Tranmere Rovers v Everton: Things Roberto Martinez Learned from Pre-Season Match
Everton kicked off pre-season against Tranmere, chalking up a 2-2 draw at Prenton Park.
Steven Naismith handed the Toffees a first-half lead, guiding home a teasing cross from Luke Garbutt.
A completely changed second-half line-up—bar Joel Robles—were soon pegged back, as Cole Stockton deftly chipped the goalkeeper following John Stones' mistake.
Roberto Martinez's side then regained the lead at a corner, through Leon Osman, but finished on level terms following James Rowe's late equaliser.
Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this contest.
Strikers Needed, Urgently
First and foremost, if he didn't realise it before, Roberto Martinez must have seen just how imperative it is that the Toffees land a striker—and a marquee one at that.
Naismith performed well enough in the first half, but he was more effective playing behind the striker last season.
With Arouna Kone still short of fitness, Martinez had to call upon Conor McAleny, Chris Long and Hallam Hope as his other forwards in this match.
While each are promising prospects, the three academy graduates have just 15 Premier League minutes between them, all from two McAleny substitute appearances in 2011.
In short, Martinez must recruit a striker to cover Romelu Lukaku's 16-goal contribution from last season.
It's highly unlikely to be covered by anyone who played in this game.
Luke Garbutt Ready for a Larger Role
Pre-season is rarely a time to analyse and assess too deeply, especially in the opening friendly of the summer.
One player who impressed, though, was Luke Garbutt, whose performance deserves acclaim. With Leighton Baines on holiday and Bryan Oviedo still injured, the left-back took his chance to shine.
Constantly bursting forward, he became the Toffees' main attacking outlet for much of the first half. He provided an assist for Naismith, sending in a delivery that Baines would have been proud of.
Those familiar with Garbutt will know there's never been a doubt about his attacking potential, as was very evident in this game. Previous reservations have always surrounded his defensive capability.
On this performance alone, it seems he's progressed. He made a couple of key interceptions and appeared more assured and decisive with his positioning.
While Baines is the undisputed first-choice left-back, Garbutt will hope to advance his Everton career with some League Cup and Europa League appearances this season.
Stones a Little Too Eager to Impress
After a truly incredible 12 months, John Stones has his eyes firmly focused on an Everton starting spot.
Injuries saw the 20-year-old start 11 of the Toffees' final 12 games, and, despite the senior squad status of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, it's clear Stones wants to play.
It's a healthy desire, but Martinez must make sure that motivation's channeled accordingly. Stones' urge to impress was far too strong in this game and led to an uncharacteristically error-strewn showing.
The centre-back tried too hard, attempting 50-yard switches and defence-splitting passes that needlessly conceded possession—something he was rarely associated with last season.
Stones was also at fault for the first goal and will want to put this game behind him.
A Case of Gareth Barry or Darron Gibson?
Darron Gibson's return provided a major plus point for Everton.
The central midfielder was absent for most of last term and will strengthen Martinez's midfield core alongside Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.
Judging by the roles played tonight, it may well be a case of either Barry or Gibson next season.
Both spent 45 minutes dropping back between the centre-backs, playing the exact same role: spraying passes around and looking to locate attackers.
Each player has similar traits, and Martinez may deem them too similar to feature in the same midfield together.
This is something the Catalan will want to assess over the next few fixtures, but for the first time in his Everton career, Gibson's unlikely to be an automatic selection this season.
A Useful Early Test
In truth, there's little Martinez learned during this opening encounter.
He has already stated, per the club's official website, that his players don't prepare for friendlies; rather, they use it as part of their own gradual preparation as they build towards August.
Therefore, one week in, it was understandable that the standard for this game was low.
Aside from the chance for young players to shine, Martinez undoubtedly appreciated the opportunity to break down a populated final third.
This is a scenario the Toffees will face repeatedly in the upcoming season, and while the tempo was too slow to churn out numerous chances, it was useful practice for those involved.
Moving forward, the squad travel to Bangkok for their next friendly against Leicester, and Martinez will expect a gradual, all-round improvement as his side progress.
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