Everton seek winning rhythm

Everton's Gerard Deulofeu (left) and Seamus Coleman training at the National Stadium on Tuesday. Phil Jagielka said the Toffees, who face Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy final today, "have more options now".
Everton's Gerard Deulofeu (left) and Seamus Coleman training at the National Stadium on Tuesday. Phil Jagielka said the Toffees, who face Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy final today, "have more options now".ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Roberto Martinez, Everton manager
Roberto Martinez, Everton manager

Increased focus on Cup campaigns as Martinez keen to find successful mentality

As the English Premier League front-runners continue to splash the cash to distance themselves from the chasing pack, Everton may be pioneering an approach for clubs whose pockets and squads are not as deep.

Even as a good league placing remains the top priority, the Toffees have recognised their best chance of ending a 20-year trophy drought lies in the domestic Cup competitions.

While arch-rivals Liverpool and the Manchester giants have given the FA Cup and the League Cup short shrift in recent years, Everton coach Roberto Martinez admits his preparations this season will be tailored around fielding his strongest line-up for these fixtures.

"The target is to play in big games, reach the finals, and win titles," the Spaniard, whose side were knocked out in the third round of both Cups last season, said at a press conference at the Grand Hyatt Singapore yesterday.

"It's been a long time since our last trophy (the 1995 FA Cup) so we need to get back that winning mentality and make our fans happy."

TIME TO BREAK DROUGHT

It's been a long time since our last trophy (the 1995 FA Cup) so we need to get back that winning mentality and make our fans happy.

ROBERTO MARTINEZ, Everton manager

Captain Phil Jagielka concurred, challenging his team to prove that last season's 11th spot - their worst finish since 2006 - was a one-off and to bring some silverware to the blue half of Merseyside.

"We shot ourselves in the foot with some silly individual errors, which killed us whenever we got a bit of momentum," the England international told The Straits Times.

"But it's nothing we can't rectify - we definitely know we have to improve on last season."

In a rare flexing of their financial muscle, Everton splashed out £28 million (S$60 million) last year for Belgian hotshot Romelu Lukaku.

This summer, normalcy has resumed. Their two key signings, playmaker Tom Cleverley and forward Gerard Deulofeu, cost less than £5 million in total.

"We do things in a different manner to the big teams," Martinez noted ahead of his third season at the helm.

"We aim to create a strong, solid group, giving younger players bigger roles earlier than at other clubs.

"I look at the talent in the squad and I feel we should be challenging whoever is in front of us."

Rising stars Ross Barkley, Tyias Browning and Luke Garbutt are expected to feature prominently this year under the short-passing, fast-moving style that Martinez demands.

Building possession from the back instead of hoofing long balls up front is a far cry from the David Moyes era, when the team reached the Champions League qualifying rounds for the first time in 2005.

But Jagielka, 32, believes the Goodison Park faithful have come to appreciate a more eye-catching brand of football - even at the expense of results.

"It worked really well for us in Roberto's first season (fifth place in 2013-14) but last season, teams adapted to the way we played," said the centre-back, who has made 242 appearances for Everton.

"We have more options now. Tom (Cleverley) can drop back and control the midfield while Gerard (Deulofeu) likes the ball to his feet to take on opponents."

Tonight, the National Stadium will host the rejuvenated Toffees in the Barclays Asia Trophy final against Arsenal.

A piece of silverware in pre-season will stand them in good stead to tackle a tough start to the new league campaign - last season's top eight sides await in the opening 10 fixtures.

A confident Jagielka said: "If we start strong, build momentum and cut out our mistakes, I believe this will be a fruitful season for Everton fans around the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'EVERTON SEEK WINNING RHYTHM'. Print Edition | Subscribe