Martinez ready for trial by Gunners
Published 22/08/2014 | 16:36
Everton boss Roberto Martinez expects his summer's work to be put to the test as Arsenal visit Goodison Park this weekend.
Martinez's side, who finished fifth in the Barclays Premier League last season, opened their new campaign with a 2-2 draw at Leicester last weekend.
Although frustrated to be held to a point, Martinez was pleased with many aspects of the performance and is encouraged for the year ahead.
But he accepts that FA Cup winners Arsenal, who are hoping to mount a stronger title challenge this season, will provide a greater yardstick for his side's position.
The intensity will not drop next week either, with Chelsea travelling to the blue half of Merseyside.
Martinez said: "You need to face this sort of opposition.
"What we saw last weekend is that we are really fluid in possession. The thing we need to change is that mentality to keep going forward and keep scoring goals. We didn't get that cushion that could have given us three points.
"But if you look at the positives of the first half - I am really excited looking at this game.
"It is true that until you play against sides like Arsenal and Chelsea you don't have the answers on the pitch.
"As a team we are ready. I feel pre-season was perfect, a real success.
"Now we have to make sure we are as strong a team as we can be. You can only see that when you face opposition like we are going to face at the weekend."
With a month of last season remaining, Everton sat above Arsenal in fourth place but they faltered and eventually finished seven points behind the Gunners.
This term they hope to sustain a longer challenge for a Champions League spot but Martinez expects the competition to be tighter.
He said: "The league is going to be a lot more open than people think.
"I see five teams with equal chances of winning the title and I think it is going to go come down to small margins. I expect this competition to be the tightest we have ever seen."
Arsenal were involved in midweek action having travelled to Turkey for a Champions League play-off against Besiktas.
Martinez does not think that will affect the Gunners negatively and, having also played in the Community Shield, they may even boast greater match-fitness.
He said: "They have got a big enough squad and the mentality to cope.
"It can be a positive as you can get rid of that rustiness and into a competitive frame of mind straight away.
"Clearly when you are involved in such an important game like in Turkey you see them reaching full levels very quickly and that could be a negative for us.
"It is going to rely heavily on how well we can play."
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson could be back in contention.
The Irishman, who suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage last October, has steadily built his fitness and is thought to be nearing a return.
Right-back Seamus Coleman (hamstring) is also fit after appearing as a late substitute at Leicester last week but striker Arouna Kone (knee) and midfielder Bryan Oviedo (leg) are not yet ready and midfielder Ross Barkley (knee) faces a lengthy lay-off.
Full-back Mathieu Debuchy believes Arsenal will be "incredible" once World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski have fully integrated back into the squad.
The German trio are expected to be involved for the first time in the squad for Saturday's evening kick-off at Everton, having returning to London following an extended break after their triumph in Brazil.
Arsenal have made a positive start to the new season, recording victories over Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley and Crystal Palace in the Barclays Premier League. They also left Istanbul with a goalless draw from the first leg of their Champions League play-off against Besiktas on Tuesday night.
Debuchy, signed from Newcastle earlier in the summer, is confident once Arsenal have all their key men up and running again, they will prove a force to be reckoned with.
"It is fantastic for me to be part of this team. When I see the squad now and I think that Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski are still missing, it is incredible. It is an amazing squad," Debuchy told the September edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
"Playing with them is pure happiness, even at training it is top level.
"You have to give your best all the time because the level required is immense."
Debuchy has settled in quickly at right-back, the £16million France international filling the void left by the departure of compatriot Bacary Sagna to Manchester City on a free transfer.
The 29-year-old is in no doubt everything is in place at Arsenal to help develop his game.
"This is another dimension. If you compare the training grounds for example, nothing at Lille or Newcastle can match the one at Arsenal. It is another world," he said.
"Everything here is made to optimise your preparation and you as a player so you can be in the best condition to play and win football games."
Arsenal were beaten 3-0 at Everton in April last season, a result which dented their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Wenger feels his squad have what it takes to produce the required performance away to the Premier League's stronger sides.
"A team is life and life is movement. That means the team doesn't stand still, we move forward and improve," said Wenger, who must do without captain and former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta, who will miss the game against his old club because of an ankle problem.
"We have young players, which means that every year they can be better, also the team improves with success, which we had a reasonable (amount of) last year.
"We have a good opportunity on Saturday to show that we have moved forward and that we are stronger than last year.
"It will be interesting, because Everton are a team now flirting with the Champions League places.
"They were close last year. They lost some pivotal games which allowed us to get (back) in front of them after they beat us, but they have the quality, so it is a good, good test."