As far as first impressions go, Roberto Martinez has made a pretty decent one at Everton. He is a amicable, studious and progressive manager. And these are all traits which have shone through in his early days at Goodison Park.
His side have been superb in stints; scything through teams with vibrant, passing football. But there have been moments of frustration too, as his adapting team have faltered when tasked with breaking down compact opposition. Nonetheless, Martinez has a clear vision for this club and Everton fans have bought right into into it. All in all, the opening signs have been overwhelmingly positive from the Catalan.
This weekend, Martinez will have the chance to boost his popularity further, as Everton take on Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. It’s a game that represents the biggest test of the Toffees’ progress under the stewardship of their new boss and a wonderful opportunity to wrestle back some initiative in a fixture they have an atrocious recent record in. But it will be tough.
From a stylistic perspective, this clash will be a huge challenge for Everton. Perhaps more than any in English football, the Merseyside derby is fast, furious and physical. In some derbies, such as North London and Manchester games, the two teams will try and outscore and outplay each other.
Not on Merseyside, though. These derby games are usually more resembling of a battle. Typically tight and tense affairs. And whilst the influence of both Martinez and Brendan Rodgers should make for some more fluid, attacking contests, don’t expect this historic match-up to lose any of it’s long-standing ferocity.
Liverpool are an energetic side who press the ball well and they will do their utmost to unsettle Everton’s rhythm in the hope of bossing possession themselves. Make no mistake, this will be a major examination of Everton’s new found approach.
They must stay true to their manager’s principles, though, for it’s about time Everton set a proactive, positive precedent in this fixture. They’ve finished above Liverpool for the last two seasons running, suggesting they are very much the top team on Merseyside.
With that in mind, the Everton supporters should be optimistic going into this one. In addition they have an excellent home record – having not lost a league game at Goodison this calendar year – and have enjoyed a wonderful start to the season. But the overriding emotion heading into the game is apprehension.