Everton season preview: 2015/16
Romelu Lukaku, Tim Howard and Leighton Baines wearing Everton's new home kit for the 2015/16 season. (Image: mirror.co.uk)

The Premier League gets underway this weekend and Everton will be looking to improve on last season's disappointing campaign.

The Toffees finished 11th in the Premier League and were knocked out of both the League Cup and FA Cup at the first time of asking, however they did reach the last 16 in the Europa League.

Looking to improve on last season's disappointment

There was lots of optimism around Goodison Park this time last year after Everton finished 5th with their record points tally of 72 points in Roberto Martinez's first season in charge of the club. The next step was to go one better: try and push into the top four.

However, the 2014/15 season proved to be a case of second season blues for Martinez. His side finished outside the top 10 for the first time since 2005/06 and recorded their lowest points tally since 2004.

After just six wins in their opening 28 league games, Everton were nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation battle but won six of their last 10 Premier League fixtures to finish 11th.

The Toffees participation in the Europa League appeared to influence their league form, but whatever the reason, finishing 11th was a major disappointment for everyone at the club.

Pre-season

Roberto Martinez described Everton's pre-season as "very good" and said that he was pleased with the players' physical levels and added that his team were ready for the season to start.

Martinez saw his side ease to a 4-0 win over Swindon in their first pre-season match. Kevin Mirallas scored a second-half brace before Romelu Lukaku added a third goal and Conor McAleny, who notched three assists in the match, rounded off a 4-0 victory with a deserved goal.

The Toffees then travelled to Singapore to play in the Barclay Asia Trophy. Everton reached the final after beating fellow Premier League side Stoke City in a penalty shoot-out. Everton converted all five of their penalties following a goalless 90 minutes. Ross Barkley's brilliant strike was just a consolation with the Blues losing 3-1 to Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy final.

Everton then travelled to Scotland. Romelu Lukaku's hat-trick, including two goals from the penalty spot, saw Everton record a 3-0 defeat over Hearts. Before Ross Barkley and Conor McAleny took their pre-season tallies to two in the 2-0 win over Dundee United.

Everton then played two friendlies in the space of 24 hours last weekend. They fell to a 2-0 defeat against Championship side Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday before losing 2-1 at Goodison Park on Sunday in Duncan Ferguson's testimonial against Villarreal. Tyias Browning scored a late consolation for the Toffees with Ferguson and Wayne Rooney on the pitch.

Martinez deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation in all but one of Everton's pre-season friendlies so it is likely that the Toffees will set-up similar to last season in the Premier League. The only exception to this formation was against Hearts, when Martinez deployed an attacking 4-3-3 formation.

Pre-season has also seen academy players feature with a number of them impressing Martinez, including defenders Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway and striker Conor McAleny. Expect to see more academy players make the step-up to the senior squad this season.

New signings

Everton's transfer policy this summer has frustrated some supporters with Everton spending the least amount of money of any Premier League club so far. The lack of funds invested and lack of activity will be a cause of concern for Everton supporters.

Martinez has added midfielder Tom Cleverley on a free transfer from Manchester United and winger Gerard Deulofeu for £4.2 million from Barcelona to his squad. Both players add quality and depth to the squad and provide competition for places.

When Cleverley arrived at Goodison Park, some supporters did not know how he would fit in, however he has performed well in pre-season; his passing and work ethic are two particular attributes which have been impressive. The former Manchester United player can also play in a number of roles across the midfield.

Everton supporters will be hoping Deulofeu can rediscover the form he showed whilst on loan at Goodison Park during the 2013/14 season. The Spaniard has the tools to light up the team and the ex-Barcelona winger will add creativity and flair, something that Everton lacked in some matches last season. But as much as he will get the Everton supporters off their seats he will also have them tearing their hair out.

However, Roberto Martinez has admitted that he has not finished adding to his squad yet, with the Everton manager looking to bring a forward, a number 10 and a centre-back to Goodison Park before the transfer window closes on Tuesday, September 1. These are areas that Martinez needs to strengthen if Everton are going to challenge for European qualification.

This season

Martinez will be hoping lessons have been learned from last season and Everton can challenge for European qualification again.

The Everton manager will also be hoping to start the season better than last, where they won just one of their opening seven games, leaving them 17th. However, Everton have a tough start to the season, with eight of their opening 10 games against teams that finished higher than them, including matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Consistency is going to be important if Everton are going to challenge for European qualification next season, as the Blues won back-to-back games only three times last season, and to do this Everton need to make Goodison Park a fortress again.

Last season they won just seven games at home compared to 13 and 12 in the previous two seasons. The Toffees won 42 points at Goodison in those two seasons but won just 28 at home last season, therefore it is important that Everton make Goodison Park a ground which teams fear coming to again.

The Toffees also cannot afford to make as many mistakes as last season, they made more errors leading to goals than any other Premier League team in 2014/15 with 15.

Lukaku's form is going to be key to whether Everton have a successful season and supporters will be hoping the Belgian is more consistent in the Premier League after scoring just 10 league goals following his £28 million move from Chelsea last summer.

However, the 22-year-old is a natural goalscorer and scored 20 goals in all competitions, including 13 goals since January.

The Belgian international cannot go it alone though and he needs support from his fellow attackers and he needs the ammunition and the chances to be created from his team-mates. If this is going to be a better season for Everton then everyone is going to have to play their part; the players, the manager and the supporters.

What will be a success?

Roberto Martinez cannot afford another disappointing campaign and Everton must improve on last season. Success for Everton will be challenging for European qualification again and a return to the standard of football they played in Martinez's first season in charge.

Everton supporters will perhaps want to see a cup run in either the League Cup or FA Cup after seeing their side knocked out of both competitions in the first round they entered.

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