Martinez: Champions League chase shows we've learned from our mistakes
April 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues boss says players have regained focus after Tottenham and Chelsea losses
In-form Everton are back in the hunt for Champions League qualification after learning from the most painful moments of their season, says Roberto Martinez. The Blues are chasing down fourth-placed Arsenal and welcome the Gunners to Goodison Park on Sunday for a mouth-watering clash.
Everton have won four games on the spin since losing to Arsene Wenger’s men in the FA Cup quarter-final at the beginning of March and are just four points behind his side and with a game in hand. But Martinez believes the Blues have been trying desperately to get their season back on track since before the Cup exit. Everton lost 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in February despite playing well and Martinez admits the defeats really knocked them. “I don’t think it goes down to the Cup game, if I’m honest I think it goes a little bit further than that,” Martinez said. “We had two outstanding performances against Spurs and Chelsea and couldn’t reflect that in the scoreline. “It was a real focus of the group to learn from that and a maturity to know how to affect score lines when you play well. “It’s fair to say in the last five league games we have not been fantastic in every game but we have found a way to be competitive and know what to do during the game and make sure the results have been positive. “We are delighted with the return of points at this stage of the season and we have another 21 points to fight for. “And as you saw on Sunday, we are ready to give everything we’ve got.” Martinez made three telling substitutions in the win over Fulham and says he will rely on the power of his squad to guide Everton through the final seven games of the season. Steven Naismith replaced Ross Barkley at half-time to breathe life into their flagging attack and the Scot’s goal-bound effort cannoned off Gareth Barry, and then home keeper David Stockdale, before crossing the line. Fellow subs Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas combined to put the Blues 2-1 ahead before Naismith added a third late on. “I have huge confidence in this squad,” Martinez said.“The biggest compliment I could give is that I could pick any 11 from the players in our squad and play the way we want to play and show the concepts we want to have as a team. “That is down to the standards we have at Finch Farm each day and the experienced players are the real pillars of this group. “So, I always believe that you are only as good as your squad. The days of relying on 11 players are gone. We have been missing our club captain (Phil Jagielka) for a while now but we have a 19-year-old (John Stones) coming in and showing an incredible arrogance and level of how to play centre-half.” He added: “I thought Fulham started the game better than us on Sunday and they were very strong and very energetic and they stopped us completely in what we wanted to do on the ball. “So we had defend and be strong off the ball. We had to dig deep and show real character. I think that’s what we did. “I did feel it was a big difference us playing three games in eight days and Fulham being able to prepare all week. But we need to give Fulham credit for the way they started the game and put us under massive, massive pressure and we had to defend really, really well. “But the second half was different and the fresh legs of Steven Naismith, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas at the right time gave us a different spark and we were the team finish stronger. It was a really open game. They gave everything to get a positive result. It is important to keep the forward players fresh. McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu are going to be vital for the rest of the season and we need to make sure we measure the demands well of Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Leon Osman, and Kevin Mirallas. Everyone understands. “The intensity of every game is important. You need to gain momentum and find focus in the squad. Football miracles do happen.“We always embrace the challenge. If we can be perfect in what we do then we have a great chance of getting points.” It is important to keep the forward players fresh. McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu are going to be vital for the rest of the season and we need to make sure we measure the demands well of Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Leon Osman, and Kevin Mirallas. Everyone understands. “The intensity of every game is important. You need to gain momentum and find focus in the squad. Football miracles do happen. “We always embrace the challenge. If we can be perfect in what we do then we have a great chance of getting points.”
Snods: Martinez has nice selection dilemma for crunch clash with Arsenal
April 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
Blues boss has plenty to think about
Martinez kept faith with the starting line-up at Fulham on Sunday that had swept Newcastle United aside a few days earlier. For whatever reason, those same 11 players were not clicking and so the Blues boss made changes in the second half. And they proved match-winning changes as substitutes Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady all made the difference in the 3-1 win. So what does Martinez do now? Modern football is a squad game, Everton have a fantastic squad at present and the manager has a clear week to spend on the training pitch at Finch Farm with them.
It is there he will decide his team for Sunday. I can’t wait for the team sheet to drop around an hour before kick-off. Some players will be left disappointed but one of the successes of Martinez this season is that he has been able to keep everyone happy. Players coming off the bench have all shown a real hunger and desire to do well and impress. It has won the Blues a number of points and that spirit can hopefully count for a lot on Sunday. Arguably the biggest selection issue Martinez will face in at the heart of his defence. Phil Jagielka, out injured since the West Ham game, is likely to be fit again, but can the manager drop John Stones who has been outstanding?
And there are so many options in midfield, it is hard to second guess the manager.
The only four certainties in the line-up are Tim Howard, Romelu Lukaku and the two full-backs.
Whatever side the manager picks, we will all get behind it and have full confidence that they can get the win. Boy, Sunday is going to be exciting.
Howard’s still Blues number one
WHEN a goalkeeper has been at a club for a long time, it only takes the slightest of mistakes for people to start calling for their head. It only takes one error for question marks to be put over their ability. Tim Howard will tell you that. And I’ve had one or two fans asking me if it is time to replace Tim. But the answer to that question emphatically arrived in two recent games. The American keeper is as good as any No.1 in the Premier League and he has won Everton four points over the course of the last three games. Howard’s saves in the second-half against Swansea City meant the Blues held on to their advantage while his stops at Fulham on Sunday came at a time when Fulham had got back into the game and had their tails up. In fact, his whole performance at Craven Cottage was fantastic. Howard’s distribution and presence in the area was excellent. But it needed to be in a game Everton had to win to keep alive hopes of the top four. Howard has been brilliant lately and deserves praise.... but I still think you have to be
mad to be a keeper!
A weekend to remember finishes at Goodison Park
THIS has got to be the best weekend I could ever wish for.
I love horse racing so to be at the Grand National is a dream come true.
To be at the world's greatest steeplechase is a real honour and I am relishing those few days at Aintree. Although, for me, the biggest occasion of the weekend will come at Goodison Park on Sunday when Everton welcome Arsenal in a mouth-watering game.
This is going to be a fantastic game and I am really confident we can get the result we need.
The fans realise just how big a game this is and I just know that the atmosphere is going to be nothing short of electric. Defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup last month was mighty disappointing but Everton are a different kettle of fish at home. The Goodison crowd will be hostile and be right behind the boys in blue to help them get at Arsenal. Credit must go to Roberto Martinez and the players for getting themselves back into contention but also the fans that have travelled to Newcastle and Fulham last week. Their support has helped the Blues get some big results because there have been times when they have not played well.
FULHAM was a big game for the Blues.
Everton were expected to win but the home side are fighting for their lives and so most of us knew it wasn't going to be a stroll down by the Thames. The first half proved that. Fulham were full of energy and Everton didn't play well The win over Fulham was no stroll by the river at all.The Blues were sloppy and slow moving the ball and there was a real feeling that we were going to struggle to get anything from the match. But a half-time pep talk and a couple of changes during the second half took affect. Everton's second-half performance was a lot better but, still, Fulham refused to cave in and Tim Howard was forced into making a couple of really good saves at crucial moments in the game. It helped Everton pick up a vital win ahead of this coming weekend's game at home to Arsenal.Any win away from home is a good win in the Premier League. Although this one could prove extra special in the context of their season.
Spurs’ defeat at Liverpool means they are no longer a Champions League rival to Everton FC
THE Premier League is full of talk about Liverpool becoming champions.
They are in the hunt after beating Spurs on Sunday and going top.
But what also came from the weekend is that Spurs’ defeat at Anfield means they are now out of the race for Champions League qualification.
Roberto Martinez: We've learned from our defeats to our rivals
April 1 2014 Daily Post
By North Wales Daily Post
The Everton manager insists that although the FA Cup exit hurt, defeats at Chelsea and Tottenham were big lessons for the Toffees
In-form Everton are back in the hunt for Champions League qualification after learning from the most painful moments of their season, says Roberto Martinez. The Blues are chasing down fourth-placed Arsenal and welcome the Gunners to Goodison Park on Sunday for a mouth-watering clash.
Everton have won four games on the spin since losing to Arsene Wenger’s men in the FA Cup quarter-final at the beginning of March and are just four points behind his side with a game in hand.
But Martinez believes the Blues have been trying desperately to get their season back on track since before the Cup exit. Everton lost 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in February despite playing well and Martinez admits the defeats really knocked them. “I don’t think it goes down to the Cup game, if I’m honest I think it goes a little bit further than that,” Martinez said. “We had two outstanding performances against Spurs and Chelsea and couldn’t reflect that in the score-line.
“It was a real focus of the group to learn from that and a maturity to know how to affect score-lines when you play well. “It’s fair to say in the last five league games we have not been fantastic in every game but we have found a way to be competitive and know what to do during the game and make sure the results have been positive. We are delighted with the return of points at this stage of the season and we have another 21 points to fight for. “And as you saw on Sunday, we are ready to give everything we’ve got.” Martinez made three telling substitutions in the win over Fulham and says he will rely on the power of his squad to guide Everton through the final seven games of the season.
Steven Naismith replaced Ross Barkley at half-time to breathe life into their flagging attack and the Scot’s goal-bound effort cannoned off Gareth Barry, and then home keeper David Stockdale, before crossing the line. Fellow subs Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas combined to put the Blues 2-1 ahead before Naismith added a third late on. “I have huge confidence in this squad,” Martinez said. “The biggest compliment I could give is that I could pick any 11 from the players in our squad and play the way we want to play and show the concepts we want to have as a team. “That is down to the standards we have at Finch Farm each day and the experienced players are the real pillars of this group. So, I always believe that you are only as good as your squad. The days of relying on 11 players are gone. We have been missing our club captain (Phil Jagielka) for a while now but we have a 19-year-old (John Stones) coming in and showing an incredible arrogance and level of how to play centre-half.” He added: “I thought Fulham started the game better than us on Sunday and they were very strong and very energetic and they stopped us completely in what we wanted to do on the ball. “So we had defend and be strong off the ball. We had to dig deep and show real character. I think that’s what we did. “I did feel it was a big difference us playing three games in eight days and Fulham being able to prepare all week. But we need to give Fulham credit for the way they started the game and put us under massive, massive pressure and we had to defend really, really well. “But the second-half was different and the fresh legs of Steven Naismith, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas at the right time gave us a different spark and we were the team finishing stronger. It was a really open game. They gave everything to get a positive result. “It is important to keep the forward players fresh. McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu are going to be vital for the rest of the season and we need to make sure we measure the demands well of Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Leon Osman, and Kevin Mirallas. Everyone understands. “The intensity of every game is important. You need to gain momentum and find focus in the squad. Football miracles do happen. “We always embrace the challenge. If we can be perfect in what we do then we have a great chance of getting points.”
Everton keeper in revenge mission
Tim Howard insists Everton will use the hurt of their FA Cup exit to inspire their quest to snatch fourth place in the Premier League from Arsenal. The rivals clash at Goodison Park on Sunday in a match that could be decisive in the race for the final Champions League qualifying spot.
Everton amassed a fifth successive Premier League victory with Sunday’s 3-1 win at Fulham and they are now just four points adrift of Arsenal. If they win all seven of their remaining games, Roberto Martinez’s side will finish fourth. The outcome of their last clash with Arsenal was a 4-1 FA Cup drubbing on March 8 and Howard has revealed a desire to avenge that result.
“We are looking forward to playing Arsenal,” the American goalkeeper said.
“We still have a sour taste in our mouth about what happened at Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup, so we will try and put that right at home. “Two weeks ago we were looking to catch Tottenham, now we are asking ourselves ’can we catch Arsenal?’ “We’re not favourites to finish fourth because the gap is still four points. “It’s in our hands because we have a game in hand and we have to play them, but they still have that four-point lead so it is difficult. “We are on the outside looking in, but we are in the fight. If we could win next week and keep on their heels, that would be important for us.”
Ian Snodin: Blues boss must stick or twist for visit of Gunners
Apr 01, 2014 Daily Post
Former Goodison enforcer says Everton manager Roberto Martinez faces a selection dilemma for the clash against Arsenal at the weekend
Roberto Marteniz has a problem this weekend – but one all managers would love to have.
Everton’s manager has got arguably the biggest selection dilemma of the entire season to solve ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Goodison Park on Sunday. It is an unenviable task.
Martinez kept faith with the starting line-up at Fulham on Sunday that had swept Newcastle United aside a few days earlier. For whatever reason, those same 11 players were not clicking and so the Blues boss made changes in the second half. And they proved match-winning changes as substitutes Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady all made the difference in the 3-1 win.
So what does Martinez do now? Modern football is a squad game, Everton have a fantastic squad at present and the manager has a clear week to spend with them on the training pitch at Finch Farm.
It is there he will decide his team for Sunday. I can’t wait for the team sheet to drop around an hour before kick-off. Some players will be left disappointed, but one of the successes of Martinez this season is that he has been able to keep everyone happy. Players coming off the bench have all shown a real hunger and desire to do well and impress. It has won the Blues a number of points and that spirit can hopefully count for a lot on Sunday. Arguably the biggest selection issue Martinez will face is at the heart of his defence. Phil Jagielka, out injured since the West Ham game, is likely to be fit again, but can the manager drop John Stones, who has been outstanding?
And there are so many options in midfield, it is hard to second-guess the manager.
The only four certainties are Howard, Romelu Lukaku and the two full-backs.
Whatever side the manager picks, we will all get behind it and have full confidence that they can get the win. Boy, Sunday is going to be exciting.
Weekend promises to be best ever
This has got to be the best weekend I could ever wish for.
I love horse-racing so to be at the Grand National is a dream come true.
To be at the world's greatest steeplechase is a real honour and I am relishing those few days at Aintree. Although, for me, the biggest occasion of the weekend will come at Goodison Park on Sunday when Everton welcome Arsenal in a mouth-watering game.
This is going to be a fantastic match and I am really confident we can get the result we need.
The fans realise just how big a game this is and I just know that the atmosphere at Goodison is going to be nothing short of electric. Defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup last month was mighty disappointing, but Everton are a different kettle of fish at home. The Goodison crowd will be hostile and right behind the boys in blue to help them get at Arsenal. Credit must go to Roberto Martinez and the players for getting themselves back into contention, but is also due to the fans that travelled to Newcastle and Fulham last week. Their support has helped the Blues get some big results because there have been times when they have not played well.
On the March: Everton's magic month is a record breaker
April 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
The ECHO takes a look back at a month which saw the Blues play themselves into Champions League contention
It's official. March was a record-breaking month for Merseyside.
For the first time ever, both Everton and Liverpool won every single league game they played during the month - a total of 10 matches, all ending in victory.
But how did the Blues do it? Here's a look back at Everton's magic March.
Everton 1-0 West Ham (Lukaku)
What Greg O'Keeffe said: Everton had been the nearly men in recent weeks, making-do without the services of a recognised striker and finding themselves falling off the pace in the hunt for the Champions League. But as he did at Upton Park in September, the on-loan forward came off the bench to breathe new life into a side which was dominating as usual but struggling to find the all-important cutting edge Lukaku broke Hammers’ hearts in the capital and did it again on Saturday as he converted Leighton Baines’ cross to hand the Blues a perfectly-timed boost.
And this time he’ll even remember his crucial intervention.
What Roberto Martinez said: "Romelu is someone we have missed for a long time and it was a clinical touch. "He had a bit of a chest infection and I knew he would be more effective finishing the game rather than starting.
"West Ham had an accumulation of bodies behind the ball, but the last few minutes become harder to defend with Rom with his freshness and power."
Where the game was won: John Stones made his first league start in a month and dominated Carlton Cole so much that Sam Allardyce withdrew him before the half-hour. His replacement, Andy Carroll, didn't really fare better with Stones winning five of his seven aerial duels – three of those against Cole or Carroll.
Statistic: Everton had the most shots in the Premier League that weekend (16), but 13 of them were off target.
Man of the Match: Gareth Barry
Everton 2-1 Cardiff (Deulofeu, Coleman; Juan Cala)
What Greg O'Keeffe said: It’s the slow-burning, resolute style Martinez swears by and it won out in the end, even if prior to the 92nd minute it looked like being an underwhelming afternoon. It’s not that Everton wanted the three points any less than their relegation-haunted visitors. Sometimes their incessant passing approach can be perceived as a lack of hunger, a misconception which suggests it is not only the players who must come to terms at every level with the new style.
The dramatic late winner, grabbed after a string of rolling attacks, suggests Martinez knows best. But the Catalan knows also that his side are far from the finished article in other respects.
What Roberto Martinez said: "David Marshall in goal was phenomenal, as good an individual performance as you are going to see from a goalkeeper.
"You can say you get a bit lucky when you score the winner so, so late, but it was down to having that control and patience.
"I did think we deserved the three points but I thought Cardiff deserved huge, huge credit."
Where the game was won: Seamus Coleman was the hero of the afternoon when his last-minute strike found the net – albeit fortuitously – but he was also a consistent threat to Cardiff. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer adopting a wing-back system, it allowed Coleman to exploit the space left by left-back Declan John. The Irishman made two successful dribbles, made three key passes and had two shots – all helped by the gap left down the left-hand side.
Statistic: Everton (88%) had the best pass completion in the Premier League that weekend.
Man of the Match: Seamus Coleman
Everton 3-2 Swansea (Baines pen, Lukaku, Barkley; Bony, Williams)
What Greg O'Keeffe said: Just like Grand National winner Amberleigh House, paraded around the pitch at half-time, Everton avoided falling at the final hurdle in the end.
It was, however, almost stretched to a photo finish at Goodison on Saturday, as Roberto Martinez’s former club Swansea pushed the Blues hard all the way.
At times it felt like those most predictable of outcomes were in jeopardy, as Martinez’s men struggled to achieve the fluency which has made them occasionally so compelling this season.
What Roberto Martinez said: "I am very pleased. We faced a really difficult test in Swansea and to get the all-important three points is a fantastic feeling.
"We deserved the two-goal lead but at that point we sat back a little bit too much, trying to use the counter-attack - but overall I was very pleased with the maturity we had.
"The Europa League is not our aim, our aim is to get as many points as we can. Champions League football will be around 71 points - that is our target."
Where the game was won: Boss Roberto Martinez opted to give Aiden McGeady just his second league start for the club, while Ross Barkley returned into midfield - a pair of decisions that benefited the Blues. While Barkley won the first-half penalty to calm the Goodison Park nerves, McGeady was crucial in stretching play and allowing Barkley to operate in space.
Statistic: The Blues have never lost against Swansea in their history, and victory stretched their unbeaten run to 20 games.
Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady
Newcastle 0-3 Everton (Barkley, Lukaku, Osman)
What Greg O'Keeffe said: St James’ Park under the floodlights is never an easy arena for an away team to dominate, and Newcastle are no mugs.
