Tough Start Presents Opportunity for Martinez's Everton

The newly-announced 2015-16 fixtures have thrown up a daunting first 10 games for Everton but within the challenge lies huge opportunity if Roberto Martinez can get his team primed to hit the ground running.

Lyndon Lloyd 17/06/2015 39comments  |  Jump to last

As Roberto Martinez casts his eyes down the fixtures for the 2015-16 season that were released today, he will, hopefully, see his task this season crystallised by what is, by any measure on paper, a tough assignment for the first quarter of the campaign.

A home game against newly-promoted opposition in the form of Watford offers an excellent opportunity to get a jump start off the blocks before meetings with all of the top eight teams from last season in the space of nine fixtures.

The manager will already have plans in place to avoid the shambolic preparations of last summer that helped scupper the Blues' 2014-15 season before it had really begun, but as he plots his way through those first 10 games he will know that there will be no room for the slow starts that have characterised his first two seasons in charge at Everton. There will be far less scope for his usual strategy of building momentum over a season to reach peak performance by the final quarter of the campaign.

There were, of course, mitigating circumstances in the first three games of his tenure as his side settled into a new way of playing under a new manager but last August's uninspiring start on the back of a disjointed, World Cup-affected pre-season offered plenty of lessons that will hopefully have been learned this time around.

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Given his optimistic bent, though, Martinez will see opportunity in the challenge the fixture list has thrown up if he can get the bulk of his summer transfer business done and his squad primed in time to hit the ground running when things kick off on 8th August. The start to any season usually involves a period of readjustment and settling in as teams make the transition from friendlies and summer tournaments while bedding in new signings and that will suit those sides who can find an early rhythm.

The prospect of facing so many teams who finished above us last term and who would, we hope, be our rivals in the quest for qualification for Europe and taking points off them early is a potentially exciting one and it could really define Martinez's all-important third year at the helm if he can recapture the spirit of his maiden campaign.

Granted, in that season the corresponding 10 games (with Watford substituted for Cardiff City) yielded only 15 out of a possible 30 points but huge wins over the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal at home coupled with the near-victory in the Goodison derby and the stirring draw at the Emirates set the tone for an adventure that almost ended with Champions League quaification. (Indeed, the tally of 72 points would have meant a top-four finish in four of the preceding five seasons.)

If the Blues can pick up wins in those same games while improving on their recent results at the St Mary's, the Etihad and White Hart Lane then they could find themselves in an excellent position by the end of October when again, on paper things finally look like they will ease up.

Martinez has alluded to how much he believes his players were hobbled pyschologically by dropping vital points from winning positions in the first two matches last season against Leicester and Arsenal last year and the catastrophic start his side made in the home game against Chelsea that left them with just two points from a possible nine by the start of the September.

Equally, if his team of the year before showed anything, it was just how key a role confidence and mentality can play in results. Through a seven-match winning streak between March and April 2014 that looked at one stage like it might propel the Blues into the Champions League, Martinez's men found ways to win where as there were times last term that they were more apt to finding ways to throw leads away.

It's clear, therefore, that the priorities for the manager and his staff this summer will be as much in the physical conditioning of the players as it will in the mental. The belief that the Blues can make a strong start and get a significant haul of points on the board from that daunting run of opening games must be instilled in the team so that they are fired up and ready when they take the field against Watford in August.

By doing so, they will also be able to harness the power of an enthused Goodison Park and banish the nerviness and agitation that permeated the Grand Old Lady at times last season. Onward and upward, as they say!

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Reader Comments (39)

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Andy Crooks
1 Posted 17/06/2015 at 19:01:11
The joy of being an Evertonian, Lyndon. The supporters of most clubs could hazard a guess as to where they will be by November. Not us – we could be top or bottom.

Also, the fact that Martinez believes that the players were psychologically hobbled after two games epitomizes, for me, what is poor about his management. Maybe he’ll get it right. These are the days of optimism.

