Martinez stands out from the crowd

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesRoberto Martinez has guided Everton to their best start in nine seasons.

Though the season is just shy of its first quarter, Roberto Martinez has already exceeded expectations. Winning five of the last six for an average of two points per game, the new manager has eased into life at Goodison.

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Tougher tests are on the horizon, with the visit of Spurs kick-starting a testing run of fixtures, but Martinez can reflect on a string of results providing the ideal platform for an overdue European push. After all, early season form is not readily associated with Everton in the Premier League era.

Back when the league comprised of 22 teams and the fixtures appeared drawn out of a hat -- Everton played Manchester United twice in the first seven matches -- the inaugural 1992-93 season saw three wins, three draws and three defeats in the opening quarter.

The highlight of this average start was a 3-0 win at Old Trafford in the second game. Any hint of promise quickly fizzled out; Everton went on to finish 13th and, oddly, complete the season with more wins on the road (eight) than at home (seven).

The 1993-94 campaign, which saw Everton avoid relegation in miraculous fashion on the final day, opened with three successive wins. The potential shown in a respectable 15-point start (5-0-4) soon disappeared, however, and the Blues won just seven of the remaining 33 matches.

The pick of the bunch arrived in 1994-95, as Mike Walker oversaw a turgid few months, with Everton (0-6-3) remaining winless until November. Joe Royle replaced Walker, won his first three matches, including a derby victory, steered the club to safety and ended the season with FA Cup success.

The following season, though, despite pre-season success in the Charity Shield, Everton opened with a whimper. Seven points (2-1-6) suggested another struggle, but the Toffees would recover to an impressive sixth place.

The previous trend continued throughout the late 90s, however, as anaemic starts and bottom half finishes became the norm, with another final day relegation scrap thrown in for good measure. Aside from 1999-2000, when Everton managed a respectable 16 points from 27, the stuttering beginnings won through until 2004-05.

The momentum generated in the early stages proved crucial to a shock fourth place, with Everton securing 19 points from 27 -- this remains the club's best Premier League start. Martinez will hope the current 18-point total can inspire the team to gatecrash the European picture once more.

That solitary season bucked the trend under Moyes, unfortunately, as the slow starts of previous managers became synonymous with the former Preston boss. The telling, pleasing difference was that post-Christmas resurgence continually turned bottom half finishes into European challenges.

Subsequently, failing to cope with the extra fixtures, Everton crumbled to their worst Premier League start in 2005-06 (eventually finishing 11th ). Even Walker -- who is, statistically, the worst manager in Everton history -- bettered this dismal four-point return (1-1-7).

There was symmetry between 2006-07 and 2012-13, as both seasons began with 16 points (4-4-1) and ended in sixth place. Nevertheless, in between those symmetrical campaigns, the chronic problem resurfaced. Fortunately, for all concerned, the familiar recoveries spared the blushes -- the team delivered finishes of fifth, fifth, eighth, seventh, seventh and sixth respectively.

The opening matches are only relative -- these nine games will become meaningless if the form is not sustained. They are also dependent on numerous factors, such as quality of opposition and available players, but Martinez registering the club's second-best Premier League start and the best for nine years is testimony to his instant impact on Merseyside.


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