Everton vs. Accrington Stanley: 6 Things We Learned
Roberto Martinez recorded his first win as Everton manager in his second match of preseason.
Having succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against Austria Vienna at the weekend, his Everton side travelled to Accrington Stanley and ran out convincing 4-1 winners.
As with all preseason clashes, the emphasis is always on fitness rather than anything else, although this summer is especially important for the Toffees as they attempt to adapt to their new manager's style.
Darron Gibson, Victor Anichebe, Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman grabbed the goals for the Toffees, while Luke Murphy managed a lone riposte for the hosts.
Here's a look at some talking points to emerge from the contest.
Martinez hasn't made any radical alterations to Everton's shape just yet. In fact the Toffees set up for both halves in a 4-2-3-1 formation, very similar to the 4-4-1-1 they were renowned for under David Moyes.
The first half saw Joel Robles in goal, with Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Bryan Oviedo in front of him. Darron Gibson began in central midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini with Leon Osman pushed further forward behind the striker.
Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith applied the width, flanking Victor Anichebe, who led the line.
In the second period, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines came on as full-backs, Antolin Alcaraz replaced Distin at centre-back, and Magaye Gueye, Steven Pienaar and Apostolos Vellios all appeared in attacking roles keeping to the general 4-2-3-1 structure.
Conor Grant and Francisco Junior also featured late on, meaning 19 players enjoyed a run out.
...But an Evolving Style
However, while the formation looked familiar there was a clear change of style, with Roberto Martinez's short passing philosophies starting to become apparent.
The Toffees appeared far more conscious of possession, continually building from the back with quick, crisp passing, slick touches and energetic movement. Defenders would generally pass along the line before finding a midfielder instead of launching the ball upfield, as was so often the case last season.
As mentioned, the most recurrent shape of the team was 4-2-3-1. But with one of Gibson or Fellaini so often dropping deep to collect possession from the back, there were several passages of play when the Toffees appeared to form more of a 3-4-3 system—similar to that of Wigan under Martinez.
The standard of the opposition makes it impossible to gauge exactly how effective this transition will be just yet. There were still a few teething problems at the back, with a few errant passes intercepted by strikers but, on the whole, it looks to be a positive change.
Everton's tempo has been impressively high during these two games, and the system has made the team appear far busier and more organised throughout the contest.
Mixed Night for Oviedo
With the never ending barrage of rumours linking Leighton Baines away from the Toffees, the first half provided Bryan Oviedo with a chance to show Evertonians that, if needed, he could become an adequate replacement at left-back.
Going forward, the Costa Rican looked impressive, linking up well with Kevin Mirallas ahead of him and showing several bright touches and inventive movement.
However, at the other end he was badly caught out for Accrington's goal, allowing his man to get beyond him and square it for a striker to score. A mistake that tarnished an otherwise impressive game.
As is generally the case with modern left-backs, the attacking side of Oviedo's game seems in far better condition than the defensive side, although most players would find it tough mimicking Baines.
Fellaini Back to a Defensive Role
One noticeable feature of preseason has been the presence of Marouane Fellaini in his preferred role of defensive midfield.
It seems clear Martinez doesn't see him as the attacking force he was last season, collecting long balls on his chest in the final third and proving a nuisance to defenders.
Instead he wants to utilise his ball-winning skills and physicality in the heart of midfield.
As long as he stays, which is far from certain, Fellaini's nifty footwork and slightly underrated passing game could well thrive in his new manager's system. In this game he rekindled what's been an underused partnership with Darron Gibson and helped dictate his side's tempo for the majority of the game.
First Sighting of Alcaraz
This game also provided Evertonians with a first glimpse of Antolin Alcaraz in an Everton jersey and the Paraguayan produced a competent performance.
In truth he wasn't overly involved but looked the most comfortable of Everton's centre-backs adopting Martinez's short passing techniques. He spread the play well and helped keep his side's high tempo.
There were a few signs of rustiness towards the end of the game, when he was caught out on a couple of occasions by an Accrington striker, although it's far too early for any formal assessments of his play.
From this half of football he slotted in perfectly well alongside his new teammates.
Mirallas the Star of the Show
Despite only featuring in the first period, Kevin Mirallas was the game's standout performer, bagging a brace of assists for the opening two goals before registering himself with a well-struck free-kick.
He predominantly played on the left, as he seems to prefer, but was never too far away from his striker and frequently cut inside to shoot.
This is the role he was so effective in for Olympiakos, although Steven Pienaar's partnership with Leighton Baines has limited the time he's spent in it for Everton.
It's easy to forget how just much action the Belgian missed for the Toffees last season, as injuries saw him restricted to 23 starts from his club's 38 Premier League games.
The more he played last year the more influential he became and a full preseason should really benefit him, potentially lifting him to an even higher level for his second campaign at the club.