Sky Sports News reporter Vinny O'Connor assesses Roberto Martinez's time at Everton
Sky Sports News reporter Vinny O'Connor assesses the Toffees' improvement under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez.
Last Updated: 06/04/14 12:43pm
"Roberto had a dream," Evertonians sing, "to build a football team, we had no money so he brought in players on loan."
That he did, (he also paid £13 million for James McCarthy after Marouane Fellaini left) and while Gareth Barry, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu have made valuable contributions, the song overlooks one key element integral to Everton's season and the club's future development....the faith Roberto Martinez puts in his talented young players and the belief that instills in them.
Ross Barkley has flourished under new management, there for all to see from day one of the Premier League season with his goal at Norwich.
Now John Stones is catching the eye in the continued absence of Phil Jagielka. The 19-year-old is now likely to make his fifth consecutive Premier League start, and with fourth placed Arsenal the visitors to Goodison Park the stakes couldn't be higher. Everton trail their opponents by just four points and have a game in hand.
"John is ready to be put under any situation, any game, any occasion, so he's very much ready for whatever comes his way," said Martinez, although his enthusiasm was tempered slightly when the possibility of Stones going to the World Cup was mentioned.
"He's someone that's going to be very much a special centre half in our football club and I'm sure England will get the rewards from that. In my eyes he is the complete modern centre half but he's still a young man and we need to allow him to develop and enjoy his football."
Adding greater depth to his squad is the next step in Martinez's development plan. That's where this showdown with Arsenal could surely make a major difference.
Victory may not guarantee a top-four finish, but if Everton are seen to be getting the better of a direct rival in a pressure situation at the business end of the season, the message that sends out could go some way to persuading Romelu Lukaku his future is at Goodison Park.
"I think the next seven games are going to be very important to see the next phase for Romelu," said Martinez. "But it's not about getting into the Champions League or not.
"It's more the focus of the football club that looks to get into the Champions League consistently and that's very important for a young player who wants to fulfil his potential."
Martinez made his own ambitions clear when he first told Bill Kenwright he will deliver Champions League football.
There was, however, no talk at Finch Farm on Friday of this being a top four decider with Arsenal, even though Everton have the momentum on the back of five straight Premier League wins.
"It could have a huge bearing because internally there's nothing better than carrying on a winning streak.
"What we've achieved is the opportunity to fight mathematically for a top four finish and that is an incredible, a remarkable achievement. Looking at the stats it's very much a reflection that every year is harder to break into the top four."
That's not an indication that Martinez feels it's now or never this season. Particularly as Arsenal, one of the prime examples to follow in terms of consistently qualifying for the Champions League, stand in their way. Overhaul them and Evertonians will have good reason to sing "the School of Science is back."
Watch Everton v Arsenal on Sky Sports 1 HD from 13.00 today