Well, they are all back in training, doing fancy exercises around flag poles and ostentatiously ‘rehydrating’ wearing them weird monitoring sports bras, and it’s a far cry from the days when Richard Dunne was photographed struggling along at Bellefield with his bag-minder knees and chippy tits wobbling all over the place.
In fact, it’s all change even from this time last year, what with the new manager, coaches, players and, fuck it, even a fancy new badge on their pristine Mustang muscle car shirts. In the flesh, and from a bit of a distance, the controversial new Everton badge looks like that of some tiny Caribbean island’s piss poor cricket team, but it’s only here for another year so we’ll survive.
The Blues actually played a game against a decent side, Austria Vienna, and went down 2-1 – Apostolos Vellios scored the consolation goal with a ‘classic’ centre-forward’s header at the near post converting Leighton Baines’s cross from the left. Normally Everton beat some part-timers first before going down 2-0 to the first group of half-decent Northern European professionals they face, so in many ways this can probably be judged as progress already under Roberto Martinez.
But seriously though… it’s going to be interesting – well, almost certainly the absolute opposite, to be honest – to see how the debate about the merits of the new manager develops as Everton play more games, especially competitive ones. Online at least, you can almost be certain that there will a hangover from the David Moyes era in so much as every minty goal we concede will be attributed in some part to Martinez’s proven defensive naivety while every passage of decent attacking play is likely to be testament to the shackles coming off after the oppression of the Moyes the Merciless era.
The truth is rarely that straightforward though. Everton conceded plenty of horror goals under Moyes and also played a lot of very attractive winning football. From Martinez’s perspective, if he’s the intelligent football man that he is portrayed as he will surely be loathe to try and change too much too soon when he’s taken over a side that finished sixth in the Premier League. Defensively at least, if he switches to a back three immediately he will be taking a massive gamble.
Such a fundamental alteration to the team’s structure would bring a lot of pressure on him, not least from the players themselves. How would someone like Phil Jagielka, say, who is an England international on the back of playing within a system that comes naturally to him, react if he ends up being made to look a bit ‘Gary Caldwell’ by being asked to do things he’s not comfortable with?
Bear in mind that Martinez hasn’t come in, like most managers do, to pick up someone else’s shite, so there is not that pressing need to affect wholesale changes. He can’t do a Moyes or a Paolo Di Canio and get instant results from just improving the squad’s fitness, for instance, so what’s more likely is that he will look to make more subtle changes in the short term, perhaps to the disappointment of some supporters who are expecting to watch the Banzai Blues playing in 6-4 thrillers every other week next season.
Thus far Martinez has already strengthened the squad in terms of numbers – you wouldn’t exactly have been insanely jealous if any of the individuals he has brought in had gone and signed for West Ham or Sunderland, let’s be brutally honest, but Aroune Koné, who sounds like an ice cream they sell at Old Trafford, certainly offers something a bit different up front while Joel Robles seems to have been brought in as more of a live competitor for Tim Howard’s starting position than Jan Mucha or Stefan Wessels ever were.
Antolin Alcaraz sort of looks like a straight replacement for Johnny Heitinga should the Dutchman finally get the move he’s been rumoured to be looking for just about every summer since he arrived.
The young chap from Barcelona, Gerard Deulofeu is the wild card, clearly, but you have to be realistic about what you can expect from someone so young with almost no top level competitive experience. Bear in mind that Ross Barkley, for instance, is meant to be an absolute superstar within his own age group but has found the demands of the Premier League Thunderdome heavy going, and he hasn’t had to cope with moving to a new country and all that entails.
If we could just start the season now we’d certainly look a much healthier outfit than last time around, but the papers at least continue to agitate for moves away from Goodison for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. How Martinez deals with replacing one or either of those pair will prove more taxing, and perhaps more revealing, than simply bulking out the squad by bringing in a load of fellas from Wigan.
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