Roberto Martinez must preserve Everton's new-found pragmatic blueprint

If Roberto Martinez continues to set Everton up in the style which worked so effectively against Stoke City, then the the swell of angst against him in recent weeks will quickly dissipate.

Matt Jones 06/02/2016 31comments  |  Jump to last

If Roberto Martinez continues to set Everton up in the style which worked so effectively against Stoke City, then the the swell of angst against him in recent weeks will quickly dissipate.

Perhaps alongside the 3-0 win against Southampton in the second match of the season, the triumph at the Britannia Stadium by the same scoreline was the Toffees most balanced showing of the entire campaign.

It was a victory made extra sweet as this was the first time in 10 months the team has notched back-to-back Premier League wins, the other coming against Newcastle United on Wednesday; six points in four days is most welcome for a side who, despite moving up to seventh spot with this victory, are still underachieving.

Theyre wins and clean-sheets which have come about due to a clear shift in tactics from the manager, one which has been in motion for the majority of 2016. Now, Everton have to cherish this new-found efficiency in their football.

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We saw signs of a more pragmatic ethos against Tottenham Hotspur in the first game of the calendar year, with Muhamed Besic and Aaron Lennon impressive. In the first-leg of the League Cup semi-final, a similar set-up was used, with Tom Cleverley tucking in on the left flank and Besic snapping around in midfield.

Joel Robles has played his part too. Granted, hes had little to do in Evertons last three outings, but a trio of clean sheets in seven days is not something many would have considered this brittle defensive structure to be capable of; needless to say, the Spaniards presence has been settling at the base of the XI.

Its a set-up which has worked well for Everton when utilised this season and one which saw this side flourish at the Britannia, as the Toffees ran riot in the first half before being foiled by the excellent Jack Butland in the second.

Like the showing on the south coast, it was a comprehensive effort. Everton were industrious out of possession, with Lennon in particular seeming insatiable in his willingness to get any kind of a touch on the ball anywhere down the right flank. Cleverley and James McCarthy, both superb on the day, also played crucial roles.

At the back, there were no great dramas either. Although John Stones is a special talent, at the moment the fundamental defensive qualities of skipper Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori helps relieve pressure off the back line rather than encourage it.

The extra focus on keeping clean sheets also means that when this side does get in front, theres a better chance of keeping the advantages intact too, something weve seen as Newcastle and Stoke have been snuffed out. Also, when things dont quite go to plan, significant firepower is in reserve on the bench.

And while the side is not quite as full of attacking talent, with Gerard Deulofeu the noticeable omission in recent wins, its a structure which has brought the best out of other offensive gems, especially Ross Barkley.

With Lennon, McCarthy and Cleverley all ratting around in midfield and nicking the ball back, Everton are turning possession over quicker, getting it into Barkleys feet and giving him more space to burst into.

Its no surprise that the England international has played his best three games of the season in the last three matches. Hes relishing the responsibility of being the sides key creative crux and with a more cohesive foundation in place behind him, Barkley seems to have been encouraged to take the game to the opposition. With him, Romelu Lukaku, Lennon, Cleverley and the two full-backs all in the XI, theres more than enough attacking quality to trouble sides.

This has to be the way forward for this team; balancing steeliness with an attacking flair. Martinez is renowned for his attacking mantras, but his team has shown they can juggle the two and the benefits of doing so have been clear.

But weve been here before with this side and this manager. Martinez has a niggling reflex for cavalier football which has been prevalent throughout his career in management; now, especially with a relatively favourable set of fixtures to come, its going to be interesting to see whether he can stave it off.

Of course, there may well come a point when the likes of Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas will be needed, but they must fit into a system which has proven the best fit for the greater good. Tim Howard, Leighton Baines and Stones should have to wait for their chances too, regardless of their pedigree and perceived influence on the starting XI.

Hopefully, this week the penny has dropped for Martinez. The model may not cater for the utopia of attacking play which the Catalan seems to crave, but its still entertaining. More importantly, it has proven to be extremely effective against sides from all sections of the Premier League table.

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Reader Comments (31)

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John Austin
1 Posted 06/02/2016 at 23:58:49
Agree with everything you said Matt. The pressure is on Martinez even more now after 2 straight league wins. He has to kick on and climb up the table. No excuses allowed. We showed today that we have the players. It's how he uses them that counts.
John Magor
2 Posted 07/02/2016 at 00:20:52
Absolutely spot on analysis Matt. Let's just hope Roberto Martinez keeps listening to the fans & tries to find the right balance between attack & defence.
Phil Walling
4 Posted 07/02/2016 at 01:04:12
Well if that man in charge of Leicester can find success without tinkering so can Roberto !
Andy McNabb
5 Posted 07/02/2016 at 02:23:15
Analysis - spot on.
Dennis Ng
6 Posted 07/02/2016 at 02:35:26
His subs are still questionable, like for like, though of little detriment this time as the game was well in hand. Still a good result based on a clean sheet that we have not had in quite a while (I don't count relegation fodder) and hopefully, RM keeps the same team unless forced by injuries.
Phil Sammon
7 Posted 07/02/2016 at 03:45:01
One thing I'd like to see in the remainder of the season is Martinez bringing on youngsters in the closing stages as opposed to the likes of Osman. Surely we can afford to do so when we're coasting at 3-0. We should always be looking to plan for the future...and, as much as I like him, Osman isn't that.
Harold Matthews
8 Posted 07/02/2016 at 04:30:24
Very true Matt. Took him far too long to fill the defensive holes we've moaned about all season but, now he's done it, let's hope he keeps it that way.

