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What should be our focus this season?

by   |   11/08/2014  Comments (48)  jump

We now have an idea what our squad will look like this season, as we do our competitors. So where would you like us to prioritise our efforts?

I have two priorities: firstly silverware; and secondly a good European campaign. So attempting to win the UEFA Europa League would be ideal for me. I don't see us winning the Premier League, we cannot compete over a season with both City and Chelsea, both have strengthened again as has Arsenal.

As for a Champions League spot, I think again it would be a big ask. None of the media tip us to attain it and I can see why. Firstly, have we progressed? I don't think we have. We have taken the vital step of retaining key players (Lukaku and Barry) but done little to push on. Everyone is raving over Besic but surely he is competing with the (both excellent) Barry or McCarthy for a place, as all of them are primarily defensive midfielders.

Atsu may be exciting, but so was Delofeu whom he is, in effect, replacing. This means the only likely improvement is the younger stars continuing their development into Champions League quality players. This, in the case of Stones and Barkley, is of course possible but the flip side is players like Pienaar, Distin and Osman getting less effective as they get older.

Secondly, we have strong competition (as always) from other teams. The Dark Side will miss Suarez but I think will be strong and United, with their finances, unfortunately won't have another season that bad again. Add to that who knows what Pochettino will get do for Spurs and I think top 4 is again a huge ask. Even if we got it, who remembers who finished fourth? We would still have to play a knock-out match to get into the group stages (we remember how that finished last time) and one year on its own in the Champions League will not do much financially to address the gap to the wealthiest Premiership clubs.

That leaves the Cups. I would be glad to win any of them; it really is about time we did, but the added sweetener of a Champions League spot makes this the competition I would like Roberto to prioritise. Considering how well we did last season and Roberto's continental style of play, we should be able to compete with any likely opponents. If that affects our Premiership form so be it. We should still be good enough for top 7.

Over to you!

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Reader Comments (48)

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Patrick Murphy
1 Posted 11/08/2014 at 22:33:10
We should depending on who we draw in the group stages be able to safely negotiate through to the knock-out stages of the Europa League. But we have to give it our all in the Premier League to garner as many points as possible this side of Christmas - i.e. enough points to ensure we are not at the wrong end of the table. In the New Year we can start to prioritize if we have enough points in the bag but the prize money from the Premier League is what counts anything that follows will be a bonus. I would settle for mid-table with a trophy but without a trophy we should be looking at top 6 or 7.
David Hallwood
2 Posted 11/08/2014 at 22:37:20
Good article John, but the days of a Man Utd & AN Other for the prem are long gone. So what should be our focus? To use the old, old cliché, take each game as it comes and see where we are in the New Year.

Everyone is droning on about the top teams strengthening close season, but take Chelsea for example, theyÂ’ve signed Costa and a 36-year-old Drogba, to add to the misfiring ladyboy. Now Costa may hit the ground running or struggle in a new league and country, in addition if he gets injured, ChelseaÂ’s down to bare bones.

All the "big" teams have question marks over them, and IMHO there isnÂ’t an obvious champion and it will be a lot closer than the bookies and the Â’expertsÂ’ are making out.

So the focus should be fight on all fronts; we just might win one.

Kev Johnson
3 Posted 11/08/2014 at 22:51:33
Cup winners tend to get lucky with the draw, so this season I think we should focus on... being lucky!

Metalist Kharkiv and Dymamo Kiev are two short straws we should certainly be hoping to avoid in the Europa League, for obvious reasons.

Jon Ferguson
4 Posted 11/08/2014 at 22:53:09
We should concentrate on both. If we get Atsu and a striker on loan, we pretty much have two players for every position across the pitch.

Lukaku, Kone, Long, loaner
Mirallas, McGeady, Atsu, Pienaar
Barkley, Naismith, Osman
Barry, McCarthy, Gibson, Besic, Ledson
Coleman, Browning, Hibbert
Baines, Oveido,Garbutt
Distin, Jagielka, Stones, Alcaraz
Howard, Robles, Stanek

There is enough there to have a good go at the Europa and top 4 Premier League.

I'm also excited about the Europa. Here are some of our potential group line ups (we're in the second seeds).

Inter Milan, Everton, Legia Warsaw, Dinamo Moscow

Seville, Everton, Rapid Vienna, Feyenoord

Lyon, Everton, Real Sociadad, Partizan Belgrade

PSV, Everton, Brossia M'gladbach, Torino

I know some of those teams aren't the force they once were, but a lot of them still have some cracking players and will qualify for the Champions League next season, plus they are well supported clubs, which will make for good atmosphere home and away. Can't wait!

