It’s safe to say that on the morning the 2013/14 fixtures were announced Roberto Martinez wasn't dreaming of a more acceptable schedule of games for the season. Every new manager hopes for a set of winnable games to start, our old manager isn’t in such a lucky position on that front. Martinez on the other hand will still be grinning with delight at his opening two months worth of games. Now, we’ve had enough false starts to know that early season isn’t an Evertonians favorite time of year, but there are all the pointers this year that maybe something can be different. It all hinges on how quickly Martinez wants to stamp his own style on the team, and how quickly the individual players pick up any changes. The noises coming out of the US tour are good so far, but then you wouldn’t expect anything else.
The easy bit
Our opening six fixtures are against five teams you’d expect to be in the bottom half of that table and Chelsea. Even that game is at home where we have a good record against them. Cardiff, at Cardiff City Stadium, is likely to be the trickiest game, with newly promoted sides always a danger in the early part of the season. You’d like to see us come out of August and September with at least 12 points.
Win, lose, draw
A mixture next, with a tough game at Manchester City despite our great recent record, a straightforward looking game at Goodison against Hull City and an away trip to Aston Villa which could go either way. 4 points you’d hope.
The tough run
November and early December is the toughest run of the campaign, with lunchtime Goodison kick-offs against Tottenham and Liverpool and two tough away games against Manchester United and Arsenal in the first week of November. There’s a bit of relief with a trip to Selhurst Park to face Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace at a good time to play the promoted teams - mid November, and a home game against Stoke. A return of 10 points would be decent.
Leading into the Christmas break with two winnable (nailed on?) games against Fulham at Goodison Park and Swansea at their place. The holiday period itself gives us a very favorable run of fixtures, Sunderland and Southampton at home straight after Christmas, then Stoke away on New Years Day. We should be looking at at least 11 points and an unbeaten festive period.
The New Year
Into January and we see a mix of winnable home games and bloody tough away games. Visiting L4 are Norwich, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, a reasonable run you’d hope. But mixed in amongst that home relief are trips to the Midlands and West Brom, down to London for Tottenham and Chelsea, and across the park to the dark side. You would hope that 9 points is the least we can expect from those seven games, but if we’re near the European positions at that point we should be aiming at more like 15 points.
Jam packed March
Five games in March offers us a game a week, although it’ll hopefully be broken up by Cup games. It’s another good opportunity to pick up points against teams we should be finishing above, a Welsh home double header in the middle of the month, against Swansea and Cardiff, is a good chance for maximum points, although the away trips to Newcastle and Fulham are always tricky. 10 points?
The run in
As always our final six games offer up some tough hurdles to seal that European place. Sunderland and Southampton away are difficult places to go but our record at both are decent enough, it’s the crunch games at Goodison that could define our season with Arsenal and Manchester City visiting before a final day visit to the wilds of the North East and Hull City. Oh, and did I forget to mention a certain Mr. Moyes is returning on Saturday 19th April? 12 points and unbeaten? I wonder what odds you’d get on that.
You’ll see that I’ve set a pretty high bar for points expectations, 68 in total. The fixture list is undeniably kind, with large chunks of ‘winnable’ games coming at the right time - the start of the season, the Christmas period, and March time when legs get a bit tired and injuries can bite. If the team and manager are on the same page from the get-go, and can ally the existing defensive steel to the managers attacking style, then there’s plenty to get excited about for the coming campaign.
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