Roberto Martinez Must Act to Address Fundamental Flaws if Everton are to Progress

Recent results where Everton have thrown away vital points have shown that changes in approach are needed lest a chance to capitalise in a wide open Premier League passes the Blues by.

Matt Jones 15/12/2015 35comments  |  Jump to last

You have to admire managers who possess an unshakeable conviction in their own beliefs. Those who, despite what all external outlets will say, remain steadfast that their way is the right way and the most beneficial way for their team to progress.

Roberto Martinez is definitely a man who falls into that category. Once the Catalan has meticulously drawn up his gameplan, it takes something pretty drastic before he strays away from it. That much has been evident in recent weeks, with his Everton side showing flashes of brilliance, and a fair share of bald naivety.

Norwich City was the latest example, as another two points were relinquished after a first half of stunning approach play and rank bad finishing.

There are plenty of playing personnel who can shoulder the responsibility for this defeat. The forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone in particular, who were especially profligate in front of goal, and the defenders, who once again failed to cope with a rudimentary ball into the box for the second match in succession, were both found wanting. Others dotted about the team were also well below their best.

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But Martinezs decision-making left much to be desired at Carrow Road on Saturday, as control of the contest slowly slipped away from Everton in the aftermath of Norwichs equalising strike.

There have been times this season when the Everton fans have demanded a substitution in contests and Martinez has been unmoved; Ive agreed with the managers want for continuity with the team on top on occasions too. But other matches lately, his inactivity has been worrying.

In away ties at Bournemouth and the Canaries, Kone has been a passenger late in games. The Ivory Coast forward has dovetailed wonderfully with Lukaku in home matches but away, after an hour, hes clearly felt the physical effects on numerous occasions. Yet hes been on for almost the entirety of the last couple of away fixtures.

To withdraw both Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley instead, the Toffees two most creative players this season, left Everton looking tepid in their attacking forays at Carrow Road.

Its almost as if Martinez has a reluctance to admit, by making a substitution, his scrupulously formed ploy isnt working. Infamously, the Catalan made no changes during a 3-0 defeat against Southampton last year and this term, his prosaic interventions, despite waxing lyrical regarding the depth of his squad, has left many supporters scratching their heads.

There are other facets of his management which has left many bewildered too, set pieces being the main one.

Everton are rank bad at this crucial component of the game, whether that be taking them, attacking them or, most pertinently of all, defending them. And this accumulation of goals conceded from crosses into the box is down to further failures to address obvious longstanding issues.

The first is the goalkeeper. While Tim Howard was not directly at fault for the goal against Norwich, his reluctance to come out and collect crosses has the back four on edge.

With the American stuck to his line, its been noticeable how teams have sought to float crosses into the box against Everton in the last month, from which panic typically ensues. That Joel Robles remains on the substitutes bench despite showing this kind of authority in his fleeting appearances, represents a massive blind spot.

Not having players in the penalty area who attack the ball doesnt help either. With Evertons best headerer of the ball on the halfway line in Lukaku, its rare to see a blue shirt get to corners first. Leighton Baines admitted in the aftermath of the clash against Norwich this is an area the Toffees are working on, but its a focus which has yet to bear fruit.

Martinez has done many brilliant things for Everton this season and the fact this team is attacking with an irrepressible swagger, creating chances and proving tough to beat are all positive factors which can be built upon going forward. But the obvious frailties in the team and the unwillingness to address them does not reflect well on the manager.

So with teams starting to ruthlessly expose these chinks in the armour, some changes must be made.

Its encouraging to hear Baines reveal set pieces are to be worked on; its clear some massive progress is needed there. In addition, to help expedite this process, Robles must come into the side at the expense of Howard, especially now Martinez can offset the experience which the American brings with the return of Baines.

The left side needs to be addressed to help ease the Englishmans return to the team as well. Kone, as much has he has improved this season, is not a 90-minute player. Again, the manager must act in matches to come, especially against energetic outfits like Leicester City, Newcastle United and Stoke City.

