5 Everton Storylines to Follow as Season’s End Nears
Everton Looks to Be on the Right Path
When Roberto Martinez was introduced as manager of Everton in the summer of 2013, there was genuine discontent as to whether he would be a success in Merseyside. After all, the Spainard had never managed above a lowly Wigan Athletic squad, and his possession-oriented style differed vastly from the blunt directness that fans were used to under the departed David Moyes. Changing this style of play while maintaining a fight to finish near the top-four of the Barclays Premier League looked to be a fight destined to end brutally.
With two-thirds of the 2013-14 season now over, it is apparent that those who believed Martinez would not succeed are utterly wrong. Everton has a 12-9-3 record and sits in fifth place in the BPL. Furthermore, everyone on the team has bought into Martinez's style of play, whether it be tenured veteran Leighton Baines or youngster Ross Barkley. Simply put, the team has been playing great, and they look to be genuinely having fun on the pitch while doing so.
Of course, there is little doubt that the toughest campaign is the final stretch, and the final three months of the current season will be no different for Everton. Keeping this in mind, I have formed a list of the five storylines that will be followed heavily and ultimately will be resolved over the next few months. How each of these storylines ends will ultimately decide whether fans view the season as one that will haunt them forever or one that can never be forgotten.
5. Ross Barkley Looks to Avoid Hitting Physical Wall
There may not be a better young player in the Premier League right now than Ross Barkley, who has started 18 games and scored three goals in the league for Everton. Barkley has been a genuine force in midfield, showing great patience on the ball, retaining possession with efficiency and having an eye for open teammates, all traits that thrive under Martinez's system. Still, at only 20-years old, there is no doubting Barkley will soon begin to feel fatigue, and a long-term drop in form would haunt Everton's season.
4. The Fight to Convince Gareth Barry to Sign Permanently Is On
Much of the time that Barkley has been on the field for Eveton has come alongside Gareth Barry, who has been one of the best deep lying midfielders in the Barclays Premier League this season. Barry looks to be the man that best pulls the strings in Everton's new possession-oriented system, and at 32, he should continue to do so for a few more years. Making sure this happens will be require Martinez to get the midfielder to sign back on after his season-long loan from Manchester City ends.
3. FA Cup Provides Compelling Title Opportunity
While winning the Barclays Premier League is not a possibility, Everton still has a genuine chance to pick up some silverware in the FA Cup. Their fifth-round opponent is Swansea City and if they get by them, then the field looks very beatable as only two of the top four teams from the Premier League will remain when the quarterfinals begin. Picking up the FA Cup Trophy will surely alleviate any remaining questions over Martinez and provide guaranteed European competition next season.
2. Kevin Mirallas Looks to Maintain Great Form
Kevin Mirallas has been rejuvenated under Roberto Martinez, starting 21 out of 24 league games and contributing five goals and five assists. Him continuing to be a nuisance on the wings and free kicks will be necessary if Everton wishes to win the FA Cup and finish high in the Barclays Premier League. This will also ensure his spot on the Belgian World Cup roster.
1. Race to Finish in the Top-4
Ultimately, the league is the biggest focus for Everton, and they have a genuine chance to finish fourth in the Barclays Premier League and clinch a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League. If Roberto Martinez can make sure this happens, he will be a hero to Everton fans.
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