They will give anyone a game in their own back yard, but Everton rolled out the crisp, cerebral and razor-sharp passing which earned them plaudits at both White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge recently, but importantly they had the end product as well.
It’s no coincidence that suddenly the young, brave players who Martinez values so dearly clicked into form.
What Roberto Martinez said: "I think Ross has got that sensational talent.
"You've seen that physicality; you don't get many players with that technical ability that can come with that physical element.
"He has both, to run across the whole pitch and score, it was a real joy to watch."
Where the game was won: Though the temptation is to point at Ross Barkley and his slaloming run at the catalyst for victory, this was not a victory based on individuals, but a collective effort. Everton knew a win would keep the pressure on Arsenal, while Newcastle's season already petered out with top half all-but-secure but with European football an impossibility. The Blues simply had the desire, and dangling carrot, to win the game comfortably.
Statistic: Leon Osman captained the side for the 13th time and this was his 11th win.
Man of the Match: Leon Osman
Fulham 1-3 Everton (Dejagah; Stockdale og, Mirallas, Naismith)
What Greg O'Keeffe said: They celebrated victory with an impromptu stop at an ice cream van and, make no mistake, Everton are certainly sweet on fourth place
Roberto Martinez wore his trademark smile as he savoured a deserved treat outside Craven Cottage, but it was Evertonians who licked their lips at the prospect of a special end to this electrifying season. The Blues boss had been nursing a sore throat from barking instructions on the touchline, and no wonder, it was his orders and tactical acumen which played such an influential part in a crucial triumph. Three substitutions, three goals – Martinez's Midas touch from the dug-out continues to help make the difference for the Europe-bound Toffees
What Roberto Martinez said: "Being in this position gives us an understanding of what a good season we've had. "With the points we have, we have a realistic chance to fight for that aim [of the Champions League]. "I'm not saying we're going to get that because we admire Arsenal. They get in the Champions League consistently. "They have developed a real understanding (of) what to do in these games, so that makes Sunday a phenomenal challenge."
Where the game was won: With the Blues struggling to find their rhythm in the first half, the manager made a switch at half time, replacing Ross Barkley with Steven Naismith. Roberto Martinez's ability to make the right change at the right time was evident once more as Naismith ran the game in the second half, forcing David Stockdale to fumble the ball into his own net, before finishing the game off with a deserved close-range finish. His impact was obvious, enjoying more touches (43) in 45 minutes than Romelu Lukaku (41) did in 90 minutes.
Statistic: Everton won five consecutive league games for the first time since November 2002.
Man of the Match: Steven Naismith
Gerard Deulofeu: I am loving life at Everton
April 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
On-loan Barcelona youngster says he has improved during his time in the Premier League
Gerard Deulofeu says that he is "loving life" at Everton and credits his time in the Premier League with improving his physique. The Spanish youngster has impressed at Everton during his loan spell and, despite catching the eye with his attacking qualities for Roberto Martinez's side, it is his defensive skills that he feels have improved the most. He told the International Business Times : "I am in the top division, in the Premier League, one of the best leagues - if not the best - and I am really enjoying it. "I have learnt so many things. Especially that I have lived (the season) with great intensity, I have enjoyed it. But mostly, I think I have improved my physique. Before, my defence was questioned but I am improving it. I am very happy." The 20-year-old joined Everton on-loan from Spanish giants Barcelona in July on last year and has scored three goals so far for the Blues - he envisions his future at the Nou Camp, and believes there is no reason why his manager cannot one day join him in Spain. He continued: "What is meant to be, will be. There is a month left and these things are Barcelona's decision. I am very happy at Everton and I do not know what is going to happen next season. But, I would love to be at Barça. "I would really like to be at Barça because it is the best team in the world. I would like to be in the first team, but also I know it is very complicated as there are very good players. We have to wait. "I believe Roberto would be up to being Barcelona’s coach as he has shown that in the teams he has been at, he has done well.
"That would be great, really, but I think it is complicated. Tata Martino still has one year left on his contract, so we will see. "Roberto is the one who has given me the opportunity to play in the first division, he is the coach who has given me the most confidence. "The truth is that he has supported me from the beginning. I knew it would be complicated because there are very good players who have spent many years at Everton. Roberto has managed me patiently." For now, the Spaniard will continue to help Everton push for a place in the Champions League - a competition he is backing his parent side to win, as well as La Liga, of course. He said: "My favourite to win the both trophies are Barça, of course! "They won El Clásico which was very important because if they did not win it, I think their chances would have finished. So they are doing well. Let's see what happens. There are three teams and seven games left, so they will have to gamble."
On this day: Everton win their seventh league title
Apr 01, 2014
By Liverpool Echo
Remembering the Blues’ 1970 league title success
Gay Trip was still a few days away from winning the first Grand National of the 1970s when Everton were crowned champions of England a seventh time.
The Blues clinched the 1969-70 First Division championship 44 years ago today with a 2-0 win over West Brom, a match played under floodlights at Goodison Park on a Wednesday night.
In a season which finished much earlier than usual due to the forthcoming World Cup, Harry Catterick’s side had the title sewn up with two games left to play.
A crowd of 58,523 saw a dominant Everton - inspired by the legendary Kendall-Harvey-Ball midfield triumvirate - sweep to a seventh consecutive win. They finished the season, a week later, nine points clear of runners-up Leeds United. “One could only feel sorry for Albion,” wrote Mike Charters in his ECHO match report. “They were on a hiding to nothing and accepted their football lesson with the best sportsmanship.” Alan Whittle, just a few weeks after turning 20, opened the scoring early on with a fine shot - his 11th goal in 14 League games - before Colin Harvey sealed victory with a goal-of-the-season contender. Collecting the ball on the right, he lost two markers before cracking home an unstoppable shot from 25 yards.
What a way to seal the title.
There was a pitch invasion at the final whistle, followed by a lap of honour from the players once the fans had cleared. Louis Edwards, chairman of Manchester United and a member of the League Management Committee, presented the championship trophy to Alan Ball, skipper for the night in place of the injured Brian Labone. “I can see five great years ahead,” predicted Ball after the match. “All the players work hard for each other and with this behind us, how can we fail?”
Boss Catterick echoed the England midfielder’s claim: “This side can improve an awful lot. They’ve got a long way to go before they’re at their peak.” It was a superb side, but it would be another 15 years before the Blues would reign supreme over English football again - with a squad shaped by one of the heroes of 1969-70, Howard Kendall.
Big interview: Dennis Lawrence - from World Cup legend to Everton FC coach
April 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
David Prentice talks to one of Roberto Martinez's trusted team
Heard the one about the World Cup legend who is now a coach at Everton – thanks to the input of an Anfield folk hero? If it all sounds like a tall story, April 1 was yesterday – but the man at the heart of the tale does stand six feet seven inches. Dennis Lawrence is one of Roberto Martinez’s trusted right-hand men. He has worked with the Blues boss since his formative days at Swansea – and Martinez has enormous respect for his work. “I have huge, huge admiration for what Dennis has done so far,” he said. “I know he will carry on being a very influential figure at Everton.” But whatever impact Dennis makes at Goodison in the future, it will struggle to compare to the reputation he enjoys in his native Trinidad and Tobago. A tiny Caribbean nation of 1.5million inhabitants, Trinidad shook up the world in 2006 when they qualified for the World Cup finals in Germany – and Lawrence was the man whose goal made history. It was also the first time that Lawrence realised he could affect matters on a football pitch with words rather than actions – after he stood up to legendary coach Leo Beenhakker. Lawrence was the man whose downwards header against Bahrain propelled Trinidad to the finals, but the centre-back who admits his aerial ability “wasn’t the best” shouldn’t even have been in the Middle East. Sitting back from a break in training at Finch Farm he explained: “I’ve never really told this story before, but in the last 10 minutes of the first leg – which finished 1-1 – I felt my hamstring tighten. “We had a flight straight after the game directly to Bahrain and we went back to the hotel to pack up and I will never forget it. I came down the lift and was carrying out my luggage and our coach, Leo Beenhakker, was standing in the lobby.
“He said to me ‘Dennis I need to have a word with you.’ “He said ‘Let’s go for a walk.’
“We walked out the hotel door and were walking in the street and he says to me ‘I can only take a squad of 20, we have 21 players and the medical staff have told me they don’t think you’ll be fit for the return leg on Wednesday.’ “I had the experience of playing in England and I said to him ‘I’ll be fine.’ “Then we got into an argument in the street in Port of Spain about whether I would be fit or not! “We went back in and found a little corner in the lobby of the hotel and he called the doctor over, the assistant manager and myself and he said ‘Look we’ve got a situation here. He says he’s going to be fit and you say he isn’t.’ “The doctor said ‘Look Dennis, from my medical experience I don’t think you’ll be fit.’ “But for the first time I stood up for myself and said ‘Listen Doc, it’s my body, from my experience I’m telling you I’ll be fit.’ “And to be fair to Leo he said ‘right I’m going with the player’ and he took me to Bahrain.” Just how pivotal a decision that would be became clear in the 49th minute of a tense clash played out in a hostile atmosphere.
It might have been eight years ago, but Lawrence remembers the moment in freeze frame detail.
“I came up for a corner,” he said. “I was always the decoy for big Marvin Andrews, the best header of a ball I’ve ever seen in my life. I might be six feet seven but I wasn’t the best in the air, I have to say. But Marvin was a beast. “But this corner, Dwight Yorke took it and we always used to say hang the ball up in the air for Marvin. I went forward and the guy marking me took two steps forward, and I thought I’m going to stop. “Marvin was behind me and normally I would think, go on Marvin. But this time I thought I’m going to attack the ball and I attacked it and it caught my head with a clean contact. I headed it down it went through the guy’s legs and hit the back of the net.
“Euphoria. Afterwards I’m walking off the pitch and I saw Leo, I shook his hand and said ‘Never ever doubt me again Leo’ or words to that effect!” It was the moment when Lawrence realised he could influence the outcome of a football match by what he said as well as what he did.
But it took a meeting with another would-be manager for the seeds of a career in coaching to be well and truly sown. “It’s strange but I never really had the thought of becoming a coach,” said Dennis. “I played for Wrexham and I played against Roberto Martinez when he was at Swansea – that’s where I first met him – and he signed me when he became manager after he took over from Kenny Jackett. “He knew exactly what he wanted. He was very detailed, very positive and we had two good seasons under him. In 2007 I started my coaching licence, went onto my B licence and ironically Roberto was on the same course. “He had already done his B licence and he was our guest coach. “I can always remember one of the things he said to me. He said ‘you need to get yourself ready’, because while we were at Swansea he said ‘if you want to get involved in coaching I’ll always consider you.’ “At the B licence he said ‘I think there’s a place for you on my coaching staff at Wigan.’ I completed the coaching course in May and in June he called me and told me he wanted me to join him. “As a player he was always wanting to get on the ball and play. He’s always had that philosophy of keeping the ball and managing the game with the ball. That was probably something he was brought up with given where he comes from. That is a fantastic thing. To come from another country and put your stamp on something. It’s not easy to do.
“That multi-culturalism helps. Even though we all work in the same way and the same direction, which is headed by the manager, we all have our own little ideas that we can offer.
“He’s such an intelligent man, he always takes in information. He’s fantastic at that. He assesses it and in his own way finds a way to use it and that’s what has helped him become a top manager.”
That multi-culturalism is also something Martinez believed his budding young coach could bring to his own coaching sessions. “Dennis is a structured, organised and disciplined coach,” said Martinez.
“He has a very, very good football eye but brings a different approach with being a foreign player coming into the English game. The angle about how you understand the British game is very different to when you are brought up here. “Obviously he has been here long enough to understand the differences of the British game – obviously his experiences of playing abroad and in a World Cup allows you to see things from a different angle and his input is very different.
“He is reliable, and a really hard working member of the staff and the perfect figure for the Everton way.” Which brings us to that introduction to English football – and the influence of an Anfield folk hero. Back in the late 1990s Dennis was playing for Defence Force in Trinidad and Tobago, when their promising young goalkeeper Clayton Ince was offered a trial in England.
But the switch was initially blocked by bureaucracy. “Wrexham wanted to sign Clayton and discovered they needed a work permit, which they didn’t really have a clue about having never signed a foreign player before,” said Dennis. “Joey Jones was the cousin of an agent called Mike Berry, and Joey said ‘Look, my cousin might have an idea.’ “So Wrexham contacted Mike who came in and was introduced to Clayton and he helped him sort the work permit situation out.
“Mike more or less said to him ‘Have you got any other players out in Trinidad?’
“Clayton said ‘Yes, we’ve got a few. And Mike just got up and came out to have a look.’ ”
He clearly liked what he saw – and Dennis was at the vanguard of a stream of Trinidadian talent which headed to England, names like Carlos Edwards, Hector Sam and Ince.
Lawrence’s football career with Wrexham, Swansea and Crewe Alexandra was modest. The most celebrated football name to come out of the small Caribbean nation is still Dwight Yorke from Tobago. But Dennis Lawrence has learned you can influence matches from off the pitch now as well. Who knows what the future could hold for the Goodison big man...
The Blues boss says Barkley has a chance to face Arsenal - but the club will ease Phil Jagielka back to fitness
Roberto Martinez hopeful Ross Barkley will be ready for Arsenal clash
April 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer Roberto Martinez has revealed that Ross Barkley is recovering well from a calf problem.
The 20-year-old was substituted at half-time during Everton's defeat of Fulham on Sunday and Martinez says that the Blues' back-room team will continue to assess him in the build-up to Sunday's crucial clash with Arsenal. He told Everton's official website: "Ross had a knock on his calf and he is recovering well from it. “He is such a powerful boy that he coped with that knock well but obviously it was a problem straight after when the body gets cold. “He’s such a quick healer and a young man so we hope he is going to recover in time for the game on Sunday. “Over the next three or four days we will have a clearer idea of where he is and we are going to treat every day as it comes.”
Phil Jagielka has also been recovering from injury and Martinez says the Blues skipper will not be rushed back. He said: “It’s important that with the amount of games we will be experiencing that we look after Phil and make sure he is allowed to build a good degree of match fitness.
“We are going to take a real cautious approach and take each day as it comes. It’s great to see Phil around the place and having a big influence with the group. That’s as important for us as it is for him to be on the pitch. “We’ll try to get him on the pitch as quickly as we can but we are making sure he’s 100 per cent.” One player who will have to wait a little longer to return to action is Steven Pienaar. The South African has been sidelined since injurying his knee in Everton's FA Cup defeat to Arsenal. Martinez says he is hopeful Pienaar will return before the season ends.
He continued: “Obviously it was a real setback to lose him. “Recovering from the cartilage in the knee can be tricky but at the moment he is recovering well. “I’m hopeful that we can see Stevie before the season ends and that is where the focus goes. “But he’s been lively and has been working well. It is going to be really positive for us if we can get him back before the season ends.”
On this day: Blues claim wartime win at Anfield
April 2 2014
By Liverpool Echo
Joe Mercer skippers Everton to derby revenge mission
Revenge was sweet for the Blues as they gained a wartime win at Anfield on this day in 1945.
It was the third time Everton had faced Liverpool in the space of 10 days.
Having lost over two legs to the Reds in the League Cup - a regional competition which replaced the FA Cup during the war - the Blues bounced back with a victory in the semi-finals of the Liverpool Senior Cup. They won 3-1 in front of 22,815 fans at Anfield. Defender and captain Joe Mercer earned praise from the Daily Post’s match reporter ‘Ranger’, who wrote: “Mercer showed that constructive art can be brought to the pivotal position, but its employment is fraught with some risks.”
Mercer had played a key role in Everton’s League Championship win of 1938-39, just before the Second World War broke out. He became a sergeant-major and played 26 wartime internationals, as well as turning out for Everton when possible. By April 1945, the war in Europe was coming to an end. The Daily Post reported that the Allied forces had made ‘deep wedges into central Germany’ on the same day they carried the match report from the Blues’ win at Anfield.
The match also doubled up as a fixture in the War Football League Northern Division Second Championship.
Blues will win hunger games - McCarthy
April 2 2014
By Greg O’Keeffe
Midfielder believes team-mates want it more
Everton FC's extra hunger can overcome Arsenal’s experience in the battle for Champions League qualification, believes James McCarthy.
The midfielder knows that Arsene Wenger’s men will be fuelled by the insight gained from making it into Europe’s top club competition for 16 consecutive seasons, but insists the Blues desire to break new ground will win out. He said: “They've got the experience so it will be difficult. But we've got the hunger and the desire. We've got the gaffer and a lot of people backing us to go that extra mile so hopefully we can kick on. “It's still a long way to go with seven games which are seven cup finals. We won't get carried away. “It was tough at Fulham and we're looking forward to Sunday now. At home to Arsenal in front of those Goodison fans, it doesn't get much better than that for atmosphere.” McCarthy believes the recent defeat to the Gunners in the FA Cup quarter final at the Emirates will give the Toffees even further motivation. “It hurt us that quarter final,” he said. “We were gutted in the dressing room afterwards because we knew we weren't good enough. Especially with all the fans who went down to cheer us on and we let them down. Thankfully we can put that right now. We know what Arsenal bring to the table and we'll be bang up for it on the day.”
Martinez is waiting to check on the fitness of Ross Barkley for Sunday’s pivotal clash with Arsenal, with the 20-year-old nursing a calf strain picked up in last weekend’s victory over Fulham.
If he fails to recover it could pave the way for Craven Cottage match-winner Steven Naismith to start, and McCarthy insisted he has every belief in the Scot - and the man who utilised him so smartly from the bench. “I'm delighted for Naisy because at times he hasn't had his chance and he's shown when he does get it, he can pop up and score the winner,” he said. “The gaffer works very hard on a day to day basis in his office. You can see he puts the hours in. He's brought on Naisy against Fulham and he won us the game with his goal-scoring instinct. "The gaffer has a winning touch.”
Gareth Barry: James McCarthy up there with the best
April 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Veteran Barry says that his midfield partner is one of the best players he has played alongside in his career
Gareth Barry believes James McCarthy is already among the best players he has played alongside. The two have made up Everton's midfield partnership this year and both men have earned praised for their performances as the Blues have pushed for a Champions League place.
Barry, on-loan from Manchester City, says that, despite his age, McCarthy already ranks alongside some of the best he's played with. He said: “For me, from playing alongside him, influencing games, James is up there with the best already. “Until you play with someone week in week out it’s hard to judge how good somebody is. “I had obviously played against James before and knew he was a really good player, but to train and play alongside him for a whole season you realise that for someone so young he is so mature.” Barry is ten years McCarthy's senior and he says that the Irishman must keep learning in order to reach his full potential and he says that Everton, under Roberto Martinez, is the perfect place to improve. He continued: “He is still young and has lots to learn, as he will find out along the way - I’m 33 and still learning the game. But in terms of maturing and affecting games, he’s up there with the best. “He knows exactly what to do in every situation in a game. For me, the more he plays here and under this manager the better he will become too. It’s good for Everton that he is already at that level.”
