We have three crucial positions in the team that decide the future of all football teams, yet they now have massive question marks over them, and that gives me room to have concerns about the forthcoming season.

While we all want a fluent attacking team, and in fact that's exactly what we do have, scoring seven goals in three matches is very good, and each one a crafted football goal, good enough to win any game of football.

If we are to concede goals in the fashion we have so far, we will need to score two or three just to get a point. The weakness in our defence is so apparent that all the other managers in the league will have seen it and will play directly on those deficiencies, and based on what has preceded, they will have a lot of success against us.

The hopes for this season were very high; the future looked to be bright but dashed hopes followed by the realisation of disappointment can be a corroding drink to have. I never expected anything from Moyes only a mid-table existence, therefore was never disappointed. Dreams of title challenges, wining cups, success in Europe, optimism is an intoxicating brew whose cup I have drunk from and enjoyed. I am not sure what failure will feel like after drinking from that cup.

These are the three current players in those key positions, who are causing me such concerns:

Tim Howard: A player I had utmost confidence in had a great World Cup but it looks to have been Tim's swansong, and sadly it is time to say goodbye from first team selection – although the alternative of course raises other questions. Tim has made only one save of distinction this season; he seems slow, hesitant and crucially his decision-making, which is absolutely fundamental to the goalkeeping role, looks to be inadequate.

Phil Jagielka: Phil had a bad World Cup, although I do feel some of the criticism was slightly over the top, but as an Evertonian I had seen him play so many good games that I brushed it to one side, as just the normal put-down of Everton that we get in the press. Unfortunately, that form has not only continued, but it is remarkably worse! Hardly ever has he won a heading duel with the opposition, I fear the worst every time the ball his in the air, or an attack comes down the middle.

Sylvain Distin: A player who I have admired for his quality and even more so for his longevity; regrettable the candle has burned low and is almost at an end. The full-time whistle has blown on his Premier League career, the partnership between Phil and Sylvain was like money in the bank; now it is like the crash of 1929 and has completely gone bust.

All three of these players have been massive servants to the club, which should not be forgotten, but there is no room for sentiment in the Premier League, and what needs to be done must be done. I have been an admirer of Roberto Martinez for a long time and have vigorously defended and promoted his cause. However, he has made a colossal mistake in this transfer window of not seeing the centre-half problem and acting on it by signing two players to take these positions.

Unfortunately, we have nowhere to go until January, when the season could well be over from a top six position and all cup completions. I dread to think what havoc Boney will reek in the League Cup at Swansea against our incumbent centre-halves. There will still be time to be safe in the league, but will the players who have signed and those with new contracts be happy with a mid-table finish.

The problem in these positions was clearly evident in pre-season and against Leicester City, and there is no excuse for not recognising this. I am afraid most had the thoughts of buying forwards on their minds and have been blinded by the fact that the centre-half and goalkeeping roles needed to be addressed.

While I cannot say the goalkeeping problem was on my radar prior to the Arsenal game, I can with the utmost honesty say that the centre-half problems certainly were. With this window now closed, who can fill these places? We are very limited, I am afraid is the answer!

  • Robles is the only keeper we can call on; while I think he has a lot of potential, is he ready for a full first-team role?
  • Stones must replace one of either Distin or Jagielka; Alcaraz is the only other experienced centre-half, but there are doubts about him, and while Galloway may be the long-term answer, is he good enough now? Can Stones carry any one of the four above? A future Everton and England captain maybe, but it certainly a big ask at his tender age.
  • Besic has played centre-half, but why has he not started in some position this season?
  • Barry has also played the odd games in his career, but I do not see him there.
  • Can Browning fit in...? Could Garbutt likewise? Both can be seen has Everton players for the future but not now in such a vital position.

I dread to the thoughts of what Manchester City or Liverpool for that mater will do to our defence. Of course, I hope to be completely wrong on Jagielka, Distin and Howard; if so, I will be willing to eat my full share of humble pie.

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Dennis Stevens
1 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:26:27
Perhaps Martinez will switch to playing 3 centre backs now.
Patrick Murphy
2 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:18:14
Martinez now has little choice but to persevere with what he considers to be his best formation and that would seem to include Distin, Jags and Howard. There is much truth that all three have not been at their best but then again the two full-backs cannot escape criticism either. The whole back five have underperformed as a unit and as individuals as have the two holding midfielders. If as many seem to suggest it is just a case of fitness levels the situation will resolve itself as quickly as it arrived, if it is a case that most if not all of the defensive players have lost their hunger to defend or are unable to reach previous levels then we are in big trouble.

As supporters it is our job to support whoever is chosen to play for the club - not to barrack or harangue them, if in ten games time the situation hasnÂ’t resolved itself then there will be question marks over the Martinez project - but I still believe that it will get better sooner rather than later.

Supporters worrying about what x or y team are going to do to us is something that worries me more than the players apparent lack of form, if we as a group of fans are constantly worried that we may get turned over then that will transmit itself to the players and a vicious circle will have been created which does nobody any good.

If we start getting turned over by the so called lesser clubs in the league then the worrying will be justified and Martinez will be relieved of his duties quicker than I can type - that wonÂ’t happen in my opinion but if supporters want to see Everton become a challenger on the big stage they would be well advised to support the team no matter what happens because we are the only people who care about the team and its fortunes other than those who are employed to play for the club.