Harold Matthews
5 Posted 12/08/2014 at 00:54:35
The League is always my top priority. Watched by billions worldwide, it's the big thing on Sky, BT and Match of the Day. If we're up there, the whole world knows it. If we are in 12th place they are not going to say, "Oh well, they're in Europe." or "They're doing ok in the cup.".

Fair enough, the other competitions will be exciting and I will scream for victory....but the League will always be my main focus.

Marshall Duvall
6 Posted 12/08/2014 at 02:02:43
Plain and simple: the Premier League.
Chris Jones
7 Posted 12/08/2014 at 02:28:28
Our focus?
Nailing every tackle.
Completing every pass.
Converting every opportunity.
Geoffrey Caveney
8 Posted 12/08/2014 at 02:40:03
I agree with Harold, the League is the priority. We will rest Howard and others in some Europa and Cup matches to keep them fresh for League matches, but we won't rest them in League matches to save them for the Europa or the Cup.

Imagine if we sacrificed League performance to go all out to win the Europa, had a great run...but lost the final. Where would that leave us?

I'm also sure Roberto is not thinking or talking about making anything a lower priority. He would reject the premise entirely. He wants an excellent showing in the League and in the Europa, and he won't be happy if we perform poorly in either.

Clarence Yurcan
9 Posted 12/08/2014 at 03:22:07
I do agree with some previous posters that Everton have got a decent shot in the league. That said, the Europa League cannot be dismissed. As has been noted by others, the Europa League winner starting this year gets a CL spot the following season.

And honestly, what's more likely: beating out a far richer club like Arsenal for the 4th spot in the grind of the Prem, or winning the Europa League, where our biggest competition will be the likes of Fiorentina, Sevilla and Wolfsburg?

Peter Z Jones
10 Posted 12/08/2014 at 03:38:05
I would guess that we'll go the hardest in the Prem and Europa League because we've essentially been given two cracks at CL. Plus you've got the added bonus of potential silverware in the latter competition, which is what everyone is craving after such a long trophy drought.
Darryl Ritchie
11 Posted 12/08/2014 at 05:13:30
The Europa League and the EPL are equal in my eyes. To have played so hard, and so well, last season; to achieve 5th and a spot in Europe, and then play less than a full strength squad in that competition, is mind numbing.

Geoff @ 8- 7th to 4th! - Runner up in the Europa League! I'd be more than happy with that. The key point being not letting it slip in the league. No reason to not believe we can't go 4th AND win the EL.

I think we can do both! It won't be easy, but we have the squad to do it. (Although we really could use another striker, 'cause Rom will need a break sometime... maybe Kone... maybe not.)

Kieran Fitzgerald
12 Posted 12/08/2014 at 06:22:00
Consistency in the league is the key for me. If we continue with the top six finishes, we will continue to receive positive attention, decent TV and league placing revenue and will continue to qualify for the EL at least.All of this has a positive ripple effect so for me the priority has to be a decent league campaign.

With the EL and the domestic cups, I think that this season we should concentrate on developing the younger players as full senior squad members. There is a growing consensus that Martinez is looking to promote from within rather than buy or loan any more players. If that is the path we are going then do it at every opportunity. Play the youngsters in the cups as much as we can and look to see where they are come May.

Carl Taylor
13 Posted 12/08/2014 at 06:56:17
What should be our focus? Is it my age, cynical mid-forties who must be spoilt on mid-80's memories, but it's obvious isn't it? Win every game we play no matter what the opposition and be gutted and annoyed every time we don't win.

The mentality of 'choosing priorities' is that of people accepting failure in other areas. That is the mentality that has let us down on the pitch. That horrible lot over the park and down the East Lancs do whatever it takes to win, we play within the spirit of the game. I really hope Besic instills some Roy Keane spirit into our team of nice guys and that filters through to the fans.

Dare to dream, win every game and be bad losers! COYB!

Matt Traynor
14 Posted 12/08/2014 at 07:19:51
If we get a favourable draw for the group stages in the Europa, we could effectively play the reserves/back-up squad, peppered with a few 1st teamers who need to find form / gain match fitness, and still be sure of topping the group going into the February resumption.

That means the club can focus 100% on the Prem, notwithstanding our usual elimination from the League Cup at a Championship side.

So we get to January, and if we're not in with a cat in hell's chance of top 4, but not going to be in trouble, they can focus on the Europa League.

