By Adam Drewery
A fantastic 2013/14 campaign has brought a smile back on the face of every Evertonian who was worried how we would do without Moyes. Few – myself included – could have guessed such a turnaround in such a short period of time. A completely new style of football (or a reversion to the old ‘School of Science’?) coupled with new ‘have a go’ rather that ‘contain’ attitude has breathed new life into a team destined for the glass ceiling of 6th during the previous incumbent. It could have been even better (the 3-0 win vs. Arsenal had us dreaming of 4th and the two cup exits hurt for different reasons) but the season report is still glowing. Record season ticket sales have now passed 30,000 only emphasis this further. So, what’s next? It’s been a mixed pre-season – exceptional off it, disappointing on it.
The standout news (so far) has been without doubt the capture of Lukaku. A relatively indifferent World Cup campaign for himself and his national team, as well as a personality clash with Mourinho perhaps helped the pursuit, but there is no doubt that he was well sought after by some of Europe’s top clubs that could offer what we currently can’t – Champions League football. It’s testament to the impact that Everton made to him during his loan (and vice-versa) that he wanted to stay. Credit here also lies with Martinez for his pursuit of him and his ability to see the transfer through. In terms of other new faces, Mo Besic has been the standout performer in pre-season following a solid World Cup with Bosnia (man marking Messi) adds a third defensive midfield option with another of our permanent signings Gary Barry (still has the same pace he did when he was 21) and the engine that is James McCarthy.
Add to this list attacking options in Mirallas, Pienaar, Osman, McGeady and Barkley as well as the very recent addition of Atsu on a season long loan give us multiple options across the middle of the park. Defensively the new star on the block, John Stones, looks a class act – fitting in easily alongside either Distin or Jagielka. Baines and Coleman pick themselves although Baines has more competition now with Oviedo having something of a breakthrough season last time out before the injury against Stevenage that curtailed his premier league season and the impressive World Cup Costa Rica enjoyed.
Looking forward, Martinez appears to be putting in place a very deliberate 5 year plan with himself already being rewarded with an improved 5 year deal with John Stones, Seamus Coleman, Tony Hibbert and Ross Barkley following suite. So what to expect for 2014/15? A trophy. Any trophy! 20 years is too long to be without one but the feeling now is we have now the right squad with the right depth with the right ambition to compete in every competition we play. Yes, we lack contemporary European experience but my feeling is that the Europa League needs to be given maximum priority. If league form suffers because of the EL, to not take it seriously would be criminal. It seems Martinez thinks the same.
Our pre-season fixtures were specifically picked with the European games/traveling mind: Porto at home, Celta Vigo at Tranmere, Paderborn in Germany. The concern here is that the results read: Porto – draw, Celta Vigo – loss and Paderborn – loss. The absence in these games of Lukaku, Mirallas and Coleman can in some way justify these reversals but if we are to really go for the Europa then its teams like these that we need to get results against.
So, predictions? League – 5th, FA Cup – quarter finals, League Cup – quarter finals, Europa Cup – winners.
Well, we have to believe! NSNO!