Being passive observers and criticising from the sidelines isnÂ’t the Everton way, there are always concerns and worries about the team, but supporting the club in an active way is what being an Evertonian is all about and long may that continue. If the team is not good enough it is not their fault but we have seen enough proof in the last few years that the team is more than good enough on most occasions.

Steavey Buckley
3 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:42:37
The problem at the moment is not Howard, Jagielka or Distin, but the manager. Or I should say his loyalty to them, which makes him prepared to play them, when he should not. The only real loyalty a manager should have is to the supporters, because everyone can agree to this (including the players) because the supporters are the ones who have made Everton special to play for.
Rob Weis
4 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:15:42
Come on, be a bit more positive. For everyoneÂ’s sake. WE HAVE PLAYED THREE MATCHES. All tough. Leicester away to begin is hard. Arsenal and Chelsea always tough no matter where weÂ’re playing.

Defending has been shite, yes- but itÂ’s not like there isnÂ’t like 95% of the campaign left. Maybe even more when you consider cup matches.

DoesnÂ’t make any sense to say Distin/Jags will be shit for the rest of the season. Yes if Tim gets injured weÂ’re quite fucked- but you never know Joel could come good with more regular and more meaningful playing time. Barry/Besic/McCarthy could probably all step in at back, could see Besic playing RB. It was one bad error that you know wonÂ’t happen many more times, heÂ’s better than that. Much better.

WeÂ’ll be fine, itÂ’ll all start to come together. We had a terrific window.

Brian Waring
5 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:52:12
Steavey, maybe he is showing a bit of loyalty to them because we had the third best defensive record last season, and we are only 3 games into this season.
Ray Robinson
6 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:57:48
Yobo has just been released by Fenerbahce and is therefore a free agent. I hope that one doesnÂ’t happen!
Rob Weis
7 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:01:14
I donÂ’t see that happening Dennis. With Coleman and Baines as the Wingers staggered up a bit? Who would be three back? Stones/Jags/Distin? I would rather have a 4-2-2-2. I think that Lukaku should also be benched unless he shows that he wants to fight for Everton. He has been pretty good at the things that are needed for us to score goals, but he needs to bang them in himself. WeÂ’ve scored a lot of goals for 3 games, mind you all.
Les Fitzpatrick
8 Posted 02/09/2014 at 16:48:58
A fine article well written Wayne. You have encapsulated my fears, which I have harboured since the last 3 or 4 games of last season. Nothing can be done now until the January window, so we just have to hope the team can close ranks, get a few clean sheets under their belts and get the confidence back.

I assume Martinez will be trying out different combinations of Besic, Stones and Distin over the next few weeks/games. Jags needs to be benched and get some confidence back in the reserves.

My big worry is the managerÂ’s apparent stubborn streak, allowing Jags and Distin to play themselves back into form might simply leave us in the bottom few league places and out of cups, and struggling in the Europa League.

Ray Robinson
9 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:06:45
Just read in the Times that Mourinho has only got 5 defenders in his Chelsea squad. Another one dicing with fate! Why did we let Duffy go I wonder - we hardly made a killing on him and he could have helped out in the cup competitions.
Tony J Williams
10 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:04:30
Quick off the mark Wayne, Howard is not any different to when he first came here.

he has always been rooted to his line, see The miniture Eddie MurphyÂ’s goal against him in the Carling Cup semi final, or the same opponents last season when Terry tapped in from less than a yard out from a free kick into the box.

He is not slow, just scared to come off his line and has made some good saves this season already and would be harshly criticised for the goals conceded so far this season.

Not going to go into Jags and Distin because that first goal on Saturday had my blood boiling and I am already on tablets for my blood pressure

Steavey Buckley
11 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:08:03
Brian Waring: It is not just about the 3 games, the friendlies were a clue to EvertonÂ’s weaknesses at CB positions. Those 2 positions and the goal keeper have to be rock solid, otherwise, a team can leak goals all season and be relegated.

Strangely, last season, Cardiff had a better goal keeper and more solid CBs compared to Everton this season, but were still relegated.

I believe also, there was too much reliant on Mccarthy and Barry helping out the defence last season than this one. And maybe the real clue why Everton are leaking more goals than usual.

Dean Adams
12 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:08:51
Everyone is in a rush these days. Sit down, relax, have a CadburyÂ’s Caramel.
Enjoy the peace. It would be astronomic for us to drop from 5th on 72 points to the bottom half of the table. Do people really think that Hull, Stoke, Sunderland, West Ham, Aston Villa, WBA and QPR will get anywhere near us, let alone Leicester, Burnley and Newcastle. Wow, either a lot of nutters are on the loose pretending to be Toffees, or there is some mass misery drive going on that I wasnÂ’t invited to.

Howard is still a top keeper, Distin is still good enough, Jags is just suffering from a lack of confidence. Against Chelsea, the midfield looked like they were failing to cut out the runs of the Chelsea players. Only Mirallas looked up for it. But and it is a big but, Chelsea are by far and away one of two sides in this league who are better than the rest. Just watch the movement and the accuracy of their shots. We outpassed them, had more possession, but were not as lucky, or as clever as they were. It was not "the end is nigh" scenario.

Dennis Stevens
13 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:25:02
Rob, if Martinez chose to play three central defenders itÂ’d obviously probably be 3 from Jagielka, Distin, Stones & Alcaraz. I donÂ’t know why you canÂ’t see it happening, as Martinez has used this formation before. Not that IÂ’m advocating it, just wondering whether itÂ’s a consideration.
Anthony Flack
14 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:35:45
I am not sure it suits either Baines or Coleman starting from the more advanced position that would result from playing three at the back - I think I prefer and they better suit starting from the more traditional full back position.

