Typically, pre-season follows one of two age-old narratives. If results are going well, then managers will point to some crucial momentum gathered ahead of the new campaign. But if the wins aren’t coming in the run up to the big kick off, then the significance of scorelines are played down.
Roberto Martinez has been doing the latter throughout Everton’s pre-season, where the Toffees failed to snaffle a victory in any of their games as they prepare for the rigors of another Premier League campaign. But while they’ve failed to sparkle on the pitch as of yet, this summer has been one of indisputable prosperity and positivity for the blue half of Merseyside.
Overall, Martinez’s crop are well set for a fruitful campaign. The capture of Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal was a major statement of intent, as were the acquisitions of Muhamed Besic and Gareth Barry. But the Catalan chief has made even further strides to preserve an exciting future for the club.
Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman and John Stones have all signed long-term deals with Everton this summer, and with Christian Atsu also joining up on loan, the Toffees have a host of effervescent young players at their core, ones that compliment established figures like Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman superbly.
All in all, the squad is in excellent shape and with one of Europe’s brightest managers at the helm, Evertonians are beginning to harbor unfamiliarly lofty ambitions once again. But it could be a few weeks until we see the Merseysiders at their sparkling best.
A winless pre-season might not be a major concern to Martinez, but there’s no denying that the team has yet to completely click into place as of yet. Everton has lined up in myriad different systems, and with a staggered reintegration for a host of players that played in the World Cup, preparations for the upcoming campaign have been far from streamlined.
Two of those players are record signing Lukaku and compatriot Kevin Mirallas, both key men in this Everton set-up. Neither player has featured in any of the Toffees’ pre-season encounters and that could naturally hamper Martinez’s men as they look to get off to a fast start. There are also concerns over the fitness of last season’s standout man Seamus Coleman, whose involvement has been minuscule as of late.
A tough start doesn’t help the Toffees either. A testing opener at Leicester City could easily see a buoyed newly promoted side give Everton with a tough examination, and that tricky clash is followed by a pair of home games against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Eventually, this Everton team should be one of the most enthralling sides to watch in the division. Martinez has some wonderfully gifted young talent at his disposal and with a sprinkling of older heads in the team, the likes of Barkley and Stones should take their game on a level from the fine form they showcased during their breakthrough campaigns.
But with a plethora of detrimental factors conspiring to hamper the club’s work ahead of the 2014/15 season, Evertonians may have to show a little bit of patience before this team reaches its peak. Although admittedly, there’s no tonic quite like the Premier League when it comes to honing focus and sharpening minds.
After breaking the bank to make a genuine statement signing this summer and with European football back at Goodison Park following a brief hiatus, there’s plenty for those of a blue persuasion to get excited about as the inception of a brand new season draws increasingly closer. We may just have to wait a little while to see this progressive set-up flourish.
Predicted Finish: Fifth - The young players in the squad should be even better this season giving the Toffees a refreshing edge to their play. But a dearth of quality back-up for Lukaku will ultimately see them fall short of a Champions League spot for the second consecutive season. A trophy win in any of the FA Cup, League Cup or Europa League should also be a major incentive for Martinez.
For the latest Toffees news, analysis and opinion, bookmark the Everton team page.