Southampton 0 Everton 3: Toffees' boss Roberto Martinez backs Saints’ commitment to Europe

Southampton 0 Everton 3

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The Independent Online

Southampton resume their Europa League campaign on Thursday with concern growing at the tournament’s potential impact. They have one point from two Premier League matches, and five players in the injury room. While none of this is down to their European involvement so far, a 5-0 two-legged stroll over Vitesse Arnhem, it has increased awareness as to how easily a club can be knocked out of its stride.

Everton, who dropped 25 points last season, when they played 10 Europa League fixtures – and still only reached the last 16 – might be considered an example of how the competition can ruin a season. Their 11th-place finish in the Premier League was their worst in a decade. But Roberto Martinez, Everton’s manager, insisted after their 3-0 win at Southampton that the Saints should take the long-term view.

“I am sure Ronald Koeman will tell you that is what you want, as a manager you want to play in Europe,” Martinez said. “If he drops a few points in the league as a consequence of that, so be it. We learnt a lot in Europe last season, today’s performance is from that experience.

“When you start winning expectations rise, that is normal. You ask any manager, would you rather have an average season so no one puts any expectation on you, or a fantastic one and find it difficult to keep improving? I am sure we all want that challenge. There will come a point when playing in two competitions will test them, but they will get the benefits the season after.”

Les Reed, Saints’ executive director of football, has said the club should embrace Europe, adding he believes their squad depth, backed by the expertise of their medical and fitness departments, will enable the club to cope.

 

Should they get past Thursday’s opponents Midtjylland, the Danish champions, Saints will be committed to six group games, some of which may involve significant travel. Everton went 2,000 miles to Krasnodar, in Russia’s Black Sea region, last season, and lost their subsequent league game.

Nevertheless, Martinez is convinced his squad, especially the young players, are better for the experience and they certainly looked in good shape at St Mary’s. With Ross Barkley rejuvenated by a quiet summer and Romelu Lukaku in the mood, they made a mockery of the pre-match aerial protest by supporters calling for chairman Bill Kenwright to sell up.

Roy Hodgson, enjoying the rare experience of watching 10 English players, will have been impressed by John Stones, Phil Jagielka and Tom Cleverley but especially Barkley, who relished a free role behind Lukaku and Arouna Koné.

“His bravery on the ball is unique,” said Martinez, “sometimes we get confused with bravery being going strong into tackles and winning 50-50 balls. There is bravery in showing for the ball in any angle, to get the ball and try and be positive,  to make things happen for  the team.”

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