BY ALEX LEONARD
Since the appointment of Roberto Martinez in early June, his arrival has had time to sink in for the fans of Everton Football Club, and the Spaniard has been doing only what he can before getting to grips with the squad next month. So, seeing as there is no football to write about yet, here comes another well-served course of speculation with a side order of guesswork about what lies ahead for the Blues.
I, for one, have been considerably impressed with Martinez’s comments and suggestions over the last few weeks regarding his attitude and ambition for Everton. Since his first press conference in which Kenwright revealed him as Moyes’ successor, he has been ticking all the boxes in terms of the way he has approached the media – the little the Spaniard can actually do, he has done well. If he has not stated his eagerness to begin pre-season with Everton, he has been passing comment on how he wishes to end the Toffees’ run of trophy-less seasons.
Then again, these comments are standard for a new manager to be making – he cannot stay quiet or give negative implications about his new job. Yet, moving aside from the growing pile of aspirational quotes, all any Evertonian wants to see is their club play football in this “unique” way that Martinez has referred to.
The first time fans will be able to gain an impression of Everton under the new manager is on Sunday 14th July, in the first friendly match of the pre-season, away against Austria Vienna, last season’s Austrian league champions and finalists of their domestic tournament, the ÖFB-Cup. They may not seem the largest of threats, realistically, however for Martinez’s first match, it could be rather tricky whilst the Spaniard will be implementing and tweaking Everton’s new style of football, using the handsome foundations a certain Scotsman left.
Subsequently, the Blues will face Accrington Stanley, led by James Beattie, away from home again on Wednesday 17th July. They will then travel to Blackburn for a friendly with the Rovers ten days later and complete an interesting few fixtures. They are hardly life and death, yet if Martinez is going to expand upon his subtly impressive first impression as the face of Everton, this is where the Toffees should begin to define themselves as entering a new era: therefore, the football needs to reflect that.
Anyhow, if we find any of those opening fixtures tough, it should come as a stark reminder that, yes, on 31st July, Juventus are Everton’s first opponents in the Champions League of pre-season, the International Champions Cup in America. Real Madrid, Inter Milan, LA Galaxy, AC Milan , Chelsea, Valencia and indeed Juventus are all featuring in the tournament, unfortunately leaving the Blues as the fish out of water in my opinion. Subsequent victories over Real Madrid and AC Milan would be brilliant, but I am afraid I can’t really see that happening just yet. There is a friendly against Southport pencilled in for Saturday 3rd August against Southport, however I would imagine that is subject to change given the involvement in the ICC.
Following all of this, the Premier League season does in fact begin against Norwich at Carrow Road in a good old-fashioned 3pm kick off on Saturday 17th August in Martinez’s first real competitive encounter. It is not the worst fixture for the Spaniard to begin with, it must be said, however the Blues have not beaten the Canaries since their promotion with Paul Lambert in 2011. Here, the inevitable tinkering and alterations made in pre-season will hopefully pay off and Everton can launch another campaign in search of a Champions League place. The following match, when West Brom visit Goodison Park, will be Martinez’s very last chance to make and consolidate this first impression of his which I keep going on about, as it is integral to the backing and support of the fans that he wins the majority of Evertonians over. Should he not get off to a flying and convincing start, questions will be raised; and I am certain that Roberto knows that more than anybody right now.
Believe it or not, parallel to these goings on, the transfer window will be open. Transfers are, naturally, weirdly being finalised and confirmed prior to July 1st, and it promises to be an all-round busy summer bursting with rumours about Marouane Fellaini and what club’s shirt he will be wearing next season. It seems as if his potential replacement is already on standby; the Leroy Fer rumours have gathered pace once again as expected. Interestingly, I read recently that (who would have guessed it) his knee is in full working order following the closure of the January transfer window. This time, at least, let us hope that Martinez, if allowed, acts fast and brings in a few quality players, possibly with Fer included, to aid Everton’s Champions League ambitions. And when I say quality, Mr. Coyle, it means you can keep Arouna Koné.
If you take only one thing away from this article, know that it is worth keeping an extra close eye on Everton’s pre-season this year. It does not take a genius to realise this is going to be a very interesting summer, and therefore I will be putting up with those awful online streams to watch the Toffees’ encounters, because we are about to witness the emergence of Roberto Martinez’s new-look Everton side, whatever it may be.
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
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You can see Alex’s blog here http://thealexleonardblog.blogspot.co.uk/