Paul Kossoff
2 Posted 17/06/2015 at 19:25:31
All we ask for is 100% effort from the whole team, win or lose.
Rahul Sreekumar
3 Posted 17/06/2015 at 19:23:58
We have to start/continue playing with the belief that we can finish 1st in the league. Otherwise, we might as well not show up.

Plus I had a vision in which we finished 2nd this season (curiously followed by a vision of dinosaurs). So I’m good till kick-off day. COYB!

Peter McHugh
4 Posted 17/06/2015 at 19:53:23
I’m thrilled with the fixture list. Great motivation to start all guns blazing and made up to have the first game at home. COYB
Dick Fearon
5 Posted 17/06/2015 at 20:38:34
In 60 of the last 65 years the first sighting of a new seasons fixtures would have my optimism level going sky high.
Not so this time the reason being that under Martinez the teams potentially great football takes second place to a fragile condition that could make or ruin our season after just a few games.

Last year he blamed a poor season not on his woefully planned pre-season but on the loss of points in three early games. That was a clear admission of his inability to rise above a psychological barrier caused by that loss of points.

His great many public statements since then provide little hope that his general outlook in that regard has improved. What that points to is an urgent need of a sports psychologist for him as much as for the players. In fact, I would place that high on the list of priorities.

Clive Rogers
6 Posted 17/06/2015 at 20:33:04
There are no easy games in the PL, the tv money has seen to that. Looking at the early fixtures makes me think we need to strengthen with three quality signings, a CB, an attacking mid who can score a few and a striker.
Dan Parker
7 Posted 17/06/2015 at 22:13:55
It’s a tough start and hopefully Watford doesn’t turn out to be a disaster like Leicester last year. The start could define our season and the positive note is we’ll see very quickly whether Martinez is up to the task of restoring the euphoria from his first season. With no Europe to worry about, will be interesting for sure. Don’t have high hopes but hopefully they’ll be surpassed.
Clarence Yurcan
8 Posted 17/06/2015 at 22:15:04
We will win the league in 2015-16. Detailed analysis and explanation coming soon in a fan article.
Tony Abrahams
9 Posted 17/06/2015 at 22:27:56
Clarence, what price will you get for this? I hope we win a fortune between us mate, thanks for the tip!
Eddie Dunn
10 Posted 17/06/2015 at 22:48:12
Rahul, Have you been fasting mate? Dinosaurs!
Ant Dwyer
12 Posted 18/06/2015 at 01:06:24
The fixtures are the fixtures, we will probably do an Everton and beat the top teams but manage to draw (or lose) the first game to Watford.We all know what’s needed to put on a good show at home to Watford. If Martinez wants to get the fans back onside he has to be positive, McCarthy and Barkley in the middle would be a nice start. Del (if we get him) on one side, Mirallas (if he’s still here) on the other. Four across the back, with a goalkeeper.

See were this is going, Roberto, still two slots left! 4-4-2... simple.

Terry Murphy
13 Posted 18/06/2015 at 00:56:15
I might be wrong here, Clarence, but I suspect you might have made a couple of unfounded assumptions.
Frank McGregor
14 Posted 18/06/2015 at 01:57:10
Yes, quite a tough start; however, there has to be a massive effort to get a minimum of 15 to 18 points by the end of the game with Sunderland on 31 October. Anything less than that should put in process the search for a new manager.

I really hope Roberto does succeed to be honest for the stability of the club and hopefully moving on up to better things...

Clarence Yurcan
15 Posted 18/06/2015 at 02:10:33
That’s right,Tony, place your bets now and thank me later when you’re rich!
Derek Thomas
16 Posted 18/06/2015 at 06:51:18
If he / we don’t improve on a preseason fitness regime that a pub (darts) team could cope with, we will still be having this discussion 12 months hence.
Jim Bennings
18 Posted 18/06/2015 at 08:28:17
Agree that there are no easy games in this league.

You must work hard and put in 100% effort because even against Watford on the opening day you can safely guarantee, while they may be limited, they will certainly run and work more than us.

One thing vitally lacking from Martinez’s Everton team so far has been the ability to work hard, press, harry and basically run lots during football matches.

