Goodison Park has traditionally been a painful place for City to go but in recent years the ‘curse’ seems to have been lifted somewhat and City should theoretically not have anything out of the ordinary to fear this weekend. That said, any resting on laurels will undoubtedly be punished by Everton. Goodison Park also played host to the single greatest City moment of recent times…
Everton never seem to spend the summer strengthening the squad to the degree require to really kick on in the Premier League. Who are the new summer signings this season and what should we expect from them? Any in particular you think City need to watch out for?
Finances have always limited our ability to make the number of top-quality additions that would allow us to make the next step up and that has been the case again this summer. At the time of writing we are easily the lowest spenders of the current transfer window, although that is slightly misleading because the two players we have signed are worth a lot more than the small outlay.
Tom Cleverley was brought in on a free transfer from Manchester United and Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona for £4.25m and both could play a part in this Sunday’s match. Cleverley is unlikely to grab many headlines, offering instead an understated but important presence in midfield moving the ball on to the more attacking players. Deulofeu, on the other hand, is an enigmatic option off the substitute’s bench who can turn a match on his own when he is in the mood.
We are also hopeful of landing two more players before the game in the form of Ramiro Funes Mori, a defender from River Plate in Argentina, and the exciting Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmolenko from Dynamo Kiev but neither will be eligible to face City in time if we are successful.
City have started the season looking sensational going forward. How are Everton looking in defence? On a related subject, after watching him every week how good is John Stones in reality, i.e. is the online hyperbole correct in this case?
City’s goalscoring start to the season has been impressive and it looks like it’s going to take a stellar display from our back line to keep the likes of Sergio Aguero at bay. Everton shown in past meetings between the two teams that they can put in a resolute defensive stand and that will hopefully be the case again this weekend but Leighton Baines’ absence following a second ankle operation won’t help.
His deputy will probably again be Brendan Galloway, a hugely promising defender in the John Stones mould currently cutting his teeth at left back, and he has acquitted himself really well so far. With Stones himself forming a terrific partnership with Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman in the other full-back role, it’s a solid back line as they showed at Southampton last week. As a collective, however, they can also be prone to mistakes which were exploited by Watford on the opening day in our disappointing 2-2 draw.
As for Stones himself, from what we are seeing every week, the hyperbole is absolutely correct and he has the potential to become the finest homegrown centre half the Premier League has seen for years. His composure and awareness are second to none and he is a true Continental-style “ball-playing” defender but he is still very young for a central defender and is still learning his trade. In that sense, it is vital that he remains where he is so he can continue his development where the spotlight won’t be as intense as it would be at somewhere like Chelsea.
Are Everton likely to attack City or go for a more defensive, cautious approach like Chelsea did?
That’s a good question. Roberto Martinez has often adopted a soak-it-up-and-counter-attack approach against the so-called top clubs since he took over which, of course, relies on that back four and the two defensive midfielders, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry, sitting in front of them to be completely on their game in dealing with the probing and inventiveness from David Silva et al.
It might also require dropping Arouna Kone again as the second striker who has been so effective playing off Romelu Lukaku in the opening two games and adopting more of a 4-5-1 formation. That system has worked against the more open teams like Arsenal and Manchester United at Goodison Park recently but it struggled against City at the Eithad last season and it needed a battling display at Goodison to earn a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
Is Everton’s over reliance on Romelu Lukaku as pronounced as it appears to be?
In terms of scoring our goals, yes. Kevin Mirallas chipped in with a decent return last season, as did Steven Naismith but overall we haven’t been a team that shares a number of goals around the rest of the team. With Kone’s injuries and struggles for form, there hasn’t been a viable strike partner for Lukaku and we have relied on him to get the goals to win games.
The onus is on Kone to finally come good, Ross Barkley to score more and Mirallas to have a good, injury-free season unless Martinez can sign another goalscorer before the transfer deadline, something he has said he hopes to do.
Finally, what are your expectations for the season? Martinez has had time to bed in now so what are you looking for from both him and the players?
If Martinez can get the transfer business he has promised done before the window closes and he continues to show the greater flexibility in his tactics and formations that have been evident so far this season then we should fare a lot better than last season which was hugely disappointing.
The addition of some more craft in the final third is vital seeing as Steven Pienaar seems sadly unable to overcome his injury problems but if what is ostensibly the same group of players to the one that finished fifth in 2013-14 can click again then things will be looking very positive.
After one great season and one miserable on, it’s a potentially defining season for Martinez, however, in terms of who he brings in before the deadline and how he gets the team playing after last term’s frustrations. We’re looking for him to keep showing that he is growing and adapting as a manager so that we can get back among the teams chasing Europe and, ultimately, challenging the top four again.
Thanks again for answering our questions, Lyndon. All the best tomorrow eh…
Interview by Alex Timperley