Current Players: Tim Howard, age 36, #24; Joel Robles, age 25, #1.
Key Departures: None
Simply put, Tim Howard struggled immensely last season. Despite his excellent performance at the 2014 World Cup, the American keeper was unable to carry that form into the Premier League and he almost lost his starting sport because of it.
Joel Robles filled in admirably while Howard was out with injuries. In fact he did so well that some supporters were even calling for him to replace Howard full time. Not surprisingly, manager Roberto Martinez still views Howard as his number one, but Robles appears to be nipping at his heels.
Howard was far from the dependable starting keeper that Evertonians are used to throughout last season. There could be a number of reasons why Howard’s form dipped so much, fatigue from the World Cup, extra games due to the Europa League, an aging defense, or an inevitable decline in form. Whatever the reason, Everton need Howard to look more like the guy who stopped 16 shots against Belgium and less like the guy who allowed 6 goals against Chelsea.
The biggest key for Howard is going to be reducing mistakes. Everton led the Premier League in mistakes directly leading to goals, and Howard was at fault for several of them. If he can reduce those mistakes it will give his defenders a bit of confidence in their own ability.
We will also be looking at the defensive midfield. An excellent piece on Grantland last December highlighted how the poor play of the defensive midfield led to even more chances allowed. Even if Howard was playing like his superstar self he would have been let down multiple times. The DM play will go a long way towards how Howard looks, especially early in the season.
Tactically, look for Everton to continue to play out of the back. Roberto Martinez has continued to emphasize possession out of the back. Howard will likely roll the ball out to his defenders or midfielders during the course of play to keep the ball. Don't be surprised to see Howard take some chances down the field though. With Romelu Lukaku up top a long punt can do wonders to stretch the defense.
Barring an injury, Tim Howard should be the starter this season for Everton. He has shown that he can be one of the better shot-stoppers in the league, despite his poor run last season. But if he staggers out of the gate again, the calls for Robles to start in his place will only grow stronger.