So the opportunity cost of going three at the back is too great for me -

Ken Buckley
15 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:24:24
I just wonder if the manager needs to tweak his way of playing. The Martinez way will be great when he has players in every position who can operate that way.

In Jags and Distin we have two old school centre halves and there is something about old dogs and new tricks so I just wonder if the Manager simply told them to compete like yard dogs, win the ball and quickly pass to someone who can play the Martinez way. This may work short term until funds allow the right sort of centre back to be recruited.

Play to players strengths comes to mind


Jay Harris
16 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:45:10
As I posted elsewhere IMO the real problem is right through the spine of the team.

Tim HowardÂ’s head is still at the world cup.

Jags has been blamed unfairly by the media for EnglandÂ’s shortcomings and has not fully recovered mentally from his injury which seems to have affected his confidence..

McCarthy does not look fit or his head is elsewhere and Lukaku is unfit and carrying an injury so cant hold the ball up which means it invariably comes straight back at the defence.

Some of these issues will right themselves as the players get fitter and get confidence back but in the meantime I would give Jags a rest as he is the weakest link right now. He is supposed to cover Coleman but Distin is covering him and Baines because those last ditch tackles and aggressive marking that are so typical of Jags are just not happening.

I just hope the Chelsea result was a wake up call and we start to come together before Man U and the RS games never mind Swansea.

Steavey Buckley
17 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:44:30
I donÂ’t believe it has dawned on many supporters the amount of defensive support and cover both McCarthy and Barry gave the CBs last season. So instead of having either Barry or McCarthy helping out at the back, there were both of them. Instead of one of them helping out Barkley in midfield.

So this lauded defensive record last season may have came out a price, masquerading CB deficiencies, which have showed up this season with the conceding of 10 goals. And maybe with more midfield support last season, Everton could have pushed on further and secured 4th place.

Mark Taylor
18 Posted 02/09/2014 at 17:51:02
I think this still leaves another unaddressed position, that of back up right back. Hibbert is not credible in that role and it worries me that Martinez seems to think he is.

The position regarding the CBÂ’s in particular reminds me of exchanges on here a few weeks ago. Nothwithstanding the relative lack of new players, some argued that having our younger players a year older would automatically mean we are stronger. But along with our crop of very good youngsters, we also carry a fair number of veterans, for whom another year would not see them get better, but if anything, regress a little with age. I think weÂ’ve begun to see that with Distin. Ideally we would be using him as a squad player this year, not first choice. We shouldnÂ’t really be seeing it with Jags, heÂ’s still young enough, but he has not been the same player since coming back last season, was poor at the WC and looks slow of mind and laboured right now. As we all know, the options apart from Stones are threadbare. I think Alcaraz is another Gibson, an injury waiting to happen. Maybe RM thinks Besic can play CB, since that was his favoured position, or that Galloway can do a Stones. I sure hope so.

I agree with those who say our shoddy defending is not entirely down to the current CBÂ’s. Barry is another looking a little slower this year and McCarthy struggles to cover for him, maybe still not fully fit. Although Mirallas seems to have finally learnt how to auxiliary defend, McGeady doesnÂ’t.

With regard to the overall position on the squad, it is worth noting that Martinez did originally say we would need to add as many as 7 players to be equipped to fight on 4 fronts. In the end we added 1. So that is a long way short of the managerÂ’s own target. Maybe we are counting on last seasonÂ’s injury list being a freak and having fewer if any players out with long term injury. I canÂ’t help thinking that we blew all of BillÂ’s pennies on Lukaku, so simply did not have the funds to reach RMÂ’s original goal of new players.

I have been perhaps one of the minority who have serious doubts about Lukaku, certainly for close on 㿊m, where IÂ’d expect to see more basic skill and control than he possesses. Certainly he looks poor value against Costa, for only ٢m more. I think Jose cut a good deal there.

I was less enthused than some when RM first came in. Frankly I did not see or expect a Messiah, especially given our current owners. We over achieved last year and credit to RM for that but he is just a good manager, not a miracle worker. Realistically, itÂ’s unlikely we will do anything like so well this year. With that outlook, IÂ’m therefore less inclined to jum on RM right now because IÂ’m not judging him on the basis of CL qualifying form- we had our chance last January and didnÂ’t use that window to get us over the line.

ItÂ’s been a poor start to the season, and clearly our managerÂ’s judgement is not impeccable, but it is far too early to talk of crisis and we will inevitably have periods when we play poorly or results are poor. IÂ’d actually settle for a middling PL season, but give the EL a proper go with strong teams fielded from the outset. ThereÂ’s a CL spot to win there and arguably it is a more realistic route than the league.

Colin Glassar
19 Posted 02/09/2014 at 18:28:30
I know what we can do, letÂ’s buy Neuer, Lahm, Chielini, Marcelo, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Modric, Bale, Lewandowski and Neymar. This way we will have cover for every position with players in their prime who can score for fun. It works for me every time on FIFA2014 why canÂ’t it work in real life?
Kevin Tully
20 Posted 02/09/2014 at 18:32:27
Ten games - surely thatÂ’s not too long a period to assess where we are heading this season? LetÂ’s clear one thing up, Jagielka wonÂ’t be dropped, Distin may be rested / rotated due to his age, I doubt he could argue with that policy.