If we are within a shout of top 4, then the board will collectively shit themselves and scrabble around for the usual excuses as to why we fail to strengthen. Before doing nothing, leaving our campaign to fizzle out as league form suffers and transfers itself into a disappointing exit from the Europa at the quarters stage. Discounting FA Cup as the big teams seem to be taking it seriously again, and even their 3rd team would give most of the other teams a run for their money.

Mike Allison
15 Posted 12/08/2014 at 08:03:33
Fourth place or winning a trophy.

Patrick's right, you don't choose at the start of the season, you go full on for everything. That's why you put together a big squad with two players for every position.

Come April or so, maybe we'll have to prioritise one game over another due to fixture congestion and a key injury, but not yet.

For now we nail every tackle, complete every pass, convert every opportunity and win every bloody game.

Terence Leong
16 Posted 12/08/2014 at 08:11:12
I'm a realist, but as a football fan, you cannot help but be idealistic. You start the season dreaming and believing that you can win everything; or else what's the point?

Injuries, freak results and all kinds of other factors come in. The realist in me will say that we can't win the league, or that if we win a trophy, our league placing will suffer.

It might very well be, but if we don't start by dreaming that it can be done, and that we should "take one game at a time", playing to win each game, whoever's called upon to play, then we won't amount to anything.

We all know for a fact that managers do not "take a game at a time". They rotate and keep players fresh for the rest of the season.
But we should set out to win each game, and leave the pitch giving the best.

Phil Walling
17 Posted 12/08/2014 at 08:15:45
With Robles in goal, we can right off any hope of Europa or Cup success before the season starts.

Premierwise, we should again be competing for a top third place. Anything more is purely wishful thinking.

Matt Traynor
18 Posted 12/08/2014 at 08:21:17
Phil #17.
There are 20 teams in the Premier League. 20 / 3 = 6.666.
Therefore your "seventhish" would technically be in the middle third of the league, albeit top of it.

So are you raising your expectations? What's brought this unbridled optimism on?

Phil Walling
19 Posted 12/08/2014 at 09:00:25
'Always look on the bright side' , Matt !!!
John Pickles
20 Posted 12/08/2014 at 08:31:48
There are some very interesting opinions and points here. We should of course try to win every game but do we have the ability to put out a fresh team capable of that over 4 competitions?

While I would hope using Besic, Kone, Gibson, Oviedo, Stones/Distin, Osman and Naismith in matches wouldn't weaken us, I think adding more than one or two of the other squad members into the same game means a much weakened side. We cannot rest Howard or Coleman for example without weakening the side yet they cannot be expected to play every match if we are to progress on all fronts. This is why the rich teams have top quality back up for every position, they expect to play a lot of matches. As I have mentioned Gibson in this paragraph, I feel honour bound to say, we must expect injuries to take their toll over a long season.

I think our visit to Leeds the other season showed what happens when you rest six or seven players at once. I hope we don't put out a similar team in any match we need a result from.

John Crook
21 Posted 12/08/2014 at 09:55:56
Our focus should be on ALL FOUR competitions! However, the League Cup has been annoying me for ages and it amazes me a club of Everton’s size hasn’t won it. With Europa League, we now don’t enter the League Cup until October in Round 3 which effectively means it is a 5-game tournament. In my opinion, we should be playing our very strongest team in this and go out and win it (Howard to play – not Robles).

With regards to the Premier League, I feel only Man City Arsenal and Chelsea are top 4 certainties. It’s too hard to call how Man Utd will come on under Van Gaal, too early to see if the Redshite can cope without Ratboy who was 40% of their team, and Spurs are also hard to call – sometimes new managers get off to a flyer sometimes they need a season of consolidation. Our own chances of finishes 4th realistically depend on those 3 not improving on last season.

I canÂ’t see us finishing anywhere lower than 7th. IÂ’m convinced the top 7 will be the same again although maybe not in the same order. A kind draw in the Europa League group stages means youngsters can get game time and became established first-team players (Ledson, Long Browning et al). This could then give us extra strength in depth by getting these players valuable experience as Roberto has said heÂ’s not a massive fan of the January market.

The last time we won the FA Cup would be 20 years exactly by the time we get into 2015. Maybe IÂ’m being superstitious but I can imagine the red biased Sky punditry applauding (but really knocking) Everton for winning the FA Cup 20 years on after the last success.

And that has just made me feel really old... knowing when Dave Watson lifted the cup, I had just finished school!

