If one were to approach Roberto Martinez and ask him who would be the best fit at left-back in his 3-4-3, he would most likely tell you it would be Leighton Baines.
Martinez's style begs for a player with Baines' offensive prowess and defensive dependability. As we have seen time and time again, Baines is deft at patrolling the left flank, ceaselessly moving up and down and rarely, if ever, getting burnt for straying too far north.
Under David Moyes, Baines flourished running up and down that left sideline. His creativity and deft distribution made him perhaps Everton's best asset.
Even though Moyes didn't really shackle Baines at all, under Martinez Baines is presented with an incredible opportunity staring him right in the face. Martinez's 3-4-3 and love of creative football gives Baines a chance to take his game to the next level. Yes there is a next level for Europe's best chance creator.
Baines' teammates are familiar with his advancing style, so it will not be a shock to them to see their left-back running like a wild man up and down, up and down -- and they will adapt. Gibson, Jagielka, and Distin are all responsible enough on the back-end of things that Baines' mobility won't hurt the Toffees.
Obviously this is all for naught if Moyes comes back to steal Baines from us. After Baines, Everton isn't exactly dripping with talent at left-back because they didn't have to be. Baines plays pretty much every minute of every match, so to spend money on an understudy wasn't much of a priority. But now, with the very real threat of Manchester United taking our Leighton, other options need to be explored.
Tony Hibbert has spent the better part of his life playing the role of a serviceable wingback, but his lack of offensive panache and limited ability make him a very, very distant second option to Baines.
The young John Stones has looked terrific thus far in pre-season and looks like he could be the next great Everton player, but he favours the right side -- and we favour him where he favours himself.
If Baines goes most likely so do Everton's hopes of a top-4 finish, so we're trying our best to remind ourselves of that so we can sleep better at night. Hopefully Everton can swat off any temptation to sell Baines and Leighton realizes just how golden an opportunity he has in front of him.
World Cup decisions are just around the corner and Baines has the chance to show the FA he is the prime choice for the Three Lions.
More from Royal Blue Mersey:
- School of Science: Tactical Analysis
- School of Science: Transfer Targets
- School of Science: Schedule Analysis
- School of Science: Academy Prospects
- School of Science: Forwards
- School of Science: Right Midfield
- School of Science: Center Midfield
- School of Science: Left Midfield
- School of Science: Left Back
- School of Science: Center Back
- School of Science: Right Back
- School Of Science: Goalkeepers
- School of Science: Welcome