Back in April last year I wrote a piece “Talking a Good Game” published on ToffeWeb on how Roberto Martinez seemed always to say the right thing: he had embraced the culture and traditions of Everton, he appeared to "get" the fans and, in spite of a disappointing second term in charge, probably still had the support of the majority to regenerate the School of Science.
Fast forward nine months, and the backdrop could not be more different. Judging from reactions to the home defeat to Swansea, the first time Everton have ever succumbed to the relegation-threatened club in the League, Martinez is rapidly falling out of favour as much for what he says as to how his team is playing, and crucially, the results they are achieving. Last year his words made sense, in some way they made up for the "second season syndrome" slump; this year many of his comments appear ill-judged, hard to understand and are proving more than a little antagonistic.
In short his words are losing him friends and influencing the tide of opinion against him. After conceding a 98th minute equaliser at Chelsea, having done the same at Bournemouth, Roberto would not accept any failing in game management by the players. Instead he flipped things on their head and said he didn't want his team to "run down the clock", he wanted them to be brave. "Nooooooh we don't!" yelled the Evertonians back at him; we need to close out a game, find Row Z when necessary and not encourage Cruyff turns in our own six yard box.
After yesterday's Swansea result Roberto said that winning was less important than the style of play, and somehow appeared to blame the fans for putting pressure on the players, making them uncomfortable playing at home. Navel-gazing claptrap to some, the final straw for others; the Twittersphere is abuzz with anger and claims that the boss is delusional, stubborn and out of his depth.
Arguably Martinez's finest managerial hour so far was his FA Cup Final victory over Man City, reportedly the moment that Blue Bill decided to make Roberto his man. With a League Cup semi-final two days away against the same opponents and "just" a clean sheet – like two weeks ago at the Etihad – required to make it to a third League Cup final in the Club's history, can the manager deliver on the promise of a hugely talented squad? There is no doubt that Everton's passionate and loyal, long suffering fans will roar the team on for 90 or 120 minutes at City on Wednesday.
Even if Everton do make it to Wembley, though, will it just be papering over the cracks that the manager's own words have created? Or could it be that the players will ultimately do the talking for Martinez on the pitch so he can be successful, not with sound bytes but with results, where only a first trophy in 21 years will probably be good enough. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, as the club motto says; Roberto should surely know his history and the fans will settle for nothing less.
Here' s hoping...
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