Theres certainly no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater as Everton seek to progress. But if Martinez remains reluctant to address perennial problems, a chance to capitalise in a wide open Premier League will pass Everton by.

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Reader Comments (35)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 16/12/2015 at 01:51:46
"It's encouraging to hear Baines reveal set pieces are being worked on."

Indeed it is Matt, better late than never.

John Hodgkins
2 Posted 16/12/2015 at 10:20:41
Excellent article Matt. It will be interesting to see if there is any improvement in the defence of set-pieces against Leicester who are a big aggressive team.

I think Martinez is gradually getting the team to play as he wants but it may need another season to iron out these frailties.

Peter Roberts
3 Posted 16/12/2015 at 12:28:59
Part of me is starting to wonder if Martinez is better at being the manager to instil a philosophy and vision into a club rather than executing that vision. At Swansea he began their transformation from nearly dropping out of the league altogether, to being League One Champions by the time he left. But it then took Sousa and then Rodgers to take that team onto the next level, a free Bobby left for Wigan.

At Wigan, he didn’t have this luxury because he was forced to sell his best players each year and had to make do with what he had left. It was a miracle they stayed up as long as they did.

Now at Everton, it’s much a similar situation as at Swansea, the mentality is slowly shifting but I’m not convinced Martinez has what it takes. It may need a more astute manager who has a similar idea on how to play the game to take us to that next level. The only issue being that kind of manager is difficult to acquire for a club of our modern-day and financial stature.

Raymond Fox
4 Posted 16/12/2015 at 13:17:25
Well written Matt, there is no real excuse for the goals that keep being conceded at corners other than to say that the players are most of the time seemingly in the right position to intercept but are inept at getting a head to the ball, its as if the have lead boots on!

As far as substitutes are concerned its very subjective who knows what might have happened had Martinez made more changes! If indeed some player is tiring I agree its best to replace them, unless the manager knows more than we do.

Martinez emphasis is on attacking hence our 29 goals (could easily have been many more) which makes us the 3rd highest scorers. When it comes to conceding goals from open play I think its logical that if you push more players forward in an attempt to score, you are leaving yourself more open to the counter attack especially.

I prefer his philosophy of how football should be played, but I think that its really a trade off between scoring more and conceding more as against attacking less and conceding less.

Rick Tarleton
5 Posted 16/12/2015 at 13:47:35
When you consider our back four consists of three curent England defenders and Seamus Coleman, then we have two ultra defensive mid-fielders in Barry and McCarthy, it’s a mystery why we are so poor at set pieces.

No, it isn’t. Matt Jones gives you the answer. Talking of the keeper he writes: "His reluctance to come out and collect crosses has the back four on edge. With the American stuck to his line....panic typically ensues." Exactly.
Charles McCann
6 Posted 16/12/2015 at 14:10:53
Great article, Matt. Howard’s time is up. I’m not sure Robles is the answer but think he deserves a run of games. For me our biggest problem is centre midfield. Without McCarthy there is not enough protection for the back four. Cleverley has done well going forward but him and Barry is not working. I’d like to see Gibson get a run of games and also Besic get a chance too.

As for Kone, he is not suited to the position on the left he is playing. I would much prefer Mirallas in this position with the option of bringing on Kone or Naismith to partner Lukaku up front if we happen to be chasing the game. We have a very good squad which is not being utilised properly. I like having continuity in defence but a bit more rotation further up the field would have a positive impact.

Here’s hoping Roberto will learn from his past mistakes but he seems to be very stubborn and definitely has his favourites.
Ken Buckley
7 Posted 16/12/2015 at 15:12:34
From what I have seen when defending corner kicks or set pieces that mean a cross akin to a corner will come in, then the major type of training necessary would be in martial arts. Defenders must be up to date in all opponent disabling techniques including, holding down, bear hug, standing on feet and capture by shirt.

If this is not enough then pushing to the floor and lying on opponent should be tried. All this is allowed and totally ignored by referees unless the goal keeper is touched then sometimes a whistle is heard.

