Europa league freedom
Everton have now won five out of their eight games in the Europa league this season compared to just six from 26 in the Premier League. European nights seem to bring out the best in Roberto Martinez’s side and they play with a freedom sadly lacking in the league. Whether it is the different tactics employed by domestic opponents or just the pressure of a looming relegation battle, Everton look a completely different team in the league compared to when they are on the continent. Martinez has clearly focused on the Europa League this season and has reaped the benefits. The hope is now the team can finally transfer some of their European form to domestic matters in order to put to bed any lingering relegation fears.
That’s the Lukaku we know and love
What a week for Romelu Lukaku. From hero to villain to hero again in the space of seven days. The 21-year-old ended up with five goals across the two games against Young Boys but could have easily grabbed seven or eight. His second goal at Goodison in particular was the finish of a striker growing in confidence. However, he could have scored a similar amount against Leicester on Sunday but fluffed his lines in spectacular style – which Lukaku will we see at the Emirates on Sunday?
The return of Darron Gibson
I wrote earlier this week that Darron Gibson deserved a start after an impressive cameo against Leicester and he duly took his opportunity. The Ireland international was superb and reminded us all why he became a popular figure among the fans when he first signed in January 2012. What little pace he had has been eroded by 18 months of injury torment but his passing range is as good as ever, demonstrated by a delicious throughball for Kevin Mirallas to score the third goal as well as a searching pass to Luke Garbutt in the build-up to Lukaku’s second goal. His display gives Martinez a welcome selection dilemma in defensive midfield with surely only fitness concerns preventing him from starting again on Sunday.
Luke Garbutt – has the future arrived?
Luke Garbutt has only made six senior appearances this season – four in the Europa League – but has impressed on each occasion, none more so than on Thursday. Not only was he solid at the back but a constant threat going forward, with the five chances he created the most by an Everton player in one game this season (thanks to @Matt_Cheetham on Twitter for that stat).· He has presented Martinez with yet another selection dilemma as he weighs up the merits of Garbutt, Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo. Baines is still number one choice but with age not on his side the time may well becoming for a changing of the guard. The only worry is the fact Garbutt’s contract expires in May, he can do little more to show he is worthy of a new one.
How far can Everton go?
Wolfsburg – a team we beat 4-1 at home and 2-0 away – have been installed as the new favourites for the Europa League trophy. Therefore should we have anyone to fear in the competition? The team we have seen in Europe this year is the one we saw play such wonderful football last season and come so close to claiming a top four place, in sharp contrast to the laboured predictable mess we have had to endure in the Premier League. The prize of a Champions League place for the winner will only serve to increase the pressure as the tournament progresses, but if you consider the likes of Middlesbrough, Fulham and Glasgow Rangers have reached the final over the last decade, there is no reason why we can’t either.