Everton’s long list of ageing absentees can be a blessing in disguise for Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
Martinez Must Build On New Foundations
As Everton prepared to travel to East London for Tuesday evening’s FA Cup third round replay a number of media outlets were quick to point to the ‘injury crisis’ facing Roberto Martinez.
However, while seven players that missed Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with champions Manchester City remain sidelined – Tim Howard (calf), Sylvain Distin (groin), Tony Hibbert (unspecified), Leon Osman (foot), Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar (knee) and James McCarthy (hamstring) – arguably only two, Howard and McCarthy, would have been in contention to make the manager’s starting XI.
The team that earned a deserved point against Manchester City on Saturday was in stark contrast to the one that faced the champions last month.
In Everton’s 1-0 December reverse at the Etihad the Toffees ended the game with a creaking EIGHT players over the age of 30.
A figure cut to just THREE in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Gareth Barry, who put in a much improved performance, was at 33-years-old the elder statesman.
While Leighton Baines, at 30, proved there is much more life in this not-so-old-dog as his cross for Steven Naismith’s equaliser put the left back on top of the all time Premier League assists table for a defender.
But, as both Sylvain Distin, the oldest player in the Premier League at 37, and Antolin Alcaraz (32) will be free agents in the summer, Roberto Martinez still has work to do to rejuvenate his defence.
Preferably sooner rather than later.
By bringing in a young central defender to challenge current captain Phil Jagielka (32), and to eventually partner the imperious 20-year-old John Stones, the Catalan can begin to put his own, fresh stamp on this Everton squad.
Likewise, acquiring a younger keeper to take over from the US bound Tim Howard, and giving further opportunities to promising youngsters such as Luke Garbutt (21) and Tyas Browning (20) allows the average age of the squad to be cut even further.
With John Stones (20), Ross Barkley (21), Romelu Lukaku (21), Muhamed Besic (22), Joel Robles (24), James McCarthy (24), Bryan Oviedo (24), Seamus Coleman (26) Kevin Mirallas (27) Steven Naismith (28) and Leighton Baines (30), Martinez has both a core group of young, experienced and very talented players on his hands.
Retaining this group of players and adding sufficient quality to replace the remnants of former manager David Moyes’ old guard could leave Everton looking at a very bright future.
Layoffs due to injury should never be welcomed but the unavailability of Everton’s crocked thirty-somethings allows an intriguing glimpse into the club’s future.
And the opportunity for Martinez to build Everton’s future on the foundations of the club’s young superstars.
FA Cup third round replay
Venue: The Boleyn Ground
Date: Tuesday, 13 January