For the first time since 1998, Everton start a Premier League season with a new manager. Roberto Martinez, unlike David Moyes who joined part way through the 2001/02 season, has the whole summer to accustom his new side to his leadership.
The Blues start their campaign with an away trip to Carrow Road to face Norwich, where optimism will surely be high with a new man in charge and already a host of new signings. Fans will be hoping for success after a stable yet trophy less eleven year era under Moyes.
After four tough seasons in charge of Wigan, Roberto Martinez’s attempt at keeping the club in the top flight finally faulted when they finished in the final relegation spot at the end of last season.
However, he is without a doubt a manager with huge potential. In his first full season in charge of Swansea, he guided the side to top spot in League One and the 8th in the side’s first season in the Championship.
At Wigan it was more of struggle but it was not without its successes as shown by the FA Cup win last season. At Everton though, expectations will be higher than just survival. He will have to mount an assault for the top four and try and win a trophy, something the club has been without since 1995.
Whether he can deal with the much higher expectations now bestowed upon, remains to be seen but so far in his managed to surpass them at both clubs he has been in charge of.
Yet again, the hope will be to challenge the top four for a Champions League spot but it is becoming ever harder with the spending gap between the clubs at the top ever increasing. In fact, even mid-table teams like Norwich and Southampton are spending big just to push for a spot in the top half.
In Martinez’s first season, his realistic aim has to be 5th spot. Recent seasons have seen the club finish 6th, 7th, 7th and 8th little success to shout about. Not only would a 5th place finish be their highest since the 2008/09 season but it would also mean a return to Europe.
The club has shown in the past week that Europe’s elite are not out of sight after defeating Juventus and losing by just one goal margins to Valencia and Real Madrid in a pre-season tournament. Although these games were only friendlies, the solid squad which Moyes has left behind has shown it is capable of competing.
Yet again, winning a cup will be high on most Everton fan’s wish lists. Moyes managed as far as the FA Cup final and the League Cup semi finals in his time in charge.
The chances of lifting silverware are high again though with the likes of Portsmouth, Birmingham, Swansea and Wigan winning trophies in the not too distant past.
If Martinez focuses on cup competitions then there could be a good chance reaching the latter rounds with other teams paying more attention to their league form. If the new manager can repeat the cup glory he brought to his former club, then his first season in charge would most likely be classed as success.
Martinez has chosen to make his summer moves sooner rather than later with four new signings having already been completed. Three players have followed the manager across from Wigan with another exciting prospect joining on loan from Barcelona.
In Arouna Koné, they have a proven Premier League goal scorer who could score goals for a club battling relegation. Antolin Alcaraz with provide decent cover for Phil Jagielka and Slyvain Distin and goalkeeper Joel Robles would give current number one Tim Howard some good competition.
Despite a lot of talk and many rumours on back pages, they have been little activity in terms of players leaving the club. So far the side has managed to hold on to key assets Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines even with reported interest from Arsenal and Manchester United.
The players to go have been Phil Neville who has retired and Thomas Hitzlsperger and Jan Mucha have both been released. Youngsters Jake Bidwell and Johan Hammar have also been allowed to leave the club with another youngster Conor McAlney joining Brentford on loan.
Most Everton fans will be hoping that there are no more departures.