Martinez: We can't afford to rest jaded star Lukaku
Everton manager Roberto Martinez admits they cannot afford to give out-of-form striker Romelu Lukaku a much-needed rest.
The Belgium international has scored just twice since he moved to Goodison Park from Chelsea on a permanent £28million deal in the summer.
At this stage 12 months ago he had twice as many goals while playing on loan for the Toffees, but Martinez believes last season's exertions followed immediately by the World Cup have taken their toll on the 21-year-old.
However, with Arouna Kone still not fit after a serious knee injury almost exactly a year ago, Steven Naismith operating better in a slightly deeper role and 33-year-old Samuel Eto'o seen as a back-up, Martinez has had little option but to keep putting his club-record signing back in the firing line.
The Spaniard admits he does not think leaving out Lukaku now will benefit him, but they will focus on getting him back to peak fitness in the next couple of weeks. "Romelu is still finding his best moment of form," he said.
"Any player coming out of a World Cup always takes a transitional period to get their fitness back to normal.
"I think Rom has done incredibly to make himself available for the games we've had. Only (goalkeeper) Tim Howard has played the same amount of games and his desire to help the team has stopped him being able to concentrate on being fully fit.
"Over the next few weeks we are going to try to give him that physical element he needs, but he is a young man who will be an important player for us."
Martinez accepts they have contributed to their own failings so far, but despite being much worse off position-wise than they were 12 months ago, he is not about to start re-evaluating his projections for the season. "It is not a moment to assess where we are in the league. It is a period where we are working to get ourselves in the best possible position before we start the final third," he said ahead of today's visit of Aston Villa.