If you were to have polled Everton supporters before last season, not many would have accepted a lower-half finish in the Premier League and a Round of 16 ouster from the UEFA Europa League.
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So it should come as no surprise that any honeymoon for Roberto Martinez is over heading into the new campaign. Last year saw a 2-2 draw to newly-promoted Leicester City on Opening Day, a 2W-5D-9L stretch between Nov. 30 and March 9, and three losses in four matches to end the season.
Much better was required then, and only much better will be accepted now, but is Everton going to be able to hang onto players like John Stones and Seamus Coleman through August? The former’s been linked with Chelsea, while the latter was a target for Manchester United amongst others.
Best possible XI:
—– Howard —–
— Baines — Jagielka — Stones — Coleman —
— Barkley — Barry — Cleverley — Deulofeu
—– Lukaku — Mirallas —-
Transfers In: Gerard Deulofeu ($6.5 million, Barcelona), Tom Cleverley (Free, Manchester United, David Henen (Undisclosed, Olympiakos).
Transfers Out: Sylvain Distin (Free, Bournemouth), Luke Garbutt (season-long loan, Fulham), Francisco Junior (season-long loan, Wigan Athletic), Jonjoe Kenny (season-long loan, Wigan Atheltic), Antolin Alcaraz (released), George Green (Free, Oldham Athletic)
Star player: Phil Jagielka (left)– Many of you were probably expecting to see Romelu Lukaku here, but Everton’s defending is one of the main reasons it weathered the midseason injury to Tim Howard. Jagielka is the best player of the bunch. Though John Stones, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are often linked in the transfer gossip market, Jagielka is strong in tackles, decent in possession and an asset on set pieces.
Last season: 11th in Premier League – The Toffees stumbled out of the gates, and spent much of the year dealing with the challenges of the Europa League slate and a few months on the fringes of the relegation battle.. Everton snagged just 19 points on the road and lost five matches at Goodison Park.
Coaches’ Corner: Roberto Martinez likely didn’t think his second season at Goodison Park would see the club take a step back, especially after the club broke its transfer record to land Lukaku. In 2013-14, Martinez had Everton as high as fourth late in the Premier League season. Last year, it was the other way around (14th in Matchweek 29). With the Toffees’ Merseyside rivals on the rise, Martinez needs to work his magic early and often.
PST predicts: A Top Ten finish won’t be enough for Everton’s supporters and it’s going to be a challenge for the Toffees to achieve a much higher finish with so many teams spending so much money. Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.