The last game against Chelsea was a one-off, every shot they had went in, some of them luckily. They deserved the win of course, but shit happens.

The manager and the players finished 5th last season, and I have heard cries to dump half the team, and Â’we are turning into Wigan.Â’ What about Man City - getting beat 1-0 at home by Stoke? Should they get rid of Pellegrini & Aguero?

Expectations have been raised, which is a good thing, but funnily enough, some are now expecting a challenge for the title the way they go on.

A draw against Arsenal was seen as a good result 18 months ago, now we want half the team replaced because we never held on for a win. Context is required here, there doesnÂ’t seem to be any at the moment.

James Stewart
21 Posted 02/09/2014 at 19:03:16
Quite right. Many things remain unaddressed at the moment. The defence and the man organising it seriously worries me.
Rick Tarleton
22 Posted 02/09/2014 at 19:22:00
If you play a back five, then you only have five other positions. So out of Lukaku, Naismith and EtoÂ’o, thereÂ’s probably going to be only one up front and as for midfield: Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar, McGready, Barkley when fit, Besic, Oviedo, Gibson, Osman etc, . ThereÂ’ll be a lot of players wondering where they fit in. Interesting times, weÂ’ve been adding midfielders and wide players to our squad and now weÂ’re talking of 5-3-2 or 5-3-1-1. Interesting times was the old Chinese curse. Duffy should have been kept.
Ian McDowell
23 Posted 02/09/2014 at 19:34:13
Rubbish. Jags, Distin and Howard are still first class. Defending is the responsibility of the whole team. It starts from the front. Whilst we have let too many goals in so far to blame it all on the CB and GK is only natural but unfair.
Ian McDowell
24 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:11:12
Still canÂ’t believe people think Duffy was anywhere near good enough.
Darren Hind
25 Posted 02/09/2014 at 19:25:31
It looks like its all hands to the pump down at the excuse factory. I was going to ask what it was gonna take for the penny to drop, but I suspect it already has. You protest too much.

So itÂ’s just the three poor games is it? Well it may be down at the excuse factory, but in the real world Martinez has been substandard since Tony Pulis took him to school last April. I know some of you would have allowed the win against the worst Man Utd side in memory to paper over the widening cracks, but they are still there.

The shambolic pre-season was brushed aside as irrelevant, by the same people who are now playing down the managers role (or lack of it) in the keystone cops defending we are witnessing.

We have half-a-dozen international defenders on our books. Yet instead of questioning the manager whose teams have always been a soft touch, you guys want to turn on the internationals... absolutely unreal.

When international players defend worse than your local boozer, there has to be something radically wrong. Look the other way if you want, bury your heads in the sand, stick your fingers in your ears and go "La la la..." but if you really want to understand why we are defending like tarts, then look at the facts.

While the players have gained international recognition for their ability to defend at the top end of the table, the manager is reknowned for annually overseeing some of the Premier LeagueÂ’s worst-ever defences... at the bottom end.

X marks the spot.

Ben Jones
26 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:36:35
I think everyoneÂ’s panicking a bit. Long term we need to address those positions, I do question RoblesÂ’ long term ability to play for a top 6 side constantly, and we definitely need to replace Distin eventually.

But at the moment, itÂ’s only a bad run of form, and itÂ’s only been 3 games. They have been of one of the best defences in the last 5 years so they have not forgotten how to defend overnight. I think it may be confidence, especially with Jags and the international break will be handy to try and sort them out.

Overall I am delighted with the business as going forward we look as good as anyone. We have had the best frontline in EPL history and if we combine that with our usual defence of the past few years, I think we can have a really good season! and have a genuine chance of European qualification.

Mike Green
27 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:22:02
Absolutely spot on Kevin Tully #21.

We shouldÂ’ve beaten both Leicester and Arsenal on the day but essentially robbed ourselves of the result, then play our socks off against the potential Champions in a freak show which other teams wouldÂ’ve folded in after the second goal went in.

The central defence were a shambles at times and our lapses in concentration / fitness / form cost us dear. Distin is admittedly on his last legs and Jags is increasingly showing his limitations but do we really think Duffy or Alcaraz wouldÂ’ve been any better....? In which case do we seriously think Stones would be able to pull it together in those games....?

As for Howard, he was one if the best performing keepers in the World Cup a few weeks ago, and though I get a feeling his minds still in the clouds over Brazil the last three results will hopefully bring him down with a bump and they can all collectively sharpen up with their defensive responsibilities.

Long term we need a world class CB to replace Distin, to play with and bring Stones through. Short term the others just need to lift their game - we canÂ’t replace the team wholesale and there wouldÂ’ve been carnage on here if weÂ’d gone out and got two Centre Halves instead of Lukaku, EtoÂ’o, Besic and securing Barry and the rest on extended loans.

We just need to tighten up, get some wins under our belts and the confidence and points will come flowing in.

Mike Green
28 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:50:59
*contracts not loans but you know what I mean.

Ben #27 - what do you mean by Â’best frontline in EPL history......?Â’

Bill Gall
29 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:50:19
May be the manager has changed the system that he wants the team to play and the defence is still not able to play how he wants them to and this is why he talks about going back to basics.

Credit should be given to opposition Managers who get paid to study their opponents and set their teams up accordingly and therefore in the coming weeks hopefully Mr Martinez can get his act together and sort the defence out.

