Having fairly successfully negotiated our way through a tricky opening to the season, Everton are currently sitting pretty in 7th position in the table, just 6 points off 4th and 2 places above them lot across the park (albeit on goal difference). Not only that, but we face the realistic prospect *touch wood* of making it to a first League Cup semi final since Jolean Lescott’s own goal handed the advantage to Chelsea before Joe Cole broke our hearts at Goodison in 2008. But how realistic is it to expect the blues to keep up appearances in both league and cup?
Roberto Martinez said after we scraped past Norwich in the previous round of the cup:
“We are looking forward to seeing who we are going to face but we’re still a long way from thinking about winning a trophy.”
We now know that a difficult but more than winnable away trip to Middlesbrough is all that stands between us and a place in the semi final, and should we get there, anything is possible. I suspect this may be Roberto’s way of keeping the players focussed, but if you ask me, I’d say we are not a long way from winning a trophy at all, and I personally want winning a trophy to be on the players’ minds 24/7. Far too long has passed since Everton last picked up some silverware, and dare I say it, this year could be our year. The question some may ask is, can a squad as thin as ours continue to compete in the league and maintain a cup run all the way to the final?
Of course, Everton have previous when it comes to resting players in the league for the sake of the cup. Who could forget the infamous game at Anfield prior to an FA Cup quarter final against Sunderland, in which David Moyes chose to leave Heitinga, Neville, Cahill, Osman and Jelavic all on the bench, only to succumb to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat. In hindsight, I have no doubt he would have chosen to do things differently. However, as an Evertonian of a generation who cannot remember the last time Everton won a trophy, I would love nothing more than to see us do it this year, and looking at the teams left in the competition, I would say we are in with a shout.
With this in mind, I don’t think I would hold it against Roberto if he chooses to rest a few on Saturday for a number of reasons. Firstly, make no mistake, Bournemouth certainly won’t roll over, but this is a team struggling for form and missing key players. This could be the ideal opportunity to bring in the likes of Mirallas, Lennon, Cleverley and Naismith, giving them some much needed game time whilst keeping some of starting 11 fresh for Tuesday. Secondly, I would question how much a draw/defeat against Bournemouth would affect our league position come the end of the season. And thirdly, I don’t think I am the only one who would happily take another bottom half finish if it meant winning a trophy. I am not for one minute saying that I would be pleased so see us rest players and lose to Bournemouth, and it cannot be argued that winning breeds confidence, but in the grand scheme of the season they are points that are easily made up.
The idea of resting players in the league is perhaps a controversial one, and one that I know not everybody will agree with. I’m not sure I even agree with it myself. But in an era where financial investment is becoming so important in the game, what better way to attract potential suitors than to win a trophy? If resting players against Bournemouth gives us the best possible chance of beating Middlesbrough, then so be it. Some big decisions lie ahead for the manager. Personally, I will be surprised if there are any changes on Saturday from the team that dismantled Aston Villa last week. One thing is for sure, whichever team Roberto chooses to put out, we are capable and should be confident of beating both Bournemouth and Middlesbrough comfortably. So long as we don’t do an Everton…