Best of luck to the lads in trying to sort something out until then I will continue to sit there and sweat and palpitate until the torture is over.

Raymond Fox
8 Posted 16/12/2015 at 15:43:58
You're correct, Ken, what some defenders get away with is disgraceful. What Skrtel is like this season I don’t know, but last year he should have been on a wrestling bill, not in a football match!

Trouble is, if we start doing it more, it will be a penalty to the opposition no doubt.

The refs seem to have one set of rules for ’the money boys’ and one for everyone else, strange isn’t it.

James Hughes
10 Posted 16/12/2015 at 18:26:13
So Ken, in agreement with you – Roberto needs to book Mr Miyagi from the karate kid sooner rather than later. Then maybe they will stop looking at each other saying "I thought you were marking him?!!" as they pick the ball out of the net YET AGAIN!!!
Scott Goin
11 Posted 16/12/2015 at 19:16:44
While I agree with most things in this article, it seems a rather tenuous connection to criticize a goalkeeper for his defenders not adequately defending crosses and corner kicks.

What’s clear is that Everton need more practice, experience, and tenacity when marking their men. Howard coming out for a ball does not absolve the defenders from doing their jobs. Even if Howard were a super aggressive goalkeeper, they should never anticipate him getting to the ball.

Joseph Terrence
12 Posted 16/12/2015 at 19:24:13
Scott, it goes both ways. When a keeper is rooted to his line, it doesn’t fill the defenders with confidence. Further, Dangerous balls are more likely to be conceded as the keeper can’t react to it.

That being said, yes, the organization at the back needs to be better and the boys have to want it more, but I think it’s fair to say both parties are at fault.

Jamie Barlow
13 Posted 16/12/2015 at 19:31:32
Who says the defenders are all on edge every time we defend a corner? I think they know by now that Tims not going to come steaming out. Just do your job and challenge for the ball. It's not that hard. That and get Ross out of the box.
Scott Goin
14 Posted 16/12/2015 at 19:37:21
Joseph, I agree. Inn most cases when a ball goes in the net, several players are at fault. And it does go both ways. An aggressive goalkeeper can sometimes make up for bad marking by his defenders. But I don’t want Everton’s defenders to feel like their goalkeeper is going to bail them out. I want them desperate to keep up with their man and get to the ball first.

It also goes the other way. An overly aggressive goalkeeper can try to come for balls he has no chance to get, taking out his own defenders and leaving no-one to guard the goal.

We all know that Howard is too cautious when it comes to this kind of thing but him starting to come for every ball certainly isn’t the answer. We just need to come out for the obvious ones. The defenders still need to do their jobs regardless.

Ian Brandes
15 Posted 16/12/2015 at 19:48:10
Some of the problem lies with Tim, who is reluctant to command the box, and therefore, panic sets in with the defenders, who are often all over the place, but never in the right place.

As for Tim Howard, he has been a great servant to the club in his time, but his time to step down has come. He is now in the twilight of his career after all.

It would be nice if Tim could realise this, and make a positive voluntary step towards retirement.

If he can’t or won’t then RM must make the decision for him, but how often does Martinez go against his favoured few?

Andy Crooks
16 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:10:21
I don’t believe that Martinez has achieved enough to warrant the arrogance he displays. Nor do I think that keeping Wigan up was a miracle. With Pulis or Allardyce as coach I believe Wigan would have survived.

He then jumped ship for a job which, in my view, he was not up to. This squad is capable of better and could be wasted under this coach.

Karl Jones
17 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:33:35
Ian (#15).

I agree with your views. He should have been dropped by now. Martinez won't do that, though.

In fact, watching the goal that Whitehawk have just scored from a looping cross, will surely give him nightmares. But hopefully Robles will get the nod for the FA Cup ties.

Karl Jones
18 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:43:06
Great equaliser from Dagenham. Carbon copy of Lukaku’s against Bournemouth. 1-1 HT... I think both these sides will cause us jitters from set-pieces.
Patrick Murphy
19 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:43:42
It’s getting a bit extreme isn’t it when some Evertonians are truly concerned about a non-league team at Goodison Park...

