Having watched the Stoke match, I felt that a lot of the reaction was somewhat harsh on Roberto Martinez. Once again, we were not only the victims of a dubious penalty but, even leaving that aside, we had two chances (Barry’s and Mirallas’s) that a 10-year-old could have scored. My response to the critics (in my head) was that Martinez was not to blame when two highly-experienced professional footballers can’t do a basic task that they are paid enormous amounts of money to do.

I was tempted to ask whether Martinez was to blame for Distin falling asleep against Arsenal and consequently Everton losing two points. Or if he was responsible for Howard’s two clangers against Crystal Palace that lost us three points. Or if he was responsible for Distin’s pathetic defending gifting Hull a point and losing us a further two points (not to mention the blatant penalty not given in that game). That’s 7 points right there that, at first glance, cannot be attributed to the tactics or strategy that we are adopting but just to bad errors by players who ought not to be making those errors. (Ten points if you add the terrible misses against Stoke). Let’s face it, Everton (and Roberto) just haven’t had the rub of the green this year.

But I became more worried after today’s ‘performance’. I still think we haven’t had the rub of the green. But it’s more often struggling sports-persons who become unlucky. I think it was Gary Player who said that the more he practised, the luckier he became. I don’t think Roberto is a bad manager – it’s difficult to get through a whole Premier League season like the last one as a flash in the pan. The difference is that things were running for us last season, until the very end when our squad became a bit threadbare, and success and confidence breeds more success and confidence. This season, things are not going our way. In addition to what I’ve mentioned above, we’ve had several key injuries and our squad depth has been exposed.

The test for Roberto is where he goes now? What worries me is the way he is responding to what is happening on the pitch. The BBC report on his post-match comments today suggests that he was not watching the same game I was. Yes, we were let down by soft goal concessions. But, other than the goals, there was precious little to enthuse about that performance. The build-up play was turgid, Newcastle had far too much time on the ball and we were inviting pressure for most of the game, which would almost inevitably cause our threadbare defence to buckle at some stage.

What does Roberto do now? Surely he has to admit that things are not going well? I assume it is not his tactics that dictate that Everton are almost always second to the ball and back off rather than pressurizing? But it is his job to work on the players’ confidence and self-belief. Other than the top few clubs and the odd season where there is a truly dire bottom team (or teams), the difference between most of the rest, I think, is in their heads. And what is in our heads at the moment is the opposite of where we were last season. Roberto needs to get that confidence back, but I’m not sure if he can.

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Reader Comments (17)

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Matt Traynor
1 Posted 29/12/2014 at 04:58:52
Michael, the contrast between last season and this is stark as you say. Last season was a mix of highs and lows - there were too many goals gifted due to individual mistakes, but that is nothing compared to this season. I have never known a season like it where it feels like almost every individual error at the back results in an opposition goal.

The crap refereeing I can live with - it's been that way forever.

The errors are not just from the defenders, Barkley and Lukaku this season have lost possession where it has immediately lead to a goal against. McGeady last night.... what do you say?

There's no pace or aggression in our attempt at possession play. When we have the ball, the ball and the opposition should be doing the work, the opposition should be knackered after 60 minutes, when we should be able to pick them off, bringing fresh attacking impetus on from the bench if required.

Instead it's us who look knackered. Bereft of ideas, often from midway through the first half.

I wouldn't feel half as bad about the situation if it wasn't for the inane shite that Martinez spews after another horrible defeat. That just leaves me ambivalent as to whether he's given the chance to turn it around or not.

Derek Thomas
3 Posted 29/12/2014 at 05:21:02
Michael; all those mistakes you highlight (and more besides) are, I think, helping to kid Martinez to the fact that his much vaunted (aka "all the eggs in one basket") 'Philosophy' is not the real problem... If I/We could only eliminate the mistakes then the natural righteousness will be allowed to work its magic and all will be well; all manner of things will be well (aka "jam tomorrow").

We can all see what is not working, but his blind faith is blocking him from seeing what IS working, which is the quicker ball played from inside their half and 2 or 3 quick passes later, Osman or Eto'o or Kone or Mirallas is putting the ball in the net.

