Roberto Martinez wants Everton to combine style with substance

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is not content with receiving plaudits for the style of his football and will continue to strive for perfection ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit tonight (8pm, live on Sky Sports 1).

The attacking talent of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu, combined with the Spaniard’s insistence his side play the ball out from the back, has made the Toffees one of the most attractive sides to watch in the Premier League.

But there are no points awarded for entertainment and Martinez wants to ensure players add substance to their style — especially after last weekend’s chastening experience when they twice led at Bournemouth, on the second occasion with an added time goal, but still ended up drawing 3-3.

They shook off that hangover with a midweek victory over Middlesbrough to set up a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City but, with a month to go before that, the manager has ordered full focus on their league form.

“Obviously we want to aim for perfection and perfection is to play well, play exciting and attacking football that our fans enjoy and love and then to get a win at the end of it,” he said.

“We are still getting through that important period which is the middle third of the competition and we are striving to push each other to become better and because we have such a young group you feel the improvement is always there.

“For the next block of games it is vital the attention goes solely into the Premier League games as December is the most significant month in terms of competing for 15 points in such a short period of time.

“I know our fans have been loving the style and the way we have been playing but we will never stop wanting to improve and getting better and promoting that competition for places.

“We want to be an exciting team to watch but, at the end of it, we want to be a team who can win consistently.”

Alan Pardew believes Lukaku is on course to become the next Didier Drogba. The Crystal Palace manager is preparing his team to face the striker on Monday evening.

With an elegant touch and powerful finish last Saturday at Bournemouth, Lukaku, who has scored 13 goals this season including six in the past five games, again demonstrated he is in the finest form of his career.

His timing seems particularly appropriate, given former club Chelsea’s problems with the underperforming Diego Costa this season and that Jose Mourinho sold him in the belief he was “not motivated” to fight for a first-team place, and Pardew is more than wary of the threat he can pose.

“Lukaku is an unusual player in that he’s naturally left-footed,” said Pardew. “I think for a striker that is an advantage.

“Most defenders are defending right-footed players, and he gives them a slight [problem] which sets him apart.

“His all-round game has improved, he is the full No 9. We looked at the iconic one of the last 10 years, Drogba.

“You have to say Lukaku does look like he could emulate that. I’m sure that would be his ambition.”

Similarly to Everton, who use the width and creativity provided by Deulofeu, Arouna Kone, and Barkley to supplement Lukaku’s athleticism, Pardew will use Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and Yohan Cabaye to support Connor Wickham.

Wilfried Zaha is suspended owing to a yellow card collected for diving in the recent 5-1 defeat of Newcastle but Pardew’s attack retains potential and the manager believes £7million signing Wickham is ready to highlight that.

“Connor is a work in progress,” he said.

“He needs to add goals, but he hasn’t had too many opportunities. This year is a big year. If he is to become what I hope he’s going to become then next year is his year. He is [still] some way off Dean Ashton. Ashton was probably the best I’ve worked with, cut short by injury. I’ve had some very good strikers — Teddy Sheringham, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, [Carlos] Tevez.

“If I was to pigeon-hole him at the moment I don’t think he’s a 20-goal a season man. I think he can get 15 in the calendar year. Most managers would be quite happy with his all-round game. I’m targeting 15, 16 goals for him next year.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

Execution Time: 0.24 s