Darron Gibson close to a return to full training
April 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Roberto Martinez says Gibson will join up with the main group very soon
Darron Gibson is close to joining in full-training as he steps up his recovery from knee ligament damage according to Roberto Martinez.
The Blues boss says the Gibson's recovery is going well and that the Irish international is not far away from joining up with the main group. He said: "Darron is working well and is going to join the group very soon. Then it's about seeing how he can adapt to the demands of working with the group."He is out on the grass, though he hasn't joined in with the group yet. That's not going to be too far away with how he is recovering. The one-to-one work is showing really well and I don't think he is going to be too far away from joining in with the group, which is a real success in itself." Gibson suffered a serious knee injury when playing for his country against Kazakhstan in September and he had only made one appearance for the Blues this season. The 26-year-old's recovery will be a boost to Everton who have seen Phil Jagielka, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar struck down with injury recently. However, Martinez warned that it may take a little time for Gibson to get back to full-fitness, but didn't rule out a return to action this season. He said: "Remember, when you are out for such a long time you need a bit of a building up period to get your fitness back but all the signs are very positive. "He is well ahead of schedule and that always pleases me, to see a player get ahead of the timing because it shows all the hard work they put in behind the scenes when nobody is watching. "The desire of Darron has been sensational in that respect and to have him around the place is a great sign. "It will be great for him to be involved one way or another before the season ends, even though that would be an incredible and remarkable achievement since looking back on when the injury happened with the national team."
Everton: 'Naismith will make top coach one day' says Martinez
April 3 2014 The Daily Post
By Greg O’Keeffe
Blues boss: "He can understand football concepts easily. You can see from his general approach he’s switched on"
Some substitutes are inclined to sulk, others simply wait impatiently for their chance to get on, consumed only by that prospect.
Steven Naismith does neither.
The Blues frequent match-winner from the bench is so effective because he spends his time analysing the action and deciding how he can have the maximum impact when his moment comes.
In fact, the 27-year-old’s appreciation of the game is so fine-tuned that he will make a top level coach in the future, according to his manager Roberto Martinez.
“What he highlights is his football intelligence,” says Martinez, discussing the repeated impact made by the former Rangers man this term. “I know he'll be a coach one day because he can understand football concepts easily. You can see from his general approach he's switched on.
“His vision helps him a lot. “He's a good example for any youngster. So many times we get stuck in the old way of thinking that if you're not playing it's all wrong and you can sulk. He's away from that because he knows what the modern game is about. “You have an advantage from the bench as a clever player. That doesn't mean his role is only from the bench by any means.
“But it's true that to use an intelligent player in the later stages of a game is huge. The FA Cup game against Swansea proved it as did the Aston Villa game at home.” Naismith’s latest brainy cameo came in the crucial win over Fulham last Sunday, when Martinez used all his substitutes once again to winning effects. The Toffees boss has used his full quota of replacements in all but one of the last 13 games, and he explains how that policy suits his side’s style. “The way we always try to win the game from the first minute to the last is very demanding,” he says. “When you play like that you need to use 14 players. Our squad is very flexible and we have different options to use to break teams down and unlock defences. “That's why the squad is so important to me. The impact of substitutions is as important as the starting line-up. “On Sunday we needed something very specific and Steven’s understanding of it and execution was brilliant. “That mentality has to extend to everyone; other clever players like Kevin Mirallas, Aiden McGeady and Leon Osman at certain times. They can all bring something specific and give clever options.” Naismith could be in line to start against Arsenal on Sunday if Ross Barkley fails a fitness test, and Martinez maintains the Scot can be just as effective from the first whistle. “He's always ready,” he says. “Technically he's gifted and very mobile – I think we will have the best years of his career because of all those factors. He deserves all the credit he gets. “He’s not just as an option from the bench by any means. He can help from the start and give us a good direction. “He's very clever in how he adopts positions. His movement is good and he can play as a nine or a ten. Every game brings you a different puzzle to solve and Stevie is important because he can adapt. “At his age now he has experience to play those different roles which is a real asset.” One player unlikely to be involved against the Gunners is Phil Jagielka, with no clear time-frame yet on when the skipper will be fit to return. “Jags was ready last week but we need to be careful,” revealed the Catalan. “You need to make sure a hamstring heals properly and he needs a gentle introduction back to work.
“We have to make sure he's 100%. I rushed him back earlier in the season and we need to make sure that doesn't happen again. “There's no time frame at the moment, we'll take each day as it comes. From a medical point of view he's got the green light.”
Home rule: How Everton turned Goodison into a fortress
April 3 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh, David Triggs-LE
Blues' home record is the best since mid-80s glory days
Everton’s top-four challenge this season has been built on strong foundations - namely a formidable home record which compares to the glory years of the mid-1980s. Arsenal take note - the Blues are picking up more points at Goodison Park, on average, than they have managed for more than 25 years. And if Roberto Martinez’s men manage to beat the Gunners on Sunday, it will equal the nine-game winning streak which Howard Kendall’s side recorded on home turf in 1985-86.
After beating Manchester United 3-1 on Boxing Day 1985, they saw off all-comers at Goodison through to a 1-0 success over Luton Town in the FA Cup the following March. A 1-1 draw with Chelsea ended the sequence. Martinez’s class of 2013-14 have won eight home games in a row since the 2-1 victory over Southampton at the end of December - and Arsenal are next in their sights.
“There’s a real connection between the Goodison crowd and the players,” said Martinez, who feels a relationship of trust has been forged at home games between the fans and players, and vice versa.
The current winning run comprises six league games and two FA Cup matches but, looking purely at Premier League form this season, Everton are averaging a superb 2.4 points per game at home (compared to 1.4 on their travels). They have pocketed 36 points from a possible 45, losing only once (to Sunderland) in 15 games. It is a ratio which is almost identical to the one they managed in 85-86. They finished that campaign with an average of 2.43 points from home games, and bettered it the following season with 2.48. Since then, the other best totals came in 1989-90 (2.37), 1987-88 (2.3) and last season (2.21). The big dip was in the 90s, going as low as 1.29 in 1992-93 and 1.32 in 1996-97. The figures speak for themselves. These are good times for the Blues - but there is some way to go before the records of the 1960s tumble, when Everton chalked up 39 unbeaten league games at home from 1961-1963 (including going unbeaten through the entire calendar year of 1962). Win, lose or draw on Sunday, this has still been a campaign to remember - especially for Goodison regulars.
Everton FC will screen Hillsbrough memorial service live at Goodison Park
April 3 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By David Triggs-LE
Park End stand will be open so that the club and Blues supporters can pay their respects
This year’s Hillsborough memorial service will be screened live at Goodison Park, Everton FC have announced. The Park End stand will be open so that the club and Blues supporters can pay their respects to the 96 Liverpool FC fans who tragically lost their lives in 1989.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the disaster. Everton FC chairman Bill Kenwright will be in attendance at Goodison Park, along with the first-team squad, to watch the memorial service live from Anfield. Roberto Martinez will be among those speaking at Liverpool’s home ground.The service will take place at 2.45pm on Tuesday, April 15. Mr Kenwright said: “Our city is home to almost half a million people known around the world for their compassion, humour and love of the great game. We are brought together by two much admired, world famous football clubs who have stood shoulder to shoulder since the unimaginable tragedy, at Hillsborough, some 25 years ago. “Everton will continue to provide support whenever we can to the remarkable Hillsborough Family Support Group. We are proud of them, and for them. We also know that the compassion and fraternity that transcends our city would have been there, unswerving and unconditional, if the balls had simply come out of the bag differently, prior to that fateful day.” Everton plan to hold a short memorial service of their own after the screening. A group of local school children will lead a procession from Goodison Park to Anfield, holding 96 linked football scarves to represent the unity of the two clubs since the disaster in 1989. Last week, Everton announced plans to erect a memorial plaque to pay tribute to the 96. The club will also hold a period of remembrance before the Premier League game against Crystal Palace to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Supporters will require a ticket to attend the live screening of the memorial service at Goodison. They are available from the club’s tickets outlets, including the Park End box office, Everton Two, Everton One and the Ticket Quarter in Queens Square. Call 0871 663 1878 further information.
Seating will be unreserved and limited to the Park End only. Limited car parking spaces will be available in the Park End and at Gwladys Street School.
Martinez: Our brand of football has put us in top four mix
April 4 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe, Phil Kirkbride
Blues boss believes if his side continue to stick to their principles in final seven games then they will spoil the party
Roberto Martinez says Everton FC have “gatecrashed” the league’s ruling elite this season with their eye-catching brand of football. And the Blues boss believes if his side continue to stick to their principles in the final seven games then they will well and truly spoil the party. Martinez’s side welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park on Sunday for a crunch clash in the race for Champions League qualification. Fifth-placed Everton have put themselves back into contention for a top four finish with a run of five league consecutive wins and are brimming with confidence ahead of the visit of the Gunners. Victory will close the gap on Arsenal to one point and – with a game in hand – give the Blues the Champions League initiative. But Martinez is only focused on Everton and making sure they continue the form which has seen them breathing down the necks of the usual front-runners in the Premier League. “It’s not about a head-on confrontation with Arsenal,” Martinez said. “When you start the season, you’d say there are six clubs working with an incredible level of finances and if you like at this stage we’ve gatecrashed the party. “We’ve got into the mix because of our football which is pleasing so we’ll just carry on. “Arsenal are fourth currently and rightly favourites to finish there. “The amount of consecutive years they’ve qualified for the Champions League is a very impressive record. “But we will focus on ourselves. It’s about how good we can be – and if that earns us fourth or not we’ll accept it for next season and carry on building. “What excites us is having five straight wins. It’s a reward for our hard work. For our history here, we should always aim high. We know it’ll be a fantastic occasion against Arsenal.” Goodison will be rocking on Sunday afternoon and Martinez says the fans can play their part against Arsenal. The Catalan manager insists that the expectation from a sell-out crowd at the Old Lady will not burden the Blues but inspire them. “We welcome that pressure,” declared Martinez. “As a group of players when you get to the final third of the competition, you need to be able to cope with the demands and expectations. “Sometimes it’s to avoid relegation, sometimes it’s finishing in a European place.“We’re delighted our work has allowed us to dream and I don’t see that as a pressure. It’s welcome. “We’ll carry on helping each other. “Whatever happens on Sunday won’t be final. There will still be 18 points to play for and I can guarantee you we’re ready for that.” Everton’s rise to contenders for Champions League football next season has been driven by a mix of wise heads and confident young talent. Martinez says he knew straight away that such a combination would always produce winning football. “I always felt this dressing room carries something special,” added the Blues boss. “The amazing experience we have combined with that unknown quality of some exceptional young talent. That always allowed me to believe we could get a great return of points.
“Having 60 points with seven games left allows you to fight for fourth place.
“We have 21 points to go for and we’ll try to get as many as we can. “Having four of those games at home is important. “We need to make sure Goodison plays its part.”
Aaron Ramsey in line to make Arsenal return for crunch Everton showdown
April 4 2014 The London Evening Standard
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey could return to Arsenal's squad for the first time this year in Sunday's crucial Barclays Premier League clash at Everton, manager Arsene Wenger has revealed.Ramsey has not featured since suffering a thigh strain at West Ham on Boxing Day, robbing Wenger of one of his key performers with the 23-year-old having scored an impressive 13 goals in the opening part of the season. Having initially expected only a six-week absence, Ramsey suffered a couple of niggling setbacks, but is now in line to make the trip to Merseyside as Arsenal look to take a grip on fourth place ahead of their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on April 7. "Aaron and Nacho Monreal are back training with the squad, so that is good news. Hopefully they will be available for Sunday. (Abou) Diaby is back on the pitches, so that is good news," Wenger told the club's official website. Midfielder Diaby has not featured for more than a year because of a serious knee injury - the latest in a long-line of setbacks for the combative France international, and could provide a surprise welcome boost for the closing few fixtures, with England international Jack Wilshere also facing a race against time to be fit for the run-in. Centre-back Laurent Koscielny may be available for the trip to Wembley against Sky Bet Championship side Wigan next weekend following his calf problem. Wenger, though, confirmed there would be no swift return for German playmaker Mesut Ozil, who has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in the Champions League exit at Bayern Munich last month. "The FA Cup will be too soon for him, but he will hopefully be back soon after that," said the Gunners boss. The jury is still out for many on Ozil, who has shown just glimpses of his talents since arriving in a much-heralded club-record £42.5million transfer on deadline day of the summer window. However, former Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has no doubts his compatriot can go on to great things at the Emirates Stadium.
"Mesut Ozil will be a big success at Arsenal," Lehmann told talkSPORT.
"You have to remember that every player who has come from abroad needs to get used to the rhythm of the Premier League. "You don't know how your body is going to react after the winter period - in no other league is it so hard to play throughout the whole season. You get a little break in Spain and Germany. "It is his first season at Arsenal, but he is a fantastic player."
Elsewhere, Swiss defender Johan Djourou looks set to make his loan move to Bundesliga side Hamburg permanent in the summer. Ozil later wrote on his Facebook page about a determination to return in good form, but at the right time. The German said: "Dear fans, I can assure you that I'm doing my best to return to the pitch as soon as possible. But in the end, only two things matter: to have confidence in yourself and to be patient!"
Gibson close to training return
April 4 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Midfielder has almost overcome serious knee injury
Darron Gibson is close to re-joining full-training as he steps up his recovery from a serious knee injury, Everton FC manager Roberto Martinez says.
Gibson’s recovery from cruciate ligament knee damage is going well and Martinez believes the Irish international is not far away from joining up with the main group. He said: “Darron is working well and is going to join the group very soon. Then it’s about seeing how he can adapt to the demands of working with the group.” Gibson suffered the injury during a World Cup qualifier in October and has been restricted to just two appearances for the Blues this season. But Martinez says the former Manchester United man has taken a significant step towards playing again. “He is out on the grass, though he hasn’t joined in with the group yet. “That’s not going to be too far away with how he is recovering. “The one-to-one work is showing really well and I don’t think he is going to be too far away from joining in with the group, which is a real success in itself.” Gibson is one of three long-term absentees the Blues have had this season with Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo also sidelined with major injuries. Martinez will check on the fitness of Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley ahead of this weekend’s game at home to Arsenal. Jagielka has recovered from a hamstring injury but the Blues boss does not want to rush him back into action before he is ready. Barkley was withdrawn at half-time during Everton’s game at Fulham last weekend after he picked up a knock on his calf.
Steven Pienaar is also out with a knee cartilage problem but Martinez is confident he will play before the end of the season.
Roberto Martinez: Phil Jagielka unlikely to feature against Arsenal
April 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
The Everton skipper is not yet 100% - but Ross Barkley may be fit
Roberto Marteniz says captain Phil Jagielka is highly unlikely to feature in Sunday's crunch clash with Arsenal - but the Everton manager remains hopeful that Ross Barkley will be passed fit.
Jagielka has been missing since early March with a hamstring problem and Martinez insists he will not rush the England centre-half back into action. The Blues skipper has yet to rejoin full training and so John Stones is set to deputise deputise in Jagielka's absence once again at Goodison Park this weekend. Martinez said: “We need to be very, very careful with the injury and need to be aware that we don't get a re-occurrence. “He is doing his individual programme but the medical department are not ready to allow him to join the group and be in the squad.
“I don't think he will be available for the weekend. “We need to play it safe with Phil. He has played a lot of football so we need to be careful with him.” Martinez added: “The well being of the player is the most important thing. “I rushed him back in one game (Liverpool at Anfield) because we had to. Sometimes you can make controlled gambles but at this stage of the season it could be a 'fatal' gamble. “We want Phil Jagielka to be 100%. That will help the team and that will help him.” But the Everton manager believes Barkley has a good chance of winning his race to be fit in time for the game at Goodison. The 20-year-old picked up a calf injury at Fulham last weekend but after a couple of positive training sessions, Martinez is confident Barkley will be given the all clear to meet the Gunners. “Ross has had two very good days since incident on Sunday,” he said.
“We will assess him today and I hope he can join the group between today and tomorrow. We are very much positive and he should be available for the squad on Sunday.”
Martinez, meanwhile, does not expect that Arouna Kone will feature this season as he continues to recover from a major knee injury.
David Prentice: The grand old lady can give Arsenal nightmares
April 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
Park can give Everton an edge in key Champions League showdown
“It wouldn't matter if we had Dixie Dean playing for us, it’s always a bloody nightmare going there.”
The men who market Everton as a friendly, welcoming, family club may not have appreciated Alex Ferguson’s withering assessment of his Goodison experience.
But for Evertonians it was music to their ears. The former Manchester United manager delivered the most back- handed of compliments in 2010 – shortly before taking the decision to leave Wayne Rooney out of his starting line-up because “We’re not going to subject him to the abuse he gets.”
Fergie still couldn’t relax, not even with a 3-1 lead in time added on. Because roared on by a crowd in a state of hostile ferment, Everton pulled back two goals and were denied the chance of a winner by a referee who seemed to lose all sense of control in the febrile atmosphere. Goodison can do that – even to seasoned, seen-it-all professionals. Just ask Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, who were both sent off in a volatile 2005 showdown – Neville for kicking a ball at a spectator. That was the last time Everton finished in the top four of the Premier League – a prize they are chasing again this season – and Goodison played a significant role. Everton led Mersey neighbours Liverpool in the table in late April, but Rafa Benitez believed he had a trump card up his sleeve – the visit of Manchester United to Goodison. He reckoned without the floodlight factor. The grand old lady was rocking and inspired Everton to a win that all but clinched a place in the Champions League qualifiers. Barring freak weather conditions, there won’t be any floodlights on at Goodison on Sunday lunchtime. But Everton can make Arsene Wenger’s experience just as hellish.
