Evertonians have this week been picking the bones out of last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, and looking back it did feel like two points dropped against Nigel Pearson’s side. The Toffees twice went in front against the newly promoted Foxes, but could not hold out for all three points, conceding a late Chris Wood equaliser that gave the hosts a share of the spoils. Overall the game did have many similarities to last season’s opening fixture with Norwich, and we did become a bit complacent in the second half, but we cannot afford to be too downbeat with the result and our performance – I feel there is many positives to take going into this Saturday’s clash with Arsenal.
I was pleased to see Aiden McGeady get off the mark for the Toffees and his first-half goal was a sublime finish to put us in front. The winger now looks fully fit and will be hoping to keep his place in the side, as will Steven Naismith who also got on the score sheet with an impressive finish himself. The build up to Naismith’s goal was excellent, and two players who played a major part in this was Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines. That pairing is one of the major positives I think we should take from the Leicester game as it appears they had found their stride again, consistently playing with a real intent and understanding throughout the game. Last season Leighton Baines by his own high standards had probably one of his quietest in royal blue since arriving at Goodison Park and the transfer rumours and speculation about his future didn’t really help matters. That said, with Steven Pienaar struggling for fitness and form during the 2013-14 season – this also had an impact on his form too. Baines was out of the side himself with an injury and was replaced by the impressive Bryan Oviedo during a spell last term, but with the England man now tied down to a new deal at Goodison Park and no speculation distracting him, he will be hoping for another prosperous Premier League campaign with his mate Pienaar in front of him down the left hand side. Both of them looked sharp and at times Leicester couldn’t get near them, all Evertonians will be hoping this can continue because we all know just how effective they can be.
Lukaku made his first start after signing in permanently from Chelsea and to be honest he didn’t have one of his better games, but with the prospect of Arsenal and Chelsea at home in the coming weeks I have every confidence that the young Belgian will again start firing for the Blues and begin to show the goal scoring form of last season at the forefront of our attack. As yet we haven’t seen Christian Atsu but he, and others like Mirallas and Osman will be pushing for starts in our upcoming fixtures and that is what it is all about at Everton these days – competition for places. With the Europa League just around the corner too, there is no denying that each and every one of Martinez’ playing staff will play their respective parts. Although we couldn’t manage the victory against Leicester, I firmly believe there will be a lot more to come from this Everton side and I remain excited about our potential and the options we have.
As for how we will line up against Arsenal and the prospect of facing Arsene Wenger’s side this Saturday tea time, I can’t see Martinez making many changes to his previous line up. I believe the only change could come in defence, where the fit-now Coleman could come in for John Stones at right back. Apart from that, I think Martinez may stick with McGeady and Pienaar, alongside McCarthy and Barry in the midfield, whilst I’d expect Naismith and Lukaku to continue up top. Our defensive display on Saturday came under fire and we did look shaky at the back, most notably for Leicester’s two goals, but I believe Roberto will stick with the Jagielka/Distin partnership in central defence which might upset a few Blues who believe Stones now warrants a start. Stones is a huge talent, but let’s not forget how consistent Sylvain Distin was last season and since joining the Club a number of years ago. The Frenchman is one of the most powerful defenders in the League and although he isn’t getting any younger, in my opinion he still has a lot to offer and certainly won’t give up his place in the team without a fight.
Arsenal always provide a tough test for Everton and they’ve strengthened with the additions of Chambers, Debuchy and Sanchez this summer. They like to play good football but as we proved last season we can be more than a match for them, and play them at their own game. Our performance away at the Emirates last season was arguably one of our best, and the reverse fixture at Goodison, well you don’t need me to remind you what happened there. The Gunners drew 0-0 with Besiktas in Turkey last night and hopefully the journey results in a few tired legs this Saturday, but Wenger has a good squad at his disposal and regardless of who he picks for the televised clash at Goodison, Everton will need to be up for it if they are to get off the mark for the new season and pick up their first three points of the 2014-15 campaign.
The game is now a sell-out and I am literally chomping at the bit to get back to Goodison and see what my team can achieve this season. Just as our fans did at times last year, we can be that 12th man and roar on the Blues to victory. On Saturday the game is a late kick off, which means us Evertonians have a few more hours to soak up a few ales and enjoy being back at Goodison Park. I’m expecting a loud atmosphere and everyone to be well up for it, as Everton return to action at the home of football in what will hopefully be a memorable season for the Club.
Come on you Blues….