Everton’s fringe players will get the chance to prove they can be regular first team material tonight – as Roberto Martinez rotates his side in the Capitol One Cup.
Martinez is adamant the Blues now have enough strength in depth to rest some players against Fulham this evening, and still ensure progress in the knock-out competition.
The Blues boss, who could call on youngsters John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu along with defenders John Heitinga and Bryan Oviedo, believes giving all of his squad the chance to shine is the best way for them to become a cohesive unit when the season reaches its business end.
He said: “There are players who are desperate to show what they can do and this competition is perfect for that. That doesn’t mean I don’t expect a certain level no matter what players we have on the pitch.
“We want to be developing for February and March, then to really kick on in whatever aim we’re looking for. There are many players who haven’t had too many minutes yet and I want them to have the opportunity to show the fans what they are capable of. That’s why I’m excited for the game.
“I feel the squad is strong enough to cope with any competitions that we have early in the season. Remember that being ready at this point can sometimes be difficult because of the amount of fixtures, but with the work we did in pre-season I think we can cope.”
The Catalan insisted he has not fully decided what his strongest first 11 is yet, and believes it will not be until the second half of the season when he makes up his mind. But he emphasised to supporters that just because he is ringing the changes does not mean progressing into the next round of the cup is not a priority.
“We’re quite new as a group in terms of new signings and everyone has the opportunity to suggest they should be in the strongest starting 11,” he said.
“Then after the first four or five months of the season, then we can judge our strongest team. For now we’re still in that moment when everyone has an opportunity to show they deserve to be in the strongest side. Games like this are vital for that.
“Sometimes people can be a bit mistaken when teams are changed in cup competitions though, and think we don’t care about the game. That’s wrong – it’s exactly the opposite. We have a lot of work going on behind the scenes and to be successful we need 17 or 18 players playing at the top level.
“Unless you play games you can’t show the levels you can reach. Sometimes those games when you make changes become more intense and more important and that will be the case at Fulham.”
Martinez added that teenage defender John Stones is a perfect example of a player who will be hell-bent on proving what he can do again in West London this evening, after impressing during pre-season and figuring in the previous round against Stevenage.
He added: “John is learning so much every day from players in the best periods of their careers. He is doing everything right to show what he can do.
“I always said I like to have a strong present and a strong future as well. I’ll never be afraid to give any of my young players the opportunity if they show they deserve it.”