Valencia 1-0 Everton
Everton’s pre-season tour of the USA ended in disappointing fashion but overall it has been a unanimous success. Despite the defeat suffered at the hands of the highly organised Valencia, there is a feel good factor reverberating around Goodison, with the Evertonians looking forward to the new season with hope and optimism. Even rumours of an impending departure have failed to dampen spirits.
Everton emerged from defeat at the weekend to Real Madrid with great credit, but on this occasion the intense humidity and stifling Miami conditions proved too much for the Blues as Valencia won by a solitary goal. Everton failed to control possession, giving the ball away cheaply and with tired legs catching up on them, the Blues were unable to exert the necessary pressure to unsettle the Spanish giants.
Despite defeat, Martinez will have learnt much and with the Blues now returning to Merseyside he will have one final opportunity to fine tune his plans ahead of his first competitive game at Norwich. Steven Naismith will have left his manager with much to ponder after a second impressive performance in two games. He is putting serious pressure on Steven Pienaar for a starting position and that in itself is great credit to the Scot who has begun to win over the doubting Toffees.
Ross Barkley has enjoyed a very good pre-season and is now a serious contender to start at Carrow Road. In the first half the young Scouser gave the ball away on a couple of occasions, failing to pick the right pass when the Blues were in a strong attacking position, but refreshingly he refused to hide, instead in continued to demand the ball, he, more than anyone else in yellow looked to keep the ball moving and he was industrious when Everton were not in possession. He fits comfortably into the 4-3-3 formation, playing the the continental number 10 position at the head of the midfield triangle.
It was a young team named by Martinez, but the two Spanish u21 internationals failed to strengthen their claims, although it is very early days particularly for Deulofeu who was starting his first game for Everton. The Barcelona winger stuck rigidly to the right hand side, but failed to offer the flexibility that Martinez demands. He was reluctant to track back and Martinez left him in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable. There is more to come from Deulofeu, but this was a reality check for the expectant Evertonians. Joel also struggled, not with his goalkeeping, which was of a high standard, but his distribution, which appeared hurried and thoughtless. Far too often he cleared quickly, with long hopeful punts failing to find a yellow shirt and instead increased the pressure on the tiring Toffees. He will learn, but the key to success under Martinez is retaining possession of the ball and this must start with the goalkeeper.
The team appears to be taking shape and with just the final match of pre-season against Real Betis to come, Martinez will have a strong idea of his starting eleven for the trip to Norwich. Of course plenty could change between now and then, especially with Manchester United and David Moyes increasing their interest in Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. It promises to be an interesting first few weeks of the Premier League season.
Team: Joel, Stones (Coleman), Oviedo, Jagielka, Distin, Gibson (Osman), Fellaini, Barkley; Naismith (Baines), Deulofeu (Mirallas), Anichebe (Jelavic, Kone).