Everton can match Arsenal on the pitch – as they proved at The Emirates before Christmas – but their fans can give them an edge off it. When fans speak of football atmospheres on Merseyside, it is usually Anfield which is eulogised – and there is little doubt that the Liverpool fans played a significant part in last Sunday’s annihilation of Tottenham. But Goodison can be just as influential a factor in Everton’s fortunes. Don’t take my word for it. I’ve only experienced it from a seat or the terraces. Listen to men who’ve been out in the middle trying to keep their heads while all around were losing theirs. “There is no question it intimidates. The intensity is unrelenting from first to last minute. You know they are behind you as much as they are against the opposition and they inspire you to do things you wouldn’t do normally. “The noise makes you want to spring those extra five yards and there’s no doubt it gets under the skin of visiting teams.” That was Nigel Martyn, a composed and unflappable goalkeeper. Gerard Deulofeu was apocalyptic. “The fans are spectacular. When there is a corner, it sounds like the end of the world.” Martin Keown was more prosaic: “The atmosphere at Goodison was amazing and still is,” Brendan Rodgers respectful: “I’d been there with Swansea, but it was totally different last season (with Liverpool). It’s a really hostile atmosphere to go and play in”, Landon Donovan was surprised: “The atmosphere completely surpassed what I thought. I guessed if we scored a few goals or were winning they’d be loud, but it was from minute one. They really push you on. At points you get a bit tired but then you hear them and it helps them keep going” and Barry Horne reverential: “Whenever I am asked to name the best atmospheres in football, I always say the same thing. Goodison, for a big game, under the lights, is unbeatable.” Of course, you’d expect a couple of former Blues to say that. But read an excerpt from the Chelsea blog cfcnet before this season’s visit of Jose Mourinho’s men: “Credit to the Everton supporters; they create an atmosphere that’s every bit as hostile as any ground in Europe, and they’re right on top of the pitch as well. Three points at Goodison will be a great boost to the team.”Everton won 1-0. And finally, the manager who will be in the opposition dug-out on Sunday.“Liverpool is the same kind of support but Everton is a bit more aggressive . . . Over the last one or two years, it has been one of the noisiest grounds and has a great atmosphere.” Arsene Wenger already knows what’s coming. So, come on Blues fans, don’t disappoint him. If Fergie thought Goodison was a “bloody nightmare,” give Arsene a Nightmare on Gwladys Street, too, this Sunday.
Blues rumour mill: Valencia full-back eyed; Sevilla striker lined up
Apr 04, 2014 10:58
By Liverpool Echo
A round-up of the day’s EFC transfer gossip
Juan Bernat of Valencia
While Everton are confident of keeping Leighton Baines, Football Direct News report the Blues have drawn up a list of candidates to replace the England left-back should he leave this summer.
Valencia’s Juan Bernat has emerged as a target, although the 21-year-old is also being watched by Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. The Blues are also reportedly lining up striking options too, should they miss out on on-loan Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku. They are interested in Sevilla’s main striker Carlos Bacca, who would appear to have a ready-made replacement - Sao Paulo’s Luis Fabiano. The former Sevilla striker told Ser he would like to return to play for the Andalusians, which could pave the way for Bacca to depart. “I would like to retire at Sevilla. I have not got much football left, even though I’m well, but I don’t have a lot left. I would love to play one last year (at Sevilla),” Fabiano said.
Roberto Martinez can make his mark on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal boardroom
April 4 2014 London Evening Standard
It would do Everton a disservice to suggest Sunday’s meeting with Arsenal is a job interview for Roberto Martinez but victory could push Arsene Wenger closer to walking away and enhance the Spaniard’s candidacy to replace him. Wenger has maintained that his decision to stay will be based on how the Gunners finish a season that promised so much for so long before committing to the flexible contract offer that has sat — unsigned — for months at Emirates Stadium. The parameters for success have not been publicly defined but it would rank as nothing but a failure in any assessment were Arsenal to miss out on a top-four finish for the first time in his 17 years at the helm. Next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Wigan offers the chance to close within one game of ending the club’s nine-year wait for a trophy and, despite the relatively limited height of the obstacles ahead of them, that silverware could be viewed as a platform from which further triumphs can follow. Wenger certainly recognises the FA Cup as a competition worth winning but the focus of his attention is, as it has always been, on restoring Arsenal’s Premier League pre-eminence and securing a first Champions League trophy. So, while FA Cup success was enough to convince the Goodison Park hierarchy to anoint Martinez as David Moyes’s successor despite overseeing a League campaign ending in Wigan’s relegation, the Cup alone may not be enough to convince Wenger he remains the right man to lead the Gunners forward. The Arsenal board continue to be sanguine over keeping Wenger but that has always been predicated upon the club finishing in the top four. A fifth-place finish would not have owner Stan Kroenke or chief executive Ivan Gazidis reaching for the ejector button but such a slump would reinforce concerns Wenger clearly harbours over his ongoing suitability. Sunday’s match therefore assumes great importance. After defeats against Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea, Everton discovered a resurgent streak at a time when Arsenal are flagging; squad shortcomings have been exacerbated by injuries to expose vulnerabilities at a key time. However, last weekend’s valiant comeback against Manchester City shows that the fires still burn and combined with Arsenal’s proven track record in staying the distance, Everton remain outsiders to upset the established order, especially given a tricky run-in including games against Manchester United, Southampton and Manchester City. But success on Sunday would sharpen the minds of those in north London. Martinez has proven himself capable of translating his philosophy quickly to a better group of players. The 40-year-old is stylish and humble in front of the cameras, able to extract value from limited budgets and trusts in his players to express themselves on the ball in almost all areas of the pitch. And in one sense at least, Martinez looks to have an edge on Wenger in terms of his substitutions. While the Arsenal boss is often accused of lacking a Plan B to change games drifting away from him, Martinez has displayed his tactical versatility and willingness to adapt. His substitutions have contributed to the Toffees picking up an additional 13 points this season. If a continuation of Wenger’s methods is Arsenal’s preferred route once the Frenchman departs, Martinez has many attributes that fit the bill. Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp is another. The similarities are obvious but Wenger was not exactly effusive in praising his counterpart when asked a general question about how Martinez has adapted at Everton.
“He’s done very well,” came the short reply. But, as someone who has been touted as your possible successor, could he prove a success at a club established at Champions League level? “I have told you many times it is not my job to choose who will follow me after when I leave one day,” he said abruptly. Wenger was at least more forthcoming when assessing Everton’s recent form against the more vulnerable opponents in the League. “You can only consider the results,” he said. “It is difficult to win five games on the trot. They have won against Swansea in the last minute, they have a never-give-up attitude, which gives them credit. “For us, it’s difficult to imagine the impact it will have on finishing fourth but it’s a game we want to win.” The probability remains that Wenger will stay but should Arsenal slip again, Martinez could yet be offered another route into next season’s Champions League.
Romelu Lukaku future not tied to Everton reaching Champions League, says Roberto Martinez
The Toffees can massively boost their chances of a top-four finish when they take on Arsenal this weekend
Carl Markham , Indenepedent
Friday 04 April 2014Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists neither the club's future, nor that of on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku, will be defined by success or failure in their bid to qualify for the Champions League this season.
The Toffees are enjoying their best Premier League season to date at this stage, having taken a record 60 points from 31 matches to surpass the 57 they had from 31 in 2007-08 and put them within touching distance of the top four. Victory over fourth-placed Arsenal at home on Sunday would take them to within a point of the Gunners with a match in hand and raise the prospect of only their second qualification for Europe's premier club competition. Lukaku's agent claimed this week he had been speaking to Tottenham about the Belgium international, who is on loan from Chelsea, but suggested the prospect of Champions League football with Everton meant the Merseysiders still held the upper hand. Martinez, however, believes Sunday's game - and indeed the rest of the season - is not pivotal to their progress as a club. "It is not about getting to the Champions League or not, it is more about the focus of the club and we want to carry on growing," he said. "A lot has been said about that (Champions League determining Lukaku's future) but I don't think it is that straightforward. "We want to be a football club who get into the Champions League consistently and that is important for a young footballer who wants to fulfil his potential. "I truly believe Romelu has so far found that experience very much what he needed from a personal point of view. "There is going to be a lot of speculation as Romelu has been performing extremely well. "He is fulfilling his potential, which I believe is huge, and all we want is for him to concentrate on the next seven games. "At the moment it has no effect on us at all." Sunday's fixture is being billed as a Champions League qualification decider but Martinez rejects that notion. He feels even if one team loses at the weekend they will not be completely ruled out of the race - especially if it is his side with their match in hand. "What we have achieved is the opportunity to fight for a top-four finish and that is a remarkable achievement," he added. "The statistics very much reflect every year it is harder to break into the top four; in the history of the Premier League if you had 60 points or more after 31 games you were always guaranteed to finish top-four. "Now you have five teams who have done that so one of those teams will finish outside the top four. "Arsenal at the weekend is a great opportunity but winning that game does not guarantee you finishing in the top four while losing it does not mean you are out of the race. "We are fighting with a direct rival who have been in this situation every single season and they one of the best in European football in terms of getting consecutively into the Champions League. "They are used to the pressure. They have always found a way to cope with expectations over the season so I don't think it will have a bearing on the game. "They have full internationals who know how to handle it." Victory for Everton would be a significant boost for them, having drawn at the Emirates Stadium in the league before losing an FA Cup quarter-final 4-1 there last month. "The quarter-final left us with a sour taste and we need to make sure we use Sunday's game and the effect of Goodison to perform as well as we can," said Martinez, whose side are on a five-match unbeaten run. "It could have a huge bearing because internally there is nothing better than carrying on a winning streak as that would allow you to go into the next 18 points with incredible momentum."
Arsenal star picks two Everton danger men ahead of Goodison Park clash
Friday, April 4, 2014
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain believes Arsenal will have to be wary of the attacking threat posed by Everton full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman when they go to Goodison Park.
Baines and Coleman have shone at both ends of the pitch for Roberto Martinez’s side this season.
The Toffees are just four points behind Arsenal ahead of Sunday’s showdown, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has warned his team-mates to be wary of their dynamic defensive duo.
“Everton have got great players, and great attacking players especially so they are a real threat going forward,” he told Arsenal Player. “Even their defensive players are a threat going forward, and both their full backs have massive attacking potential. “We have played them twice this year, so we know what to expect, and it is going to be a hard game for us. “Goodison Park is always a really hard place to to go to, but in the recent years since I’ve been at the club we’ve always done alright there so hopefully we can do the same again this time.” Arsenal beat Everton 4-1 in the FA Cup last month, but Oxlade-Chamberlain says the scoreline was flattering on the Gunners. “I think 4-1 maybe didn’t do Everton too much justice, they had a lot of chances themselves and played well for the majority of the game - as we did,” he added. “It was a really good game, it just happened that towards the end of the match they were pushing to equalise and we managed to get two really good goals on the counter. “To take a win like that into the next time you face them is always a positive. But we can’t let that cloud our judgement on what to expect because it is going to be a really hard game for us.”
Roberto Martínez's top-four pledge to Everton on line against Arsenal
Manager's Champions League promise drew laughs last year but Everton may hold whip hand against Arsenal on Sunday
April 5 2014 The Guardian
By Andy Hunter
Roberto Martínez was in an awkward spot when Bill Kenwright revealed his interview technique last summer. "Almost Roberto's first words to me were 'I'll get you in the Champions League'," the Everton chairman said at the unveiling of the club's new manager, prompting some laughter at Goodison Park and more sweat on the Catalan's brow. The laughter has died now. It is Arsenal and Arsène Wenger who are sweating. Martínez's response to Kenwright's confessional signified a change in ambition at Everton, although those assembled to meet the manager who had just overseen a glorious FA Cup triumph and galling relegation for Wigan Athletic could not have detected so at the time. He joked that the Everton chairman "has put no pressure on me", and explained that a top-four finish was the long-term objective. That might still be the case. Pointedly, however, the new man did not attempt to backtrack. Champions League qualification, said Martínez, "just comes with the title of being Everton manager". Finances complicated the challenge, he added, "but with time in football you can achieve anything". The 40-year-old's innate positivity – in words and deeds – has galvanised Goodison, from youth-team coaches who felt alienated under David Moyes and are now included in regular briefings to supporters who decorated Christmas trees with brown leather shoes in tribute to the manager's match-day attire. And of course the players, who are greeted at the Finch Farm training complex by photographs of Everton's nine title-winning and five FA Cup-winning teams. Martínez ordered the final canvas be left blank. His optimism appeared misplaced at the beginning of March when successive away defeats at Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea left Everton seventh and eight points adrift of fourth place. A 4-1 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals brought further deflation. Martínez was undeterred and maintained the 71-point target he set for Champions League qualification was achievable. Five consecutive league wins later and Everton stand four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who arrive on Merseyside on Sunday, with a game in hand. Arsenal's run-in and Champions League pedigree gives them the edge but the question of whether Martínez could take Everton forward, and whether Moyes's exit would instigate a rapid decline, was answered months ago. Osian Roberts, the chief instructor of the Uefa pro-licence in Wales, where Martínez took his qualification, is surprised the question was asked. "He is one of the sharpest brains out there," said Roberts, also the technical director of the Football Association of Wales and national team coach. "We've had hundreds of coaches on our course and he is one of the sharpest of the lot in terms of his philosophy and beliefs. When he became manager at Swansea he went from being a player to a manager. That happens often but rarely do you see someone who, like Roberto, has been preparing for the role for years. Everything he needed to do as a manager was in place before he got the job. He knew what training he was going to do on every day of the season before he started. His thoroughness and preparation stood out but also the willingness to adapt his style. "He went to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to study Chile. He went to all their games and training sessions and was fascinated by the way Marcelo Bielsa was playing with three at the back. He's done that with Everton at times and I think he will use that more when he has the players that can do it. If he hasn't got the players he won't play an unsuitable system but he will always look to create something in a system of play that gives his team an advantage. "For example, one-on-ones in key areas, overloads in key areas and how best to exploit them. He has a sharp brain. He might find something from watching Chile, something else from a totally different team in a different league and see how he can adapt both into what he wants. He is always open to new ideas. One of the best things about Roberto on the course was how he made time for everyone. We have a range of candidates, varying from the top end of the game to part-time coaches in the Welsh Premier League, and some still ring him for advice from the Welsh Premier level and he is always willing to give it, but in a humble way. He has strong beliefs but he wants to provoke ideas in coaches as opposed to instilling them. He believes in educating people." Few players epitomise the change in Everton this season better than the right-back Seamus Coleman. The Republic of Ireland defender had an idea of how Martínez worked from sharing a room on international duty with James McCarthy, formerly of Wigan and now the Everton manager's most expensive recruit at £13m. But it was at half-time at Carrow Road on the opening day of the season when he discovered how astute and precise the new manager would be.
"He showed me on a laptop that if I ran off the back of the winger there would be a chance that I could get in at the back post for a tap-in, and that's exactly what happened," said Coleman, who put Everton 2-1 ahead from close range before Norwich City secured a 2-2 draw. "Roberto helped me to get that goal. I had full confidence in him after that! The previous manager was brilliant with me and helped me massively. Roberto has helped me massively too, like with the positions I should take up when I don't have the ball. I'm learning as much as everyone else from him."
Coleman has seven goals this season and widespread acclaim as one of the finest right-backs in the Premier League, interesting clubs such as Arsenal as a result. The bargain £60,000 signing from Sligo Rovers insists Martínez had the instant respect of the Everton dressing room and believes his own development stems from the freedom he receives at full-back. The 25-year-old from Killybegs, Donegal, explains: "All the lads knew he was a top manager straight away. I think it is a credit to the players that we adjusted quickly to the way he wanted us to play but I still think there are things that we can do better. Maybe it's the foreign mentality. It's about keeping the ball for as long as we can and not needlessly giving away possession or not trying to get a goal when it might not be on. He'd rather you play the pass for it to open up for a better opportunity. "He's a very positive character and I think we all feed off that. As players you like to be confident and keep your confidence up, and when you go out on a Saturday he encourages you to try things. If it doesn't come off, he's not going to give you a bollocking from the sideline, he'll encourage you to try it again. Saying that, if you're not performing and doing well, he doesn't say 'well done' every day. If you've made a mistake he'll let you know about it." Everton's average possession has risen from 52.5% last season to 56% under Martínez, with total passes per game up to 477.6 from 416.2, passing accuracy up from 79.4% to 83.4% and the number of dribbles attempted per game increasing from 13.3 under Moyes to 23.6 this term. Somewhat surprisingly, given their respective reputations for porous defending and pragmatism, Martínez's Everton concede an average of one goal per game and have kept a clean sheet in 35.5% of league games (compared with 1.05 per game and 28.9% last season) while, under Moyes last season, Everton averaged more shots per game and more passes in the attacking third. "It's not only about the tactical and technical side, he's a good man-manager. He is very personable," says Roberts, for whom Martínez will be the guest speaker at the FAW National Coaches Conference in May. "You can see when he makes his signals from the side of the pitch that his players are looking at him and taking on the instructions. You can see the respect. He took Leighton Baines to Old Trafford with him this week to watch the Bayern Munich game and will have been talking tactics all game. You can see the players want to learn from him. "It is football 24 hours a day with Roberto. He will take his wife and baby to Brazil for a month this summer and that's not bad, it's a lovely place, but he'll take them wherever the tournament is, like Poland two years ago. Fair play to her."
Leighton Baines can convert to a 'Philipp Lahm', says Everton manager
• Roberto Martínez took Baines to see Bayern Munich
• Phil Jagielka's comeback remains on hold
The Guardian April 5 2014
Roberto Martínez believes Leighton Baines' next challenge at Everton is to emulate Philipp Lahm's successful transition, with Bayern Munich, from left-back to holding midfielder.
Baines accompanied the Everton manager to Old Trafford on Tuesday under specific instruction to study the Bayern captain during the 1-1 draw against Manchester United in the Champions League. Martínez is convinced the England international's defensive experience, technical ability and intelligence suit his long-term vision for Everton's midfield, in the same way Pep Guardiola has deployed Lahm during his first season in charge of Bayern. "I've always thought Leighton can develop into Philipp Lahm's role, it is in his make-up," the Everton manager said. "Not this season but in seasons to come he is someone who can play in that central role. I wanted him to watch Philipp Lahm in a live game because when it's on TV you only see the player when he's on the ball. It was good for Leighton to watch a player I feel he can be as good as or even better.
"Like Lahm, Leighton doesn't give the ball away, he's got a very low centre of gravity and technically he is as good as it gets. When you have that control of the ball and have been such a good defender, and as a left-back you have to be very good on one-v-one situations, it is very important to have that defensive mindset in those midfield areas. That is important for defensive balance. As a player Leighton has been through so many different experiences and has always found a way to rise to new challenges in his career. I am convinced he can step up to a new challenge. You need to look at the physicality and he is a naturally fit boy so can easily go into the role. He can be more expansive in central midfield than in his left back role. That's why I wanted him to see it first hand."
Martínez admitted Baines had no say in his extracurricular activity on Tuesday – "He was told he was going to the game and that was it," he said – and has used the exercise before. "I took the whole Swansea team to watch Barcelona a couple of times in 2007, one was against Celtic in the Champions League," he added. "It was very powerful in terms of understanding what we were trying to do. I'm not saying that was how we were going to play but, in terms of specific aspects of a game, when you see it live it is very powerful. It was the season we won the League One title. The specific aspect was how they kept possession. It helped the penny drop." Martínez, meanwhile, has insisted Phil Jagielka will be fit for the World Cup despite the captain's comeback from a hamstring injury being delayed once again. Everton's captain has not played since 22 February and will miss Sunday's Premier League visit of Arsenal after the club's medical department ruled out a return.
