Roberto Martinez: Defence and Attack

By Peter Needham 29/01/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

Defence

Oh the pain.

The pain of those 90 minutes at the Etihad, followed by the equally painful extra time on social media, where Evertonians vented their anger and frustrations, chiefly at Roberto Martinez. It was all a bit alien to me. I' just not that type. And I want to speak up for the many other Evertonians I' sure aren' that type. The quieter, rational fans social media doesn' seem to hear.

I've been an Everton fan nearly 40 years. And, I have to say, if you think Martinez's Everton are terrible, you weren' around in the pre-Moyes era. You weren' around for Mike Walker, Brett Angell, Stuart Barlow, relegation dogfights and salmon pink kits. Actually, for all his good work, even the Moyes era never excited me too much either.

But ever since Roberto Martinez took over, I've gone out of my way to watch every minute of every Everton game. And It's very rare I' appalled by what I see. (The Man United game, for understandable reasons, and the first half against Swansea). In general, I find our football's a joy to watch. Even in periods of the City cup defeat we launched breath-taking counter attacks.

We lost, and no one felt the pain more than I did. But the pain is a good pain. It's the pain caused by hopes being raised because of what Martinez has done, the players he�s brought in, the quality football we can play. It's not the pain of relegation struggles or having to sit through dire football. Our squad is immense, a squad Martinez has built. It's Martinez who has made Stones and Barkley shine, brought in Besic, Lukaku, Deulofeu, McCarthy, Barry, all quality additions. He vows every transfer window to make us stronger. And does. Yes, you have to question if he's getting the best out of the squad he's assembled, but don't lose sight of the fact he DID assemble it.

Attack

Of course, in all fairness, Martinez DOES also have to take the blame for his mistakes too. He's a manager who is renowned as being a student of the game, but only plays one formation. Ever! There is absolutely no variation from game to game, or within games. Even something as simple as playing two up front seems an exotic, alien concept. Also, for some inexplicable reason, he happily plays pretty much everyone else left wing before Kevin Mirallas – a genuine winger, who has long been one of our finest finishers.

And, well, yes! The defensive issues. His level of disinterest in the very necessary art of defending is alarming. One person rarely talked about when it comes to our defensive woes is Sylvain Distin. When he slipped out of Goodison he left a big hole. Literally. He was the size of two centre backs and did the job of two. He was the type of defensive rock every side needs, the type Martinez is simply not interested in. We've never replaced him and still need to.

But right now, my chief complaint about Martinez is his bizarre reactions to the constant, predictable defeats and draws. He has an odd habit of stepping up to the mic and banging on about bad luck – the kind of thing you do when you're a sore loser as a child. He needs to realise, when things repeatedly go the same way, It's not bad luck. And changes have to be made.

He also has an even odder habit of coming across in press conferences like the Iraqi Minister for Information during the second Gulf War. Like nothing's wrong, everything's fine, even though everyone can see US tanks battering Baghdad behind him. I' all for optimism but It's too much. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging there are problems, and then doing the hard work of addressing them.

But what about our part in all this? This might be a good time for us all to take a good look at ourselves too. To have a little reality check about Everton football club in 2016. No one wants trophies and top four finishes more than I do. I grew up on a regular diet of such things in the 80s, and I crave a return to those golden days. But we are a club without the resources other clubs have. So maybe cup semi-finals and mid table IS about our level right now. That's not easy to accept, but we have to be realistic. It's not like Martinez has spent billions and It's a crime he's not winning the Champions League.

It's the easiest knee-jerk reaction in the world to say: "Sack the manager." But, even if we did, who would come in and do a better job with such limited resources? Who else would have us playing such attractive attacking football? Who else would accept the limits of the job without ever complaining about them? My worry is, we sack Martinez, our football goes back 20 years, our league form doesn' improve, players who are close to the manager leave, and we rue a hasty decision.

When it comes down to it, I just think we have to be balanced about Roberto Martinez. Yes, he has flaws, but don't forget all he's brought to the club as well.

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