Jim Potter
22 Posted 12/08/2014 at 10:16:49
John - "Even if we got it, who remembers who finished fourth"? Our bank manager might.
Terence Leong
23 Posted 12/08/2014 at 10:56:38
1. I recall that Martinez has gained a good track record last season for making our substitutes count. This will be a critical factor again. That allows players to come on to support the team, get some game time and momentum, while giving the tired legs of the others a rest.

2. As mentioned before, we can't expect to rotate much of the team and not expect the quality of play to suffer.

This is where we'll have to look to Martinez to make the critical decisions e.g. if certain key players are not available, to tweak the formation and strategy, so that reliance on the players gets shared by the others on the team.

Martinez showed that he can vary his strategies last season. Let's hope that behind closed doors, he has been further consolidating and drilling the team to do likewise. I am hopeful that the young players, while wet behind the ears and still very much inexperienced, might take on board what the coaching team does. Thus, their ability to play and fit in might be a significant contribution. You know, the gestalt of things, where "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".

I genuinely believe that if we can maximize the two pointers above – which of course, requires the manager to earn his wages – then I think we stand a good chance of competing on all 4 fronts meaningfully.

John Pickles
24 Posted 12/08/2014 at 11:59:15
Jim #22. A fair point, however I think he may also remember if we finished 6th and won the Europa League.

As posters have remarked the Europa League is much more desirable with the Champions League spot for the winner. No team in the Europa League should scare a team who can attain 72pts in the English Premier League.

Don't get me wrong I want us to perform well in the league, as Harold in his, always incisive, post stated, we also get good exposure through Premier League matches.

James Stewart
25 Posted 12/08/2014 at 12:35:42
Priority should be the Premier League and the Europa League.
Duncan McDine
26 Posted 12/08/2014 at 13:00:33
For me its an easy one... Top 6 in the league an win a cup of any kind.
Mike Allison
27 Posted 12/08/2014 at 13:31:20
Phil, Wigan won the FA Cup with Robles in goal. He played in every round, and didn't play in the league, from which they were relegated. Your judgement is excessive and is contradicted by a cold hard fact.
Julian Wait
28 Posted 12/08/2014 at 13:36:35
The Premier League seems like a bridge too far, but we have give it a go and see what happens. I'd be disappointed with 7th or even 6th to be honest.

So for me, top 5 (to pretty much guarantee Euro football) and then go on and win the Europa League (i.e. for CL qualification, plus it's a trophy and we need one!). I don't think the EL will be easy by any stretch, as the EL gets the "second wind" (second chance) CL teams coming into it ... which could be pretty much anyone in it except Chelsea, Barca, Real and Bayern.

Would of course be nice to have a decent run and in maybe win one or both of the domestic cups (ok, am being greedy butI can dream!).

But focus? Not until we're pretty much out of something should we choose not to compete, but that doesn't mean we can't start some of the mid level squad members (Atsu, Garbutt, Pienaar, Osman etc) and bring youngsters (Henen, Long etc) and Hibbert in off the bench if needed to do a job.

Kunal Desai
29 Posted 12/08/2014 at 14:04:22
A top 6 finish and winning the League Cup would represent a successful season and a platform built towards achieving hopefully bigger and better things in years to come. I believe, once we get that all-important first trophy, then the next trophy or two won't be too far away if Martinez is still Everton manager.
Paul Tran
30 Posted 12/08/2014 at 14:33:01
For the team:
A cup.
More points than last season.
Keep passing the ball with control, but with more pace.
Get the ball to Lukaku whenever he makes a forward run.
Remember that goals from set-pieces still count as goals.

For the fans:
We're not a tinpot little club, so please act like it.
No more chip on the shoulder references to LFC.
No more 'poor little Everton' excuses.

Mike Oates
31 Posted 12/08/2014 at 14:57:13
If you count the number of possible games in all competitions we'll play in this season if successful is:
League 38
FA Cup 6
League Cup 6
Europa Cup 15
Total 65 games
Unless we buy another quality attacker, as we all know Kone is not going to be available until Oct, and won't be match fit until mid Nov, there is no way that we will have the required firepower to sustain an attack on all these fronts.
Our ambitions will all be based on our firepower, which at the moment is Lukaku. We have no other players who are capable of holding the ball up, having the pure strength to bully opposing defenders, having his heading ability. Naismith or Mirallas in the centre forward position are lightweights.

I would target a European place in the league, probably 5th or 6th place, and try to win the FA or League Cup, and I mean try, by putting out our first eleven, not a bunch of reserves and youngsters.
The Europa Cup should be treated as a training exercise, until we obtain the necessary European experience to do a decent job in future Europa or heaven hope CL competitions.

