10 Biggest Concerns for Roberto Martinez Ahead of New Premier League Season

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2014

10 Biggest Concerns for Roberto Martinez Ahead of New Premier League Season

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    Roberto Martinez begins his second Premier League campaign with Everton next Saturday, travelling to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City.

    The Catalan enjoyed substantial success in his inaugural term, recording more points (72), wins (21) and successive wins (seven) than any Everton side since the 1980s.

    The Toffees occupied fourth place with just five games to go, and a final tally of 72 points was the highest total of any Premier League side not to make the Champions League.

    So what lies in store for his second season on Merseyside?

    Ahead of Saturday's big kick-off, here's a look at Martinez's most pressing issues.

Pre-Season Struggles

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    A chief concern will be Everton's mediocre form during pre-season.

    No wins in five games, with three defeats, ranks as the Toffees' worst set of friendly results since 1979, and it's certainly added a tinge of caution among supporters.

    The relevance of those results is debatable and will only truly be known next weekend, but Martinez would have hoped for a better platform to begin from.

    The Toffees have displayed very little cohesion at either end of the field, and an alarmingly small pool of players have shown form.

    Three points against Leicester would make this completely redundant, but for now it remains an issue.

Rushed Pre-Season for Several Key Players

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    A key factor in this pedestrian pre-season has been the gradual reintegration of Everton's World Cup contingent.

    Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Tim Howard and Ross Barkley have only recently returned to action, while Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku are yet to play a minute of pre-season football.

    There's been little or no time for these players to find their rhythm, and Martinez will be relying on them to hit the ground running as the new season begins.

    It's a risk he simply has to run with and one that will concern him at this stage.

No Romelu Lukaku or Kevin Mirallas

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    The most urgent worry around the Toffees' World Cup stars is the fitness of Mirallas and Lukaku.

    As mentioned, neither have appeared in pre-season, and with Premier League matches just around the corner, this is clearly a major issue for Martinez.

    The Catalan has revealed, via Paul Joyce of The Sunday Express, that both Belgians may not be fit to start the season:

    When you have players coming back from the World Cup you have to decide if you want the players straight away or do you give them a bit of time to refresh and be ready to play for 10 months?

    It will only be Kevin Mirallas and Rom who might not start the season. For Romelu, it will depend on how he adapts to work from now until August 16.

    Needless to say, it would be a significant blow if either misses out.

Lack of Options Behind Lukaku

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    Were Lukaku indeed to miss out, there's a sizeable plunge in quality to Everton's other options.

    Steven Naismith played well last season and would be expected to lead the line, but there are scant alternatives to support him.

    Arouna Kone is yet to appear in pre-season, still affected by his dreadful injury suffered last year, and the only other options are fresh-faced academy prospects.

    Martinez is yet to recruit a reserve striker to fill the roles played by Nikica Jelavic and Lacina Traore last season. If that's not done before the weekend, his options will be limited, and there will be pressure on Naismith to perform.

Lack of Explosive Options Without Mirallas

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    Similarly, Mirallas' potential absence will also handicap Martinez, but more specifically in his on-field approach.

    The Catalan is renowned for using an explosive option on a flank: an often peripheral player who's capable of bursting into life and winning a game on his own.

    This is another area where Everton are short of options, especially without the Belgian.

    Mirallas, Aiden McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu filled that role last season, but of the three, only McGeady is primed for the start of the new season.

    Christian Atsu appears a potential new option, per The Daily Mail's Simon Jones, but Martinez is in danger of starting the season short of his desired quota, allowing him little flexibility.

Poor Defensive Play in Pre-Season

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    At the other end of the field, Martinez will be anxious about the steady flow of goals conceded throughout the summer.

    If Everton are to be without Lukaku and Mirallas at the start of the season, they will need to lean on a sturdy, stingy defence to achieve initial success.

    Ten goals conceded in five games, including six in the past two, is hardly a formidable foundation to begin from.

    Individual errors and a lack of unity have blighted the summer fixtures, and Martinez will need these blemishes out of the system by Saturday.

Seamus Coleman's Fitness

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    Another key player potentially missing Saturday's Premier League return is Seamus Coleman, Everton's Player of the Year last season.

    The Irish international hasn't played since picking up an injury against Tranmere Rovers and must now be a doubt to face Leicester.

    As with the options behind Lukaku, Everton's second-best right-back—presumably Tony Hibbert or John Stonesoffers a lot less to the team than Coleman.

Travelling to a Newly Promoted Outfit

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    The worst time to face a newly promoted side is early in the season.

    At their home ground, there's often a raucous crowd and something of an unpressurised, carnival atmosphere permeating the stands.

    That's exactly the scenario facing Everton first up with their trip to Leicester.

    The Foxes will want to return to the Premier League in style and will be void of any pressure so early in the season.

    Everton must stir up some siege mentality and adapt to the role of ruthless killjoys.

Leicester City's Impressive Pre-Season

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    In complete contrast to Everton's troubles, Leicester have enjoyed a pre-season to remember.

    A 1-0 win over Werder Bremen completed an unbeaten set of friendlies results, with an impressive six wins in seven games.

    The Foxes have contested two more ties than Martinez's side and have clearly found a better fluency in their overall play.

    Confidence will be high in the home camp, and Saturday's match will be an interesting gauge of the relevance of pre-season form.

Importance of a Fast Start

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    Finally, all of these concerns are related to the importance of starting fast in the race for fourth place—the Toffees' primary aim this season.

    The difference between the Champions League and an eventual fifth-place finish last season was arguably a slow start, with major transfers not completed until the start of September.

    Three draws in winnable games cost the Toffees dearly, and with key games against Chelsea and Arsenal among the first three fixtures, a fast start is paramount this season.