Martínez said: "It is not a straightforward hamstring problem. It is in between two muscles. He is medically fit but when you have played over 30 games you have to be very careful of a recurrence in that injury. The gamble of Phil playing and getting injured now is huge. It would be stupid for me to take that gamble. It could be that in two or three days we do a scan and everything is healed and he can rejoin the group, but we need to take the approach that he has to be 100%."
Leon Osman targets Champions League as Everton aim to overtake Arsenal
Having spent his career with Everton, Osman is hoping to round it off with a win over Arsenal and a Champions League spot
The Observer April 5 2014
Everton’s Leon Osman, everyone's favourite unsung hero, one-club player and local boy made good, has just been granted a testimonial after 10 years in the first team. The plan is to arrange a fixture shortly before the start of next season, and Osman already knows that children's charities Claire House and Make-A-Wish are the good causes he would like to support, but there is a slight problem setting a date. Everton need to find out whether they will be involved in a Champions League qualifying round first. Osman was around for Everton's last Champions League adventure, when they were not only unlucky enough to end up with a pre-qualifier against against Manuel Pellegrini's Villarreal but also fell foul of the last controversial decision of Pierluigi Collina's illustrious refereeing career when a valid Duncan Ferguson goal was disallowed. Getting another chance to take on Europe's elite would mean a lot to the 32 year old Osman, who reckons Everton are better equipped to make a go of it under Roberto Martínez, but, like his testimonial, it all depends on finishing above Arsenal in the Premier League. Sunday's opponents, the midfielder insists, are still favourites to finish fourth whatever the result at Goodison this afternoon. "We were unfortunate in what happened with Villarreal, but you are going to get tough games if you qualify for the Champions League," he says. "We haven't done that yet, we can't even begin to dream about that type of game until we qualify. "Even if we win against Arsenal we still have to try to finish above them in the league. At the moment they are in a stronger position than we are. Arsenal are four points ahead so we are outsiders. If we've got genuine aspirations about overtaking them then we have got to win this game." Everton earned a creditable draw at the Emirates in December, four days after Martínez supervised the victory at Old Trafford that confirmed he was capable of taking the club forward. Whether Martínez can fulfil his pre-season promise to Bill Kenwright of leading Everton into the Champions League remains to be seen, but on limited resources he has taken his side closer than many thought possible. His assured handling of a move upwards and the almost seamless way he has transformed Everton's outlook has impressed several bigger clubs, including Arsenal, and Osman is as much a fan as anyone. "I'm not going to say I didn't enjoy my time playing under David Moyes because I always enjoyed playing for Everton," he says. "But any footballer will tell you it is a lot more enjoyable having the ball than not having it. Ultimately it is about winning games and you could be without the ball for 89 minutes, score a goal and be happier than if you had the ball and lost. "Football is a results business and we used to be about getting results, but if you can put the two together, retain possession and still win games, that is more enjoyable. We have taken that next step. This season we are a possession team whether we win or lose. We live and die by that at the moment, that's why I think we might do better in the Champions League if we are able to qualify.
"No disrespect to the team back in 2005, what we achieved was fantastic, but we were a team out of possession. We'd basically let opponents have the ball, defend, and try to score on the counter-attack. That put us in good stead that season and we managed to finish fourth on the back of it but we couldn't make the next step after that. "Teams were giving us a lot more respect the following season and we weren't as capable on the ball, we weren't able to break teams down and change our game. Right now we are all about possession and opening teams up but being patient in doing so. If we manage to achieve the top four this season we will be in a much stronger position." A crack at the Champions League would round off Osman's career nicely, even if he does admit he would far rather have a medal to show for his decade at Everton. "This is a massive club, and for us to have gone so long without winning anything is a huge disappointment," he says. "A top-four finish would be fantastic, it would show you had performed consistently over a whole season, but for me personally I would love to have won a cup and I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same way. But then again, when I look back and think of the injuries I had early on, and the loan spells, and all the people telling me to make sure I was ready for life outside football, I've got nothing to complain about after 10 years. "I came through the youth team and the reserves, and it is strange to think that of all those lads I played with practically everyone fell out of the game, so that now there is only me and Tony [Hibbert] still playing. I don't know if I was cocky or lucky, but I never doubted for a second that I was going to be a footballer and play for Everton." Just over a year ago Osman received a popular call up for England, though he is realistic about his chances of getting another one in time for the World Cup. "It would be very difficult to make it into a World Cup squad having not been with England for a year," he says. "You keep trying and never give up hope but it is something out of my control. I waited until I was 31 for my first England cap and I ended up with two, so I can't be too disappointed. I'm grateful to Mr Hodgson for picking me at all." Osman is grateful to Martínez too for the positive, confident outlook that rubs off on his players. There are now two impressively bold young managers on Merseyside, with Brendan Rodgers surpassing all expectations by challenging for the title in his second season at Anfield, and if Everton can finish strongly enough to overtake Arsenal they will both graduate to the Champions League together. "I'm sure that would be great for the area but I'm only concerned about us," Osman says. "Ask any Evertonian. We don't really care about the team across the park."
Stones is such a quick learner, says Distin John
April 5 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
"He’s a big character and a great guy who is willing to listen and learn" - Distin
Sylvain Distin has just spent a training session alongside Everton FC’s kids, helping them hone their skills and develop into future stars. For the club’s academy youngsters it’s been a fun filled afternoon at Finch Farm. They’ve had the chance to mingle with their first-team heroes and learn a thing or two in small practise games, bouts of head tennis, and shooting drills.
It’s an annual event, and as he relaxes back inside, the amiable Blues defender admits that the senior players actually look forward to it too - even if for him it’s been something of a busman’s holiday. So what has it been like playing alongside 19-year-old John Stones for the Blues last six games – five of which they’ve won to re-ignite their top four dream? “It’s like it was today,” he grins. “Playing with the kids!” Distin is joking of course, and very quickly begins to extol the virtues of the talented teenager he has formed a central defensive partnership with in the absence of skipper Phil Jagielka, who still has no time frame on his return from a hamstring complaint. “It’s fine. I have no problems with it,” he says. “John listens, his reading of the game is great and he has a good mentality. “That’s the most important thing too. He’s a big character and a great guy who is willing to listen and learn. I don’t feel like you can teach anything to anyone unless they’re willing to receive and he is. “I’m not trying to teach him all the time, sometimes stuff just happens and maybe I’ll tell him to think about this or that. It’s just to put things on his mind to make sure he keeps improving. But to be honest he’s learning really fast by himself and he doesn’t need much advice.
“He’s got that new generation confidence. When I started as a footballer I wouldn’t speak. But this new generation are a lot more confident. They go forward a lot more too.”
Going forward is something Stones likes to do with abandon. At Fulham the former Barnsley right back zoomed up the pitch with the ball, slaloming past challenges and ended up playing a pass just yards from the Cottagers area. It was impressive stuff, but does it leave his colleagues with occasional hearts in mouths? Not really,” says Distin. “He’s got the legs to do it. It’s great – and it’s part of the football we play now. I don’t see a problem if he’s doing his duty defensively.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Stones. He learned some particularly harsh lessons from the clever movement of Olivier Giroud as the Toffees were chastened in the FA Cup quarter final at the Emirates last month. But with another high-stakes clash against the Gunners in store tomorrow, Distin is backing his young team-mate to have benefited from that tough afternoon in North London. “You have to remember he hasn’t even played a full season yet,” says the 36-year-old. “There are going to be moments when certain strikers are going to cause him problems but that’s the case for all defenders, even players like me who’ve played a lot of games. You can’t be perfect every single game or win every single challenge. I don’t know one player in the world who can do that. “John doesn’t need us to tell him about that game. He’ll look at the video himself and correct stuff on his own.” The spectre of that calamitous cup tie has been banished by Everton’s four victories since, and Distin believes that overall his side can flourish by heeding the lessons of their two contrasting clashes with Arsene Wenger’s men so far this term. We’ve had two completely different games against Arsenal this season,” he says. “After the game in December we walked away thinking we should have won. We were in control and it was a great game.
“It gave me a lot of confidence for the cup game but that ended up being the opposite. They were on top of us and we were trying to defend. We didn’t try to win like we normally do it was just surviving their attacks and making sure things didn’t go too bad too soon. It was a completely different feeling. “Now we can use the experiences of both games to make sure we get this one right.” There was a chance Distin could have ended up in the red and white of Arsenal once, with the Londoners reportedly hot on his trail before he eventually left Portsmouth for Goodison in 2009. But he insists it’s not a decision he has ever had cause to regret. “I’ve heard about it a few times that they wanted me when I was at Portsmouth but I never had any contact personally.,” he explains. “Maybe my agent did but he never told me about it. I’ve never thought ‘what if’ or anything like that. “I’m happy here and I’ve never regretted my choice. I’ve had a great time and I don’t think about it.” Something he does think about, however, is how special it would be to compete in next season’s Champions League, the prize on offer to whichever of tomorrow’s opponents can go the distance between now and May. For Distin, there has never been a better opportunity during his time on Merseyside. “We’re a lot closer now than we were this time last year,” he says. “We’ve got a bit more belief now than we did last season too. Last year it depended a bit more on the other teams around us but now the power is a bit more in our hands than the other clubs. It will still be a tough task but it’s doable. “It would be a massive achievement getting Europe but particularly Champions League. It’s the best, the one everyone wants to play. It’d be big for the club and from the financial point of view it’d be a lot more rewarding than the Europa League. As players it’s something we want to achieve and for the fans to reward them and get back on the road. “I feel like taking game after game at the moment because you know how it is. If we win on Sunday everyone will say we’re favourites to finish fourth and if we lose they’ll say that’s it, it’s over. But there’s still six games after that. This game is important but so are the others. This isn’t a decider.”
Everton FC v Arsenal: Fans key to Champions League bid says Roberto Martinez
April 5 2014 The Daily Post
By Greg O’Keeffe
'Incredible' Toffees fans urged to be patient during Sunday's crucial Goodison clash
Roberto Martinez insists Everton must bide their time as they bid to take revenge on Arsenal tomorrow and told fans: “We need your patience.” The Blues boss reckons the Goodison faithful will play a key part in what is being billed as a potential fourth place decider against Arsene Wenger’s side. And he knows his players must be prepared to handle the pressure when Arsenal have the ball, then attack with precision when they’re in possession themselves.
Reflecting on what will be a contest of two stylistically similar teams, the Catalan said: “We’re playing against a top team which is very similar in the concepts that we are trying to play. "So we’ll have to be patient when they have possession. “We’ll have to be encouraged enough and have a good tempo when we have the ball too. “As a crowd we must understand it will be very much a level game. We’ve been used to long spells of possession at home but in this game it will be a bit more 50/50 and it’s about how we use the ball when we’ve got it. “It’s also going to be about how patient and strong we can be without the ball. “It will be tough but our crowd will be incredible as ever. “They deserve huge credit. They need to understand what they’ve done so far has been great for us, allowing us to develop. “That’s been essential. We need to carry that chemistry on and be thankful for their role. It’s been crucial to have their understanding as we changed the way we play.” In the likely absence of skipper Phil Jagielka, John Stones will continue in the centre of defence against the Londoners, and Martinez has backed the teenager to rise to the challenge. The 19-year-old impressed against Fulham last Sunday, and Martinez has been delighted by his toughness as well as elegance on the ball.
“John is an intelligent, conscious and disciplined footballer,” he said. “Just right for the modern game.
“He can take information in and understand what’s needed. He’s also disciplined enough to sense danger and take responsibility for that. He’s got those qualities and then on top he’s someone who can need eight stitches in a game and respond how he did in the second half against Newcastle then like he did at Fulham. “It’s a remarkable sign of the character he is. One of the most exciting centre halves we’ve had in the English game. We should allow him to develop and enjoy his football. If we develop him well he’ll play a huge part in an era for English football.”
Martinez vision and belief has inspired us all, says Leon Osman
April 5 2014 The Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Blues take on Arsenal in crunch game in fight for fourth
Roberto Martinez targeted Champions League football from the off for Everton and Leon Osman believes that the Blues squad have bought into the manager’s vision.
Last June when the Catalan was unveiled as new manager at Goodison Park, chairman Bill Kenwright revealed he had promised him he’d get the club into Europe’s elite competition. Given that Everton have only achieved one top four finish in 21 seasons of Premier League football to date the bold declaration was met with raised eyebrows and even sniggers from many observers.However as teams enter the penultimate month of the campaign a home match with Arsenal today and a game in hand at Goodison Park against Crystal Palace means that the Blues Champions League destiny is in their own hands. Osman said: “It was a big statement to make, but if you ask the manager now he will tell you that he always believed it was possible to make the top four – and that it still is. “There’s seven games to go and we are definitely right there in the mix.” He added: “We felt we had a good squad here and some excellent individual players. “We felt we were capable of finishing high up the table even before the new manager came in. “But he then added a couple of new faces and he was so adamant that we could really challenge. “What the manager has done is put all those ingredients together. “There’s no lack of belief here in terms of what we think we can achieve. It’s just whether we can go out and do it on the pitch in the final few games. “People probably thought there would be a transitional period when the new manager came in and that probably did lead to a bit of a slow start in our first three or four games. “But once we got to know the manager a bit better – probably faster than anyone expected – we have done really well.” Everton held their own for the first three-quarters of the FA Cup quarter-final with Arsenal at The Emirates last month before being overran after the Gunners were awarded a penalty. However, Osman is taking heart from the Blues performance in their previous Premier League meeting with Arsene Wenger’s men. Asked if this afternoon’s clash is pivotal to his own side’s Champions League chances Osman replied: “I’d say it is. Arsenal are currently in the fourth Champions League spot, but if we’ve got genuine aspirations about overtaking them then we have got to win this game. “Our home form has been pretty good. We don’t fear anyone coming to Goodison, we look forward to it. “We’ve probably had some of our best games against top four teams this season so there’s no need to fear any of them. “We went to the Emirates believing that we were going to win, not hoping. We got a draw, they are coming to Goodison now and we are still believing in ourselves. “What we have managed to do in the last couple of months is to pick up good results away from home as well. “We need to continue in the same vein. It’s the right time to be going on these runs.” The kind of optimism from Martinez that made him declare he could get Everton into the Champions League has rubbed off on his players and Osman is a big fan of his boss’ sunny attitude. He said: “You can’t help but get wrapped up in it sometimes. What it does is give you confidence and gives you self-belief. “All these things lead to you playing better on the pitch so if it’s done in the right way, which it certainly does, it’s positive. “Our manager has a lot of self-belief that you can’t help but buy into. “The way we train every day under him gives us a confidence to go out there and express ourselves. “Coming to the crunch part of the season, that kind of thing is going to be very important. “The manager certainly encourages us to stay on the ball and be confident in ourselves. He gives us confidence. And that’s a massive word in football.” Under a new regime and with a fresh tactical approach, many expected this to be a season of transition for Everton but Osman is delighted with the way things have progressed. He said: “We have taken that next step. You look at the teams at the top end of the league and they are about getting results and also getting possession in games. “Maybe last season we were 50-50, in half the games we would have possession and in the other half we wouldn’t. “This season we are a possession team whether we win or lose. We live and die by that at the moment.”
Martinez believes his Everton side must bide their time against Arsenal
April 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Blues boss reckons Goodison faithful will play key part in what is being billed as a potential fourth place decider
Robert Marteniz insists Everton FC must bide their time as they bid to take revenge on Arsenal on Sunday and told fans: “We need your patience.” The Blues boss reckons the Goodison faithful will play a key part in what is being billed as a potential fourth place decider against Arsene Wenger’s side. And he knows his players must be prepared to handle the pressure when Arsenal have the ball, then attack with incision when they’re in possession themselves. Reflecting on what will be a contest of two stylistically similar teams, the Catalan said: “We’re playing against a top team which is very similar in the concepts that we are trying to play. “So we’ll have to be patient when they have possession. “We’ll have to be encouraged enough and have a good tempo when we have the ball too.“As a crowd we must understand it will be very much a level game. We’ve been used to long spells of possession at home but in this game it will be a bit more 50/50 and it’s about how we use the ball when we’ve got it. It’s also going to be about how patient and strong we can be without the ball. “It will be tough but our crowd will be incredible as ever. They deserve huge credit. They need to understand what they’ve done so far has been great for us, allowing us to develop. That’s been essential. We need to carry that chemistry on and be thankful for their role. It’s been crucial to have their understanding as we changed the way we play.” In the likely absence of skipper Phil Jagielka, John Stones will continue in the centre of defence against the Londoners, and Martinez has backed the teenager to rise to the challenge. The 19-year-old impressed against Fulham last Sunday, and Martinez has been delighted by his toughness as well as elegance on the ball. “John is an intelligent, conscious and disciplined footballer,” he said. “Just right for the modern game. “He can take information in and understand what’s needed. He’s also disciplined enough to sense danger and take responsibility for that. “He’s got those qualities and then on top he’s someone who can need eight stitches in a game and respond how he did in the second half against Newcastle then like he did at Fulham. “It’s a remarkable sign of the character he is. One of the most exciting centre halves we’ve had in the English game. We should allow him to develop and enjoy his football. If we develop him well he’ll play a huge part in an era for English football.”
Royal Blue: Doing Reds a favour not in the equation
Apr 05, 2014 10:00
By Greg O’Keeffe
Race for fourth is all that matters
Saturday May 3, 2014 could yet be a day etched long into the memories of Everton FC fans. That’s the afternoon when Manchester City are currently scheduled to visit Goodison Park, with title ambitions in tow. If things have gone to plan by then, Roberto Martinez’s men will hopefully still be fighting to fulfil their own dream of a top four finish too. The eyes of the Blue half of Merseyside will be fixed firmly on the Old Lady. However, the attentions of the red half of the region will also be torn between L4 and the action between Brendan Rodgers’ side and Crystal Palace in South London. Why? Ask any Merseyside footy fan who has discussed the potentially thrilling permutations the end to this campaign could contain. If the Toffees were to beat City, they could in turn help the Reds lift their first top flight crown since 1990. The debate has raged in alehouses and match-bound train carriages for a few weeks among Blues: “What would we want to happen?” It’s a tongue in cheek topic Even Sylvain Distin has heard the talk. Chatting to him at Finch Farm this week he said: “We’ve spoken about it with some of the staff and said “What if we have to beat City to be in the Champions League but by doing that Liverpool win the league?” and largely presented in good spirits. Nevertheless, the answer should be simple – there is only really one logical reply. If it meant breaking into the Champions League the Blues should go hell for leather to win the game for their own sakes regardless of any other consequences. Most Evertonians would say the same. Yet some would be so set against the prospect of red and white ribbons on the Premier League trophy they need to think about it. “The funny thing is some people would rather we don’t get Champions League as long as they don’t win the league. It’s mad! “Personally I’d rather be in the Champions League. You can’t miss a chance for that. “It would be amazing for the city if both clubs made it. I think deep down both sets of fans would like it if both clubs were in it.” Distin is correct of course. Bluenoses who want their club to progress shouldn’t think twice about it. The Champions League could help their club make that long-anticipated step into the next level; opening the door to the possibility of a new stadium and fresh investment as it equally bolsters their global profile.Sure it wouldn’t be much fun to see the Kopites dancing along Queen’s Drive as Steven Gerrard kisses the one piece of silverware which has eluded him in his career to date. But it would be even less fun to miss a massive chance for Everton to be transformed. For some many reasons between now and May 3 the debate could be rendered academic. If those circumstances unravel that afternoon, it add another intriguing edge to what has already been an absorbing season.
