After what seemed like an neverending hiatus from the joys of club football, it’ll be back in shed loads this weekend. This includes the Premier League of course, and arguably this weekend’s most high-profile encounter will be at Goodison Park as Everton – still searching for their first win under Roberto Martinez – entertain Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side.
Focusing on the Toffees, performances have been decent enough so far and they are arguably deserving of more points than the three they have accumulated to date.
To say the transition from Moyes to Martinez has been seamless would be misguided, but there are signs that point towards not only a eagerness to adapt to a new philosophy, but a willingness to forget some undesirable old habits.
As the team tackles this steep learning curve, it’s not going to be plain sailing. And this has been supported by the insistence from both Martinez and the players that patience is king. But that said, a triumph in Saturday’s late kick-off could really spark Everton’s season into life under the Catalan.
The message resonating from the club is that the campaign starts in earnest on Saturday. Transfer speculation was irritatingly rife over the summer months and it has to be said, many Toffees supporters were fearing the worst ahead of the window’s final knockings. But, what could have admittedly been a disastrous transfer deadline day turned out to be an excellent one for Everton.
Granted, Marouane Fellaini offered an incomparable presence in the middle of the park and it is one that could prove difficult to replicate. But his leaving of Liverpool has not been dwelled upon by many of a blue persuasion. Instead, Toffees fans have chosen to focus on those players they’ve kept – most notably, the mercurial Leighton Baines – and exciting players they’ve brought in the replace their talismanic Belgian.
With the squads finalized, focusing entirely on the on-pitch stuff will be welcomed with open arms by Martinez, who was becoming increasingly agitated as the window went on. So, what better way to start their ‘season’ with a win under the Goodison Park lights against one of the countries premier outfits.
It would be the perfect way to pick up their first win, no doubt. And it’s certainly not a feat beyond the Toffees.
Martinez has spoken at length about how Everton’s famous old ground can galvanize its blue representatives. And as of late, the stadium has earned a rightful reputation as a fortress.
Everton have not been bettered on their own patch in the Premier League this calendar year. The last team to beat them at Goodison was in fact Chelsea, with Frank Lampard’s brace overturning Steven Pienaar’s early strike last December.
But that shouldn’t dampen spirits, for the Toffees have actually won three of the last four meetings between the sides on Merseyside.
The atmosphere will be one of positivity – after Everton’s summer dealings – and hostility, the type that comes as default in a late kick off at Goodison.
Some players will be sampling this atmosphere for the very first time. Romelu Lukaku will have to wait before making his Toffees bow, but other deadline day transactions Gareth Barry and James McCarthy should both feature.
Despite Everton’s chronic lack of goals, both Barry and McCarthy could prove to be just as key signings as Lukaku. For all their possession this campaign, Everton have been ponderous and uninventive in the middle of the park and the two new midfielders will offer considerable purpose where it has been previously lacking. Not to mention, the new duo are far more likely to embrace a possession-based style than the two players whom have occupied those slots so far: Marouanne Fellaini and Leon Osman.
Chelsea can be gotten at too. They have started the season exuding typical Mourinho-esque efficiency, but they have been by no means spectacular. And whilst Everton were criticized of recoiling into a defensive comfort zone for these sorts of fixtures under Moyes, Martinez has dismissed the very notion of playing for a draw:
“Going for a draw does not allow you to achieve what we want to achieve. Chelsea are a top-four team and that is what we want to be. We are playing at home. We have fewer points than we deserve. If we are to catch up quickly, we have to be ourselves”
Of course, being themselves represents an entirely different identity for the Toffees these days. A win on Saturday under the gaze of Martinez would go some way to cementing that a little bit more.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball