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The Baines Opportunity

Leighton Baines EvertonNo, it’s not the latest film starring Jason Bourne but rather the potential silver lining to the unfortunate injury of Everton’s talismanic left back. It is indisputable that Leighton Baines has been our best player of recent years. He has been easily our most consistent performer and has provided creativity when we have had none often winning games single handedly. However, with his contract situation something of a mystery,his enforced absence has to be seen as an opportunity to see how we can manage without him.

Under David Moyes we became used to and reliant upon, our attacking threat coming almost entirely from our left hand side thanks to the seemingly telepathic relationship between Baines and Pienaar. This relationship became vital to any success we had on the pitch. Things under Roberto Martinez are different in that the balance of the team has altered. With a genuinely dangerous striker to supply and pace on the right hand side with Mirallas, Deulofeu and Coleman, arguably it is no longer a catastrophe if either Baines or Pienaar are out injured.

It is up for debate whether Baines has even been in particularly good form for Everton this season with his two superb free kicks against West Ham seemingly masking what has been, by his own high standards, a very average first quarter of the season. Again some of this can be attributed to the fact we don’t need to rely on him as much this season but even so, his corners and crossing have been sub par. While I am loathe to dismiss his importance to us, he is after all an exceptional player, there is little doubt that our side has evolved and his absence is not as big a miss as perhaps people outside the club would expect.

In fact, many Evertonians myself included see this time as an opportunity to see how Roberto Martinez adapts and changes things with a number of options available to him. When Martinez arrived many expected, and maybe feared that he would change a solid defensive line into a 3-5-2 system and although he has toyed with the idea pre-season, the solidity of a long standing defence was wisely not messed with come the start of the campaign. However, this may be the time to try it with any of Stones, Alcaraz or Heitinga potentially able to step in. All three appear more comfortable on the ball than either Jagielka or Distin and it may be that Martinez decides to employ a ball playing defender to steady things as passing is certainly not our first choice pairings strength.

Bryan OviedoPerhaps most likely is that the formation won’t change at all, a certain young Costa Rican seems to have been forgotten about but he was bought by David Moyes as cover for Baines and it would be interesting to see how he copes. While he has been inconsistent in his sporadic appearances appearing a little rash, he has got pace about him and it would be a shame if he doesn’t get his chance to show whether he can cut it. Watching him reminds me a little of Coleman when he first came in, Coleman improved drastically when he started getting really games and I think it is possible that Bryan Oviedo could do the same.

Of course, it might not even be Oviedo that gets the nod in the upcoming games. Gareth Barry proved he is an able, if uninspired emergency solution and this would allow Deulofeu to start without having to sacrifice an impressive midfield. Sylvain Distin has also deputised there in the past although that would mean drafting in a partner for Jagielka but the point is that Martinez does have options. Whereas Baines’s absence in the past would be cause for panic, we have options both defensively and offensively that should prove interesting.

One things for sure, Martinez has proved he isn’t afraid to innovate and when Saturday comes it will be, as always seems to be the case under Roberto, fun seeing what he will do. Come on you Blues!

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Dave Martin

Lower Bullens as a child, Gwladys Street as an Adult and now in Family Enclosure with the new generation. Was there in 95 and hope I will be there at some point in the future.

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