Everton travel to North London on Saturday to take on Arsenal in what will be a tough challenge. While the Blues have been boosted after a 2-1 home win against Leicester City midweek, the Gunners were spanked 3-1 away at Swansea City and will be looking for vengeance.
In his pre-match comments yesterday, manager Sam Allardyce gave an injury update on Leighton Baines while talking about what he’s doing differently with performance director Ryland Morgan, and it wasn’t positive.
“We have Seamus Coleman fit now and we are waiting for Leighton Baines, who was injured when I arrived. I think we have turned the corner by changing our protocols, which is one of Ryland’s performance levels he had to look at.
“We are putting different things in place with the medical and sport science staff, which will, hopefully, keep the players fitter. That is a key element for results, players staying fit and playing every game.
“The more they play together, the better the bond they create. They then understand each other better and the performances improve.
“It is difficult to say exactly [when Baines will be available], because there have been that many times he has been due to come back well before now and that has not happened.
“I would have thought... end of this month, with any luck. Then you have to get game time and training time, even though you have recovered from the problem you had.
“You have to do several days’ training with the first-team, then try to get a game with the Under-23s or behind closed doors.
“Then we can see where Leighton is with his physical output and whether he feels anything regarding his injury.”
If Baines’ recovery curve is anything like Coleman’s, he could be looking at closer to four weeks than the eight that Allardyce seemed to describe.
In the meantime though, the manager seems satisfied with Cuco Martina’s output at the position, even though the fans have been howling otherwise.
“One of the most important things is how well you defend when you have not got the ball and you have to do that an awful lot in every game.
“Cuco’s stats, both defensively, and certainly in possession, are good – so, while he does not go dashing forward, he passes just as many balls forward as anybody else.
“I think he was only two forward passes behind Seamus Coleman on Wednesday, but Seamus has got this high-energy stuff, this ability to get forward, which is impressive.
“Cuco is more moderate in those terms. But Cuco is very comfortable, he never looks flustered, he looks calm. Certainly, from our point of view – and he is not playing in his natural position – he is doing a very, very good job.
“I do not quite know where we might have been without him.”
Whew, that’s quite an endorsement for Cuco, and one that Blues might not necessarily agree with, but Martina was more than halfway-decent against the Foxes, but that does not reflect his performance in games previous to that.
Now we’ll wait and see whether a tired Cuco gets the nod again at Arsenal, or if Luke Garbutt or Eliaquim Mangala play on Saturday.