Don’t panic over Rom’s Spurs link
There's always a lot of talk about Romelu Lukaku.
He’s a bIg man with a big reputation, and now according to some reports a big list of clubs who want to sign him permanently in the summer. This week, quotes emerged from his agent, Christophe Henrotay, suggesting Tottenham are already taking steps to do just that.
“I’m looking for a club for Romelu. And yes, I’ve talked to Daniel Levy once, but that doesn’t mean Romelu will definitely join Spurs,” he is said to have told Belgium newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. will
That’s not a talking point at this moment. “There aren’t 20 teams that can afford to buy Romelu. He won’t go from Everton to, let’s say, Swansea. There’s also a difference between Everton that plays against relegation and an Everton that fights for European football.” The report has sparked some unrest from Blues who hope their club can keep hold of a striker who certainly, on his day, gives them something they have lacked for too long. Goals. The 20-year-old has developed in fits and spurts on Merseyside, but along the way he has notched 13 and is on course to better the 17-goal haul he plundered on loan for West Bromwich Albion last year. There’s many twists and turns to come in this potential deal. The question remains about whether he is a player the Blues should spend a club record fee on even if he has got so many positive attributes. He is miles from being the finished product. Can they afford to spend big on a player they will have to be so patient with?Either way, Evertonians should not sweat on those reports from Belgium. Henrotay, who is also Kevin Mirallas’s agent and has a cordial relationship with Blues chairman Bill Kenwright, is thought to be unhappy that his quotes were taken out of context, and was not actually trying to talk the player out of Goodison Park. If Lukaku’s goals fire the Blues into fourth place, it will give both the club and him serious food for thought when it comes to May. Tottenham could be an infinitely less inviting prospect by then.
Just the Ticket for Tierney
Life-long Blue Jennifer Tierney is the latest fan to receive the star treatment from Everton as part of the 2014/15 Season Ticket campaign. The Southport woman was nominated for the We Go The Game competition by her son, Graeme - named after Graeme Sharp. After attending her first game in the 1962/63 title-winning season, Jennifer has been hooked ever since. The past decade has provided some memorable moments at Goodison, but Jennifer was forced to miss the second half of the 2010/11 campaign after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
She returned after treatment for the game against Stoke."I always get the train to Sandhills and meet up with my eldest daughter who sits with me in the Paddock and we get the SoccerBus to the ground,” she said. “We have an Everton mint before kick-off and another at half-time - anything to help the team!" Son Graeme added: "The lift in my mum's spirits was tangible, it was an incredible thing."
Lee Carsley: Arsenal crunch is Blues' biggest hurdle
April 6 2014 The Liverpool Echo
Victory over Gunners will give Martinez's men a great chance of grabbing fourth
The crowds descended on Aintree yesterday for the Grand National but for me, Arsenal’s visit to Goodison Park is still the main event of the weekend. If the Blues can get over this hurdle, and it’s their biggest one of the season then we really are in a good position. We’ve been chasing down the Gunners for some time now and while a month ago many had given up hope I always believed that we’d be in the shake-up for a top four place. A victory today would bode well not just for the rest of the current campaign but next season too – even if we were to ultimately to miss out on a Champions League spot. The players have all got aspirations of making the top four and I believe we’ve got it in our locker. We’ve rattled off five consecutive victories in the Premier League now and we look like we’ve got the capacity for more wins the way we’re playing.
There are no easy games at this stage of the season and we saw that against Fulham at Craven Cottage but we still ground out a result. Arsenal are a good side and they’ve still got some excellent players but Everton are playing with a lot of confidence, especially at Goodison Park.
Return to football roots for Everton
MUCH has been made of the way Everton’s players have adopted Roberto Martinez ’s methods this season but in many ways the club are just returning to their footballing roots.
Back in the day the Blues were well known for controlling games. With the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball that was always the way things were done at Goodison.
I’m not going to be as daft as to start saying that Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley are now some kind of new version of this but we’ve always has a history of playing good football and it’s just in more recent years that a certain amount of pragmatism has led us to adopt a more direct approach. The fans have had to buy into the change too, and, to be fair, on the whole they have done. I was up at Goodison for the FA Cup tie against QPR and it was all pass, pass, pass.
One fella was urging them to get it forward into the box a bit quicker but generally the home crowd were very supportive with the way their team were trying to play. Don’t get me wrong, Evertonians are still just as passionate as ever and I’m sure Goodison will be rocking this afternoon but they’re well aware of the more patient approach that the manager and players have implemented.
Safety first is right policy for pair
ROBERTO MARTINEZ is playing his cards close to his chest as to whether injured pair Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley will feature against Arsenal today. I think the Blues boss has learned his lesson from the 4-0 derby defeat at Anfield when he threw three or four in who weren’t right.
It’s perverse really that managers often rush players back for these big games when the demands of such matches are even greater than normal. Martinez is now taking a more cautious approach when it comes to nursing his stars back to fitness and I think that’s better for all concerned.
It’s infuriating for a player if you’re taken out of the team for a lad who’s not fully fit then he lasts 60 minutes, goes off and is out for another couple of weeks and you’re then asked to come back in.It’s not like that at Everton and all of the squad seem happy with their roles.
* WE saw again at Fulham that Martinez has a knack when it comes to substitutions.
I was finishing my UEFA Pro Licence in Geneva this week and we were told that research shows that if you make changes after the 58th minute they don’t actually make an impact.
Personally I was the worst sub in the world. I could never come on and make an impact and was more use at home than being on the bench.
Wenger blasts loan system as Everton benefit from Chelsea, Man City and Barcelona talents
Sunday, April 6, 2014 London24
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the current loan system for Premier League clubs is “not defendable”.
The Gunners take on an Everton side at Goodison Park on Sunday which has been boosted by the temporary signings of forward Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea, veteran Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry and emerging Barcelona talent Gerard Deulofeu. While Wenger has no issue as to how any club manage their loan deals, the Arsenal boss is adamant there is a strong case for change - particularly concerning the rule players cannot face their parent clubs. “Everton have done a quality job on that front, because they got Barry, they got Lukaku, they got Deulofeu that have done very well with them,” the Frenchman said. “I believe if you want to continue the loan system, we have to make them available against the teams that loan them out, or the system is not defendable. “It is just a protection of the clubs who loan the players out to hurt their opponents and they have no risk at all. “I think the best would be that the players are only loaned in lower divisions or abroad, and even abroad I am not completely convinced it is right. “It is just to get the player to play somewhere at the top level and see how good he is, what we will try to do as well, you know, but it raises a little bit the question. “It is not against Chelsea, it is not against Man City. “The system is for Chelsea like for everybody else, like for Arsenal and everybody else. “I think the whole system has to be considered again. “As a whole, the only question you ask is, ‘is the system right or not?’ It is open to debate. I’m ready to accept any decision.”
The art of possession: How Roberto Martinez took Everton to the next level
April 6 2014 Indenpendent
A win against Arsenal will lift the Toffees to within a pint of the Champions League places with a game in hand
By Simon Hart
If one goal summed up Arsenal's transformation under Arsène Wenger, it came on a Sunday afternoon against Everton. It was in May 1998, the day that Wenger secured his first Premier League title with a 4-0 victory capped by Tony Adams breaking on to a through-ball from fellow centre-back Steve Bould and finishing like a centre- forward. George Graham's defenders, it turned out, could actually play a bit too. Today, as Everton and Arsenal meet at Goodison Park, there is a fresh story unfolding of an erudite foreign manager building on a Scotsman's legacy at one of English football's grand old football clubs: for Wenger and Arsenal then, read Roberto Martinez and Everton now.It is a tempting parallel to draw, and while nobody is expecting Martinez to win the Double inside 18 months, the fact he has got fifth-placed Everton challenging for a Champions' League place underlines the smooth, swift transition made since he replaced David Moyes. Should Everton win today they would climb within a point of Arsenal in fourth with a game in hand. As midfielder Leon Osman said last week: "People probably thought there would be a transitional period when the new manager came in, and that probably led to a bit of a slow start in our first three games, but once we got to know the manager a bit better – probably faster than anyone expected – we have done really well." The easy assumption is that Martinez has added a new attacking dimension to Everton's play, yet former Everton manager Joe Royle says the change began further back. "It's a possession game they play and the difference is primarily at the back – it is the same players but a different attitude to the build-up. They take the ball at the back more readily. As soon as the goalkeeper gets the ball, the centre-halves split and they want it. With [Phil] Jagielka particularly, his first option [used to be to] control it and launch it diagonal." Those Evertonians who worried that their team would start defending like Martinez's previous club, Wigan, should note that after 31 games they have conceded six goals fewer than under Moyes 12 months ago. According to Royle, Martinez "is playing the same football he played at Wigan, only with better players", which means taking more risks than Moyes did. "He actually started off a game recently with three players who all run with the ball; that means you've got three players all taking a chance of losing it as well." That Martinez's gambles tend to pay off is illustrated by his substitutions. There have been times in recent years when Wenger's substitutions have been booed by the Arsenal fans, but Everton substitutes have scored nine goals this season – last season's total was three – and won the team an extra 15 points. This was summed up last Sunday at Fulham when Steven Naismith and Kevin on the 11 on the pitch, but he is actually in dialogue with his substitutes." Kilbane was Mirallas both stepped off the bench to score. Kevin Kilbane, the former Everton winger, cites Naismith's subsequent explanation of his impact in that game. "Roberto Martinez actually said to him, 'Have a look, you might be able to see spaces that you can exploit because you could have an impact at some stage during the game'. From my experience, managers are only concentrating in the Everton team which nine years ago finished fourth with 61 points – a total Martinez's men would surpass with victory today. Osman, a survivor of 2004-05, believes today's Everton are stronger. "No disrespect to the team back then but we were a team out of possession. We'd basically let them have the ball, defend, and score on the counterattack."
For all the subsequent evolution under Moyes, Osman adds that Everton have improved further under Martinez: "We have taken that next step. You look at the teams at the top end and they are about getting results and also getting possession in games.
"Maybe last season in half the games we would have possession and in the other half we wouldn't. This season we are a possession team whether we win or lose. We live and die by that."
And they are a team who believe. "Our manager has a lot of self-belief that you can't help but buy into," Osman continued. "It's just whether we can go out and do it on the pitch in the final few games."
Martinez: Crashing the top four would be like winning the title
April 6 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Given the huge budgets enjoyed by all the other sides in the Premier League’s top seven, Everton boss Roberto Martinez reckons securing a top four place would be akin to lifting the League Championship title itself. A win against Arsenal today would put the Blues just a single point behind the Gunners in the table with a game in hand as they look to turn up the heat for the final Champions League qualification spot. On the prospect of securing a place in the top four, Martinez said: “It would be like winning a title. “You have six clubs at the beginning of the season with budgets that could grant winning the league. “All of a sudden, you might gate-crash the party and get in this six, through footballing reasons. “Spurs, with the finances of selling Gareth Bale, Man United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – they have budgets to win the league.“Straight away you will have two disappointed teams. “To finish in those top four places is enough reason to celebrate.” Everton have previously only ever finished in the top four of the Premier League once in 2004-05 when they accumulated 61 points. With seven games remaining, Martinez’s men are just one point below that tally and their current points total is their highest in Premier League history at this stage of a campaign. Considering this was supposed to be a season of transition at the top of the Premier League with Chelsea and both Manchester clubs all hiring new managers, Martinez points out that getting into the Champions League is actually more difficult than ever. He said: “Everyone said at the start of the season it would be transitional for Man United, Chelsea and Man City but it hasn’t proven to be that way. “I still expect Manchester United to finish the season strongly and make it difficult for any opposition they face. “City have a great chance to win the league and Chelsea are challenging so it hasn’t been as transitional as you would expect.“It is the nature of this league and we need to get used to this. “Southampton have been terrific all season and not to be in the fight for the top four or five shows how difficult this league is becoming.” The fact that Everton are now breathing down Arsenal’s necks – the Gunners have never failed to finish outside the top four in 17 previous seasons under Arsene Wenger – is down to their five consecutive victories in the Premier League. It is a winning sequence only punctured by their FA Cup quarter-final defeat at The Emirates and is the Blues’ best run since the 2002-03 campaign, David Moyes’s first season in charge. Back then they won six Premier League games in a row – a sequence begun by Wayne Rooney’s spectacular last-gasp strike against Arsenal at Goodison Park and of course it’s the Londoners who stand in their way this afternoon as they aim for another six of the best. Martinez believes that his side’s run is down to an increase in mental strength. He said: “It’s been a change in mindset. To win five games on the trot you need to change the mentality and have every player ready. “I haven’t seen a player sulking or not being prepared to help the team or not accept the role he has been given. “I think that’s been a major factor. “To win five games on the trot you need to carry on incredible momentum and team spirit. “I feel that we have learned from key moments in this season and the senior players in the dressing room have been vital in that.“I’m excited looking forward to these next seven games because I believe we are fresh, there is competition for places, we have the right mindset and focus. “We know it is not going to be easy because we’re going to face teams in exactly the same position as us but I believe the players deserve incredible credit so far to have got the football club in this position with seven games to go and have an opportunity to get in the top four.” The closest Everton came to matching their current run in the first half of the season was a sequence in November-December when they won four out of five games (against Stoke City, Manchester United, Fulham and Swansea City) with the only dropped points coming at The Emirates. However, it was the performance in the draw away at Arsenal coming off the back of the Blues first success at Old Trafford for over 21 years that convinced Martinez that his side were good enough to mix in with the Premier League’s big boys. He said: “I always felt after the week we had earlier in the season when we faced Manchester United and Arsenal and were able to perform in the manner that we did, we had what it takes to a real fight for the top four. “Remember this is a unique season. “It’s the first time in Premier League history that you’re going to need so many points to get in the Champions League and whoever finishes in fifth place is going to be really disappointed with the outcome given the points tally.”
Crowd can play important role
EVERTON boss Roberto Martinez believes the Goodison Park crowd can help roar their side into the top four of the Premier League. With the Blues looking to crank up the pressure on Arsenal today the Gunners can expect a tumultuous atmosphere within the ground. Although the 60,000 capacity Emirates was noisy for the two clubs’ FA Cup quarter-final clash last month, Martinez believes that the home fans within a packed 40,000 Goodison will be even louder. He said: “I’m very proud of the atmosphere we create at Goodison. It is fair to say the atmosphere is phenomenal.
“But I would go a bit further and say the patience the crowd had to show in the first few games, trying to have that understanding of what we are trying to do, took time and it would be all-to-easy for the Goodison crowd to be impatient. “That never happened. It’s been incredible support and now we are reaping the rewards. We all want to face these final games with a real togetherness that we are ready to give everything we’ve got and accept the outcome.” Asked if he felt today’s crunch clash would have a ‘cup final’ feel to it, Martinez replied: “Yes. We want to approach it that way.“I always felt that when you get to the final four or five home games of the season then they are all cup finals to achieve your aim no matter what you’re fighting for. “In a league campaign of 10 months, the final five games of the season at home, if you can get 15 points out of those then you’ve very much done it. If you don’t get the 15 points, you have to get some points away and that’s the way I always work it.” Having experienced the highs and the lows of lifting the FA Cup and being relegated from the Premier League last season with Wigan, Martinez admits it’s a far better feeling to be in situations that are pressurised for positive reasons.
He said: “All the games are the same in terms of controlling the small margins with the emotion surrounding the games. They affect the performance of the team, that’s clear but the worst situation is when you’re fighting not to lose something. “When you’re playing an FA Cup final, trying to win a title or you’re playing a game to try and get fourth then it’s a very different feeling to when you’re having to win three points so as not to lose your status. “Nothing is as difficult as that because the mindset of the players is difficult to cope with disappointment during a game.
“If during the 90 minutes everything goes according to plan and everything is positive then it’s quite easy to perform. “When you get a knock and have to face adversity the players react to that easier when there is something to win than the possibility of losing their status in the Premier League.
“It becomes very much a negative performance so as a manager you need to avoid those moments so that might lead you to not be as brave or as experimental as you could be.”
Club hopes to extend Barry stay
A KEY element of Everton’s success so far this season has been the contribution of their trio of loan signings.
And Roberto Martinez hopes that Gareth Barry’s enjoyment of his season at Goodison Park will help convince the midfielder that he has a longer term future with the Blues.
The 33-year-old’s contract with Manchester City expires in the summer and Martinez has been delighted with the England international’s input to the campaign. He said: “Gareth has been phenomenal. He is a unique footballer with the achievements he has had in his career and what is important is that we finish the season as strong as we can. “He enjoys his football and in the summer I’ll be very proud to see the loan period achieving what we set out to achieve. “He has been enjoying his football at Everton and has made incredible memories. In the summer we will see how he feels and I will respect that 100%. “When the season ends we will sit down and see if we can extend that or not.” Martinez added: “It was hard to get the loan over and when you start in July you have a vision of how the season is going to pan out for them as individuals and how they contribute to the team – that is an important balance and we achieved that. “Individuals have achieved well. Gareth has enjoyed his football. The parent clubs can be extremely satisfied and we are delighted with the contribution of those three players. “We are very happy with how it has gone with the loan players and hope the next seven games reflect that.”
