It has been 75 days since a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur brought Everton’s miserable 2014/15 season to a close.
A pleasurable Europa League campaign aside, the Toffees endured their worst domestic season since 2005/06 and, along with it, came a dose of realisation and a period of reflection from current managerial incumbent Roberto Martinez.
The Catalan enjoyed a honeymoon-esque debut season in charge of Everton, with a 5th place finish and the highest points total of 72 achieved by an Everton squad in the Premier League era – a points total that would have ensured a place in the Champions League qualifying round in 5 of the last 10 league seasons. Coupled with a young, vibrant first team squad that dominated matches with Martinez’s brand of free-flowing, attacking football, the adulation bestowed upon the former Wigan Athletic manager was seemingly well deserved.
Fast forward 12 months, and the picture could not have been more polarised. A limp, inconsistent and frustrating 2014/15 followed, resulting in the Blues finishing in the bottom half of English football’s top tier for the first time in 9 seasons – Martinez and his charges were even in danger of being hauled into the mire of a relegation battle before and upturn in results throughout March and April deemed them safe – accompanied early exits from both domestic cup competitions, a spate of injuries to key players and a growing irritation from the Goodison faithful over Martinez’s nauseating positive outlook, refusal to change tack or to adapt his tactics.
And that growing discontent has failed to subside much throughout the course of the summer months. Just two summer signings in Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu have been added to Everton’s first team squad, – albeit both players will no doubt be very good signings – a fixture list that sees the Blues face last season’s top 7 sides in their first 10 matches of the new season and a growing number of concerns over an increase in the amount of hamstring strains, that Everton’s first team players have picked up in pre-season, has left some Everton fans notably worried about another sluggish start under Martinez.
It would be insensitive not to touch upon some positives concerning Martinez since the end of 2014/15, however.
A brighter pre-season, both results and fitness wise, will undoubtedly allow Everton a much better start to this season than last. Experimentation has taken place with regards to new formations and systems, which have been employed throughout pre-season matches, and the handling of Chelsea’s unrelenting pursuit of centre half John Stones has been impeccably dealt with by Martinez despite the media circus surrounding the young Toffees star.
Of course, none of the above will matter much if Everton start the season in much the same vein as the last campaign. Martinez has accrued a blend of experienced veterans and talented, precocious youngsters within his first team ranks -alongside some of the squad he inherited from previous boss David Moyes – and it would be a shame to see the best squad assembled by the Toffees in years fail to live up to its potential by suffering from similar complications as the 2014/15 season.
Martinez knows the pressure is on to recover from last season, and he will need to regain 100% trust from Everton’s fanbase once more by achieving the performances and results of his first season in charge if the 2015/16 campaign is to make him succeed at Everton. Failure to do so could irreversibly confirm that his time at Goodison Park is up.