Frank Crewe
30 Posted 02/09/2014 at 20:47:09
The best chance we had to make the top 4 was last season. Now our chances are nil. Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal. The RS, Man Utd, have all spent absolute fortunes strengthening their squads. Even the lesser clubs have spend a fair whack doing the same.

Can anyone here honestly see our defense stopping Ballotelli, Sturridge & Sterling? How about Dzeko & Aguero? Rooney, Van Persie & Falcao? WeÂ’ve already seen their efforts against Costa and Giroud. We have to play the 5 teams I have mentioned 10 times this season and probably in the cups as well. WeÂ’ve already drawn one and lost one and there are still at least more 8 to go. If we win one of them, IÂ’ll be amazed.

So far we have scored at least 2 goals per game and have still failed to win a match. Scoring 3 but conceding 4 might be good to watch but it wonÂ’t get you any points so, if we donÂ’t tighten up defensively, we had better score a lot of goals because I think this season, Â’opposition nilÂ’ is going to be a rare score for us.

Mark Taylor
31 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:26:18
Colin 20

Since no-one has suggested signing players of that profile and cost, I think we can safely regard your post as a straw man.

However, yes we do need cover for every position, even if not at that exalted level. Are you seriously suggesting a team that aspires to a top 6 should not have this? In which case, the question is whether Alcaraz and Hibbert represent satisfactory cover. I suggest they do not and since our current CBÂ’s do appear to be creaking a little, to be so bare in this department is, to put it mildly, taking a risk.

Our manager himself said we needed 6-7 new players because of EL participation but we only have one net addition. I think it is reasonable for people to wonder how that has come to pass – or perhaps why the statement was made in the first place if that isn’t what was going to happen.

Raymond Fox
32 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:16:57
Darren, I see you have the knives out again, now thereÂ’s a surprise! What did you say when last season was over? "Jolly good show, Mr Martinez!" ... No, you found something to criticise him for.

You’re not telling me that our defence with all their years of experience now need to be told how to defend, are you? – The same players that knew how to defend last season! They’re all a year older, with our captain looking like his confidence is shot at after the World Cup; could that be the reason?

Talk about over-reaction to 3 results, we have not been playing against poor sides, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester (who drew with Arsenal on Saturday). I donÂ’t know about you, but there was always a chance that we would get very little out of those fixtures.

It doesnÂ’t take much to alter how a match finishes; take ArsenalÂ’s late equaliser, it came off a sliced shot that was collected in the corner before making the cross from which they scored.

Kevin Tully
33 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:46:07
Darren - youÂ’re obsessed mate. Every post you make is an attack on the manager. There are loads of other threads on players, opposition, stadia, financials and numerous other subjects.

Everyone on this site knows your opinion (even before the season started) so just copy and paste your thoughts from from past 12 months, save yourself some time. Try another thread - it might set your mind free.

Ian Bennett
34 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:53:45
Victor Valdes on a free?
Raymond Fox
35 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:46:42
Frank, thereÂ’s a lot of other sides in the Premier League that will struggle against the players you have mentioned.

I think we all know that thereÂ’s 3 separate divisions operating within the Premier League. For us to finish where we have in recent years has been some kind of miracle that we can be proud of.

Mike Allison
36 Posted 02/09/2014 at 22:18:34
This is basically the same OP as the Where Do We Go Now? He even uses the phrase "we have nowhere to go until January". So if weÂ’re having two threads on the exact same topic, IÂ’m posting the exact same thing on both of them, so here goes:

I know it was an exceptional game, but the 3-6 against Chelsea seems to have driven the majority of ToffeeWebbers absolutely mental.
It now seems to be an absolute given, a hard fact, that our defence is useless and we will have a poor season given the personnel we have in that position.

All kinds of names have been mentioned on other threads, culminating in possibly one of the worst suggestions in the history of ToffeeWeb, that we sign James Tomkins to improve our defence. Even if that wasnÂ’t you, you should take that as a sign that things have gone a bit nuts, and everybody needs to calm down.

Bill in the OP says: "Like all other supporters..." Sorry Bill, if youÂ’re going to use the word all, you better follow it with something pretty watertight. I was not expecting, nor hoping that we would sign a defender before the transfer window shut. Why not? Mostly because I think our defence is still good enough, and that they will play much better than they did in conceding six goals to Chelsea, but also that if Martinez believed we needed a new centre back, we should have got one wrapped up a couple of months ago. If it was a priority for him, heÂ’d have done it by now.

I donÂ’t know if itÂ’s worth me explaining my arguments as to why we should calm down and just back Distin and Jagielka to get over this run of form, as top performers always do. The people IÂ’d be trying to reach have probably already heard it and dismissed it. Needless to say, I believe we have four centre backs, plus potentially a fifth in the youngster Tyias Browning, who are capable of winning matches at the levels we are playing at this season. This makes everyone worrying about selling Duffy, a reserve who had failed to make a breakthrough in 3 or 4 years around the senior squad, more than a little silly.

The main point I want to make is about this summerÂ’s business in general. I wrote in April about what I believed we needed to do (itÂ’s in the archive somewhere - Two Players For Every Position) and I believed Martinez would do it. He has. Almost exactly as I predicted/explained, with the exception that he hasnÂ’t signed a back-up to Seamus Coleman and instead seems happy to use Hibbert, Stones or maybe Browning as the back-up. Hardly a huge hole in our squad.

