Just Mad

By Peter Carpenter 24/01/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

I was going to write last week along the lines of 'Martinez: Mastermind or mad?' but Russell Smith got there first (Martinez: Genius or insane?). It was to be about the contrast between the exciting attacking football we see at times and the repeated errors that follow, costing points and wins. I felt we were on a tightrope and it could go either way. He could become a hero and create something special or it could all fall apart.

I think we have fallen off the tightrope.

I was pleased when Martinez got the job, thinking that if he could keep Wigan up for so many seasons, play attractive football in the process, tactically outwit other managers at times and win a cup, then he could do so much more with greater resources at Everton.

The first season seemed to prove that and the Champions League beckoned briefly. Until Tony Pulis turned up with Palace in April and we got outfought by a mediocre team. It was the game after we had just got ahead of Arsenal and, for only the second time (first at Anfield 0-4), I thought he got it wrong, playing too many attacking players. We needed to ram home the advantage over Arsenal and didn't.

The second season was weird, just never got going. More odd decisions followed – no subs at Southampton, bringing back Howard after Robles kept three clean sheets, playing an open game in Kiev when we only needed a draw and others.

The third season I thought would be the test of Martinez and the vital one, as our best players are going to be tempted elsewhere before long. The signs were good to begin with. The squad looked stronger than we have had for some time and more talented. I think that is still the case, it's probably the best squad since the eighties. That's what makes it all so frustrating. This is the season to be good, there is a chance, the usual suspects are off their game and we have let it go by, watching Leicester take it instead.

And it's largely self-inflicted. The faults are clear and they haven't been addressed. The hints were there, lots of high-scoring draws last season, players comments (Baines – we don't practice defending corners, Osman; it's easier than under Moyes), lesser teams hustling us out of games, defensive errors costing goals.

It's okay to be positive, a bit of a visionary even, a purist, but it's got to be built on some solid foundations and that is just what we haven't got. The ageing goalkeeper should have been replaced. If nearly 90% of fans can see that why can't the manager? Martinez's obsession with him is now just looking completely and utterly bizarre. I don't think I am imagining it when I say the defence looked more confident against City in the cup first leg with Robles behind them.

The centre-backs are young and want to play the ball out of defence. Nothing wrong with that, I'll accept mistakes but when they are repeated again and again, something is wrong. 'We are learning,' says Martinez. Yes, young players can learn from mistakes, but where is the guidance from the teacher? Has anyone suggested to Stones that he could have done other things on occasions when errors have led to goals? For that matter, did anyone say to Deulofeu that running the ball away (and losing it) wasn't the best decision in the 98th minute at Chelsea?

In Saturday's Independent, Jimmy F-Hasselbaink said, 'Players want direction. They want to be shown the way.' Is anyone giving John Stones some direction? He is a good ball player but not yet a good defender. Part of the attraction of Chelsea last summer must have been the chance to learn from John Terry. Stones hasn't got those basic defensive qualities yet and, much as I dislike John Terry, he certainly has. When Stones first played at centre-back in Martinez's first season, he played alongside Distin and they were solid – getting some direction from the older player? Likewise Funes Mori. Another young player, this one moving into a new football culture - needs some help. Is Martinez expecting this learning to just happen automatically, or is he doing something to foster it?

I watched the open training session at Goodison last April. Ok, granted, they may not do everything as normal on such a day, but it was all small sided games, one-touch, two-touch – no technical stuff, no actual coaching of specifics, techniques or tactics. Maybe they were just putting on a show and keep the other stuff for Finch Farm but I came away thinking, 'I hope that isn't all they do in training.'

I don't mind watching a young team that will make mistakes through inexperience but where is the progress? Who is improving? Lukaku has improved on last year, touch is better, he seems more aware of other players and plays more part in the build up. Barkley is having a better season. Cleverly looks to have regained his confidence. Galloway has done well. But elsewhere it's stayed the same.

We have been overtaken by other teams who are not more talented, but they are more committed. They press us all over the pitch, we don't do that to them. We are easy to play against. They never give up, they try to get the ball back as soon as they lose it, we don't. How many times do you see a forward player give the ball away and throw hands up in the air as if it's someone else's fault. Lukaku gave the ball away against Leicester and chased back into our half to win it back. I remember it because it's such a rarity these days. Swansea, second half, Howard came out to clear and hoofed it downfield. Three of our players were still offside from the previous attack and could play no part.

For all their skills, our forward players have no concept of defending as a team. When the ball is lost, they don't think getting it back has anything much to do with them.

It's like putting a bunch schoolkids in charge of the classroom and still expecting learning to take place. The over-blown celebration of goals is a worrying thing too. Celebrate as much as you like when you have actually achieved something, not before - are they too easily pleased? Do they think they are better than they really are?

It's a potentially toxic mix, past-it keeper, inexperienced centre-backs, a few too many 'luxury' players who can be hustled out of games, petulant attitudes at times. Add to that a manager who doesn't see these faults and doesn't want to do the dirty stuff anyway. He won't just play out time in winning positions. He won't put on an extra defender to keep a lead. He seems to think that just doing the same stuff over and over will see it all come right in the end.

Characteristics of his teams – attractive football, concede a lot of goals, don't win enough games. We are just a more expensive Wigan. He is the one who isn't learning, because he isn't even looking. I am sorry to say I was wrong about him. He has failed to progress. He is now dangerous, if we go another 10 league games with only one win, we will be in a relegation fight. It is now a season and a half of under-achieving and it should be so much better.

I would sack him tomorrow. And if there really is a takeover in the offing, a chance to appoint their own man might help. There must be plenty of coaches out there, watching this slow-motion car crash, who would jump at the chance of taking over such a talented group of players, convinced they could get them to their full potential. Martinez, it is clear now, can't do it.

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