Mind you, the current score is 1-1 and the way that Vassels turned and shot will give Leighton Baines nightmares – doomed I tell you... we’re doomed. :)

Rob Halligan
20 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:52:33
Karl Jones, please tell me you're taking the piss?
Chris Jones
21 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:57:13
I’ve got three major gripes: defending set-pieces, which has been done to death already, our left and Ross’s role. We seem horribly unbalanced, with most meaningful attacks coming down the right. Geri’s bloody amazing, but when he’s not firing we start to look a bit bereft of ideas and options. Relying on Baines on the other side doesn’t work unless he’s got someone running off him to create space or do the old tippy-tappy clever stuff that Pienaar did when his limbs still worked. I can see what Kone brings to the link-up play down the middle with Rom, but, by drifting in he adds to the central-right emphasis.

Which brings me to Ross. Can someone with a better tactical understanding than me please explain what the manager wants him to do? He’s great when he collects a pass, beats a couple and lays the ball off, but his more forward position is frequently occupied by Kone and when we lose possession it’s clear he can’t track back, tackle or close down which exposes us to counter-attacks. So play him at 10 or play Kone off Rom, but not both at the same time. Give Mirallas a run on the left, or use Cleverley as a foil for Baines.

Ah bugger ..... what do I know?

Karl Jones
22 Posted 16/12/2015 at 20:58:54
I'm old enough to remember Altrincham at Goodison. We put out a first team (apart from Dave Irving) and were incredibly lucky to scrape a draw, so take nothing for granted.
Raymond Fox
23 Posted 16/12/2015 at 21:09:00

"I don’t believe that Martinez has achieved enough to warrant the arrogance he displays. Nor do I think that keeping Wigan up was a miracle. With Pulis or Allardyce as coach, I believe Wigan would have survived. Martinez did not have the flexibility or pragmatism to do what was necessary. Some of his performances as coach in their relegation season were staggering in their arrogance and ineptitude."

That’s a bit strong, Andy, don’t you think!

In what way is he being arrogant? He’s doing what he believes is right for the football club, just because you happen to disagree doesn’t make him arrogant.

"Then you say some of his performances in their relegation season were staggering in their arrogance and ineptitude"!

Sounds more like an headline out of the Sun newspaper, I think it's a fair bet that, if Wigan had not gone on their FA Cup winning exploits that year, they would have stayed in the Premier League.

Paul Tran
24 Posted 16/12/2015 at 21:23:38
I remember that one well, Karl. They kicked everything that moved and I think we equalised with a penalty near the end. Think the woodwork played well that day, so clearly some things haven’t changed! Big Bob sorted them out in the replay at Old Trafford.
Tony Hill
25 Posted 16/12/2015 at 21:26:20
Chris (21), I would try Barkley in a deeper role again, as he played against QPR last season and Barnsley this season with real success. He gets crowded at 10 or around that position at the moment and if he had space to run from deep it could free him and the team up. The two defensive midfielder formation is one of our main problems and has been for ages because it unbalances us between back and front.

I know he’s shy of tackling and can be a defensive liability but in my view we have to take some chances at the moment to boost us. He played in a strange position on Saturday and got lost but I would try him with Macca when he’s fit and I’m afraid I’d drop Barry. I’d rely on Cleverley to protect the left back.

If that doesn’t work then Ross himself should be rested and Besic, assuming he’s fit, has to get a run.

For me, the obvious solution behind Lukaku is Mirallas but RM won’t have it.

Brian Mahoney
26 Posted 16/12/2015 at 21:27:29
Karl (#22), I was at that Altrincham game myself and if I remember rightly they kicked us off the park which culminated in one of our wingers getting carried off with a broken leg and another getting sent off for head-butting their player.

