Finally, last week, after what felt like an eternity, Everton confirmed Roberto Martinez as the new manager. Following the completion of his press obligations, Martinez spent Wednesday night at Finch Farm weighing up possible transfer targets. Needing to bolster a paper-thin squad, each arrival and departure is sure to fall under intense scrutiny.
Several areas need attention and the goalkeeping department is one of the more pressing concerns, with Tim Howard currently the only senior keeper at the club, therefore one or two additions are required before the new season gets under way.
As highlighted in this recent assessment of the Everton squad, the departure of Jan Mucha only hastens the need for goalkeeping reinforcements. Mason Springthorpe is the current understudy, named on the bench when Howard missed two matches through injury last season, but with no first team experience, the gap between him and Howard needs bridging.
Although the model of consistency for the best part of seven years since joining from Manchester United in 2006, the first cracks began to appear last season. The early season woes of the American number one formed this mid-season analysis.
Absent any meaningful competition, Howard played without the threat of losing his place. Mucha made just ten appearances over three seasons, with a Carling Cup howler seemingly consigning him to the Goodison scrapheap.
Ironically, when injury hit, Mucha received a second chance. After posting a man-of-the-mach display in the win over Manchester City, it was more than reasonable to assume the Slovakian would retain his place; not so, the fit-again number one returned for the visit of Stoke.
An ever-present for several seasons, the aforementioned injury struck at the worst possible moment during the last campaign. The back injury sustained against Oldham curtailed a run of 210 consecutive league appearances. Absent for two home games, Howard fell two matches short of the club record held by Neville Southall – 212.
The previous campaign represented a mixed bag for Howard and Everton. While returning a respectable goals-conceded per game ratio of 1.08, ten clean sheets is below expectation for a side with such a strong defence; the Toffees had the fourth-best defence in the Premier League last season.
At the other end of the scale, Howard made five defensive errors; his worst figures in five seasons. Right through to the final day, culminating in the Juan Mata goal at Stamford Bridge, errors plagued the American keeper during 2012-13.
The number of saves have steadily decreased each season from 114 in 2009 to 90 in 2013. However, given the relatively low individual error count and the often decreasing number of goals conceded, the drop in saves suggests an improving defence not a goalkeeping issue.
One area that may require improvement is distribution. The new manager favours a more robust passing style, while Howard is not known for his composure in possession and the keeper should look to improve his 56.5% passing accuracy along with a long ball accuracy of 42%.
Needing his number one back to his best next season, Martinez must also find a capable understudy; a promising youngster would be a welcome addition if funds allow. Neville Southall believes Everton “missed a trick” when Jack Butland joined Stoke so the onus is on the club to discover a keeper of similar potential.
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