Major transfers IN: Arouna Kone – £6 million – Everton; Antolin Alcaraz – Free – Wigan; Gerard Deulofeu – Loan – Barcelona; Joel Robles – £2 million – Atletico Madrid
Major Transfers OUT: Phil Neville – Retired
Everton start the season with a new manager for the first time since 2002 with the departure of David Moyes to Manchester United and in steps the seemingly highly rated Roberto Martinez.
Despite receiving plaudits for his time at Wigan, in which he kept them in the league for the four season he was there, and also won the FA cup, the cold hard facts is that the majority of the time Wigan were flirting dangerously close to relegation the whole time, and to play devil’s advocate, should a manger thought to be that talented be so consistently close to the relegation zone?
Whatever happens in Martinez’s first season he has a lot to do to push on from the hard work of David Moyes, as the top 6 looks to be too classy for the Toffees this, and so a 7th place finish is the best they can hope for, which may not go down well with the Goodison faithful. Everton’s season was built upon a brilliant home record, only losing once at home all season (best in the league, and was to Chelsea) and only being beaten at all 7 times (the same as 3rd placed Chelsea).
Everton picked up points consistently through the season but only 2 losses in their opening 19 games of the season dispelled any problems of being slow starters, but 15 draws over the 38 games season (a league joint-high) was the difference between pushing for 4th place more vehemently or settling for a 6th place finish.
The problem for Everton was their lack of firepower, especially away from home with only 22 goals scored on their travels, which was worse than Aston Villa and Southampton and only one more than relegated Wigan.
The reason for Everton’s 6th placed finish seems to be a strong defence which only conceded 40 goals, a figure only beaten by the top 4, and perhaps reflects the defensive tendancies of Moyes. It would be foolish for Martinez to split up a defence which was so strong last season, with Leighton Baines staking a claim for England’s best left-back, Seamus Coleman improving rapidly as a right back, with an experienced and trustworthy central defensive partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.
The area which needs improvement is obviously the attack of Everton with Nikica Jelavic badly misfiring last season with a paltry 7 goals, Victor Anichebe still to prove himself as Premier League quality with his 6 goals and Steven Naismith being a backup option weighing in with only 4 goals.
It was the 11 goals of Fellaini which kept Everton going last season, and losing him would be a major, but he looks set to stay. Martinez has looked to address the lack of goals in the team by bringing Arouna Kone with him from Wigan, which looks a decent signing, even if the £6 million looks on the steep side, considering Darren Bent looks set to move away from Aston Villa for around the same value.
If Jelavic can rediscover his goalscoring form of two seasons go then Everton have two genuine 10 goal a season strikers they could call upon, but both players have question marks over them. Martinez has also bought goalkeeper Joel Robles with him to Everton after he performed well for Wigan on loan last season, and one of Wigan’s better defensive players in Antolin Alcaraz, but whether signing players from a relegated club is ambitious enough for a club who finished 6th last season is questionable.
One signing that fans could get genuinely excited over is that of Barcelona starlet Gerard Delofeu, who was a star performer for the Spanish under-21s at the summer European Championships. Despite his young age he should be able to bring some much needed flair to the Toffee’s midfield, and a few early season performances could see him feature prominently next season despite his young age.
Martinez is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation which served Moyes so well, despite experimenting with tactics in pre-season, which were similar to 3-5-1-1 formation played at Wigan. Everton’s midfield players seem to fit the mould of this formation with Darron Gibson and Leon Osman giving a good balance to the central midfield partnership, with one sitting allowing the other to go forwards and attack more often.
The attacking midfield three of Pienaar, Fellaini and Mirallas could be a major source of goals, with Mirallas and Pienaar both better than their six goals apiece last season would suggest.
It is hard to know what to expect of Everton as they have been the model of consistency in the past few season and their performance will either be a vindication of David Moyes, or a vindication of Martinez being linked with top jobs despite managing a team in the lower echelons of the Premier League.
With Everton being an unknown quantity it is hard to recommend much from betting purposes, but with them being strong favourites for the “Without big 6” market across the board it is clear that bookmakers still expect them to be around 7th place next season but the best priced 13/8 (Coral) still looks way too short, and is worth laying on Betfair.
With Everton having not strengthened too much it is hard to find a solid betting proposition on them as their season points total has been priced up around the mark for 52 points which is 11 points lower than last season, but such a drop is not unrealistic.
After scoring the markets for a price Coral’s 4/9 for them to beat Newcastle in season match bet looks like unbelievable value; Everton finished a huge 22 points of Newcastle last season and even allowing for a drop in performances that still looks like a total for Newcastle to overcome having not strengthened significantly, and overusing the “Europa League Hangover” excuse.
Everton to finish above Newcastle 4/9 (Coral) – 5 points (Max Bet)
Written by Alex Evans
Follow Adam on Twitter @AlexWeemEvans
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