It has been a little difficult to be enthused by our pre-season matches. Firstly let's remember there are no points gained for a friendly win. It appears to me that some players have enjoyed their holidays to much.

It is hard for us to judge exactly what Roberto wanted from the friendly games although it's safe to assume the results were not a high priority. Only in the second half did against Celta Vigo did we start to look sharper and the Paderborn game and a further closed door match should help towards fitness for the Leicester fixture.

It is also safe to assume he wanted to have a good look at our youth players, as they have figured largely in those matches, to ascertain who could safely be additions to the first team squad from the Under-21s.

What have we seen from those young players?

I would guess Garbutt, Browning and Duffy would figure in his plans with Garbutt a certainty and the steady improvement of Browning and Duffy doing themselves no harm a little more game time by the latter two in the last of the friendlies may well see them have call ups for early cup rounds.

The other youngsters may well be sent on both short and long term loans for further assessment by the very capable Joe Royal in his new roll, I would not discount the possibility of Galloway, Byrne and Ledson joining the squad along with Atsu and Hennen if they eventually sign of course.

Two or more loan signings may well be added prior to the “window” closing in the next few weeks, certainly the addition of a couple of extra bodies would be welcome.

What about the established players?

I am sorry to say that I can see no place for Tony Hibbert while Osman did not seem “at it” in the games I have seen, and fewer opportunities may be available for him.

Aiden McGeady's role may switch more inside he looked far more effective in the second half against Celta than on the wing, hence Roberto's continuing search for another winger.

All players in returning from any World Cup have worried me. It always seems longer for those players to come back and readjust, while Mirallas and Lukaku have only just returned, from those endeavours, but in general they are just too good for the hangover too last to long.

The big positive and it is a very big one is the signing of Besic, Kenwright must have worn a Zorro mask when he stole him for only £4 million. In my mind he his the best signing of the season and will take the Premier League by storm.

Who will be where in our squad?


Goalkeepers:- Howard, Robles, Stanek:-

Howard – Had a good World Cup and still looks a pretty sound keeper for a few more years at least at the top level.

Robles – Not rated by many; however, at only 23, he could develop into anything. He did play well in Wigan's cup side, and could become a capable understudy?

Stanek - May well take over when Howard retires.

Defenders:- Coleman, Hibbert, Baines, Jagielka, Oviedo, Distin, Stones, Browning, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Duffy, Galloway.

A combination from Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Stones & Oviedo, look to be the first choices for a back four, with Browning, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Duffy & Galloway as backup. Hibbert should also be included but I cannot see him being a first-choice replacement.

Midfield:- McCarthy, Barry, Besic, Barkley, Gibson, McGeady, Osman, Oviedo, Pienaar.

The midfield stand-outs are Barry, McCarthy, Barkley and Besic who will figure prominently. It will depend on the system set-up who will make the remaining places; if of course we play a 3-5-1-1, then Coleman, Baines or Oviedo could occupy the wide positions.

Forwards:- Lukaku, Kone, Mirallas, Atsu, Naismith, McAleny, Hope, Long.

Lukaku is obvious first choice; however, like the midfielders, we can expect everyone to be used in some role in the team, during the season. Naismith was a revelation last season and I expect him to be an impact substitute.

How will we play?

I think there is enormous room for us to vary the way we will play, and the set-up will all depend on the opposition we will face. Last season, Roberto put a lot of faith in his players to try new ways of playing – favouring players that seem adaptable and flexible in the way they can play, against just being a one-position, one-dimensional player.

Bearing in mind the adaptability of players we have, I can see us playing any one of seven permutations, with the players to fill those combinations. We could have 4-2-3-1, which we favoured last season, or 4-4-2, 4-3-3. However, Roberto has a preference for three at the back and I have a feeling this is the way he wants to play in the long term.

I think he has the players to play three at the back with a pick from 3-5-2, 3-2-3-1-1, 3-4-3 or my preference for a 3-5-1-1, I would see Jagielka, Stones & Distin as the back-three, Coleman, Barry, Besic, McCarthy & Baines in the midfield, Barclay in a free role and Lukaku up front.

I know you will say, "Well, you have picked all he systems there are," but that is a strength of the players we have – flexibility by almost everyone to take on two or three different rolls. Should you look at the squad in depth and the rolls they have played, both last season and in the friendlies, a flexible playing capability has been tried by numerous players.