We now have those two players for every position, plus two additional strikers to give us even more options. I wonÂ’t list them here, but I think in our normal 4-2-3-1 formation it is obvious who they are. In doing this, we have maintained continuity from what we had last season. Of our five new signings, two of them (Barry and Lukaku) were already here, so do not have to adjust to anything. The others, Atsu, Besic and EtoÂ’o, were not signed to come into the starting XI straight away, but to provide rotation and cover given the increase in the number of games that we will play this season.

Now quite apart from the possibility that we have simply spent all our money already, there are two further points to make in favour of being very satisfied with what we have. Firstly, we have may have retained some money for January. A timely squad boost at that time could make a big difference in our season when other players may be getting tired. From past form I think this is probably unlikely though. The second, and for me much more solid point is that bringing in too many new players at once is counter-productive and unsettling. EvertonÂ’s great strength over a number of years has been consistency and continuity. The obvious contrast is with Spurs, who spend more money, pay higher wages and have a far bigger turnover of playing and coaching staff, but only manage to be about on a par with us, and often finish below us.

For us to rip up the foundations of our team in Distin, Jagielka and some even suggest Barry would be foolhardy and a far greater risk than people seem to realise. Martinez is trying to develop our squad, not revolutionise it. This summerÂ’s phase of development was extremely successful, and he stopped at that. Many fans seem to want us to do everything all at once without appreciating the negative effects that can have.

As I said in April, now that we have the squad we need, our next phase can be to improve the quality and replace older players with younger equivalents. Thus Distin was always going to play this season despite his age, and we shouldnÂ’t expect a central defensive signing until next summer. Cleverley could actually still sign next summer, his contract is up and he would probably be seen as a long term replacement for Osman, as they play similar roles and Cleverley is around seven years younger. Some may get their dearest wish and see a new goalkeeper come in, whether that would be to replace Howard or just to back him up more effectively than Robles.

The point is, this summer was always going to be about retaining everyone we had, which we have done (Duffy doesnÂ’t count, because Â’weÂ’ clearly didnÂ’t want him), and adding to the squad so that we had Â’first teamÂ’ quality players to come in as replacements in every position. ItÂ’s only next summer that weÂ’ll start looking at moving people on and signing replacements for them.

Mike Allison
37 Posted 02/09/2014 at 22:31:08
This is from April, and apart from the back-up right back, it is exactly what has happened:

Two Players For Every Position.

Terry Murphy
38 Posted 02/09/2014 at 21:39:22
I wonder whether Besic and Stones is our long-term CB pairing. Any thoughts?
Peter Z Jones
39 Posted 03/09/2014 at 02:02:04
Martinez should take a page out of Pelligrini's playbook from last season. I seem to remember Joe Hart costing City a ton of points by making ludicrous decisions early on. The Torres goal when they lost to Chelsea was particularly woeful. So what did Pelligrini do? He benched him. Not forever. Just long enough for him to get the point that his play was unacceptable and he needed to improve his decision making to help the team win the title.

I think Martinez has to do this with Jags, and maybe even Howard later in the season. You can't say "we've got tremendous competition for places in the squad" all the time and then continue playing underperforming players, whether they are the captain or not. Take control. Make players accountable. I think if Roberto can get tough with some of his longest tenured players, the entire team's performance would improve.

David Holroyd
40 Posted 03/09/2014 at 03:06:31
Bite my head off if you like but 㿈 million for Lukaku but is way too much. Baloteli, Welbeck both cheaper; we've been done up like a kipper.
Jackie Barry
41 Posted 03/09/2014 at 03:34:30
Comparing Welbeck to Lukaku is almost laughable, while Balotelli hasn't scored much more than Lukaku and he is older. I still say Lukaku is a good signing and I wouldn't want either of those two in his place.

Harold Matthews
42 Posted 03/09/2014 at 05:23:34
Yes Jackie. Despite his goals, it took me a while to appreciate Lukaku. The way he opens things up by attracting defenders like a magnet. The Naismith goal was a perfect example. Improving all the time with a good football brain, he'll have an excellent season.
Darren Hind
43 Posted 03/09/2014 at 05:29:26
Not the case KT

Do you think I don't like the idea of playing far more attractive football? Do you think I wasnt shouting "Olé" as loud as anyone last season when we were producing the good stuff ? Do you really believe I don't puff my chest out when our manager very publically throws our hat into the ring making it clear we want CL football?

My problem isn't with our manager — it's with you guys (The Excuse Factory). You continually deny the evidence of your own eyes. Martinez can do no wrong he is flawless, beyond responsibility, he's become a sort of anti Hibbo.

If he loses 4th place through naive tactics, the opposition were "jammy", if he gets back after pre season a month after most managers " He didn't need to be here, because he had his Nokia with him" Our hastily arranged shambles of a pre-season "has no bearing on the season" . . .and when our team of internationals start defending in the same manner every single one of his previous teams defended in, "it's their fault"?

The manager of Everton Football Club should be challenged, He should be accountable, responsible. He should be told what is acceptable and what isn't.

Ironically, your defence of Martinez on this issue is far more damning than my criticism, While you say the players are not up to it, he says they are. You say we need a central defender, yet he has spent 㿢M and still hasn't signed a defender.

It's patently obvious that the views of you guys and the fella you are desperately defending are diametrically opposed.

