Greetings, B&B faithful. As a reminder, we've got the 11 am EST game against Everton tomorrow. The Toffees are on 4 points following a draw against Watford and stellar 3-0 win against Southampton.
- Let's get the ugly out of the way first. There's been a lot of controversy and debate surrounding Everton this summer, which hasn't been helped by a fair amount of vocal and angry supporters getting media attention. Everton have usually been a club with relative harmony, so what is it that changed this summer?
RBM: Oh the drama has been quite ridiculous. Fans have always been suspicious about how tight-fisted the board has been with the club's coffers. After last season's poor showing, fans were hoping the club would make a splash in the transfer market. While even clubs like Stoke City and Leicester City have been wildly busy in the market adding to squad depth, we picked up Tom Cleverley for free and signed Gerard Deulofeu, and then proceeded to twiddle our thumbs as just about every other club has strengthened their sides. Last time I looked we have some of the least spending among all the Premier League teams this summer. This of course has not gone down well with the fanbase. Roberto Martinez has tried soothing the baying crowds by announcing that he is still looking to add 2-3 more players, but the general dissatisfaction has been rising, culminating in the tacky plane with the 'Kenwright Out' banner that flew by the Southampton stadium last weekend, and apparently another one has been planned for the Manchester City game this weekend too.
- Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about Everton's good start to the season. A wobbly opening draw against Watford was quickly forgotten following a fantastic performance against Southampton this past weekend, and morale amongst the fanbase has seemed to pick up a bit. Given this, what's the feeling in the fanbase now?
RBM: As exciting as last weekend was, it is still pretty clear that there are issues that need to be addressed throughout the squad and tactically as well. Martinez is a possession-based manager, but Everton simply do not have the incisive players required to make that a success. Some of the best wins during his tenure at Goodison Park have been playi\ng counter-attacking football, and it is time he realizes that he needs to play to his strengths. The fans were particularly brutal at home last season as the performances dipped with the temperatures. Hopefully it's still early in the season and they don't lose faith in the side too quickly.
- Piggybacking off of that question, what are the season expectations for Everton?
RBM: Getting back into Europe is the first and highest priority. A second season finishing out of the European places could lead to an exodus of talent from the club, and we could be headed into a downward spiral the kind Aston Villa and Sunderland only know too well about. A long Cup run followed by some silverware would be wonderful too. It's going on twenty years since we last had to open up the trophy cabinet at Goodison, chairman Bill Kenwright is going to have to go hunting for the key and then clean out the cobwebs if by some minor miracle Martinez pulls off another Cup win like he did against City with Wigan.
- Sometimes we forget how young Romelu Lukaku is. How good do you believe he can be?
RBM: These young players in the game today are simply amazing. They are so young and have so many years ahead of them to perfect their craft that it is scary where they can be six, eight years from now. Lukaku has a few repairable flaws in his game, and his attitude towards being coached in the next couple of years is very important. His first touch is actually quite poor, and leads him to losing the ball way too easily. For a player as big as he is, he is not as commanding in the air as you would hope he would be. His positioning also could use some improvement - often you see him focusing on the ball, and not noticing that he has strayed offside. But once you get those sorted out, he has the potential to be a deadly striker good for 30 goals a season.
- What's the average Everton fan's view of City?
RBM: You know, it's funny that Everton and City have never had the mutual hatred that our respective derby rivals Liverpool and United have. It is interesting though that in the recent years that City have had a revival, Everton under David Moyes always had your number, to the tune of the Toffees winning nine out of his last twelve games against the Citizens. However, under Martinez with his more expansive style of football, the results have favored City again. So I would say City fans probably dislike Everton more than vice versa. However, if there is one thing that causes resentment is the fact that City got bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and since then you haven't looked back. Everton meanwhile continue to search desperately for that influx of cash that could finally get the Toffees to break into the top four and the Champions League.
- Thoughts on that, uh, 'green' kit?
RBM: Lord, the less said about it the better. The fanbase is split over this one, just like they were a couple of years ago with the redesigned logo. Those who like it love it, and those who dislike it detest it. Personally, I am in the latter group. The orange on that olive green though is hideous. Even a white font might have been passable. If Everton can play all season long like they did last week in that drab kit though, I will definitely get one of those and wear it to work.
- Predicted lineup for the match? Where do you see the key battles being played out on the pitch, and do you have a score prediction?
RBM: Playing two upfront worked really well last weekend, and Martinez was quite bold to do that away against a good attacking team. At home against a side that is scoring as freely as City is, who knows if Martinez will be that brave again, or if he will choose to take off the additional forward for another midfielder to disrupt play in the middle of the pitch. Which brings us to key battle - keeping David Silva quiet is going to be essential for the home side. Over-committing resources to that effort is dangerous though because Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas are lightning down the wings and Yaya Toure can stride purposefully towards the goal as well. It is going to be hard to beat City on current form - you can't out-possess them as they press hard to regain the ball, and you can't sit back and absorb pressure hoping to beat them on the break either, as one Jose Mourinho learned quite memorably last weekend. If City score early there is potential for the crowd to lose interest, in which case this goes south rapidly for Everton. 3-1 to the away team.
Many thanks to Calvin for his time!