If we have a good season, we could easily play 50 games – that's 4,500 minutes of football. It is important to remember Roberto sets great store by the number of minutes players actually play, so it's safe to say that there will be a lot of players used, just to keep our players healthy.

I may be mistaken in this but I think I detected personal monitors on the players backs, very much similar to the ones that have used in Rugby League and Union for a few years now.

There is one aspect of play that worries me that is when we play a high-pressing team, as Celta Vigo did last week, we seem to be vulnerable at the back. I am sure other manages will have spotted this as I am sure it will not have gone unnoticed by Roberto, who will put plans in place to counter this style of play, employing more of a 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3 using a pacey fast-breaking system, to catch out a high-playing team.

This season will be a tough one: Chelsea and both Manchester clubs again are looking strong, I am not particularly worried about Liverpool – they have bought too many new players for me – Spurs did the same last year. Champions League games will also add to their problems... and, if you think about it, any of the top 5 with Suarez in their team should have won the league.

Expectations are high for Evertonians I have certainly not felt as optimistic since the 1980s and 1990s but we are on a plan to go forward with young players, some of these are on the brink of being very, very good. A future spine of Howard, Stones, Barkley and Lukaku can be built on for us to become a real powerhouse in football again.

The School of Science is indeed open again.

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Trevor Thompson
1 Posted 09/08/2014 at 19:23:00
Not sure what to make of all the pre-season games. I think because we may potentially play a shed-load of games this coming season Roberto is not going to risk any players getting injured in meaningless games. IÂ’ve noticed that we tend to stroll through the first half and then step it up in the second -- perhaps he just wants to bring the playerÂ’s fitness up.

I think all the main work is being done behind closed doors. What we do need to do is iron out the sloppy play but, again, they seemed to be happening in the first half when the players are just strolling around.
IÂ’m sure heÂ’s more worried about not having player key players injured in Decemeber.

Frank Crewe
3 Posted 09/08/2014 at 20:12:24
I think weÂ’ve learned that weÂ’re rubbish at pre-season friendlies.
Harold Matthews
4 Posted 09/08/2014 at 19:28:00
Pre- season has given Roberto the chance to weigh up the character and ability of likely youngsters in a first team enviroment and assess areas which need to be strengthened from outside.
Tony Draper
5 Posted 09/08/2014 at 21:08:11
IÂ’ve learned that Harold pays better attention than me and therefore I shall copy his homework this season.
Harold Matthews
6 Posted 09/08/2014 at 21:25:23
Tony. At it again. ha ha ha lol.
Terry Murphy
7 Posted 09/08/2014 at 21:30:27
My coffee cup spilled when Lukaku signed, but this pre-season has been like a bucket of cold water. I think we have to accept lowered expectations this season and take it that Roberto has a five-year plan (oh god, I hope he has). Champions League 2016-17 here we come... slowly.
Chris James
8 Posted 09/08/2014 at 21:28:00
IÂ’ve learned that I donÂ’t want to pay to watch any pre-season games anymore and I need the season to start so I can really understand what RobbieÂ’s up to.

The last 3 games have been frankly terrifying. WeÂ’ve looked disjointed, unable to pass, lacking tempo and teamwork, low on quality and creativity, prone to lapses at the back and generally inept and unprepared for a premier league season. All in all itÂ’s appeared almost as if the last 12 months never happened.

IÂ’m also not clear whatÂ’s happening with our other first teamers (will Rom and Kev play vs Leicester, will Coleman be back fit, will Kone ever kick a football in an Everton game again?)

Martinez has more than earned our trust and patience of course but heÂ’s certainly making us fans sweat for it this pre-season.

Andrew Rimmer
9 Posted 09/08/2014 at 22:40:42
IÂ’ve learned that a top 15 finish will be an achievement.
CanÂ’t score and will let in on average 2.2 goals a game!
Danny Broderick
10 Posted 09/08/2014 at 22:41:59
Everyone knows that pre-season is for fitness. You would like to think that everyone would get a run out and that, closer to the season, the manager will know his best team and have his big guns in the team ready for the first day of the season.

With that in mind, I am baffled that Lukaku and Mirallas havenÂ’t figured. They only played 2 games each for Belgium, and both had periods of rest last year when they were injured.

I fear we are going to come unstuck against Leicester. They will be fighting for their lives and giving it everything. We will have Lukaku and Mirallas finding their feet. We might bring on Atsu if things arenÂ’t going our way - except he hasnÂ’t had any games pre-season either...

It just seems like we are not ready.

James Marshall
11 Posted 09/08/2014 at 23:40:13
IÂ’ve learned that our players have not been playing at full-tilt, which means theyÂ’ve been sent out to play for fitness and nothing more. I really donÂ’t think we have anything to worry about come next weekend, since competitive games are very different to friendlies.

That said, we do need a striker.....now if only we could sign one....oh wait....

He should play. ItÂ’s all smoke & mirrors, surely...

Chris Fisher
12 Posted 10/08/2014 at 00:19:44
We have learned fuck all because pre-season means fuck all!! They are just training sessions!! If anyone thinks we will play like we have in preseason against Leicester then youÂ’re a moron.
Paul Ferry
13 Posted 10/08/2014 at 02:07:15
Thanks OP for the lengthy, careful, and balanced summary.

IÂ’ve learnt:

That we have a star in the making from Bosnia-Herzegovina

That Osman and Hibbert should get nowhere near the starting eleven but the first at least will next week, to my great grief.

That we desperately need a dependable back-up goalie and that we should have hi-jacked the Forster transfer.

That I would rather have Long than Naismith starting up-front.

That Jagielka, the hoofer-howler, is the real problem at the back.

That people slag off Alcaraz as near ritual when in fact I would rather see Alcaraz & Stones or or Distin & Stones starting next week.

That our gaffer makes mistakes.

That Ross is not getting too big for his boots at some say – if so, then why sign on the dotted line – but does need some careful and thoughtful guidance in 2014-15 to go with all the oodles of natural flair and ability.

That we need right now Atsu, a creative midfielder, a striker, and a goalie.

That there will in all likelihood be one or two more youngsters coming through next season.

That McGeady ought not to start in a top-6 Prem team but, as it stands, will start 38 per cent of our games.

That we need a real leader on the pitch – see above comments on Jag-hoofer.

That, as Chris Fisher (#12) says, "If anyone thinks we will play like we have in preseason against Leicester then you’re a moron." – I might substitute thinking wrongly than ’moron’.

That our best of all starting XI after 2 September will be (sorry for the lingering questions): Howard/Marshall (please God); Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Besic, Atsu (assuming) AN Other/Mirallas; Barkley; Lukaku.

That we will in fact have a boss season in 2014-2015 with the best squad we have had since Â’87 although depth remains a concern and I for one will be fascinated by the teams we put out on Thursday nights.

That ToffeeWeb is the best footie fan site in the world by an Alex Young mile.

Dave Cook
14 Posted 10/08/2014 at 02:57:03
WeÂ’ve learned that even if we lose on Saturday, weÂ’ll have at least 9 players eligible to play and more than 4 subs on the bench. And our futures is still much brighter than a Tangerine in Blackpool.

ThereÂ’s always someone worse off than us guys.

James Stewart
15 Posted 10/08/2014 at 03:28:46
Not much learned at all, seeing as not once did we play a proper team.

The pre-season that never was.

Mike Childs
17 Posted 10/08/2014 at 10:58:00
Wayne, I really like your 3-5-1-1 system. I think it would give us our strongest team on the pitch. I might be tempted to drop Jags, move Baines to the back 3 and bring Mirallas into the midfield. Then again though if we go as you have payed it out Super Kev obviously becomes super sub.

Next Saturday canÂ’t get here soon enough.

