Everton’s unbeaten Premier League start is again on the line when Newcastle visit Goodison Park on Monday as Roberto Martinez looks to build on the team’s last home outing, the memorable win over Chelsea.
At least one change from the XI that beat Jose Mourinho’s Blues should be expected, with Romelu Lukaku available for a home debut after his brave contribution against West Ham. There was a great deal of excitement among Toffees fans about the signing of Lukaku even before his winning goal at Upton Park and levels reached fever pitch after the Belgium international put his safety on the line to net against the Hammers; he is guaranteed a rapturous reception from the home crowd.
Martinez may be tempted into further changes after the disappointment of losing to Fulham in the Capital One Cup in midweek, a defeat compounded by Everton giving up a first-half lead. Darron Gibson returned to action at Craven Cottage and though he looked somewhat short of full fitness, could be in line to play against the Magpies. One of the two midfield berths will be taken by Gareth Barry for his 500th league appearance – the other is between Gibson, James McCarthy and Leon Osman.
While Lukaku was welcomed with something approaching joy when his loan signing from Chelsea was confirmed, the signature of Barry received a more muted response. It wasn’t so much a negative reaction but more of indifference – Barry conveys steadiness above all and steady players rarely get the heart racing when they’re parading the shirt of their new club shortly after the transfer deadline.
But on the pitch that composure is quietly effective and already the former Aston Villa player is a key part of Martinez’s side, among the first names on the team sheet and greatly appreciated by supporters. Barry was little short of immense on his debut against Chelsea and followed that performance up with a fine showing at West Ham. Martinez has predicted Barry will become a firm favourite among Everton fans but there’s no need for prediction; it’s happened already.
Barry and Lukaku are the two Martinez signings to be unquestioned successes so far. The rest – McCarthy, Arouna Kone, Gerard Deulofeu, Antolin Alcaraz and Joel Robles – are a mixed bag. Deulofeu has shown flashes of brilliance, but only flashes. Kone, McCarthy and Robles haven’t convinced in their brief appearances and Alcaraz hasn’t been seen since signing on. The style is noticeably different but not the personnel, although the prominence of Ross Barkley helps give the side a fresh feel.
Barkley is the highlight of the season so far and the distinct impression is that any success Martinez has at Everton will have Barkley central to it. He was given his debut by David Moyes but is more prepared for the first team now and counts as a new boy, with only three starts for Everton prior to this season. Generally it’s the new boys starring for Martinez and a few of them will be in action against Newcastle.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG