Why Everton Are a Better Side Under Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez has started his Everton tenure in style, taking 18 points from his first nine games, a start not bettered in nine seasons since the Toffees finished fourth in 2004/05.
So exactly what has changed so soon, and how are the Toffees a seemingly stronger unit than last year?
First and foremost, Martinez's signings have made a significant impact and none more so than Romelu Lukaku.
Top Premier League scorers of 2013 (calendar year) Sturridge 21 goals Van Persie 20 Benteke 20 Suarez 20 Lukaku 16 Bale 16— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) October 27, 2013
Everton generally produced impressive statistics under David Moyes. They accumulated the fourth most shots during last season and conceded the fifth fewest.
Their defence has been in the top four for goals conceded over the past two years, but all of last season's top seven scored at least 11 goals more than the Toffees—emphasising how a lack of potency is often the hindrance.
Suddenly, Lukaku's presence means Everton don't even need to replicate that shooting production in order to win. He's already scored five goals in just five Premier League games, and the presence of a clinical striker has transformed the Toffees.
The recent win against Aston Villa was a clear example of how Everton are a better side this season. The game was an even contest, with Villa arguably spending longer in the ascendancy.
Last season, the same scenario would have brought a maximum return of a point, but a flash of input from Lukaku left Everton with all three.
Martinez identified his new side's primary need up front and hit the jackpot with Lukaku. A longer-term solution still needs locating, but presently, this is a key upgrade for the Toffees.
Elsewhere, Martinez has also introduced a more effective style.
His pass-heavy, possession football allows Everton more control in matches. While it doesn't guarantee any extra wins, it increases the chance of victory and reduces the opponent's threat.
By bringing in Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, he's also made the Toffees transition far easier and quicker. Both players are familiar with the style, coming from Manchester City and Wigan, respectively, and have instantly augmented their new side's passing.
Since their arrival, Everton have taken 15 points from a possible 18, a run of form only bettered by Arsenal.
Finally, Martinez has constructed a deeper squad and has used his options well during his opening few games.
For all his success at the club, substitutions were not always a strength of David Moyes. Reactive by nature, he would often wait too long before introducing a necessary change.
Has Martinez made Everton a better side?
Martinez has been the complete opposite in this department, hauling players off before the hour mark and to great effect.
Wins have come against Hull, West Ham and Aston Villa as a direct result of his substitutions, something unlikely to have transpired last season, which may have prevented a win.
These results will have a direct bearing on the Toffees' season and will greater scrutinise Martinez's methods.
However, from his early work, Everton's new manager has made substantial improvements and, crucially, created additional room to progress.
Statistics via WhoScored?
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