Manchester conquered, now it's London for Martinez
New Everton boss is daring his team to go further, both in playing style and ambition
Everton overcame one hoodoo on Wednesday night with victory at Old Trafford for the first time since the inaugural season of the Premier League and they have the chance to do the same tomorrow when they visit Arsenal in the match of the weekend.
During David Moyes' 11-year reign at Goodison Park, Everton often set out with no greater ambition than to avoid defeat against the elite teams on the road, but new boss Roberto Martinez is daring his squad to go further than before, both in playing style and ambition, and it is paying dividends.
Moyes' accomplishment in establishing Everton as a top-six side was impressive, but he seemed to accept there was a ceiling to what could be achieved. The negativity was reflected in the fact he did not manage a single victory in 42 away games against the established big four of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Moyes lost eight out of 11 at United, but on Wednesday night Martinez won at Old Trafford at his first attempt with Everton. The next stop is London for a showdown with Arsenal, whose home record against Moyes' Everton was just as dominant as United's, with nine victories out of 12.
Stopping Arsenal will be more difficult for Martinez, given that Arsenal are in much better form than United, but there is reason for hope in Everton's all-round statistics under their new manager.
Martinez has improved on Moyes' figures in almost every respect and his haul of 27 points from the first 14 games was bettered only once in the previous manager's 11 full seasons.
That came in 2004-05, Everton's best season under Moyes, when they had 29 points at this stage and went on to finish fourth.
Most remarkably of all, in view of the Moyes hallmark of solid defence, Everton have an even better defensive record than at the same stage of last season.
They have conceded only 13 goals under Martinez, a total bettered only by Arsenal with 10 goals against, and they have the lowest defeat rate - their sole loss was 3-1 at Manchester City.
The City match is also their only defeat in five this season against the big six - their other results have been a 1-0 win over Chelsea, the 3-3 thriller against Liverpool and a goalless draw against Tottenham (all at home) and the 1-0 victory at United.
Arsenal are still not fully convincing against the best teams and their record against top-half sides this season (three wins and two defeats out of five) is inferior to Everton's (four wins, two draws and one defeat out of seven). This is a big test of the Gunners' title credentials and they are far from certain to win.
A close match is in prospect, with both teams low-scoring against top-half teams, and under 2.5 goals looks a decent bet. At the match odds, Everton may be worth chancing as they are certainly overpriced on this season's strong form.
Southampton, like Everton, have shown no fear against the big six and they rate a good long-odds bet at home to Manchester City.
Three straight defeats have stalled Southampton's impressive early run, but it is always better to be guided by long-term results and Mauricio Pochettino's side have been solid since he took charge at St Mary's.
In particular, Pochettino's high pressing game has given Southampton a good home record against the big six, with three wins out of three (including 3-1 over City last season).
Manuel Pellegrini is starting to cure City's ills on the road, but it is too early to give them a clean bill of health after four away defeats out of seven.
Tottenham are much preferred to City as a short-odds away bet when they face bottom club Sunderland tonight. Andre Villas-Boas has steadied the ship after the 6-0 drubbing at City, with two wins and a draw against Manchester United in three matches since, and Tottenham's away record against lesser opposition is excellent.
Under Villas-Boas, Tottenham have won nine out of 13 on the road against bottom-half teams and Sunderland may struggle to raise their game again after they gave so much against Chelsea on Wednesday night and ended with nothing after a 4-3 defeat.
Aston Villa, who are unbeaten against teams below them in the table, are the handicap pick for their trip to Fulham. Villa's defence has improved this season and their counter-attacking is as potent as ever, as they proved in their midweek win at Southampton.
Southampton, Tottenham, Aston Villa, QPR, Monchengladbach, Verona.