Everton suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland yesterday.
It was always going to be a struggle for the Toffees after keeper Tim Howard was shown a red card in the first half.
The defeat was Everton’s first home loss of 2013 and only their second loss of the season.
Not only will the Blues lose Howard through suspension for their next game at home to Southampton on Sunday, but they will also be missing outstanding midfield anchor Gareth Barry, who received his fifth booking of the season against the Black Cats.
Midfielder Darron Gibson and striker Arouna Kone look set to be sidelined until the end of the season. The absentees are likely to cause boss Roberto Martinez a few headaches in the next few games.
The bigger loss in recent weeks has been on-loan Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu, who is a player that gives the Toffees a touch of magic. The youngster was just starting to adapt to the English game before picking up a hamstring injury against Fulham.
The Spaniard had not always started games for the Blues, but Deulofeu is a player that has proved to be a very good impact player. Deulofeu is likely to continue to make an impact when he returns to action in a few weeks’ time.
As Everton have proved this season, their strongest starting line-up can defeat anybody on their day. When everybody is fit the Toffees first eleven is pretty impressive. Robert Martinez seems to have found the perfect balance and style for the players at his disposal.
Even with ten men Everton still dominated Sunderland in the second half and were unlucky not to claim a draw. The performance of Black Cats keeper Vito Mannone denied the home side anything from the game. The Italian was in outstanding form, as he repelled the home side.
Everton have not got the biggest squad in the Premier League. The Toffees strengthened their squad in the summer, but still they do not have the biggest squad available in the top-flight. The size of the Everton squad could still be the difference between success and failure this season, just as it has in previous campaigns.
The January transfer window could be vital to the Toffees chances of success this season. With the Blues injury list growing, boss Martinez has already stated that he will be looking to strengthen his squad in January.
Everton do not have the same financial muscle of some of their rivals at the top of the Premier League, but Martinez has proven in his short-time at Goodison Park that he can do some shrewd deals in the transfer market.
The deadline day signings of Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry proved that the Spaniard knows the sort of players he wants and knows which players will be successful in his team. I am sure the Spaniard has some targets identified for the winter transfer window.
With the futures of striker Nikica Jelavic and centre-back Johnny Heitinga in doubt, the Everton coffers may be boosted by extra income from the sale of the duo. Neither have played much of a part in the first team since Martinez’s arrival on Merseyside and their sales would not necessarily have a major impact on the starting eleven.
It is unknown whether Martinez has any funds at his disposal for the January transfer window, but if he has I think most Evertonians will trust the Spaniard to sign the right players. With the possible exception of striker Arouna Kone, his transfer dealings since arriving at Everton have been excellent.
No matter how many injuries Everton have boss Roberto Martinez will remain positive about his team and the direction they are going in. The Toffees are in fifth place because of the Spaniard’s positive attitude towards the game.
Most right minded Evertonians saw that circumstances were against their team in yesterday’s game. The sending-off did change the game completely, but if it was not for a superb display of goalkeeping from Mannone, then the home side would have claimed something even with ten men.
This season has been a very good one for Everton supporters so far and one defeat should not distract from that fact. A win against Southampton on Sunday will keep Everton right amongst the teams challenging for fourth spot.
I believe most Evertonians would have bitten your hand off if offered this position at the start of the season. The Southampton game will be a tough one, but bouncing back quickly from the Sunderland defeat is vital for the Toffees.
I do not think many people are writing Everton’s chances of success just yet and Roberto Martinez definitely will not panic. Even after Sunderland defeat the future is bright for the men in blue from Merseyside.
Was the Sunderland defeat just a blip for Everton?