it up. Still it gave us something to talk about as we waited for showtime.

I would have liked Lyndon too have spoken more about our visits to the top grounds. I believe these games will be absolutely key.
If we are to break the glass ceiling, we need to start considering these fixtures six pointers. I don't just mean talking the talk. We HAVE to start winning some of these games. One point at the grounds of the teams who finished top six is simply not good enough - The Ginger Twat did better than that taking his penknife.

Win some of these crucial fixtures and I believe the 13/2 the bookies are offering for us to finish in the top four will start to look on the generous side.

Its on. . its definitely on

Lyndon Lloyd
60 Posted 14/08/2014 at 05:58:21
Some great responses above but to address two specific points from the two Peters, Mills (3) and Jones (29).

I share your concerns regarding the depth of quality and centre half but didn't dwell too long on any one position as the piece was long enough as it is. With more time, a more thorough examination of each position might have been a valuable exercise.

My point regarding Duffy and Browning on the one hand (both largely untested options) and Alcaraz on the other (a player who started off looking accomplished and unflappable but who eventually revealed himself to be, to these eyes, something of a liability) was really to demonstrate the number of bodies we have as cover. As Tony Hibbert and Duffy himself demonstrated during a previous European adventure, that can be important.

Regarding the second Peter's point about Everton overcoming the cold realities of the money-driven Premier League, I actually think that we are on the right track to overcome them with the investment in youth we're currently pursuing.

For the purposes of this article, I was thinking purely short term but if Martinez continues to nurture a squad of young players to the height of their potential, in a few seasons we could be credible, perennial top-four contenders without having to spend the tens of millions per player that the likes of Chelsea and City are throwing around.

Kieran Fitzgerald
61 Posted 14/08/2014 at 08:04:20
Lyndon, I think the main purpose of how we utilize this current squad is to ensure that we don't fall away from top six league finishes over the next two seasons. If we are taking the approach of developing younger players, we have to be patient. We have to give them the time to develop the way we want them to. This may take a couple of season to do properly.

However, we are also under pressure to ensure that we maintain the positive profile we have as being a good enough squad to consistently finish in the top six. You could spot all the positive hype surrounding the club's push for a CL place last season from outer space. The opposite could also be true and we could very quickly be labelled a forgotten mid table team if we fall away.

A Tony Hibbert, or a Leon Osman, or a Kone, as older players who perhaps aren't seen as leading lights in the squad, will have a valuable role to play in closing out games when coming on as subs, in guiding the younger players with their experience, in starting what are perceived as lesser games, say in cup competitions, to give first team players a rest. While their quality may be in doubt, their contribution isn't in my mind.

Jim Potter
62 Posted 14/08/2014 at 09:39:03
Far too many optimists now on this site. Clear off - I wanted to be unique.
Jim Lloyd
63 Posted 14/08/2014 at 09:49:49
Well said Kieran.
Mike Hughes
64 Posted 14/08/2014 at 10:19:03
Nice one, Jim #62

Just to assist your mission to be a unique optimist, I'll throw this into the mix ......

What a crap transfer window by Everton. Usually by this stage of the pre-season, we're used to a fix of cathartic grumbling to relieve the tension and anxiety of having only signed some lower division prospect (with callipers) on a free or some Dutch bloke who shows up to the press conference with a can of Kestrel Lager in his hand.

The TW pre-season nark-fest has always been something of a phenomenon (to use RM's words), with conspiracy theory lacing the cocktail of seething anger, resentment and anxiety.

It has been the internet version of being 'in the trenches' with plenty of justifiable black humour and, in a strange sort of way, enjoyable.

THE CLUB HAVE DENIED US THAT THIS YEAR.

I, for one, blame Kenwright.
And Tony Hibbert.

Harold Matthews
65 Posted 14/08/2014 at 12:42:59
According to Distin, "It's impossible not to have a great atmosphere at the club with people like Ossie, Hibbo and Bainsey around."
Julian Wait
66 Posted 14/08/2014 at 13:49:12
To restate Iain's point without looking back at any particular fixture .. we're clearly upgraded since two years ago, but we also don't have the top class cover in most positions that Man City and Chelsea have.

Howard –> Howard (he has arguably improved since two years ago)
Hibbert –> Coleman (attacking upgrade; defensively the same?)
Baines –> Baines (you could argue perhaps form has dipped since?)
Distin –> Distin (aging is only factor here .. .enter Stones ...)
Jagielka –> Jagielka (about the same ... or Stones ...)
Neville – Barry (immeasurably better, with Besic as cover)
Osman –> McCarthy (much better fit for position, again Besic as cover)
Pienaar –> McGeady (jury's out ... step up Atsu?)
Coleman –> Mirallas (much better fit for position, with options ...)
Naismith -> Barkley (much better fit for position ... Osman to close games / open games up as needed)
Jelavic –> Lukaku (much better, Long to cover / provide rest?)

Substitutes

Mucha -> Robles (Not sure on this one; never fancied either that much)
Heitinga -> Stones – (much better; kneed he may not be on the bench much)
Junior -> Besic – (expected to be much better)
Anichebe -> Naismith (better)
Gueye –> Pienaar (much better)
-> Osman
-> Hibbert
-> Atsu
-> Long
-> Garbutt
-> Browning

etc

l, for one, am relatively happy with where we stand, and enjoying the media focus on the "top 5" with only one report so far placing us above 7th for the coming season (and no-one placing us below ... would we bother even playing if we're so destined for 7th?!).