This season isn't over by a long way. We have a talented group of players and one of the brightest young attacking coaches in football, but if we don't start calling a spade a spade, we may as well throw the towel in now.

The last manager ended up taking the piss out of Everton, but I don't blame him, I blame the thousands of Evertonians who for years, told him how grateful they were that he was our leader and that he could do no wrong... How could he not believe them? They told him every day.

I see history repeating itself, KT... and it troubles me.

Managing this club is an honour, one of the greatest privileges the game has to offer. The guy who has the Gig (whoever he may be) should be reminded of it everyday.

Les Fitzpatrick
44 Posted 03/09/2014 at 13:31:17
Well said, Darren... Martinez is the boss, he HAS to take the rap for piss poor pre-season. ItÂ’s time for him to step up now and improve things, and stop bigging up average performing players before it all goes pear-shaped for the season.

If we end up at the bottom of the league, I would not have faith in this manager to get us out of the shit.

Bill Griffiths
45 Posted 03/09/2014 at 15:39:24
Mike #37, I'm with you on this. I think your post is one of the best and most sensible posts I've seen on TW.
Thomas Surgenor
46 Posted 03/09/2014 at 16:03:36
I remember a few years ago, after a Merseyside derby (where Distin made a slip-up) thinking that Distin was finished. "He has got too old," I said. "Lost his legs," I claimed.

How wrong could I have been! The following few seasons he was one of our best players.

Form is temporary – Class is permanent!

I admit, I get as annoyed as the next Evertonian that we have 2 CBs that can no longer win a header. But have faith: they will regain their form!

Kieran Fitzgerald
48 Posted 03/09/2014 at 18:51:57
How many time in recent seasons have we managed to score seven goals in three games? Also, it's seven goals against a newly promoted team in their first game where they will be well up for it, a very decent Arsenal team and a top quality Chelsea team.

There has been a big shift in how positive we are going forward, even compared to last season. I think that as a result the defensive part of our game was going to suffer a little. This team has the feel of being the work n progress we were all expecting last season. I think you would need to wait until the end of November and we have a number of league, league cup and EL games behind us before making an out and out judgement on Martinez, the defence and the quality and depth of the squad.

If we are still as poor at the back in mid November, then panic and start calling for people's heads. For now, I'm prepared to wait and see.

Adam Smith
49 Posted 03/09/2014 at 19:50:17
For me a large part of the problem here lies with the tactics that the manager and his coaching staff have instructed the team to use.

Now anyone who has ever read my posts on here knows full well that I was no fan of David Moyes whatsoever and love Martinez, that does not mean however that he is above criticism.

What shocks me is that the defence have clearly been asked to employ the offside trap this year (in my opinion an incredibly antiquated concept to use as your main defensive tactic in my opinion). This is problematic for several reasons in relation to the current Everton squad:

1) With the pace of the modern game, it is much harder to execute the perfect offside trap and requires superb communication between defenders and defenders who are incredibly quick of thought. Essentially you need a Tony Adams type centre half who can read the game well enough to heave himself up quickly but also scream to the rest of the defence to follow suit at the exact same time. None of Jags, Distin, Coleman or Baines have that personality or skillset – nor would they need to if we dropped the system. In short, it is a risky system in the modern game anyway and our defenders, although good, do not have the tools to play that way.

2) Furthermore, Baines and Coleman who were already incredibly attack minded full backs push even further up the pitch under Martinez. This can leave our centre backs further exposed, but can also complicate matters when they are running back towards their goal and then having to step up as they are off balance and not in line with their team mates, facing a different direction. Although not too common an occurrence, if you watch our games so far it has happened a fair few times – including when Stones filled in at RB against Leicester.

3) The midfield is not providing enough protection. If we are playing the offside trap, its successful implementation relies on the defence being better protected by our to DMs. On face value, people have questioned the performances of Barry and McCarthy (probably the main reason our defence performed so well last year) but in truth they have played well but have tired very quickly. Therefore we end up, particularly later on in games, with the opposition breaking freely at the defence and then they are attempting their clumsy offside trap all the time, resulting in more errors. If Barry and McCarthy are tiring so much it is Martinez’s job to rotate them for Besic, or even Stones if Gibson is unavailable. If the DMs are unable to provide full protection, we get pushed further back and the offside trap exposed. And I know Besic made a cocky error against Chelsea but he will learn from that and the game had gone by then anyway.

4) This for me is the biggest problem – the offside trap neutralises Jags’ and Distin’s greatest attributes; recovery defending. What I mean by this is that Jags has always been a little too short for a CB and regularly is bypassed, what he would always then do however is track back and make an interception. We all remember some of his amazing last-ditch tackle, even after he lost a lot of his pace. Likewise, Distin always makes a silly mistake in a match but often made up for the mistake by using his recovery pace to get the tackle in. He also, if you watch, loses an unbelievable amount of headers for a huge bloke or merely heads them up into the air or back into danger, however again, he was always able to use his recovery pace to atone for this. By making these two play the offside trap Martinez is effectively removing the best defensive attribute they shares, as they are then far too high up the pitch to recover if the offside trap is poorly executed.

If you add into all this the lack of confidence that the defence is clearly suffering from, the fact they continue to lose a yard of pace and the fact that Howard has clearly been told not to commit himself as quickly as he did last year (something that I thought he had finally actually improved on last year) then we have a lot of problems.

Whilst I still believe we are going to need some new CBs soon I am convinced we will see the solid defensive unit we remember from last year if the management team stop pissing around with a system that worked well for the defence last year.

