Replacing Baines an impossible task for Martinez

Roberto Martinez insists that Leighton Baines’ injury is first and foremost an opportunity for others who deserve to play.

The ever-present England international, who had played every minute available for Everton in the Premier League this season, was forced from the pitch with a fractured toe during the weekend’s derby encounter with Liverpool.

The Toffees boss will now be forced to find cover for his most consistent performer for six weeks, and given the left back’s typically ceaseless presence in the side, there isn’t a wealth of depth behind him in the squad.

But Martinez remains adamant that there are others at Goodison Park ready to pounce on a rare chance to stand in for Baines in the back line.

"When something like this happens it’s an opportunity for other players and can give them excitement," he expounded.

"Obviously you never want to lose players to injury, but unfortunately it's a contact game and that will happen.

"We've had players who have worked hard for five months and deserved an opportunity in the team so they will get that.

"I'm really excited to see how we react as a team and a squad to the demands ahead. It's there for us to try and fulfill our potential.

"I'm looking at the level now of the players who have been very unfortunate not to be in the starting line-up so far, to see how they can show me what they can do."

Martinez’s confidence in his players’ ability to step up in Baines’ absence is somewhat refreshing, but losing the 28-year-old will have a deep effect on Everton’s performance.

Few full backs in the Premier League possess creative prowess on par with the Englishman, who holds a distinct responsibility for manufacturing opportunities for his teammates despite his position, and furthermore is both a direct and indirect threat from set-pieces.

Any stand-in will struggle to replicate his personality in attack and defence, given that Baines offers a broader range of contributions than most of that occupy his role, leaving a sizeable hole in the Everton line-up.

Gareth Barry slid over to left back to replace the man heavily linked with Manchester United following his 50th minute substitution on Saturday, but won’t necessarily be Martinez’s solution going forward.

Veteran Tony Hibbert, who hasn’t appeared for Everton since a one minute cameo on May 12, will have a shout to finally see action this term, whilst the youthful John Stones and Bryan Oviedo are certainly eying up the chance to make a lasting impression on the manager.

Whoever is integrated into the starting eleven in Baines’ absence, it is quite clear the Toffees will be without a major influence that transcends the traditional duties of a full back when on the pitch, and duly will have to cope.

As Martinez said, losing a key player is bound to happen at some point and will test the side’s resolve, but the untried options behind the England international present a measure of worry with the all-action man on the treatment table.

Such is the importance of Baines that a dimension of Everton’s game will be lost for the time being and will require increased production from elsewhere to overcome, no matter how adamant the Spanish tactician is that he has others on his roster ready to fill the void.

image: © wonker

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