James McPherson
18 Posted 10/08/2014 at 12:18:46
We canÂ’t judge Martinez yet. To do so would be premature. However, what I have learnt is that if things do go wrong, you can pin its source at MartinezÂ’s approach to the pre-season. Him committing so much time and focus to ESPN will in retrospect be massively misguided. I will also have learnt that Martinez has talent, but as can often happen to talented people, he is human and subject to complacency.
Colin Glassar
19 Posted 10/08/2014 at 12:31:39
I think weÂ’ve learned that the usual miserable sods, who are sharpening their knives, will have disappeared (like last season) by December.
Lee Carsley wrote today that the real work is done behind closed doors. Roberto and his staff know what they are doing. I trust them more than the doom mongerers on here.
Pete Owen
20 Posted 10/08/2014 at 12:53:50
IÂ’ve learned that Chris Fisher may be eating his own words next weekend, and also that he thinks using "fuck" makes his statement more valid.
Matt Muzi
21 Posted 10/08/2014 at 13:09:10
IÂ’ve learnt :
1. we need another striker,
2. Hibbert shouldnÂ’t of been given a contract extension,
3. defence training needs to be a priority this week,
4. Robles scares me!
Mark Tanton
22 Posted 10/08/2014 at 13:27:02
For those who defend Hibbert should ask themselves what other Premier League side heÂ’d play in - I believe there isnÂ’t a single team heÂ’d play in.
Raymond Fox
23 Posted 10/08/2014 at 13:11:02
Martinez is not afraid to stick his neck out.
If/when he says Lukaku and Mirallas wont play at Leicester, donÂ’t be surprised if they donÂ’t.
I agree with Wayne when he says we are looking vulnerable to high pressing sides, we are and we had better get used to it because opposing managers are certain to have spotted the weakness.
Its a weakness because some of our players donÂ’t have sufficient ball control, thatÂ’s where having more 㿊m players in the side would make the difference.
Paul Andrews
26 Posted 10/08/2014 at 14:08:08
The starting eleven will work on formation, set pieces and be ready for next week.

I think both Belgians will play some part.

Jackie Barry
29 Posted 10/08/2014 at 14:02:00
We need a winger and another forward. I wasnÂ’t up for the idea at first but now IÂ’m really thinking we should sign Hernandez.
James Flynn
30 Posted 10/08/2014 at 16:37:54
That ColemanÂ’s hamstring is bothering him and Gibson is healthy.
Andrew Rimmer
31 Posted 10/08/2014 at 17:11:04
Oh, thereÂ’s me thinking that losing to a newly promoted side isnÂ’t good but beating B Dortmund 4-0 is quite good.
Darren Hind
33 Posted 10/08/2014 at 17:50:25
That many Evertonians have the same blindingly obvious wish lists as everyone else.
A back up striker - preferably a 20 goal a season man
A creative midfielder - with an "eye for a goal"
A winger - pacy of course.

That no matter how shite the other players are. Tony Hibbert will always be singled out

That its not a good idea to use the phrase "School of science" within ear shot of Robbie Martinez - we donÂ’t want him thinking heÂ’s a teacher and can fuck off for eight weeks EVERY summer.

I’ve also learned that no matter how old I get, life isn’t the same from Mid May to Mid August — I’m so desperate for next week.

Darren Hind
34 Posted 10/08/2014 at 18:09:23
Oh and IÂ’ve also learned I cant spell
Vinod Kumar
35 Posted 10/08/2014 at 18:17:56
I have been absent for the whole of last season so thanks for the current updates. I personally would like to congratulate Martinez for a wonderful debut season. IÂ’m sure he knows what heÂ’s doing and what needs to be done. All the best for the second season.

In accordance to the earlier comments mentioned above, I could sense that it is going to be quite a dizzying and bumpy ride.

So gentlemen.... fasten your seat-belts and enjoy the adventure!

Harold Matthews
36 Posted 10/08/2014 at 22:40:40
Welcome back Vinod.
Michael Winstanley
37 Posted 11/08/2014 at 08:22:36
We need to replace Delboy, I watched the review from last season and was surprised to see how often he figured in scoring or setting up a goal.
Genuine pace and trickery.
Andy Meighan
38 Posted 11/08/2014 at 12:00:47
Does anyone really care about pre season results? They donÂ’t matter, itÂ’s all about fitness levels. Can anyone tell me what our pre season results were last season? No, thought not but I bet nearly everyone could tell me how nearly every league game went last season.

I wouldnÂ’t read too much into performances or results from pre season. The real stuff starts on Saturday and, trust me, this manager will have us fired up. And Lukaku and Mirallas will definitely start.

Alan McGuffog
39 Posted 11/08/2014 at 12:13:49
IÂ’m sure someone will correct me if my memory is playing tricks but I think we were beaten by Rochdale....Rochdale !!!... in the summer of 1969. We all remember what a bummer of a season that turned out to be.
Dave Williams
40 Posted 11/08/2014 at 20:25:11
Alan — I have been thinking the same.

3-4 if I remember rightly and it was a huge shock and then the Holy Trinity supported by Alan Whittle took the stage.

Better than the 1985 side - they would have run the 85 midfield ragged.

Great days!


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