Conventional wisdom holds that preseason is when football clubs are supposed to get themselves mentally and, most importantly, physically, ready for the start of the regular season. This year, Everton and Roberto Martinez have opted for a different strategy.
Instead of having his players in optimal shape for Match Day 1 against Leicester, Martinez has chosen to ease his squad into the season. Martinez admitted the team wasn’t fit enough to last the full 90 minutes, which he blamed on it being early in the season. The plan, one would gather, is to have the players save energy now and peak later in the season.
Can the team afford such a strategy? That lack of fitness has directly caused the Blues to drop four points in two matches. Evertonians, naturally, are furious.
I myself was furious until I realized that I — and the rest of you — are probably wrong to be angered by the club’s lack of fitness.
This is a chart of all the times Everton lost points last season.
Date (US style)
|3||@ Man City||10/5/13|
|2||@ Crystal Palace||11/9/13|
|2||@ West Brom||1/20/14|
Even though Everton set a club record for points last year, it still seems like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s the lesson here.
Teams are going to lose a lot of points over the course of a season to a wide variety of opponents in a number of different ways. It’s just not possible to be at your best every week. So the key isn’t to not lose points; the key is to put yourself in the best possible position to grab all three as many times as you can over 38 matches.
In Martinez’s eyes, the best way to do that this year is to slowly work his players into match shape. Coming off the World Cup and a dramatic (by our standards, at least) transfer window, there was a strong possibility things would be bumpy in August. If you think that’s going to be the case, why not focus on matches when things settle down?
No, you don’t want to drop points at home against top four sides — or away to newly promoted teams, for that matter — but it’s a good trade to make if it helps grab all three points against someone else later in the year.