One of the key factors as to why last season we were so poor was not because the opposition outplayed us week-in & week-out but because they worked harder and ran more than us.

Football is a game that involves running but way too often under Martinez we play the game at walking pace, in some games last season our players resembled a Subutteo match such was the lack of movement, it was like watching statues.

I want Martinez to prove that he can get the players fit and play the same way as the rest of the league. Play "running football" not just lock ourselves in pre-season mode for 9 months.

Clive Rogers
19 Posted 18/06/2015 at 09:02:25

Yes, in the last game against Spurs, it was obvious that we were over run in midfield, basically because Barry and Osman just didn’t cover the ground.

Dennis Stevens
20 Posted 18/06/2015 at 09:09:49
Is it a bad sign that my first thought is one of relief that the last half a dozen fixtures look reasonably kind to us??
Mark Andersson
21 Posted 18/06/2015 at 09:14:29
Can’t wait for the season to start, does it really matter who and when you play a team. What counts is the players attitude, fitness and willingness to give 200% and earn their wages.

That will keep us fans happy.

Jim Bennings
22 Posted 18/06/2015 at 09:21:21
Does anyone else miss those Wednesday night matches that for years we always had in August? It was usually straight after the first game, they haven’t had them since about 2007, I think it was when we won 3-1 at Tottenham, I recall Arteta giving a masterclass on a memorable night.

Nowadays, they stick all the midweek matches in Winter, stupid!

Colin Glassar
23 Posted 18/06/2015 at 09:31:17
Jim, the only thing that worries me about Watford is their manager. Kike Flores is a master tactician so Roberto had better be on his toes.
Tony Abrahams
24 Posted 18/06/2015 at 14:56:45
Clarence, if everyone on ToffeeWeb put a tenner each on this bet, do you think we might purchase enough shares so we can own Everton?
Lee Gorre
25 Posted 18/06/2015 at 15:11:47
"The manager will already have plans in place to avoid the shambolic preparations of last summer" – I hope so Lyndon, but we are a month out of last season and as yet just the two long-arranged games in Singapore. Last season’s pre-season games were hastily arranged, I do hope he has learnt his lesson.
Ross Edwards
26 Posted 18/06/2015 at 15:19:05
This will provide a huge test of our squad, Martinez and pre-season. We MUST play more competitive fixtures this time around. We have that Asia Tour but after that, apparently we could be playing Dundee in a friendly.

Games against Scottish clubs and lower league clubs are irrelevant and will provide no indication whatsoever of the shape we’re in. We usually host an average European side at home in the last friendly, remember when we were totally outplayed by Celta Vigo, or was it Real Betis?

In Roberto’s first year we played Juve, Real and Valencia in that Champions Cup, which provided us with 3 difficult games to test the squad and our preparations.

Last season as we know was shambolic, three lower league clubs, a Porto reserve side and a shocking performance v Paderborn who went on to finish bottom of the Bundesliga.

This season, knowing the start we have, we have to play more competitive fixtures in pre-season or else we could get left behind again. Watford will be no pushovers on opening day that’s for sure. As Colin says, Flores is a good coach and now has 3 months to get used to his squad and get them used to his ideas.

Roberto went on last season saying that we failed to recover from the first 3 games. Well, if we fail to get a win out of the first 3, Watford, Southampton and Man City, we’ll definitely be on the back foot early doors.

It’s never good to play a newly promoted side early on because of the surprise element and still riding on the high of promotion. Ask Roberto himself: Blackpool destroyed his Wigan team 4-0 away in their first ever PL game. Not like Watford would do that to us obviously but we have to get 4 points minimum out of the first 2 games.

Mick Wrende
27 Posted 18/06/2015 at 17:34:00
Last season was such a disaster that I am starting with no hope at all. Then if by some miracle we avoid the bottom 3 I will be overjoyed whilst most Evertonians will be calling for Martinez to be sacked. The only thing that might get me fired up was if we could rid ourselves of that big lazy lump up front and buy a real striker.
Tony Cheek
28 Posted 18/06/2015 at 19:45:01
Howard still first-choice keeper, best striker Lukaku... sorry, but I just cant' get optimistic about it. Putting Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush on again!

