Sep 192014

Will there be a Europa League hangover?

Everton better get used to Sunday afternoons. The Europa League brings great nights like Thursday against Wolfsburg, but it also has its pitfalls – one of the most obvious being the havoc is brings to the fixture list.

The debate about Europa League football, and whether it is worthwhile, will never cease. Roberto Martinez, the players and the supporters will never say no to a 4-1 win over Wolfsburg.

But Sunday does offer a new challenge to Martinez – his first game following a Thursday night tie. It was at Goodison Park, granted, but he did select a starting 11 close to his best.

It will be interesting to see how that affects the team that begins on Sunday against Crystal Palace.

The Blues have good form when having to navigate a lot of games in a short space of time. Momentum appears to be a friend of theirs.

At the end of November and running into December, Everton won two and drew one in the space of eight days – including the win at Old Trafford.

Over Christmas, two wins against Swansea and Southampton sandwiched between an unlucky home defeat to Sunderland – brought about after being reduced to 10 men in the first half.

Four days after the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool, they beat Aston Villa; a 2-0 win over Manchester United brought six points from a possible nine in the space eight days.

Martinez’s side has proven they can deal with plenty of games in a short space of time. After the champagne performance against Wolfsburg, they must avoid a hangover against Crystal Palace.

Is now when Kevin Mirallas kicks on?

Kevin Mirallas deserved his goal – not just for his performance against Wolfsburg, but for his performances throughout the campaign so far.

There appears to be more intent from the Belgian this season. He is not only a threat going forward, but industrious and determined going back. He has averaged more tackles in the first four games this season than the whole of last season, and was also disciplined in the Europa League win over the Bundesliga side.

With three goals already this season – a third of last year’s total – and six chances created, he has a good platform to launch from.

And now is the time to launch.

Mirallas has everything in his game. He is quick, skilful, intelligent in his runs; he also possesses a nice amount of belligerence towards the opposition, always willing to contest every final ball with a snarl on his face.

Martinez allows his attacking players to express themselves. Fewer players have the expression of Mirallas when the ball is at his feet, driving towards defences, putting them on their toes and getting his shots towards goal.

This is his third season with the club. At 26, now is the time to go from a very good player to an Everton great. He has the momentum already; a good showing against Crystal Palace could see him continue that even further.

Will the Wigan connection matter?

Martinez and James McCarthy were undoubtedly the success stories of Wigan Athletic. One guided them to the FA Cup from the dugout; the other was their midfield general, the epitome of everything that was good at the club.

It is no surprise both have flourished since arriving at Goodison Park.

But on Sunday, they revisit an old friend in James McArthur, who sealed a £7m move from Wigan to the Eagles on transfer deadline day.

McArthur is a good central midfielder. He tackles well, reads the game and tidies up the play, and is overall a diligent, intelligent midfielder in the Martinez mould.

It isn’t quite the creator versus the monster on Sunday, but Martinez will be aware of what McArthur can bring to the Palace side. Four successful tackles on his debut, as well as 32 passes from 39 attempts, shows how he can control the midfield.

Martinez will be aware of that. Martinez will have plans for that. The Spaniard will be hoping it’s an unhappy reunion for McArthur.

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