Somehow, I don’t think either Dagenham or Whitehawk would resort to these tactics in this modern day era but it did give them a bumper payday as the replay was at Old Trafford.
Graham Mockford
28 Posted 16/12/2015 at 22:18:01
Paul Tran,

I remember the Altrincham game. The thing that stands out is I’m pretty sure it is the only time I can remember a home game happening at the same time as a Liverpool home game.

It certainly hasn’t happened since but not sure if it happened before.

Patrick Murphy
29 Posted 16/12/2015 at 22:38:16

Every round in 1971 saw Everton and Liverpool drawn at home and I’m pretty sure they were played simultaneously.

Patrick Murphy
30 Posted 17/12/2015 at 02:11:07
According to Gary Butland, the font of all knowledge of Everton FC in the article below, The last time this happened [Everton and Liverpool hosting games at the same time on Merseyside] was on 3 January 1981 in the third round of the FA Cup.

Everton defeated Arsenal 2-0 at Goodison in front of 34,000 while a gate of 37,000 saw Liverpool beat non-league Altrincham 4-1 at Anfield. The two teams were then drawn together in the fourth round with Everton winning 2-1.

When the two teams were subsequently drawn together at home, matches were played on different days on police instructions."

Another interesting piece from the Echo shows that all 3 Merseyside clubs played at the same time When cup draws gave the Blues, the Reds and Rovers home ties on the same day, they just got on with it.

And in 1972, on February 5th, a record 126,186 fans attended matches in the six-mile radius that encompasses Anfield, Goodison and Prenton Park.

Laurie Hartley
31 Posted 17/12/2015 at 09:59:58
Ken – or we could sign Vidic on loan in January.
Tony Abrahams
32 Posted 17/12/2015 at 10:50:09
Graham that was my very first game inside Goodison. I think "Me Dar" made a big Rick taking me because I could read the back page of the Echo and always knew when Everton were at home. I think I learned to read so early because of Everton, so always had me dad's head up the wall when we were at home.

Can’t remember much about the game, I was only five, but do remember being hooked on both Everton and football ever since. Also remember at least twice since that game, where both teams played at home on the Saturday.

Back to the fundamental flaws, and these will never be addressed until we have a no-nonsense centre-half, and a keeper who wants to dominate his domain.

Graham Mockford
33 Posted 17/12/2015 at 11:13:13
Cheers, Patrick,

I don’t remember that Arsenal game in '81 but I do remember the 4th round tie like it was yesterday. Good old Avi Cohen (one of only five Jewish players to play in a derby, it’s an old 'un but a good 'un).

Same year in the 6th round in the corner of the Enclosure when Rats got sent off for head butting Hutchinson. Happy days.

Paul Tran
34 Posted 17/12/2015 at 13:11:26
Graham, best thing about that Arsenal game in 1981 was the week after when we played them again in the league. Own goal hero Sansom went to take a throw in and got a huge ovation from the Enclosure.
Jon Withey
36 Posted 18/12/2015 at 08:59:14
I think this article nailed two of the limitations of the manager so far – set-pieces and substitutions.

Plan A is often not bad, and our game in open play is also decent this season.

But so far he doesn’t seem to believe in drilling defence or attack on set-pieces. In hindsight, his lack of game-changing substitutions feels like we’ve missed a number of opportunities for a couple of extra points.

I always think back to Solskjaer and Sheringham at Man Utd who Ferguson used to bring on to turn games on their head – like a last roll of the dice – but it used to work a lot.

Rick Tarleton
37 Posted 18/12/2015 at 14:16:10
In 1963 we played King's Lynn at Goodison, Liverpool played second division, Chelsea, the attendances were both over 40,000.
Paul Tran
38 Posted 19/12/2015 at 08:24:55
I was one of those who laughed at Dann's price in the Sumner, but I can't help thinking if we'd got him, we'd be fourth now.

Commanding keeper and centre half, plus someone with guile and goals in midfield would see us challenge for top four.

I think budget, Martinez's caution and his apparent unwillingness to manage strong characters are holding us back here. Unless there's some slow rebuilding plan going on.......

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