It's basic old-fashioned business practice, where Companies in a bit of a slump, or better still BEFORE they get into a bit of a slump, sit the various departments, down to the lowliest brusher-up, in a room with a whiteboard and ask everybody the old standby: 'What do we need to do to get it right first time?' and even if they are 'seemingly stupid' get them down then grade them. You will be surprised what the guy on the shop floor sees and how often the obvious is not stated. It used to be called TQM or some such...

But, as with everything, the Management have to, to some extent, buy into the solution process, admit there IS (or even MIGHT be) a problem, and a solution that they haven't seen, or an Improvement they haven't made... and – just because the guy on minimum wage says something – it doesn't mean he's not right.

Moyes seemed (to me) to do this... I said it so it must be right and thus it must be right because I said it... and also the reverse of not saying it.

The first step, Roberto... admit there is a problem.

Matt Traynor
4 Posted 29/12/2014 at 06:38:15
Derek #3, agree with much of what you say, but I would disagree that Moyes used to do it. Remember the hiding at Anfield when he rested half a team for the FA Cup replay at Sunderland? His reaction after it - "I should've rested more players". Admittedly that was when he was in full on too-big-for-Everton-now mode.

The fact that the glimpses of joined up football under him seemed so fleeting suggests it was in spite of, not because of him.

Personally I think Martinez has to accept we don't have the personnel at the back to make this work. Think Distin and Jagielka at their stages of their career are suddenly gonna have an Indian Summer-esque reincarnation as Beckenbauer?

I admire his "sin miedo" mantra, but when you've got the likes of Stones, Barkley and Lukaku – young players – making mistakes that lead to opposition goals, it can't be good for their overall development.

Kone's goal last night showed what we're missing. Attacking with pace. Doing in 3 passes what 40 fails to achieve. We just need to mix it up more. I believe (like others) that once confidence comes back (along with some match fitness for some players) they're capable of going on a run. But we've lost too much ground already to hope that can lead to a European place come the end of the season. (Not that that will stop some "We can still make 4th" posts.)

Ant Summers
5 Posted 29/12/2014 at 08:46:02
Gareth Barry is the problem on the pitch: negative football is bad enough but, when you get caught in possession or fail in the tackle as often as he does, pressure on other players around him becomes ten-fold. Get rid of him off the pitch and we will improve; keep on carrying him and we are doomed.

As for making him captain, that was just about RMÂ’s worst decision since he arrived.

Howard Greene
6 Posted 29/12/2014 at 09:08:01
May I mention Mike Walker, a dreaded name I know... but our present manager should take note that 'The Silver Fox' only had one game plan and would not or could not see the need to change. We were nearly relegated and he went on his way.

There again, MW might be ahead of our Roberto: at least he had a plan. Yesterday, we were shambolic, and that is being kind.

Brin Williams
7 Posted 29/12/2014 at 09:39:48
'Quo vadis, Martinez?'

Great title/question Michael but I have no answer I'm afraid.

Seems there is an awful lot of soul searching to be done.

Michael Evans
8 Posted 29/12/2014 at 10:20:29
I've never rated Vadis.

I don't think a South American is the answer.

Ian Tunstead
9 Posted 29/12/2014 at 10:24:46
You create your own luck, it’s not rocket science. If you have your defenders and least creative players on the ball the most, knocking it about for most of the game in their own half, there is less chance of Everton scoring and more chance of the opposition scoring when they inevitably misplace a pass.

You are asking for trouble, inviting pressure, giving the opposition time to regroup and helping to create your own problems when it is just not necessary, it is clearly counter-productive.

Souness and Neville were spot-on last night in their analysis: Everton try to play it too much in the wrong areas with the wrong players. We are trying to play a certain way in the Barcelona mold when we haven’t got the personnel to achieve what we set out to do.

Martinez is not getting the best out of the quality he has at his disposal and he is too stubborn to recognize this and rectify it. He is getting the basics all wrong, playing people in the wrong positions, with no balance to the side and persevering with his ridiculous "philosophy".

