This season, the Premier League is set to go down in history as the most exciting ever. Not only do we have a good old fashioned relegation scrap that could involve 11 teams, but the top seven are all still in with a shout of winning the title. Who are you calling a mid-table club?
This article looks at what Everton need to do if they want to be carved on to the trophy as Premier League Champions 2014:
After David Moyes jumped ship to take the Old Trafford hot seat, following 11 impressive seasons despite little financial backing that had Evertonians wondering if they had reached their limit, Roberto Martinez was recruited.
Held in high regard following his FA Cup victory with Wigan courtesy of the impressive, attacking football he demanded, Martinez looked to attempt the impossible by building on Moyes’ terrific work, despite having just seen his season end in relegation.
It looked like a difficult task; Moyes had made his team difficult to beat and had regularly finished in the top half of the table, yet without the financial backing it appeared inconceivable that Everton would ever break through that barrier to the Champions League spots. Yet Martinez had different plans.
Bringing his attacking, high pressing brand of football to Goodison Park has reaped rewards with the better players he now has at his disposal, turning them into one of the standout teams of this remarkable season. They are still in the title hunt – something that even Everton fans would not have expected back in August – and they still have a huge part to play in destination of the trophy. Whilst it may seem unlikely, Evertonians are dreaming of glory, and their title rivals have sat up at this new rival.
Martinez has waved his magic wand over Goodison Park, instantly adorning himself to the Everton faithful with this terrific first season that even saw him do what the previous manager failed to do in his entirety at the club: beat Manchester United at Old Trafford (ironically, against Moyes). Martinez’s beautiful football is placing them on par with Arsenal as the neutral’s favourite in terms of enjoyment.
Yet not only are they exciting to watch, but they have also become very difficult to beat, having lost just twice all season – a league low – as well as boasting the joint meanest defence with Arsenal and Chelsea. It is this difficulty in breaking Everton down that has seen their confidence grow and become genuine title contenders.
Further credit must go to Martinez for the astute loan signings he has made. In particular, while bizarrely still seemingly not valued enough at Stamford Bridge, Romelu Lukaku has been an inspired capture on loan following his excellent year at West Brom, and dangerously leads the line. Young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu has been a creative spark that will surely feature in Barcelona’s senior side regularly next season, and has caught the eye with great pace and trickery that have caused opposition defences many problems. Gareth Barry has also brought a calming and assured influence on the pitch.
It will be disappointing that these players are only on loan at Goodison, but for this season they will be delighted to combine them with a squad that is performing admirably. Leighton Baines continues to stake his claim as the best left back in world football, whilst Seamus Coleman has improved dramatically on the opposite flank.
Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka continue assuredly at the back, whilst the solid midfield options of Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar are giving the young Ross Barkley the opportunity to flourish as one of the best young prospects this league has seen.
On paper, Everton may not seem as strong as their other competitors, particularly with a notable lack of depth to their squad. Yet it would seem as if anything is possible as Martinez has smashed the club through the ceiling that capped them as not having enough resources to compete. The neutrals (bar Liverpool) will be backing Everton to finish as high as possible, and if the first half of the season is anything to go by, it is still very capable of happening.
How to win the title
While Martinez has done a terrific job thus far, he will be praying that he can keep this team together. The ceiling on ambition may have been broken, but it is still firmly capped over their finances and they do not boast the money to compete with their rivals in the transfer market.
Therefore, the Spaniard will be praying that he can keep hold of his star players – Baines, Barkley and Lukaku, for instance – without any of them succumbing to injury or, for those contracted to the club, serious transfer bids. Whilst the money would undoubtedly be reinvested, the best thing for Martinez right now is to keep this set of players together to continue their title assault.
Any money that is available will need to be spent very carefully, with Evertonians hoping Martinez can again pick some cheap diamonds in the rough as he has already done with Lukaku and Deulofeu.
Another striker would be ideal to ease the goal burden on the Belgian, particularly with Nikica Jelavic’s departure from the club, yet it is questionable who they would be able to afford that would provide the sufficient quality – yet it’s not an impossible acquisition to be found.
Whilst the belief at Everton is certainly there right now, Martinez will surely be striving to claim more victories. Whilst they have done fantastically well to make themselves so difficult to beat, they have also struggled at times to kill off games, and this has seen them with eight draws – the second highest in the league and double any other team in the top 7. Converting some of these draws into wins will add a priceless additional two points: besides, a win and a loss is worth more points than two draws, so they will surely be looking to add build on their attacking instincts.
Unfortunately for Everton, the relative size of both their squad and budget makes their title assault the most daunting of all the top 7. Yet if they can keep up this pace whilst maintaining the core of the squad without succumbing to injury or transfer interest, the clubs have the capability to certainly stay in the top four and, who knows, maybe even just bring the title to Merseyside: just not perhaps the colour we would’ve expected.
6th – this will still be a fantastic achievement, and one on which they will look to build next season. But the lack of resources in comparison to their title rivals will ultimately cost them, regardless of how fantastic it would be to see them. Much like with Tottenham, 6th place won’t do justice to just how close it will still be when May swings around.
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