Heard about the RS fan who said "I said we need signings, not sign Ings!"

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 18/06/2015 at 19:52:46
Clarence (8) put me down for 25p with that one!!!!!!
Phil Walling
30 Posted 18/06/2015 at 20:02:04
Colin, I thought you viewed Roberto as ’a master tactician’ so what has he to fear from Watford’s Florres?

Of course, you may be right on both counts but the trouble with our man is that he seems incapable of inspiring his teams to maximum EFFORT on more than the odd occasion. Is that because he’s too nice, too soft or just too obsessed with tactics?

Dick Fearon
31 Posted 18/06/2015 at 20:30:46
Pienaar says nothing about last year's poor preparation and blames everything on incredible bad luck with injuries.

Another South African, golfer Gary Player, when asked about a ’lucky’ shot, was quoted as saying, "It seems that, the harder I practice, the luckier I get."

Perhaps a lesson is in there.

Clarence Yurcan
32 Posted 18/06/2015 at 21:19:29
Tony, Dave, I think so!
Bob Parrington
33 Posted 19/06/2015 at 04:03:30
Possibly 30 points by the mid-way mark????? :)
Rick Tarleton
35 Posted 19/06/2015 at 06:22:05
To those who think 100% or even the impossible 200% is the answer, think again. Quality and tactics matter far more. Effort ought to be a given amongst professional sportsmen. it wasn’t lack of effort that let us down this past season, it was lack of coherence and a lack of quality.
Tony Abrahams
36 Posted 19/06/2015 at 07:27:25
And a massive lack of preperation, Rick.
Paul Tran
37 Posted 19/06/2015 at 19:56:24
Too nice, Phil? I’m confused; I keep reading on here that he’s too nice, he’s two-faced and he’s ’upset’ the players.

Most managers are obsessed with tactics and these days far too many managers try and be far too clever, when a bit of simplicity would be more useful.

The best managers are the ones that can communicate their ideas to their players. That’s the area where I think Martinez has fallen seriously short in the last year.

Phil Walling
38 Posted 19/06/2015 at 20:20:35
Gawd knows what he is..... or isn’t, Paul. But every comment I hear or read refers to his ’niceness’. Perhaps that’s not an ideal quality in dealing with self-obsessed footballers these days and quite a lot of steel is required.

Or perhaps he is seen as indecisive – an even worse trait in a football manager? But whatever he is, all he needs to do is average two points a game and he’ll end up a fucking hero!

Paul Tran
39 Posted 19/06/2015 at 20:39:23
I know a couple of people who met him when he was at Swansea and both were effusive at what a nice bloke he was.

I wonder whether the contrast between his ’niceness’ and the ruthlessness he’s used with the likes of Distin is regarded as confusing/two-faced by the players?

Just our luck; we had the PE teacher who by his own admission, couldn’t put his arm around a player. Now we’ve got the effusive optimist, who by some accounts, has an authoritarian streak!

Ian Bennett
40 Posted 19/06/2015 at 21:24:42
If we can get a strong start, the title run in looks a cert.
Ant Dwyer
41 Posted 21/06/2015 at 22:05:31

Please tell me these comments on us winning the league are just banter. We're not that deluded... are we? I’d love to believe we can sneak into 4th place but with the strength of Chelsea and Man City plus the fact Arsenal never fail I feel, our chance is limited to say the very least.

If I was a betting man I’d put my money on Man Utd. But I’ve bought my season ticket, despite my dislike in our manager, so I’d like to believe we have a slight chance.

Mike Childs
42 Posted 01/07/2015 at 13:57:10
Sure would be refreshing if Bobby stepped up to the mic and said the real reason last season sucked was because I was hell bent on sneaking into the CL by winning the EL. Also be nice if threw the fans a bone for the turnaround when they rained down their displeasure about what they were witnessing against Young Boys if my memory serves me.

Long way to go for him to win me back. As the saying goes fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

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