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Everton Selection Headaches Begin Against Wolfsburg

The Toffees begin their Europa League quest on Thursday, and Roberto Martinez must figure out how to manage his squad effectively across two competitions.

Martinez has decisions to make regarding the coming weeks.
Martinez has decisions to make regarding the coming weeks.
Mark Thompson

In his time in the Premier League, Roberto Martinez has dealt with his share of managerial challenges. But this week opens an entirely unfamiliar scenario-- he must figure out how to deal with regular mid-week matches in the form of the Europa League.

Five times in the next two months, the Toffees will have a Thursday night Europa League match ahead of a Sunday league match. Each situation brings its own unique challenge; this week, Everton hosts Wolfsburg on Thursday night before hosting Crystal Palace on Sunday.

In isolation, this match probably represents the simplest turnaround of the group stage, with both matches at home and the league match on Sunday against a very beatable opponent.

However, Everton travels to Swansea City on Tuesday for their opening League Cup match, then heads to Anfield next Saturday for an early season Merseyside Derby.

If Martinez plans to take the League Cup seriously, then he has a serious balancing act to pull off in the next two weeks.

With that being said, let's take a look at how squad selection at each position might be handled.


Both with Everton and Wigan Athletic, Joel Robles has been Martinez's cup keeper of choice. Will it continue to be so in the Europa League?

I doubt this question comes with an unequivocal yes or no. Against Krasnodar, certainly the worst of the four clubs in the group, Joel will probably see some action. However, against a better team like Wolfsburg, I think Howard will be chosen, particularly with the League Cup match against Swansea on the horizon, which certainly will feature Robles.


The clean sheet against West Brom helped calm nerves about the club's previously leaky back-line, and will make Martinez feel much more comfortable about rotating players in at the back.

Bryan Oviedo played a full 90 with the U-21s last week, but Martinez's comments yesterday seemed to indicate he isn't ready to return to first-team action just yet. Luke Garbutt could theoretically give Leighton Baines a break at left-back, but this seems an unlikely spot for Martinez to throw a youngster in for the first time.

Tony Hibbert appears to be not quite ready to return from injury, so it will likely be Seamus Coleman at right-back for both the Wolfsburg match and against Palace. Martinez has targeted the League Cup match against Swansea as a return date for Hibbert.

At center-back, Sylvain Distin will be available after missing out this weekend through injury. Phil Jagielka, John Stones, and Antolin Alcaraz all ought to be available as well, so the preferred pairing for this match is unclear.

If Distin truly is 100% healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if Martinez tries to reaffirm his faith in the Frenchman by playing him against Wolfsburg. If that is the case, I would expect either Jagielka or Stones to line up alongside him, as a pairing of Distin and Alcaraz would be alarmingly old.


James McCarthy has gotten off to a slow start to the season, and could likely use a break to recover and reassess his performances. This provides an excellent opportunity for Darron Gibson to get back into the lineup and try to prove his worth.

I think we'll see Gibson line up alongside Gareth Barry, as Martinez will be (rightfully) concerned about displacing both central midfielders in the same match.

Out wide, Martinez will be hesitant to run out Kevin Mirallas again, given his preseason injury and participation in the World Cup. That leaves Cristian Atsu and Aiden McGeady as the obvious wingers with Steven Pienaar and Oviedo still injured.

In the creative midfield role, I would be surprised if we do not see Leon Osman. Steven Naismith could use a break before the upcoming series of matches, and Ossie is one of the few players in the side with some European experience with Everton. His composure and experience should be a vital asset.


Samuel Eto'o has more experience playing in Europe than any other Everton player, and would be an excellent choice up front if fit. Martinez will be wary of running Romelu Lukaku into the ground, and with Arouna Kone still not fit, Eto'o is the obvious choice.


First and foremost, supporters should feel pretty content with the depth in the side at this point. These considerations have shown that even a side composed almost entirely of none first XI players could be competitive in most situations.

I think the side fielded by Martinez will be somewhat stronger than that though, and will resemble this:






What do you think Martinez should do? What do you think he will do? Have your say below.