How can it be that we have 2, potentially 3 England International defenders, one of which was talked about as probably Everton’s greatest ever left back a couple of seasons ago, we have perhaps the best right back in the league with Coleman, and with Distin and Barry we have two very experienced and proven Premier League defensive players and yet we have the 2nd worst defense in the league? Something is fundamentally wrong. I don’t think the players can be blamed.

Mike Oates
10 Posted 29/12/2014 at 14:14:59
No more time for our superboys, Lukaku, Barkley to try and ply their trade, no more time for ageing Distin, Alcarz and Eto to slow things down, no more time for give the ball away McGeady, get the stalwarts, fighters and the passionates out on the field and scrap for the 1-0 wins, undeservedly, with ball moved quickly forward, no single square pass allowed, no back passes allowed, and all free kicks to be kicked forward - get the drift
Howard
Coleman, Jags, Barry, Garbutt
McCarthy Besic
Osman, Naismith, Baines
Kone
Jon Withey
11 Posted 29/12/2014 at 15:32:01
Couldnt agree with you more Ian #9.

In reality, we arent playing a passing game, we are playing a pass it backwards game and putting pressure on those least comfortable on the ball.

We are literally gifting the opposition chances - which is kind of the opposite of defending really.

If we were knocking it about in midfield or on the edge of their penalty area fine. We don't.

I really don't blame the players - they have clearly been instructed to keep the ball when in defensive areas rather than clear it - and they take huge risks to do so for very little benefit.

I think he tried to arrest this by keeping our full backs back and adding more defensive midfielders. Now we have very little width or overlap and just pass it about in front of their defence.

If there is a better candidate available Id seriously consider a change whilst we have a decent squad - at this rate I wonder whether we'll keep our better players or attract new ones

James Stewart
12 Posted 29/12/2014 at 15:52:38
I was critical of Martinez last season which seemed harsh at the time but not so much anymore. He cost us a top 4 place with his poor tactics and I found it embarrassing the way we cocked it up and handed the 4th spot on a plate to Arsenal.

Fast forward to now and he looks even more tactically at sea. All good sides have one thing in common regardless of style or philosophy: a solid defence. Basic fundamentals of football that Martinez doesn't seem to know the first thing about. His obsession with 'a goal from open play' is also bizarre. Who cares? — a goal is a goal!

A woeful Newcastle side scored 3 against us with ease. It's not like we are getting beat by good teams. It's shameful and embarrassing the performances we have been putting in.

Phil Roberts
13 Posted 29/12/2014 at 15:00:08
Anybody noticed that we have taken 13 points from 6 of the games and just 8 from the other 13?

So what was different about those 6 compared to the other 13. They were easy games against poor teams that RM felt he could risk starting Leon Osman in the team.

The other 13 games were so tough that thankfully we were able to get 8 points because I am sure with Osman in the team it would have been zero.

Andrew Rimmer
14 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:03:18
In a bad season you look at the decisions, the mistakes etc but these will happen in a good season too, it's just that the the goals scored ratio is bigger. Ours recently has been dire. The attacking play has been pedestrian at best and when "nothing" happens in a game and we lose when an opposition player should have been sent off, it grates a little.

If those players had been sent off, would we have gone on to win? I have to say that I don't think so. Those teams would only protect their back line even more and as we have all seen this season, we are incapable of breaking them down and with Roberto's blinkered view and unwillingness to change(two strikers anyone?) I can only see relegation looming.

I did raise this concern on the day of Roberto's appointment so no, I'm not on a bandwagon.

Andrew Rimmer
15 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:15:16
And while I'm writing this, The shite have gone 3-1 up, with no strikers because Brendan has changed his tactics!
Colin Glassar
16 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:21:20
He was given time to change things Andrew.
Andrew Rimmer
17 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:26:09
They've played the same amount as us!!! They were below us and are now a half decent side. Our manager has shown that he is unable to change, he was exactly the same at Wigan.

Wigan!


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