According to Everton manager Roberto Martinez, an away trip to Arsenal for an FA Cup quarter-final tie “holds no fears”, as he looks to earn a second Wembley cup final with different teams in successive seasons. Having steered Wigan to cup final glory last season when they defeated firm favourites Manchester City 1-0, who would bet against Martinez achieved a remarkable double.
In his first season at Goodison, Martinez has successfully built upon the foundations laid by previous incumbent David Moyes with Everton still eyeing the possibility of securing Champions League football for next season in addition to lifting the FA Cup.
At the beginning of the season, many questioned whether the Spaniard was a suitable replacement for the long serving Moyes after several years preserving Wigan’s top flight status. The sale of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United during the latter stages of the August transfer window did not bode well for Everton’s prospects, but the proceeds of the sale were invested alongside further squad strengthening.
James McCarthy was recruited from Wigan with Gareth Barry also arriving to join season-long loan players Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea and Barcelona’s Gerard Delofeu. Aiden McGeady was then signed during January while Monaco loaned expensive new striker Lacina Traore to the Toffees for the remainder of the season.
Martinez has not been allowed the luxury of expensive purchases as with most of the other teams at the top of the Premier League but he has developed experience of moulding a strong team ethic during his days at Wigan and he is trying to recreate this model at Everton.
With only four league defeats to date, Everton are poised to challenge for a top four placing but it is the FA Cup where probable success is most likely to occur. An away tie at Arsenal may appear daunting at first glance, but with the match scheduled for 8th March, the Gunners will be acutely aware that they face Bayern Munich in the return leg of the their Champions League tie on the following Tuesday. What are the chances of Arsene Wenger fielding a slightly weakened starting eleven against Everton?
As Everton have the relative advantage of no European commitments in the forthcoming weeks, they can concentrate on domestic success with a manager who exudes enthusiasm in both his press conferences and on the touchline. Having experienced only one really poor performance this season, when succumbing to an unfortunate 4-0 Merseyside derby defeat at Anfield, perhaps Martinez can induce some further inspired performances from his squad in the months ahead.
It is nearly 20 years since Everton last claimed domestic silverware when defeating Manchester United to lift the FA Cup in 1995, and Roberto Martinez could be the manager to end the trophy drought to follow his Wembley victory from last season