The Martinez to-do list

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

ESPNRoberto Martinez returns to his day job this week as the first-year Everton manager leads preseason training.

Fresh from moonlighting as a pundit for ESPN, the official business of managing Everton starts for Roberto Martinez on Monday and Wednesday marks the first day of preseason training. After making all the right noises in the press, with clear indications that Martinez understands the size of the task ahead, the real work starts now.

Preseason gives the manager and his players the chance to learn about the other. Should Martinez look to instil any new tactics or formations, then the weeks ahead are the time for that. The preseason fixtures provide a strong mix of opponents; the U.S. tour stands out as the Blues prepare to face Juventus and other illustrious opponents.

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In between preseason and the opening-day trip to Norwich Aug. 17, there are a number of areas the new boss should address. Unfortunately, for Everton, money talks in the modern game, but Martinez needs to do everything in his power to hang onto the top players.

Leighton Baines is receiving admiring glances from Manchester United, while Marouane Fellaini is unlikely to be short on suitors in the transfer window that opens Monday. It would be a huge boost -- and something of a refreshing break from the norm -- if Everton opened the new season in possession of these two players.

In terms of additions, the last line of defence is a priority. The departure of Jan Mucha leaves American number one Tim Howard as the only experienced goalkeeper. Requiring a capable understudy, ideally one young enough to develop into a long-term replacement, any new keeper has to provide sterner competition than Mucha mustered.

At the other end of the pitch, a consistent solution is a necessity in the goal-scoring department. Arouna Kone looks set to follow his former boss to Goodison, but his age (29) and price tag may leave supporters scratching their heads.

Victor Anichebe improved immeasurably during the last campaign, the penny seemingly dropping after years of indifference on the attitude and form front. However, despite that improvement, Anichebe still lacks the necessary finishing ability of a side intent on European football; Nikica Jelavic still appears the best bet, but the Croatian has to quickly rediscover his first=season form.

Overall, bolstering the squad is paramount. Short on numbers throughout David Moyes' tenure, finances preventing the requisite signings, the smallest squad in the Premier League requires strengthening, a countermeasure to the threat of fatigue and injury derailing the season.

Elsewhere, the biggest priority, for all the positive sound bites and reassuring comments, is the new season itself. Handed a favourable start by the often-cruel fixtures machine, Everton and Martinez need to capitalise on this.

The season opens at Norwich before West Brom visit Goodison, with a trip to newly promoted Cardiff completing the opening month. September signals the toughest of the opening matches as Jose Mourinho brings his Chelsea team to Merseyside. West Ham away and Newcastle at home round off the first six matches.

Chelsea aside, these fixtures are unlikely to strike fear into the Everton camp. Able to start well last season, prior to fatigue taking its toll, the onus is Martinez and his new charges to hit the ground running in this forthcoming campaign.

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