Patrick Murphy
32 Posted 12/08/2014 at 15:16:00
Paul Tran - to add to your wish list, I hope we get the protection that other top sides appear to get from the officials and that they stop booking our players for minor offences.
Bob Hannigan
35 Posted 12/08/2014 at 16:43:31
I agree with Chris Jones # 7

"Our focus?
Nailing every tackle.
Completing every pass.
Converting every opportunity.

Then let the chips fall where they may!

Jay Harris
36 Posted 12/08/2014 at 16:39:15

"Improve our focus" By this I assume you include the support which I thought was abysmal in some home games last season. The away support is incredible as are some of the big home games but we cant complain about the players not showing up for the "less than big" games and then do the same in terms of support. I don't know what the answer is but we need to be a lot more vocal and supportive in every game if we are to help break the glass ceiling.<< IMO we have the weakest squad in the top 7 and are not well placed to get reinforcements in January if we hit a problem position. As we all know the crowd at GP can be totally intimidating.
Depending on how the team comes together I think we need to lower our expectations and be pleasantly surprised if we do well.
Raymond Fox
37 Posted 12/08/2014 at 17:35:14
The league has to be our main priority.

So we play our best players in every match and most of them get crocked in the Europa and cup comps, its a risk isn't it, and don't forget almost all our players are full Internationals, so that's even more games.

Just imagine a packed Goodison watching Evertons 2nd and 3rd choice teams getting mullered every week and sliding down the Prem. because we've risked all our best players in the other games

The manager has to prioritise because as I think Harold mentioned first the league is our bread and butter and worth a lot of cash to us in tv and attendance money as well as credibility.

You can try to win every match, but no team in the world plays their best team in every game!

Raymond Fox
39 Posted 12/08/2014 at 18:15:43
John (OP) I'm not criticising your comments by the way I'm commenting on some posts that seem to be suggesting that Roberto should play his best available team in every match.
Iain Love
40 Posted 12/08/2014 at 22:33:32
Simple answer, the NEXT game.
Sam Higgins
41 Posted 12/08/2014 at 22:37:33
Solomon Kalou anyone?
Jimmy-Ã…ge Sørheim
42 Posted 12/08/2014 at 23:33:07
The focus has to be take each game as it comes. I want to win the EL more than anything, but we can not afford to fall further down the league then 7th.

I think we should use the youngsters against lesser teams, and in that way develop our squad into a bigger one.

The form of the top 4 will dictate if we should aim for the CL.

Money-wise it would be best to get 3rd. Squad-wise I think doing well in the EL will give the squad confidence for years to come.

Mike Childs
43 Posted 13/08/2014 at 10:41:43
Winning the PL is the thing for me. Europa too many variables that depend upon luck as much as good play. The PL is a grind and a true reflection of just how good our lads are. Toss in the added bonus of the RS slip and fall last year how juicy would it be to show them how it's done.

For me personally as long as we show improvement in our game that will be enough because we are young and building towards a brighter future. If we can pick up sme silverware this year what an added bonus that would be and proof positive that RM has us headed in the right direction.

Jeff Gwilliams
44 Posted 13/08/2014 at 16:27:39
Carl -13
I remember going behind against teams in the eighties and thinking 'they've had it now'' and I was usually right. That arrogance is something we all (players and fans) need to foster. RM already has it
Jeff Gwilliams
45 Posted 13/08/2014 at 16:49:22
Bob 35
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be

Churchill 1940

Dan Brierley
46 Posted 13/08/2014 at 16:36:16
As a fan, I would love to see us really go for all the cup competitions. But in reality, the only thing that really keeps us going as a club are league position placements and TV money. Cups are almost a 'nice to have' unless you win the thing, and qualify for something else the next season.

However I cannot see us winning the Europa League, based on the fact that Martinez has no experience at all in Europe as either a player or manager, so I imagine this season will go down as a learning curve for him and many of the players who also will be playing together in Europe for the first time.

The league or FA cup seem to be our best chance, as the teams above us rarely pay it too much interest until the semis.

So as long as we re-qualify for Europe and blood some of our younger players them it will stand us in good stead for the future.

Jim Lloyd
47 Posted 15/08/2014 at 09:07:21
I think we can realistically aim for a European place next season but I also think that the focus should be to win a cup as well. To me, it is unlikely but not impossible that we will break into a top four spot this season, though top six is doable.

But I think we can have a better chance of success in one or more of the cups. The focus of staying in Europe would be for me, the main one this season.

MIke McLean
48 Posted 15/08/2014 at 11:06:59
The league. More money in higher placings than the cup comps.

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