Anto Byrne
50 Posted 04/09/2014 at 02:22:42
What a complete over-reaction, we go down 2-0 after 3 minutes and have a mountain to climb. Under OFM, we would have gone into damage limitation and tried to sneak a goal.

Chelsea have rebuilt their side over the summer and look very capable of winning the Premier League. They are well organised at the back and at times had 8 players defending deep as we pushed forward. They have pace and experience up-front; Diego Costa has been around for a while and as a 26-year-old, it means our Rom still has a few years of development.

We put up a good show and scored 3 very good goals and we also gifted them at least 3 of their goals, an unfortunate own goal and misguided back-heel. We let in six, it was a great game of football and if we play that way we are going to give some sides a right pasting.

Jags looks down on confidence and Distin has still got a lot to offer. We canÂ’t afford to give teams a 2-goal start so I am expecting that in future games we will have a cautious 20 minutes and then raise the tempo and start winning games.

All is not lost; keep the faith, it’s early season, 3 games in – lets revisit after 7-8 games and then we can push the panic button should we need to.

Liu Weixian
51 Posted 04/09/2014 at 05:42:30
Howard is not past his prime. He should probably have done better with a couple of goals but on the whole he has been let down horrendously by his defence. I am more concerned about the backup keeper. Joel hardly inspires confidence and if Howard misses a game we are pretty much screwed.

Jags needs to be given a few matches off. He looks knackered and short of confidence. We will put pressure on him if we continue to play him and he continues to make mistakes and that cannot be good for him.

Distin and Jags are both traditional centrebacks, the hoofers and Row Z destroyers. Our style of play has evolved over the years from long ball to passing. You can't easily change a Shawcross type of defender into a modern ball-playing type in one season. Indeed, at times, Jags and Distin, instead of just putting the ball up 70 yards forward, seem caught between trying to make a pass and hoofing it. The indecision leads to mental lags and at Premiership level, slight lapses and hesitations are punished.

I know many people do not rate hoofers but I would rather have a Shawcross - gutted we did not get him! - who makes fast and snappy decisions and twats the ball into touch than a "modern" player who dwells on the ball and loses it in dangerous areas. Shilton, in his book on goalkeeping, says that a keeper who decides early to punch the ball can be very effective too. Like keepers, centrebacks must be decisive; there is no time to think in most situations. When in doubt, safety should come first.

A Distin and Stones pairing will be useful, at least in the short term. Distin can concentrate on purely defending while Stones, who is a natural ball player, can take over more of the link-up aspects of the job. This sort of arrangement is similar to the Vidic and Ferdinard partnership ManUre had, and they did not do too badly, did they.

We rely heavily on our fullbacks to support the attack. This naturally leaves us short in the back. Sure, McCarthy and Barry will cover for Coleman and Baines when they go on a raid but now our midfield has a gaping hole. We should have someone drop back to cover the now vacant space in the centre. This means that we have to be more compact so that the distance of coverage is shorter and less exhausting for our players. It is alarming that in the last three games, we are leaving space in the middle despite having two dedicated defensive midfielders.

Jack Plant
52 Posted 05/09/2014 at 12:03:17
I echo what people have said above, we are only three games in and it's ludicrous the amount of pessimism that seems to have flared up. Having seen how other teams have started, I think only City and Chelsea look noticeably better than us so I'm still fairly confident we can have a good crack at the top four.

Defensively we have clearly been poor but I like the look of Browning and I've heard good things about Galloway so I don't think we're in a terrible position to slowly phase out Jags and Distin over the course of the season.

John Gilfoyle
53 Posted 05/09/2014 at 13:08:37
Browsing through comments, I think Distin is receiving very unfair criticism. He was at fault for the Matic goal but, on another day, it could have deflected off his foot out of play and been considered a good block. Aside from that moment I think he actually played well, very classy on the ball, still good in one on ones. I don't see any evidence his legs are gone, although worryingly Jagielka's (five years his junior) look like they have.

I think the obvious solution is to pull Jags out for Stones and we will be okay. The Stones & Distin partnership last year was by far the best I'd seen since Jagielka & Lescott. I still don't see why Jagielka reclaimed his place in the first place as Stones didn't deserve to be benched.

I also think Besic should come in for McCarthy. His failure to track Hazard on one, and a basic one-two which Ramires scored was really sloppy/lazy. At the top level, if one person loses their man so easily, the whole team gets cut open.

Roberto may have his favourites but everyone should have to earn the shirt. I think it creates a healthy competitive environment where every player know they have to be performing or they will lose their place, Lukaku included — 㿈 million or not.

Anto Byrne
54 Posted 04/09/2014 at 16:39:02
Shawcroft is the antithesis of everything that is Everton.
Gary Carter
55 Posted 13/09/2014 at 09:23:57
Totally spot on, Darren Hind (26), I’ve been arguing this with people too. Why is it that all of a sudden people think the likes of Jags and Distin have become bad players overnight!?!? It’s because they and the team are being asked to defend in a way that, at best, is foreign to them at the moment: A – they will get better as they get used to it... or B(and what I think it is) – the way RM wants them to defend just doesn’t work.

My personal opinion of RM is still very much out, I find him to be naïve and full of soundbytes at the moment and if I’m honest I’m wavering on him.

And our pre-season was a totally shocking joke and it shows in how unfit our players look!! Worrying times...

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