Is a lack of pre-season preparation holding Everton back?

Everton Logo at Goodison Park

Are Everton paying the price for their lack of pre-season preparation? Late capitulations against Leicester City and Arsenal suggest that they are.

The Blues raced into a two-goal lead at Goodison Park against Arsenal on Saturday, and they looked every inch a team capable of overthrowing the Gunners for fourth place this season – just like they did when they romped to a 3-0 win against their London rivals back in April.

On that occasion, Martinez’s men were able to hold out for a convincing victory, but Saturday’s performance dipped in the second period and Arsene Wenger’s side were allowed to steal a point, despite being poor throughout.

It was an intriguing show of character from the Gunners – a team who were beaten from all angles last term for a lack of backbone in big games – but from an Everton point of view, the draw will have infuriated.

The Toffees led with just seven minutes remaining before Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud gave the visitors a point they could scarcely believe.

The Blues tired in the final third, and the result was the second successive draw this season, following last week’s opener against the Foxes.

On that occasion it was Chris Wood who netted a late leveller for the Foxes, and Everton’s lack of pre-season friendlies is perhaps coming back to haunt them.

Martinez’s squad had just five friendlies, compared to most of other teams' seven matches, and there is a lingering worry that they are not prepared to physically handle the high-intensity of a 90-minute Premier League game.

Everton did not enjoy the finest of pre-season programmes as they slipped to three defeats against the likes of Celta Vigo, Leicester City and Paderborn, while they were also held to draws against Porto and Tranmere Rovers.

Collapses against Leicester and Arsenal will not have quelled those worries that were being spoken about by fans prior to the curtain-raiser earlier this month.

"We got punished by two goals of hopeful football, and they deserve huge credit for that,” Martinez told reporters after the Arsenal game.

“The disappointment is the result, but the performance was phenomenal. The two games we have played, [against] Leicester and Arsenal, we are the ones to blame for not getting six points.

"It is very frustrating but gives you a real excitement going forward. I just felt that certain individuals, and as a team, we dropped our energy levels and we couldn't control it.”

There were certainly positives for Martinez, and their ability to outplay a side who have designs on a Premier League title win will certainly have given the former Wigan Athletic boss heart.

Romelu Lukaku was in blistering form in the first period and it was the club's record signing's superb play that opened up the Gunners defence for Steven Naismith to double the lead.

Lukaku, much like many of his teammates, is working his way back to full fitness following his World Cup exertions and the striker will be a key player this term.

Elsewhere, Naismith continued to prove doubters wrong, and the Scotland international has established himself as an important of the squad since David Moyes's departure.

It’s not all doom and gloom on Goodison Park, but fitness is an issue that will continue to linger until Everton start to close out games where they lead.

Late capitulations have stopped them from joining Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the league, and Martinez must find a solution - and find it fast.

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