May 272015

The dust has started to settle on Everton FC’s disappointing season. After the lap of appreciation – more, in truth, like a lap of apology – at Goodison Park comes the forensic examination of what contributed towards the Blues’ bottom-half finish.

It will be a long, laborious and, at times, excruciating process. Promising run in Europe and a decent spell in the spring aside, it has been a season to forget for Everton.

But Roberto Martinez must not forget. He will enter his third season in charge of the club in a position he’s yet to experience: the pressure of necessity. The necessity to improve on the performances and points tally of 2014-15.

There is much to do, it seems. The Blues finished six places lower and 25 points worse off than last season. Problems have arisen where they didn’t exist before, while little niggles have become full-blown complaints.

Here is what Martinez must do over the course of the summer to put the Blues on the road to recovery.

IN PICS: The players Everton fans wanted to keep/sell

Gareth Barry - Sell: 59% VIEW GALLERY

Find new centre backs

The Blues are two defenders short in central positions after the departures of out-of-contract duo Antolin Alcaraz and Sylvain Distin. Neither player, in the past few months, have shown anything to suggest they will be hugely missed – although, in mitigation, Martinez didn’t give them much chance to show anything other.

But they will be missed, if only because of the experience that leaves them with. The Blues now have Phil Jagielka, 32, as the only centre back at the club to have made more than 50 senior top-flight appearances. John Stones, at just 20 years old, could be one of the finest defenders of a generation; but he’s still made just 44 Premier League appearances in his time at the club. Brendan Galloway and other youth prospects, naturally, have little or no experience.

Martinez has discussed his desire to bring in a new defender, one who is left-footed and comes with experience. It can be argued he needs two. The Blues boss must identify them, sign them and integrate them by August to ensure his side aren’t caught short at the back.

Figure out how to get the best out of Barkley

Ross Barkley Ross Barkley

The debate over Ross Barkley blazes on. Talked up as he rose through the ranks as a traditional number 10 – one who sits behind the striker and forges forward, scoring and creating with the power he is blessed with – his struggles this season have brought calls for a reassessment.

In an interview earlier this year, Barkley was bullish about his future at a no.10. Martinez, however, sees him further back in the midfield – otherwise labelled as a traditional no.8.

The pair must be on the same page in pre-season. For too long, one of the league’s brightest young talents has looked unsure of his role; uncertainty on when to move forward, when to hold position, and where he is best-placed to contribute.

Whether it is in an advanced role or a deeper one, Martinez and his coaching staff must get the most out of Barkley. His year of stagnation does not have to be repeated; he just needs the side to cater to his talents.

Decide how to make Lukaku even more pivotal

Romelu Lukaku in action Romelu Lukaku in action

Romelu Lukaku scored 20 goals in his first season as a ‘proper’ Everton player – a decent riposte to the criticism over the £28m spent on him last summer. The promising thing for Evertonians is that the 22-year-old can get even better.

Those 20 goals came in a turbulent season for the Blues. The manager rotated – perhaps a little too much – with those behind him. Players would play central one week, then wide the next; sometimes the three behind him would be direct and quick on the ball, and sometimes the trio were focused more on ball retention.

It means there is still a bit of confusion over just what sort of striker Lukaku will become. Is he a strong target man to lead the line and bulldoze through defences? Or is he most dangerous with the ball at his feet, driving towards goal and making space for others to operate?

There is no definitive answer, of course. But Everton have a £30m forward at their disposal. It would be wise to ensure everyone knows just what sort of player he is, and what sort of service he thrives upon. Whether that’s with a regular, first-choice three behind him or striking reinforcements in the transfer window, the Belgian needs to spearhead the Blues’ push up the table.

READ MORE: Dave Prentice – Why have Everton gone 20 years without a trophy?

Discover a new Deulofeu

Everton's Gerard Deulofeu celebrates the winner against Sunderland, an own-goal by Wes Brown Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu celebrates the winner against Sunderland, an own-goal by Wes Brown

Gerard Deulofeu was such an important player in 2013-14. He was good on the ball, granted – but it was often what he did without it that helped shape Everton’s success. His pace and directness would always give his team-mates an outlet; it would also, in turn, push the Blues further up the pitch with opposition defences wary of leaving space in behind for the Spaniard to run into.

It was hoped Christian Atsu would be his replacement, but he was not good enough, on or off the ball. It is no surprise the Blues’ upturn in form coincided with the increased influence from on-loan Aaron Lennon.

Debate over Lennon’s standing against Deulofeu can rage on, but what cannot be denied is the role he performed out wide for the Blues, turning defence into attack with a dynamism that had been otherwise lacking.

Everton need a new Deulofeu to help Martinez implement his desired way of playing. Failing that, another Lennon – or maybe even Lennon himself.

Decide on elder statesmen

Everton’s Tim Howard Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

As results deteriorated, few players were safe from the wrath of the fans – but Tim Howard and Gareth Barry, in particular, bore the brunt of it.

Harsh, perhaps, but also somewhat understandable. For all their experience, both as Premier League players and in the royal blue of Everton (in Howard’s case), their performances dipped compared to previous campaigns.

Barry played far more than he was supposed to; a mixture of injuries to key midfielders and a reluctance to overexpose Mo Besic in his first season at the club.

Howard, meanwhile, was fortunate to regain his place in the first-team after Joel Robles replaced the American over the festive period.

Decisions on the pair, and their playing time next season, must be made. They remain crucial parts of the squad – but with Besic and Robles waiting, crucial may not necessarily mean indispensable.

More football news here in a few hours, just as soon as Ive gone for some food. This site is here for all fans, so please interact by leaving a comment on any article, or by writing on the fan wall (thats the wall over there in the top right. For great special offers visit the shop, or click here to compare prices of baby Everton kit.

 Posted by at 7:37 am

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>