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: Blues silence Gunners to grab pole position in Euro race
April 6 2015 The Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Naismith, Lukaku and Mirallas goals put Blues' Champions League destiny
Everton produced an electric performance to sweep aside Arsenal and give their hopes of Champions League qualification a major boost. The Blues are now just one point by the Gunners in the race for the top four after goals from Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas handed them a deserved 3-0 win. Everton had not beaten the Gunners in over seven years but were at their very best at a pulsating Goodison Park this afternoon to end that barren run in thrilling fashion. Roberto Martinez 's men have won their last six in the league and are now breathing heavily down the necks of fourth-placed Arsenal. The Blues know they will overtake Arsene Wenger's men if they win their game in hand and after today's game they will fancy their chances of breaking into the top four for the first time since 2005. Marteniz warned his side that they would have to be patient against the Gunners but Naismith, handed only his eighth league start of the campaign, opened the scoring after just 14 minutes. The Scotland international, so often Everton's go-to-guy in big games, tucked away the rebound after Lukaku's effort had been saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Lukaku was running the Arsenal defence ragged and would not have to wait long before he found the back of the net. After cutting in the right hand, the towering Belgian skipped past two challenges before hammering a shot past the Arsenal goalkeeper to double the Blues' lead 10 minutes before the break. Martinez's side were irresistible at times, cutting Arsenal to shreds on the counter-attack and Szczesny had to be at his best to deny Ross Barkley and Mirallas.
Although the visitors enjoyed more of the possession – and rattled the bar through substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - they largely struggled to break Everton down and their chances of an unlikely comeback were extinguished just after the hour. Mirallas hounded Bacary Sagna out of possession and after Naismith had been denied by Szczesny, the Everton forward bundled home the spoils to make it 3-0. Goodison rocked to its foundations as the Blues defeated Arsenal for the first time in 15 matches and issued a statement of intent in their pursuit of the Champions League in scintillating style.
Everton (4-3-3): Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, Naismith (McGeady 81), Osman (Barkley 9), Lukaku (Deulofeu 87). Subs: Robles, Hibbert, Garbutt, Alcaraz.
Goals: Naismith (14) Lukaku (34) Mirallas (62)
Red Cards: None
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny, Monreal, Vermaelen (c), Mertesacker, Sagna, Flamini (Ramsey 66), Arteta, Rosicky, Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain 66), Cazorla, Giroud. (Sanogo 71) Subs: Viviano, Jenkinson, Kallstrom, Bellerin
Cautions: Flamini, Arteta
Red Cards: None
Attendance: 39, 504
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: Gunners played off the park as Champions League status is seriously threatened
April 6 2014 London Evening Standard
It may be too soon to hail Everton's 3-0 victory over Arsenal as a changing of the guard, but one thing it does do is put the Gunners' proud Champions League status in serious doubt.
For 16 successive years Arsene Wenger's side have taken their place alongside Europe's elite, but this season there is a new kid on the block. And Everton could easily be the new Arsenal in more ways than one. Their Champions League challenge got all the more real after strikes from Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and a Mikel Arteta own goal put them just a point behind the Londoners with a match in hand. The way they played their visitors off the park was an example of manager Roberto Martinez's passing game in full effect and was reminiscent of the lessons Wenger's side used to hand out to opponents. But Arsenal's weak spot has always been their soft underbelly and it was brilliantly exploited at Goodison Park as Everton were tenacious, incisive and just plainly better in every department. Goalkeeper Tim Howard is Mr Reliable, ageless centre-back Sylvain Distin continues to churn out classy performances, Gareth Barry bestrides central midfield with a simplicity and calmness which allows young tyro Ross Barkley to terrorise further forward while the Lukaku provides a cutting edge up front. That two of those players are only on loan is a debate for another day. After this performance it is difficult not to talk up Everton's chances of qualifying for the Champions League for only the second time in their history. It was difficult to argue with Martinez's tactics, which saw him switch to 4-3-3 with Lukaku unusually stationed on the right wing to target Nacho Monreal, who was replacing injured left-back Kieran Gibbs. However, even the best managers need a stroke of luck. Leon Osman, who had looped Everton's first shot of the match just past Wojciech Szczesny's left-hand post, got in a tangle with Bacary Sagna, resulting in a gash that opened up after appearing to catch a boot in the face.
It forced Osman's immediate exit down the tunnel after just nine minutes, but brought Barkley to the fore in a more disciplined role on the left than he has been used to playing under Martinez.
However, with Barry providing support behind, the 20-year-old was still able to express himself and was instantly installed as the focal point of Everton's attacking play. The goal, however, came from Arsenal's inability - or unwillingness - to engage opponents. Leighton Baines was allowed to carry the ball 30 yards into enemy territory unchallenged and with that amount of time he picked out Lukaku with a low cross. Although the Belgium striker was denied by Szczesny, Naismith - who seems to have become Martinez's lucky charm - was in the right place at the right time to ram home the rebound. One Barkley through-ball caused panic in Arsenal's defence but Kevin Mirallas could only shoot weakly while another sent Baines away down the left to create a chance for James McCarthy.
Martinez's ploy to expose Monreal down the other flank saw the Gunners defender give up the chase with Lukaku and call for Szczesny to race out of his area and clear. Barkley continued to torment the visitors and after numerous step-overs hit an angled shot that was kept out by the goalkeeper's legs, with Mirallas also forcing a save near down at the same right-hand post.
Arsenal were cut open again just after the half-hour when Everton sliced their way through central midfield, with Naismith and Mirallas combining to release Lukaku on the right. Again Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker stood off as he cut inside and the striker took full advantage to smash home left-footed. Lukaku's celebration with Martinez on the touchline spoke volumes about the way the players have so wholeheartedly embraced the Spaniard's change in philosophy since replacing David Moyes in the summer. The closest Arsenal came to a first-half reply saw Howard superbly tip over Lukas Podolski's dipping half-volley, but there was little else to enthuse over. Everton, on the other hand, were rampant and midway through the second half applied the killer blow. Mirallas broke from deep and although Szczesny just got to the ball before Naismith, it rebounded back in front of goal where former Toffees midfielder Arteta, under pressure from Mirallas, turned it into his own net. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shot against the crossbar late on seemed merely like Arsenal raging against the dying of the light.
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: what we learned
April 6 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Triggs
The ECHO looks at the big talking points from an emphatic win for the Blues
Everton celebrate during the win over Arsenal
Arsenal weren’t just beaten at Goodison Park this afternoon - they were blown away.
It was - as the ECHO’s Dave Prentice predicted last week - a nightmare on Gwladys Street for Arsene Wenger, the Gunners’ heaviest loss to Everton in the Premier League era.
The Blues are now just a point behind Arsenal with a game in hand, having won their last six Premier League games in a row. Fourth place is there for the taking. The one-sided nature of the contest will surely have damaged Arsenal’s already brittle confidence. If anything, Roberto Martinez’s team resembled some of Wenger’s trophy-winning sides from the (increasingly distant) past - a fast, vibrant attacking unit playing football from the back. The moment Seamus Coleman ran down the wing doing keepy-uppys summed up the hosts’ dominance. Samba football from Everton’s right-back. There are six games to go for Everton - and it is the Merseysiders, not the team from North London, who are now favourites to land that final Champions League slot. The Blues boss is a relative managerial rookie compared to the vastly experienced Arsenal manager. But Martinez won the tactical battle here, hands down. The Blues ditched their usual 4-2-3-1 system and went for something similar to 4-3-3, a fluid formation with Romelu Lukaku - usually deployed down the middle - switched over to the right side. The Belgian terrorised Gunners left-back Nacho Monreal, who endured another shaky afternoon on Merseyside having been targeted by Liverpool at Anfield earlier this year. Thomas Vermaelen, playing as Arsenal’s left-sided centre-back, was equally uncertain up against his fellow countryman Lukaku. The on-loan Chelsea striker’s goal came as a result of being deployed out wide. He was allowed to cut inside on his favoured left foot and hammered an unstoppable shot into the Park End net. Not even the early loss of skipper Leon Osman to injury could stop Everton. Martinez waved Ross Barkley off the subs’ bench and the England man slotted in seamlessly. Martinez had all the answers, while Wenger was guilty of making a major selection gaffe in leaving Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on the bench. He looked Arsenal’s best player when he came on.
Chelsea’s loss is Everton’s gain
It is worth remembering that Romelu Lukaku - the striking spearhead in Everton’s push for a top-four finish - is on loan from a side struggling to find an attacking focal point.
With Lukaku in their side, Chelsea might have already won the title.
The best striker on the Stamford Bridge club's books is on loan at Goodison - and today he took his tally for the season to 13, the best by an Everton player in the Premier League since Yakubu scored 15 in 2007-08. He had four shots, made one key pass, completed 100% of his take-ons and won two headers. Everton have only lost once this season when Lukaku has found the net. He’s a talisman - and, along with Gareth Barry, surely the loan signing of the season.
Steven Naismith won over his doubters - again
The Scot carried on from where he left off at Craven Cottage. Having inspired Everton’s second-half display against Fulham last week, Naismith was handed only his eighth start of the season today and responded with an energetic performance. He was in the right place at the right time to stroke home the first goal on 14 minutes, was involved in the sweeping build-up to Lukaku’s second and helped set up the third just after the hour mark, when Mikel Arteta bundled the ball into his own net under pressure from Kevin Mirallas. Naismith has been seen as a bit-part player during his time with the Blues and it has taken him time to win over the Goodison fans. The evidence of the last game-and-a-half suggests he has plenty to offer during the run-in - not just from the subs’ bench. He was treated to a standing ovation when replaced with nine minutes to go. Rightly so.
Ross Barkley has given Martinez a selection headache
The England midfielder was drafted into the action early to replace the injured Leon Osman and did all he could to guarantee a start for Saturday’s game at Sunderland.
In 80 minutes on the pitch, Barkley had more touches of the ball (69) than any other Everton midfielder or forward. He won all of his aerial battles, made three interceptions, put in three crosses and made more passes (53) than any other Blues midfielder at an accuracy rate of 90.6%. He seemed to cover every blade of grass on Goodison's rain-soaked pitch.
There were so many contenders for man of the match crown. John Stones was imperious; Leighton Baines an incisive threat down the left; Lukaku, Naismith and Mirallas were also superb. Barkley was also well in the mix.
Martinez: Blues 'broke barriers' in rout of Arsenal
April 6 2-14 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Catalan hails EFC's most significant victory of the campaign
Roberto Martinez says Everton 'broke barriers' in their stunning victory over Arsenal.
The Blues pursuit of Champions League qualification moved up a gear on Sunday after they swept aside the Gunners 3-0 at Goodison Park. Strikes from Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and an own goal from old boy Mikel Arteta did the damage on a brilliant day at the Old Lady as Everton moved to within a point of their fourth-placed rivals. Victory was the Blues' first against Arsenal since March 2007 and Martinez described his side's performance as "phenomenal." The Everton manager insists the race for fourth remains a "close battle" and that nothing has been decided with their first win over the Gunners in 15 attempts. But Martinez could not hide his satisfaction with their most significant victory of the campaign. "It is going to be a really, really tough and close battle," Martinez said. "Even with Manchester United and Spurs, you expect them to have a really strong ending.
"But we are delighted to be in the mix and delighted that we are fighting for that aim.
"Yes, it was a great performance and yes, it was huge from a psychological point of view but we are now just focusing on Sunderland at the weekend. "What's important is that you are a team that needs to have an aim. "That can be an easy aim or you can reach high and try and have a dream to follow. "I always like to manage teams that have dreams to follow. "At Swansea City it was to try and get them into the Premier League. At Wigan it was to try and get them into Europe. And with the history and heritage of Everton, we should be getting in the Champions League."
Martinez said it would be wrong to highlight individuals in such an impressive team performance and insists it is impossible to compare the win with other displays this season. But the Catalan manager knew his side would have to be near "perfect" if they were to get the victory their Champions League hopes required. "In terms of satisfaction that you can get as a manager, that's as good as it gets," said Martinez. "I thought the performance from the first minute to the last was very strong in every department of the game. "We had to be perfect in the way we wanted to defend, the way we wanted to use the counter-attack, the way we wanted to be a "The players were phenomenal - their awareness, work rate and discipline made it as good a performance as you can get from that point of view." He added: "Playing against a top-four team at this stage of the season, we haven't had that demand. "It was a different challenge and I think it would be unfair to compare this performance to another because the implications today were unique. "What was needed today was breaking many barriers. We were able to keep a clean sheet, score three and carry a threat whereby we could have scored more. The total performance had an incredible, arrogant focus about it that was very pleasing."
* LEON OSMAN was "very lucky" to avoid a more serious injury after being taken off against Arsenal.
Osman came off worse in an early challenge with the Gunners' Bacary Sagna and required stitches in a cut above his left eye.
The 32-year-old left Goodison Park nursing a thick black eye but Martinez believes he will be fine to face Sunderland on Saturday.
"Leon's really lucky to avoid serious injury," Martinez said.
"He's got a nasty cut that needed stitches on top of his eye and his eyelid was affected.
"But he's fine and will be fine for the weekend."
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: Heavy away defeats have damaged us, admits Arsene Wenger
Wenger also accepts a top four finish will now be difficult
Ian Herbert Independent
Sunday 06 April 2014
Arsène Wenger is concerned that Arsenal’s string of punishingly poor away performances, including a 3-0 defeat at Everton yesterday, has left his side fearful of not qualifying for next season’s Champions League. Not since Wenger’s first part-season in north London, 1996-97, have Arsenal not reached the European elite, but the loss at Goodison Park means Roberto Martinez’s side can leapfrog them into fourth spot in the Premier League if they win their game in hand at struggling Sunderland on Saturday. The Frenchman did not try to hide the psychological fragility in his players.Arsenal have now shipped a total of 20 goals against the other sides in the Premier League top five, leading Wenger to admit he could not answer a question about his players’ fear of dropping into the Europa League. “I don’t know,” he said. “The heavy defeats away from home have taken away a little of our charisma. It is very difficult to identify that it is fear. Our big-team defeats away from home have taken something of our charisma from the team. Is that belief? Is it fear? Is it confidence?” Wenger said the fight for fourth place “is very open” and that his own side have the benefit of having been in the fight for it before. But he did not deny that the pattern of away humiliations was disturbing for a side who arrived at Anfield two months ago top of the league and confident before their 5-1 defeat by Liverpool. “Until then we were very strong away from home,” he said. “Psychologically we have lost a bit of confidence. We were behind early [today] and Everton were very good on the counter-attack. We had a lot of the ball but were not really dangerous. Everton defended well and we lack a bit of confidence and penetration. “I am absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight to make the top four but it will be difficult. We have still a programme that is feasible. We must think of the quality of performances before we dream of places.” Martinez, whose side’s six successive wins are cementing the impression that he is becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after managers, said the manner of the victory was as “good as it gets.” He refused to declare this was Everton’s best display since he took over last summer, though it certainly seemed to be. “Playing a top-four team at this stage of season we have never had this demand, so can’t compare the performance to another,” Martinez said. “We have never been in a position [like this] hoping for a result, but what was needed today was breaking many barriers.” Martinez said Everton’s aim had to be Champions League qualification. “What’s important is you need to have an aim – that can be an easy one or you reach high and try to follow a dream,” he said. “I always like to have a team when you have a dream to follow. “With Swansea it was reaching the Premier League. With Wigan it was European football and the history of Everton means it should be getting into the Champions League. Obviously it’s not going to be easy but the group feel they can face anyone and be ourselves and with that mentality it helps that aim.” Martinez revealed that the horse he drew in Everton’s Grand National sweepstake was Balthazar King, which came second. “I would take that now [in the Premier League],” he said.
Kevin Mirallas tells Arsenal: "The pressure is on you now"
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Blues forward believes his side have the momentum in race for final Champions League spot
Kevin Mirallas insisted Everton have the momentum in the race for fourth place and warned Arsenal: “The pressure is on you now.” The Blues moved to within a point of the Gunners after a pulsating 3-0 victory at Goodison yesterday, and the Belgian reckons the psychological burden of maintaining their 16-season participation in the Champions League could unsettle Arsene Wenger’s side.
If they can win their forthcoming game in hand against Crystal Palace Everton will go above Arsenal, and Mirallas is excited about what the season’s run-in holds. He said: “There’s so much pressure on Arsenal now because things are in our hands. They are almost obliged to be in the Champions League, that’s what they do. “They’ve qualified for years, but we are breathing down their necks and we can go fourth if we win our game in hand. “It was a fantastic performance.
“It was a must-win fixture for us and we knew it was vital we scored first. “We were confident that if we did that we’d go on to get the points and thankfully that’s what happened. “We know having won that, with our game in hand we can grab fourth place ourselves.” Mirallas created one goal and believes he scored another, despite it being officially recorded as a Mikel Arteta own goal, as the Toffees took revenge for their 4-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Arsenal at the Emirates last month.
And Mirallas admits the Blues were partly motivated by the pain of that day. “We sat and had a good deep think in the dressing room at the Emirates after the quarter-final,” he said.
“Then we said we have to put that behind us and concentrate on the league. We looked at it and said there were 10 games and enough points for us to really fight for fourth. “We were determined to get some kind of revenge because we conceded four goals down there and it hurt. This was excellent revenge. We’re in the right place. “As for the third, I’m sure it’s my goal. I was running in from behind and I had the impetus. I think with that speed I arrived at I had the final touch.“I hope it’s given to me eventually because I think it was mine. But the main thing was we won, that’s what matters. I felt I had a good game but what counts is that we got the victory.” Roberto Martinez’s men reached 63 points yesterday, two more than the last time they finished fourth in 2005 and only two shy of their Premier League record haul in 2007-08. And Mirallas, who was once a transfer target of Arsenal, said that it would fulfil his ambition upon joining the club in 2012 if they can make it into the group stages of the Champions League. “It would be great to make the Champions League; for everyone here,” he said. “Each and every one of us. But we need to keep going and hope it can happen. “I have played in that competition at two of my previous clubs and when I signed for Everton that was my ambition to achieve it again in my career. “That’s what I’m dreaming of now.”
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: Roberto Martinez takes a step closer to 'dream' Champions League qualification
April 7 2014 Independent
Manager Roberto Martinez's dream of getting Everton into the Champions League moved closer to becoming reality with a 3-0 victory over Arsenal but he knows there are more twists to come this season. The Gunners were completely outplayed as Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku gave the hosts a first-half lead before former Toffees midfielder Mikel Arteta put through his own net after the break. The victory equalled a club record six in succession in the league and moved Everton to within a point of their fourth-placed opponents, while they still have a match in hand at home to Crystal Palace. "What is important is when you are a team you have to have an aim," said Martinez.
