Can Everton boss Roberto Martinez guide his new team to an FA Cup triumph this season?
Everton and their fans have been starved of trophies for nearly two decades now.
Former-boss David Moyes was much-maligned for not winning silverware in his 11 years on Merseyside. However, current boss Roberto Martinez did win a trophy last season, the FA Cup.
Everton open their FA Cup campaign with a third round home tie against high-flying Championship outfit QPR at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Last season was a bitter-sweet one for Wigan and Martinez. The Latics lost their fight for Premier League survival, but claimed their first ever piece of silverware against mega-rich Manchester City.
The game was the ultimate David vs. Goliath contest. Hardly anybody gave Wigan a hope in the match, but they defied the odds to claim victory.
Wigan, who by most peoples standards are a modest football club with a relatively small budget, against Manchester City who have spent hundreds of millions in the last couple of years in an attempt at world domination.
The underdogs Wigan came out on top thanks to a great team spirit and some very tactically astute moves from their highly-rated young boss.
Not only did the Latics defeat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, but they also stunned Everton at Goodison Park in the quarter-final, beating the Toffees 3-0 with three quick-fire first half goals enough to earn progression into the semi-finals.
Some say that the victory at Goodison Park and the FA Cup win was enough to persuade Everton chairman Bill Kenwright to appoint Martinez as David Moyes’ successor. He has not been a bad choice so far.
Everton under Martinez seem to be a far more positive team and that rubs off on the fans. The Spaniard’s positivity was enough to help Wigan win the cup last season. It has also been enough to help Everton became realistic contenders for the top four in the Premier League this season.
Martinez has to get the balance right of competing on both fronts. The fight for the top four places in the Premier League is a tough one at the moment and the FA Cup could be a distraction for some teams.
However, Everton fans will be looking for their team to be competitive in both competitions this season. The clubs history is a trophy filled one, but the club are currently experiencing the longest trophy draught in the clubs history.
Moyes was often criticised for picking weakened teams in cup competitions, which saw the Toffees exit both the FA and league cup at early stages on many occasions during his tenure. I get the feeling that Martinez knows how important the FA Cup is to Everton fans and will no doubt pick a team against QPR that should be strong enough to claim victory.
The Hoops may be a Championship side, but they are currently third in the second tier looking for a quick return to the top flight after last season’s relegation from the Premier League. It is a potential banana skin and Everton’s recent FA Cup history tells us to expect the unexpected.
The likes of Shrewsbury and Oldham have produced major upsets against Everton in the FA Cup and Martinez will beware of that, although QPR are a far better side than the aforementioned pair. A Rangers win would not be that much of a shock, but it would still be a surprise.
Injuries have taken their toll on the Everton squad in recent weeks. England left-back Leighton Baines has just returned after a lengthy lay-off. However, his international colleague Phil Jagielka is expected to be out injured for a month and central defensive partner Sylvain Distin missed the 1-1 draw with Stoke on Boxing Day through injury.
The Toffees are also currently without mercurial attacking midfielder Gerard Deulofeu, who gave them something different in attack. The next few games will be a major test of the Toffees superb form so far.
The festive period has saw mixed fortunes with a home defeat against Sunderland, a win against Southampton and then a draw at Stoke in their last outing. No doubt the injuries have had an effect on those results.
Under Martinez Everton fear nobody and go into every game expecting to win. With the Spaniard in charge the belief amongst everybody at the club has grown this season. Martinez has already proved he has what it takes to win a trophy at such an early stage of his career. There is no reason why he cannot repeat the trick with a very good Everton team.
Can Roberto Martinez mastermind another FA Cup triumph?