Dec 302014

Is a compromise in principles really something Everton fans want to see?

Drastic times call for drastic measures, but do Everton fans really want to see Roberto Martinez compromise on the principles that had the Goodison Park faithful hailing the return of the School of Science?

Three consecutive defeats have got fans and pundits pressing the panic button.

Graeme Souness said Everton need to “go back to basics” and even Andy Gray expressed a desire to see the Blues toughen up.

The ex-Everton striker told TalkSport: “They are playing a little too much football for me and are a little too soft at times and I think that is reflected in the results and I am a little concerned.”

Everton are undoubtedly a little soft and the nature of the goals conceded at St James’ Park will have their manager as up in arms as the fans.

But to go back to basics? Surely that’s not really what Everton fans want to see.

Remember how good it was watching Everton rediscover their identity last season? Remember how fulfilling it was to see the Blues go toe-to-toe with some of the big guns and come out on top. Arsenal, anyone?

Perhaps Everton are a little too over-eager to play, they lost the ball trying to play it out of the defence at Newcastle and their passing has been ponderous and unimaginative at Goodison at times this season.

But when confidence is low passes will go astray and the movement of the front players will diminish. That’s part and parcel of asking your team to focus on passing and movement.

It’s been a difficult season as Everton have progressively had the confidence sucked from them, but the Blues have also been ravaged by injuries and out of luck in some big games.

Martinez is in the full throes of second season syndrome, and he’s also the victim of his own success in some ways as he tries to replicate the heady heights of last term.

The Blues boss has some tough months ahead and some difficult decisions to make, but compromising on his principles certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

Can Everton capitalise on Hull’s home woes?

Everton will be glad to see the back of December after an awful run of three straight defeats and just one win, at home to QPR, the only positive during a difficult month for Roberto Martinez’s men.

Indeed, the Toffees may have left themselves open to the world “crisis” after rounding off a miserable month with three straight defeats and will be hoping a new year will bring a fresh start as they bid to pick their season up off the ground.

Luckily for them, 2015 comes in the shape of Steve Bruce’s Hull City and the Tigers have well and truly been tamed recently.

Hull host Everton on the back of their own run of just one victory in the month of December, a surprising 3-1 triumph at Sunderland. They managed to grasp a draw with Everton at Goodison Park earlier in the month but on their own turf the Tigers are well and truly toothless.

They have managed just one win at the KC Stadium all season, and have scored just eight goals at home. They have lost four of their last five home games and only managed to score one goal in that period.


Goals scored


Goals conceded

All in all, the Blues might just have found themselves the perfect opponents on New Year’s Day.

Everton conspired in their own downfall at Newcastle, gifting the hosts goals with simple errors and soft defending. But on the attack Everton looked a lot more threatening than in recent games. Arouna Kone’s return to the starting XI gave the Blues renewed purpose and Kevin Mirallas’ cameo was something to be positive about.

The thought of a long trip up to the east coast might not be every Everton fan’s idea of fun on New Year’s Day, but Martinez’s men will be relishing the chance to put right their recent poor form with a trip to the KC Stadium on the first day of 2015.

Will another change of personnel help the Blues find form?

Roberto Martinez hasn’t named the same Everton XI for two Premier League games in a row all season, so there’s no reason to believe that the Blues boss will turn over a new leaf in 2015.

In fact, it’s practically guaranteed that Martinez will shuffle his pack. Kevin Mirallas must come back into a starting berth and Ross Barkley will be expected to be in contention. John Stones, provided he’s fit, should replace Sylvain Distin in the Everton back four. Muhamed Besic will also hope to be picked, having impressed for the Blues recently.

But Martinez has some big decisions to make in terms of who plays where.

Does Leighton Baines carry on in central midfield or return to left back? Does he still with Arouna Kone up top or bring in Romelu Lukaku alongside him. Should he return to the team, does Barkley play centrally our out wide?

It’s a bug bear of many Everton fans seeing the likes of Barkley and Samuel Eto’o trying to make an impact from wide positions, with many of the feeling that they are toiling out on the flanks and far more effective coming inside.

But with the likes of James McCarthy, Besic, Barry and now Baines, vying for a place in Everton’s central two and Martinez’s preference for playing one central striker, where does he fit each player in?

Up front, Kone equipped himself well at Newcastle, and it was his forward running that saw him score the opening goal. He could shape up to be a good partner for Lukaku, who often comes short to collect the ball. It will be interesting to see what sort of partnership they can forge should they be afforded the chance to play alongside one another at Hull.

Baines was another bright point in the defeat to Newcastle, it was his ball that released Mirallas to score late on and he helped the Blues have a decent balance in midfield with his tendency to move to the left. But it remains to be see whether he will stay there long term. Besic perhaps provides a more physical presence and Everton’s success was built on the partnership of Gareth Barry and McCarthy last season.

They are all questions he needs to answer as the season goes on.

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