"It can be an easy aim or you can reach high and try to have a dream to follow. "I always like to have a dream to follow. When it was Swansea it was to get into the Premier League, at Wigan it was to get into Europe and at club with the heritage of Everton it is to get into the Champions League."There is still a long, long way to go. Arsenal from now have 15 points to fight for and it is going to be a really tough battle. "You expect Manchester United and Spurs to have a strong ending to the season. "We need to be perfect now against Sunderland (next weekend) - that is a real challenge. "Can we be flexible enough to adapt now until the end of the season?" Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows his side have to start playing better if they are to extend their 16-season residence in Europe's elite club competition. "I am absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight to make the top four but it will be difficult," said the Frenchman. "We have still a programme that is feasible but we have to first focus on the quality of our performances before we dream of places."Let's get back to playing better than that. Our performance was not convincing, not defensively, not offensively. "We had a lot of the ball and were not really dangerous. At the moment we lack a bit of confidence to be dangerous and lack penetration as well."You feel from outside that the penetration and incisiveness of our games is missing. "Everton were better and deserved to win. It was a very disappointing result and a very disappointing performance. We have to regroup and get back to basics.
"The fight is very open and is depending not only on us. Everton are in a strong position but we have confronted that before and it is how we respond."
Everton 3 Arsenal 0: the game in numbers
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Triggs
Some key facts and figures from yesterday’s game at Goodison
1 - the number of misplaced passes by John Stones as the young Everton FC defender turned in a near-faultless display. His other 39 passes found their target and he made six clearances.
6 - Premier League wins in a row for the Blues, matching the feat they achieved from October to November in 2002.
13 - Romelu Lukaku’s goal tally for the season. More than Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres combined (12) and the most by an Everton player in the Premier League since Yakubu (15) in 2007-08.
16 - the highest number of goals scored by an Everton player in a single season was by Tony Cottee in 1993-94. Lukaku is just three goals away.
20 - goals conceded by Arsenal in four away games against the Premier League’s top five.
22 - the number of crosses put in by Arsenal. Twice as many as the Blues (11).
53 - passes made by sub Ross Barkley, more than any other Everton midfielder or forward. Only Leighton Baines (57) made more in a blue shirt.
78.6 - the percentage of tackles won by the Blues.
Blues rumour mill: new left back hunt begins, Lukaku linked
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Liverpool Echo
A round-up of the day’s EFC transfer gossip
Clubcall claims Roberto Martinez intends to sign Dundee United left back Andrew Robertson and turn Leighton Baines into a midfielder.
Martinez believes the England left back can make the switch into midfield, much like Bayern Munich star Philipp Lahm.
And with scouts reportedly keeping close tabs on the 20-year-old Scotland international this season, the Blues could look north of the border to fill a potential gap at left back.
Meanwhile, the magical Romelu Lukaku rumour mill keeps ticking, with the Belgian now priced at £24m, according to the Daily Star.
The Blues have been reportedly interested in making Lukaku's loan deal permanent, with Chelsea keen to use his fee to sign Diego Costa or Edinson Cavani.
Lukaku, 20, is in high demand with Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen also supposedly interested.
But former Blues striker Kevin Campbell believes Lukaku should move to Arsenal - despite the 3-0 loss at Goodison Park.
Campbell, who also played for Arsenal, is quoted in the Metro saying: "He’s young, he’s strong, he’s quick and he’s direct - what more do you need?"
Everton analysis: How Steven Naismith has silenced his critics
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
"Regardless of how the season finishes there is a very real sensation that Everton are growing again under Roberto Martinez"
He's not so s**t now, is he?”
Steven Naismith ’s sister was defiant, delivering a little family solidarity just seconds after her brother had headed his first goal for a Roberto Martinez side.
It was last September when she felt compelled to turn the air blue. Chelsea had been on the receiving end of the header, just seconds after Naismith had been the end of a withering volley of abuse from a frustrated Blues fan, who promptly changed his mind.
It was an anecdote revealed in the electronic fanzine When Skies Are Grey, by the fan who delivered the insult. And it showed just how far Naismith has come in the last six months.
Naismith left the pitch after 80 minutes yesterday to a thunderous ovation. He’d earned every ounce of applause with a performance which combined the kind of endeavour you always get from him, but combined with clever running, tactical awareness, sharp passing – and yet another well taken and important goal. Naismith has never been shabby, shoddy, shambolic or any other critical word beginning with ‘sh’. But he did lack the confidence to perhaps show the talents which earned him two Young Player of the Year awards up in Scotland when he first arrived at Goodison.
But with a Roberto Martinez arm wrapped around his shoulder his importance to the Blues has grown – underlined by his selection from the start for Everton’s most important game of the season so far. Yesterday’s opener was his eighth goal of the season. At least five have been big, points-winning, game-changing goals. It’s a quirky little stat that of the 880 goals scored by Scots in Premier League history, 13 per cent of them have been scored for Everton.
Alex Young and Bobby Collins.
Naismith added to that tally yesterday, but it was a Scot who has never looked like scoring And that doesn’t even take into account strikes from Scottish warriors like Gray and Sharp, for Everton who was even more influential. James McCarthy was the game’s most dominant presence – pressing, closing, tackling and harrying – and using the ball effectively when he did get it. His blur of orange boots twice closed down threatening Arsenal attacks as half-time approached, then when Bacary Sagna threatened to escape on the stroke of half-time with Leighton Baines isolated upfield, he was the man to the rescue. He utterly dominated his opposite number Mikel Arteta, who had revealed beforehand: “I have many superstitions. I always put on my shinpads, socks and boots the same way. Everything is always the same. But if we lose, I throw away my boots.” Yesterday boots, socks, shin-pads the lot might have been left in the dressing room skip. While Arteta’s performance symbolised Arsenal’s pouting petulance, McCarthy’s honest endeavour underlined Everton’s bristling attitude – and arrogance. For 25 years now Everton’s occasional wins over Arsenal have been tight, nervous, attritional affairs – usually characterised by a last-minute goal from Wayne Rooney or Andrew Johnson. Not yesterday.
Arsenal were annihilated.
With half-an-hour to go Everton were showboating around Goodison.
And while the gutlessness of the Gunners was one contributory factor to the one-sidedness of the scoreline, this was the most resounding endorsement yet of the philosophy Roberto Martinez believes can see Everton crash through the glass ceiling his predecessor constantly cracked his head against.
Could that moment even be this season?
Everton’s fate is now in their own hands.
Win their last five games and Everton will be in a qualifier for next season’s Champions League.
Sounds easy when you say it quickly. But when you examine the fixtures it is easy to understand why the bookies have the Gunners heavily odds-on to finish fourth.
“We have a programme which is feasible, but we have to improve the quality of performance,” Arsene Wenger understated afterwards.
For feasible, read easy.
While West Ham United, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion visit the Emirates, hardly daunting trips to Hull City and Norwich City follow. The Blues have Manchester City, Manchester United and Crystal Palace to come, plus tricky trips to Sunderland and Southampton.
But Everton are the team with momentum. Yesterday’s victory was the sixth league win in a row, the best run since titles were being chased in 1986. And players are still performing with verve, zest and freshness. Romelu Lukaku’s display was a flashback to the direct, penetrating performances which characterised his first three months of the season.
And the visits of the two Manchester clubs are sure to have the Grand Old Lady rocking again just like she did yesterday. Midway through the second half the primal roars had been replaced by a carnival atmosphere. Leading 2-0 at the interval, Everton went back out for the second half and took the game to the Gunners all over again. There was no ‘what we have we hold’ mentality, just a burning desire to pass the pass-masters into submission. And pass them to death they did.Midway through the second half, after a combination of Kevin Mirallas and Arteta had made it 3-0, the party began. Seamus Coleman played keepy-up with the ball from the edge of his penalty area to the halfway line, juggling the ball four of five times as he accelerated away.He followed up with a Cruyff-style turn on the touchline. Those moments will surely be added to the Goodison canon of favourite cameos – joining the Fellaini pirouette, the Joe Parkinson drag-back, Jimmy Gabriel checking an imaginary wristwatch by a Wembley corner flag, Duncan McKenzie running from Goodison Road to Bullens Road in a cup-tie against Stoke City feigning step-overs every four or five yards and Big Neville’s one-handed catch. Three of those moments came in the pursuit of trophies. Yesterday’s came chasing a fourth-place finish. It’s now tantalisingly close, but regardless of how the season finishes there is a very real sensation that Everton are growing again under Roberto Martinez. There is a belief that Champions League football is not an unattainable dream. It is possible to change people’s perceptions.
Ask Steven Naismith’s sister.
A bargain for Blues? Everton have second-best value-for-money season ticket
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Liverpool Echo
After 12 wins and 32 goals this season, a study reveals just how much goals and points cost the Goodison Park faithful
After 12 wins from 16 at Goodison Park this season, with 32 goals scored, Everton have provided home comforts for their supporters. The latest victory, Sunday's 3-0 win over Arsenal, was the most impressive yet - drawing comparisons with performances of title-winning sides of the 1980s.
And a Trinity Mirror Data Unit study shows the Blues have one of the most valuable tickets in town.
Taking the cheapest season ticket price (as per the BBC Cost of Sport survey) and dividing it by both the numbers of goals scored and points won reflects favourably on Roberto Martinez's side.
With the cheapest season ticket at £427, it means the Blues have the second-most valuable points-per-pound ratio, with each point costing £10.94. And it is more of the same for goals scored. Everton have the fourth-best home goalscoring record, but actually come second in terms of goals-per-pounds, with every goal costing just £13.33. That's better value than Merseyside rivals Liverpool, who offer £16.51 per point, and £14.79 per goal. Manchester City have the best value (at £7.12 per point and £5.75 per goal), while Tottenham undeniably offer the worst in terms of goals, with every goal costing £40.26.
Goodison Park shortlisted for Venue of the Year award
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Liverpool Echo
Everton's stadium shortlisted alongside other iconic venues such as Madison Square Garden and Wembley Arena
Goodison Park has been shortlisted for Venue of the Year at the prestigious Stadium Business Awards. Everton's ground will be up against New York's iconic Madison Square Garden, as well as Wembley Arena, at the awards, which will be held in London later this year.
The Blues' ICT team has also been shortlisted for an award in the Unsung Hero category, with winners to be judged by an independent panel, and announced on June 4.
Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Everton's deputy chief executive, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Goodison has been recognised in the shortlist alongside some world-renowned venues.
“As any Evertonian will know, there is no place like Goodison Park on a matchday and it’s this revered atmosphere and experience that has seen the stadium shortlisted for this prestigious award.“I am also incredibly proud that our ICT team has received recognition for their ‘nil satis’ approach. It’s often easy to take ICT for granted but we would be lost without them and they deserve a lot of credit for the work they carry out every single day.”
Blues analysis: How Roberto Martinez was one step ahead of The Professor
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Triggs
Goodison victory was a tactical triumph for the Everton manager
There are few more satisfying sights for a manager than seeing a tactical plan executed to absolute perfection by his players.
Roberto Martinez knows the feeling well - and yesterday the most experienced boss in the Premier League had no answer to a plot masterminded by the 40-year-old Catalan.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were outwitted, outmanoeuvred and outplayed by a vibrant Everton side who have put the race for fourth place firmly into their own hands. And an enormous slice of the credit for the 3-0 win at Goodison Park should go to Martinez as he exacted sweet revenge for that 4-1 FA Cup collapse at the Emirates a month ago. The Everton manager was bold enough to alter his preferred formation for his club’s biggest game of the season. The players adapted brilliantly, Arsenal were taken by surprise and, fatally, Wenger was too slow to respond. The game was lost by the time he belatedly took action. Martinez’s tactical triumph was down to more than simply playing Romelu Lukaku on the right - though this was boldest and most successful part of his strategy. The Catalan boss was too diplomatic to say as much in his post-match press conference, but the plan was clear - for Lukaku, who usually plays through the middle, to target a weak link in the Arsenal defence, Nacho Monreal. “It left them uneasy,” said Martinez after the game. “We used that to our advantage.” Monreal simply did not have the basic tools - the pace of the power - to combat Lukaku. The Spaniard, lacking a natural wide player in front of him, was left stranded and gaps repeatedly appeared between the left-back and left-sided centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, who looked equally ill at ease. The Everton manager was bold enough to alter his preferred formation for his club’s biggest game of the season. The players adapted brilliantly, Arsenal were taken by surprise and, fatally, Wenger was too slow to respond. The game was lost by the time he belatedly took action. Martinez’s tactical triumph was down to more than simply playing Romelu Lukaku on the right - though this was boldest and most successful part of his strategy. The Catalan boss was too diplomatic to say as much in his post-match press conference, but the plan was clear - for Lukaku, who usually plays through the middle, to target a weak link in the Arsenal defence, Nacho Monreal.
“It left them uneasy,” said Martinez after the game. “We used that to our advantage.”
Monreal simply did not have the basic tools - the pace of the power - to combat Lukaku. The Spaniard, lacking a natural wide player in front of him, was left stranded and gaps repeatedly appeared between the left-back and left-sided centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, who looked equally ill at ease. It was a change forced on Martinez - but, if anything, it enhanced Everton rather than weakened them (but what a sad end for Osman, on the day it was announced he had been awarded a richly-deserved testimonial). During 80 minutes on the pitch, Barkley attempted 53 passes (more than any fellow midfielder or forward) and was successful with 90.6% of them. He put in three crosses and made three interceptions to boot. His pace in transition, as Everton moved through their attacking gears, was too much for Arsenal and, more often than not, his final pass was good.
Wenger, whose studious approach to the game saw him earn the nickname ‘The Professor’, was left grasping for a solution as his side endured yet more Mersey misery. The ghosts of that 5-1 drubbing at Anfield in February swirled around the Frenchman and his players. Fourth place might still be theirs this season - and a favourable run-in means it would be premature to write them off already. But what Everton proved on Sunday with their sixth successive Premier League victory was that they have have added versatility to their already-impressive CV this season. They are capable of winning in different and surprising ways - and they will take some stopping now.
Ross Barkley: The big games bring the best out of me
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
After an excellent showing at Goodison Park against Arsenal, the midfielder admits he relishes the big games
Ross Barkley is ready for a thrilling end to the season with Everton – and says big games are what bring the best out of him. The England midfielder was an early replacement for the injured Leon Osman as the Blues beat Arsenal 3-0 at Goodison Park on Sunday, to take control in the race for fourth place. Roberto Martinez's side are now one point behind the Gunners, but have a game in hand on their London rivals, who were well beaten at the weekend. For Barkley, it was the 32 appearance of a productive season for the 20-year-old, who is now being tipped to feature for England at this summer's World Cup in Brazil. And he said: “I love the big games. You have to be a good player to play in big games and shine, and I like getting the chance to step up and show what I am capable of. “The calf is feeling better. It took me about five minutes to warm up, but I got into the flow of things. It is always disappointing not to start a game, but it's a team game, and when I got the chance to come on I enjoyed it.” Barkley was not born the last time Everton defeated Arsenal so convincingly, in 1989, but the youngster believes Sunday's game ranks as one of the most enjoyable of his fledgling career. He said: “That's up there with the best. I think that's up there with a couple of seasons ago, when Leon Osman scored a header against Man City “The fans enjoyed it, I'm sure. Everyone on the pitch, and off it, was brilliant. “The fans are crucial. They're the 12 man on the pitch, and when we hear them, it helps us to play better. “You saw against Arsenal that we can play, and that we're good enough to be in the top four. On our day, we can beat anyone. He added: “Now we have to go into every game thinking we can get all three points. We've got confidence now, and we have to take that into our remaining games.”
Leighton Baines: We're hitting form at right time
April 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
The Blues full back believes they are hitting form but cannot take anything for granted
Leighton Baines believes Everton are creeping into form at exactly the right time as the race for the Champions League reaches critical stage. But the Blues left back has warned his teammates not to take anything for granted during their last six games of the season. Baines said: “It's a good time of year to start getting into some good form, and six wins in a row is impressive. But we need to build on that now, there are some tough games coming up. “Obviously you take confidence from wins, particularly against teams like Arsenal. We know now we've worked ourselves into a position where we can catch Arsenal and get above them. There are still some tough games to play, but we're in confident mode.” Baines was delighted with the togetherness shown in the victory over Arsenal on Sunday, and says Everton will have no problems dealing with the added expectation a win like that creates. He said: “It was a good performance. We knew it was a big game, and you could see the determination and the effort from the lads. The desire was there to make sure we won the game.“We had a gameplan that we worked on through the week, and it paid off for us. You saw the togetherness in the performance. The effort level throughout, from everyone, was phenomenal.“I don't think we're fussed either way. We're perfectly happy for people to think of us as the underdogs, but we're happy to have the expectation as well. We expect things of ourselves, and having got ourselves into this position, we expect to build on it. “There's a bit to do still, but we're confident.”
As good as I’ve seen Everton play for long time, says Blues legend Gray
April7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Blues were in scintillating form as they swept the Gunners aside on Sunday
Everton FC's win over Arsenal was as good a performance as they have produced in many a year, according to Goodison legend Andy Gray.
The Blues were in scintillating form as they swept the Gunners aside on Sunday, to boost their chances of securing a top-four finish. Roberto Martinez’s men are now a point behind Arsenal, but have a game in hand on the Londoners. With six games to go, Everton’s Champions League destiny is in their own hands. Gray still believes Arsenal remain favourites, courtesy of a more favourable-looking run-in, but the former striker, a league winner with the Blues in 1985, says the momentum is firmly with his former club. He said: “That’s as good as I’ve seen them, in this and many a season.
“They were perfectly set up, and there was a beautiful balance to the way they played. They passed the ball, but they passed it with purpose. It wasn’t just for the sake of it. “It wasn’t a great Arsenal side, that has to be said, but Everton made them look ordinary. From the word go, they were all over them, it was great to watch.” Gray added: “I have to say, I still make Arsenal slight favourites. Arsene Wenger will need to lift them, but I look at their fixtures, and they look easier than Everton’s.
“Everton still have both the Manchester clubs, and they will be tough games, although they’ll fancy anyone at Goodison in this kind of form. Southampton away is another tough fixture for them. If they take nine points from those three, then they’ll deserve fourth. “The one thing I will say, though, is that judging by the Arsenal we saw on Sunday, you’d expect them to drop more points before the end of the season. Maybe Everton won’t need to win all their remaining games.”
Gray made 68 appearances for Everton between 1983 and 1985, winning three major honours. And the 58-year-old says he is not surprised to see his former club riding high under Martinez.
He said: “I think there were a few concerns during the first two or three games. I know I worried that they might not score enough goals to compete for a European place. “But once they added to the squad on the last day of the (summer) transfer window, I think they’ve gone from strength to strength. Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry, in particular, have been pivotal to their season.
“They are where they are on merit. It’s no fluke, and in many ways it’s no surprise, because they have that kind of quality in their squad now. “They play good football, and they are in the habit of winning games. It’s been great to see the job Roberto Martinez has done there.”
Gray added: “The important thing now is to remember that this season has been a success, regardless of whether they do eventually overhaul Arsenal or not. “Whether they finish fourth or fifth, its progress, and something to build on in the future. “They have the right man in charge, and they have the potential to get stronger under him. Fourth this season would be great, but it’s been a great campaign even if they fall short.”