Changes evident as Everton begin pre-season

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Roberto Martinez Everton arms foldedGettyImagesRoberto Martinez is planning for his first season as Everton boss.

Everton opened their pre-season campaign earlier against the Austrian champions from last season. The Toffees lost 2-1 to Austria Vienna, though the result is largely irrelevant, as a team on the cusp of their new season beat a team playing its first pre-season fixture.

Pre-season is about fitness, learning the methods of the new manager and adapting to his preferred style of play. These matches allow Roberto Martinez to assess his squad, whilst fringe players stake a claim and others place themselves in the shop window; winning is a bonus not a requirement during pre-season.

Although in the infancy of his tenure, Martinez’s ideas were noticeable from the start. Employing a distinct passing style, there was an obvious patience in possession; Everton looked to play the ball out from the back whenever possible.

Nevertheless, this studious passing approach also contributed to the Vienna opener; Phil Jagielka surrendering possession on the edge of the area before Marko Stankovic placed the ball into an unguarded net after rounding the 'keeper.

The Martinez methods are apparent, but the early signs suggest adjustments are required on this learning curve. Everton underwent numerous personnel changes in the defence during the match and several errors accompanied this possession-based philosophy.

Over the course of the 90 minutes, Vienna deserved their win and the difference in fitness showed near the end. For the visitors, experimental team selections were the order of the day. International commitments left Everton without ten players; the ten given extra time off for their summer exertions.

Of those available, Joel Robles was the only new signing to feature. Expected to provide much-needed competition for Tim Howard, the Spaniard impressed here. Powerless to prevent the Vienna goals, the new addition paired accomplished goalkeeping with assured distribution.

Making wholesale changes at the interval, Everton fielded a mix of youth and experience at the Generali Arena. Several of those on the periphery had a chance to impress and a select few delivered. Apostolos Vellios marked a rare start with the Everton goal; a fine header from a Leighton Baines cross.

Elsewhere, Bryan Oviedo offered a glimpse of his potential. Replacing Baines at half time, the Costa Rican mixed forward runs with composed defending throughout the second half. Another to show flashes of promise was late replacement Francisco Junior. The young midfielder tackled well, aside from one unsightly lunge, and displayed a calmness in possession.

After watching 21 of his first team squad in action, Martinez will have plenty to ponder. Unsurprisingly, Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines looked the most likely to fashion a chance. By comparison, the right side seemed anaemic regardless of its occupants. The loan signing of Gerard Deulofeu is further proof of the need for increased options on the flanks.

Somewhat lacking in the final third, Magaye Gueye and Steven Naismith doing little to convince the doubters, Everton will improve when more of the attack-minded players return. Even so, a greater cutting edge is required in the final third before the real business begins in August.

Aside from the tactical and playing aspects, there was an interesting development in the second half. Entering proceedings as a second half substitute, Marouane Fellaini wore the captain’s armband; the Belgian alternating between his preferred midfield role and the advanced role during the second period.

Something of a statement from Everton, this move underlines the importance of Fellaini and the esteem in which Martinez holds the highly rated midfielder. In truth, this gesture provided one of the few talking points in a low-key game. Overall, a useful exercise for both manager and players, there were several positives to take from this pre-season fixture.

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