Peter Z Jones
67 Posted 14/08/2014 at 15:58:52
Thanks for responding Lyndon. I dunno if I ever really doubted your shared optimism for the long term. I just wanted it down in writing! Good day to you sir.
Harold Matthews
68 Posted 14/08/2014 at 16:28:23
I think it all depends on Jags and Distin staying together. Failure to strengthen at the back could really cost us. As Chelski found out when Terry was out, City with Kompany out and United minus Ferdinand and Vidic,....there ain't no substitute for experience in the centre back position.
Mike Gaynes
69 Posted 14/08/2014 at 16:56:32
Always enjoy it when you go James Joyce on us, Lyndon. Your long form summaries are excellent.
Tony Abrahams
70 Posted 14/08/2014 at 16:45:53
Fair point, Darren, but we also drew against two relegated teams in our first three games, last season. Then we lost to Lowly Palace and The Saints, to finish any chance of Champions League football.

Out of the Top 8, only Spurs and Liverpool got points at Goodison. so although it would be great to win away against the better teams, it would be just as good to become flat track bullies. Especially if we could get 3 points at that shit-hole we vacated all those years ago in a row over the lack of toilet facilities!

Peter Z Jones
71 Posted 14/08/2014 at 18:16:36
Harold 68. I really wanted us to put in a bid for that Martins Indi kid Porto signed. Thought he could have been a perfect replacement for Distin long term. Guess that ship has sailed now that he probably has some outrageous release clause. Porto always gets a lot of bank for anyone they sell. We've got to hope Galloway is as good as they say.
Harold Matthews
72 Posted 14/08/2014 at 22:58:19
Agree Peter. That Martins lad looked really useful. Don't know about Galloway but he seems to have a bit of class and can tackle.
Kev Johnson
73 Posted 14/08/2014 at 23:18:18
I see Tony Pulis has resigned. So, that's Palace going down. Pity. He did a good job with them. He'll get another job in November, when the first Premiership chairman starts to panic at early season results.

Anyway, back to us... I think El Supremo's plan comes in several parts. The first was getting us passing the ball from back to front (and sometimes from side to side); we did that last season.

This season he'll be making us a more fluid outfit. I think when he was appointed there were a few on here worrying that he'd go straight for three at the back, and before we got the hang of it we'd get tonked by a few no-mark teams. Well, that didn't happen. We remained defensively solid.

But three at the back is coming. I can smell it in the air. Roberto seems wedded to the idea of a sole central striker and two wide men, so I can't see him going 3-5-2. I guess a 3-4-3 is possible - he used that at Wigan. Not that I expect him to always play a back three; 4-3-3 and last season's 4-2-3-1 will get plenty of airings too. The main thing will be that he will try to evolve the team to be more flexible, not only playing different formations in different matches but switching during games.

Will it work? I don't know. But that's how I see it going.

Colin Glassar
74 Posted 14/08/2014 at 23:41:42
Palace, Burnley and WBA to go down this season.
Peter Z Jones
75 Posted 15/08/2014 at 03:06:15
100% Colin.
Darren Hind
76 Posted 15/08/2014 at 06:00:03
Absolutely Tony (#70).

Of course you're right, three points is three points and I'm happy with our home form against the big boys.

We finished seven points off Arsenal and we weren't even in the same post code as Chelsea, but if we could have turned those two controlled performances at The Emirates and The Bridge into victories a mere three points would separated the three teams. The other two would have been under tremendous pressure to qualify for CL, so you have to wonder if they would have gotten the points they did if we were able to turn up the heat.

Fine, fine margins when you analyse it. but if we are to break the glass ceiling, we have to stop losing these big away games. We have to find a way of putting a bigger dent into their final points tally.

Victor Johnson
77 Posted 15/08/2014 at 10:11:06
I think the key issue here is whether, one year on, our possession-based model will become more refined this season. I would expect Martinez to be demanding greater care and concentration in retaining possession, and developing fresh and novel patterns/link-ups to bamboozle the opposition.

I think what we saw last season was a work-in-progress on that front and it will be more than interesting to see how the same squad ups the ante in their arrogance and confidence. Note the almost revolutionary change between seasons 1 and 2 under Rodgers. I expect the same improvement in momentum and fluency from us. COYB

Harold Matthews
78 Posted 15/08/2014 at 22:05:04
Victor. According to Roberto post Brazil, possession football is about to be tweaked to brave, dynamic, high intensity stuff with goals galore and busy keepers.
Mike Childs
79 Posted 16/08/2014 at 09:57:44
John Daley (30) a very interesting read that I had to read twice very enjoyable.
Kieran Riding
80 Posted 26/08/2014 at 02:17:42
Mark Tanton, you thought I was kidding two weeks ago when I said we were in for Eto'o in post #41 !!
The meltdown hasn't happened though - yet !
Kieran Riding
81 Posted 26/08/2014 at 09:31:09
Although it is getting closer I feel Mark.....

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