Key Areas Everton Must Improve Ahead of Merseyside Derby

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent INovember 17, 2013

Key Areas Everton Must Improve Ahead of Merseyside Derby

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    Roberto Martinez is about to face his most turbulent week in charge of Everton, culminating in his first Merseyside derby against Liverpool.

    Both clubs have started the season in impressive fashion, with the Toffees in sixth place and their neighbours three points better off in second.

    Despite finishing above their rivals for the past two seasons, Everton endured a dismal derby record under David Moyes. In 11 years, Moyes oversaw just three Premier League wins in 22 games against Liverpool, taking a paltry 16 points from a possible 66. 

    The fact Martinez boasts a better record while at Wigan will encourage fans, with the Catalan claiming two wins and three draws in eight meetings with the Reds.

    Here's a look at where Everton must improve to mark Martinez's first derby with a win.

Defensive Cohension

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    On paper, Everton have defended well this season, keeping six clean sheets in 11 games.

    They are currently on course to produce more shut-outs than in any Premier League season, yet these numbers mask the true story hidden in performance.

    Despite so many clean sheets, Everton's back four have been exposed a number of times in recent weeks, overly relying on Tim Howard to keep opponents out.

    Tottenham, Newcastle, Manchester City and Chelsea all unleashed six shots on target against the Toffees, a tally only conceded four times in all of last season. Crystal Palace and Aston Villa also exposed the back four, but they were each hindered by a mixture of wayward shooting and some Howard heroics.

    Facing one of the most potent strike forces in the league, in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Everton will clearly need to brush up on their organisation and understanding of every player's role.


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    Everton have accumulated a handy amount of points so far, but their creative production has dwindled in recent weeks.

    Part of Martinez's philosophy is to create a lower proportion of pure percentage chances in favour of a few more clear-cut opportunities, but both categories have suffered in recent weeks.

    Four times the Toffees have created under 10 chances in a match this season, which isn't going to win many games. Four matches without a goal is also a concern.

    Part of this has to do with Leighton Baines' reduced role. From being the Premier League's most creative weapon last seasoncreating 116 chanceshe's struggled for production, creating just 14 chances in 11 games.

    Everton will stand a far better chance of beating Liverpool if Baines can recapture some of his creative powers.

Right Flank

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    Many anticipated Everton's right side being a potent force this season—this writer includedperhaps even eclipsing the proven left-sided tandem of Steven Pienaar and Baines.

    However, both Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman have struggled to make a prolonged impression.

    Mirallas has been instructed to hug the touchline and stretch the opposition as much as possible, providing the Toffees with additional space to create. This has been effective in flashes but has led to the Belgian becoming increasingly peripheral.

    He's produced more assists than any Everton player this season but struggles to get in the game, regularly recording the fewest touches on the team.

    Coleman has perhaps suffered with Mirallas' wider role, unable to press forward and overlap as effectively. He hasn't been as persistent an attacking threat as last season and has also taken a step back with his defensive duties, often looking clumsy and already conceding two penalties.

    Both players need to improve their play and make the Toffees a threat from both sides of the field.

Mental Fragility

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    The problem under David Moyes often seemed to be a case of getting beaten before even stepping onto the pitch against Liverpool.

    Players would rarely find top form in this game and often commit uncharacteristic errors; essentially, Liverpool seemed able to mentally defeat their rivals before the game even started.

    Unlike Moyes, Martinez already has a win at Anfield, which has something to do with his more ambitious attitude and positive thinking in major clashes.

    While his progressive, attacking ways will be more risky, and will sometimes backfire, they should also fetch more reward in these type of matches.

    Martinez must tap into that mentality used at Wigan and install it in his new squad, ridding several seasoned players of some considerable mental scars.

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