Okay, we're not yet Atletico Madrid or even Leicester City but we're moving in the right direction. Our fire power has been pretty awesome all season and the addition of Niasse shouldn't do any harm.

At the other end the clean sheets are not a coincidence. McCarthy, Barry and Cleverley with help from Lennon are stifling the opposition across the width of the whole pitch. I wouldn't mind a Robert Huth type to help out at the back but at the moment I'm quite happy with the mobility and bravery of Jags, Funes Mori, Coleman and Oviedo.

All in all, two or three satisfying results with the promise of more to come. Lukaku is taking quite a battering up on his own and I was pleased to see him score from the spot. He's still the man defenders fear and the goal will have done his confidence a load of good. Let's hope he bangs in a few more in the games ahead.

Derek Thomas
9 Posted 07/02/2016 at 06:12:07
Pretty much so, Matt. Was it about this time last year when we went on a bit of a gallop through the 40Pt. barrier.

Is it short term expediency or a long term genuine Sea Change.

Best stick with 'one game at a time' for the foreseeable future.

I do think though, that He and The Squad should be made, once a day until it sinks in, to watch a replay of The City Vs Leicester game. My personal opinion here, that was a performance that the 84-85 squad would readily claim as their own...that's how good it was.

As Mr Punch says...'That's the way to do it.' and it is too.

Andy Codling
10 Posted 07/02/2016 at 06:29:06
We look so much more efficient and organised without Howard and Stones in the team gifting goals to the opposition!
Michael Polley
11 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:13:32
Let's hope RM keeps to the same tactics that was shown on Saturday. Is he capable of that ?

One game at a time I suppose, but at least this Evertonian is feeling a wee bit happier.

Geoff Evans
12 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:59:43
Football is a result-driven business. A winning team breeds confidence and picks itself.
Philip Yensen
13 Posted 07/02/2016 at 11:19:51
Funes Mori has his faults but we are better balanced at the back, he is a whole-hearted player and still young. If Stones is going to replace anyone, it will be Jags. When he gets his place back he needs to concentrate on his marking, talking and priorities in clearing the ball. There is a time for fancy-dan football when a bagful of goals have been scored at the other end.

There is no reason not to start the with same team in the next game, maybe the players on the bench will understand their roles when their chance comes. As for RMs blueprint, it's shaped only by injuries if not for them it was fading.
Dave Williams
14 Posted 07/02/2016 at 11:44:14
Good article Matt.

I think Robles has made a huge difference. Ok he hasn't had an awful lot to do but as a former centre half myself I would look at the way he patrols his area and feel he has it sorted- oozes confidence and authority.

Jags coming back has helped but the big difference for me is midfield. We have swapped Geri and Kone for Lennon and Cleverley which means we now have four players in midfield who will press hard to win the ball back. I am not knocking Geri and Arouna - I thought Arouna looked very good yesterday after he came on- but with four workers in midfield rather than two we are making it easier to defend.

Geri has to work on his fitness to become a regular starter and it will be a test of his resolve and ambition to see if he really wants to fulfill his huge potential. Lennon has shown that it is possible to run at great pace in a game and still work like a dog- what a great attitude he has. Another James McCarthy!

Final word for Oviedo- now looking the player he was before his leg break and no way Baines should displace him. His enthusiasm added to that of Lennon rubs off on the others and his delivery is better than Baines too.

Geoff Evans
15 Posted 07/02/2016 at 11:59:49
Lucky to have Bainsey and Oviedo.
Aidy Dews
16 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:36:38
Joel being in has made a big difference, the fact he's vocal back there and comes for things, it breeds confidence.

But the big difference is, is having both Lennon & Cleverley out wide. They wouldn't be the first names picked out to play there by a lot of Evertonians but their work rate is a big plus. The pair of them don't mind getting back and putting a shift in and we looked a lot more compact and in unison when defending in 2 banks of four yesterday.

The way we have defended over the last few games hasn't just happened, it has been worked on so clearly Martinez can do that side of the game so why have we not done more of this all season? I'm pretty sure that if we had, we'd be right on the tails of the top four!

Also did anyone notice the routine at the corner for Coleman's goal? That was another thing that had been worked on! Jags spinning and running towards the back post, taking away Muniesa and confusing Wollschied whilst Coleman made the near post run, leaving defenders flat footed and he stuck the header away. Another thing Martinez can do and hasn't done enough of all season!

If we threw all this into the mix with the attacking play we can produce, then I'm sure we'd be an even better team and be on a par with the likes of Spurs!

Hopefully Martinez keeps these things up but we all know he's one for reverting back to type!

Rahman Talib
17 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:03:34
Cleverly and Lennon. Both have maturity in their play that is rubbing off to the entire team.

Baines is over, I think. His glory days are behind him now. He needs to transit to playing midfield if he wants to remain in the team.

Howard needs to make the long walk into the MLS wilderness...

Nick Armitage
18 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:13:21
Spot on article but it is no coincidence that results and performances picked up when Jagielka, McCarthy and Cleverley returned from injury. None of them set the world on fire but they all just do the basics with the minimum of fuss. Add this to Lennon permanently busting a gut and the team is no longer carrying anyone.

However I don't see any tactical masterstroke by Martinez, it is just that the players that he has at his disposal are better at grinding out results than the ones he has been picking of late.

If you look at Jags, he hardly ever strays outside the width of the 18 yard box compared to the appalling positioning of the ill-disciplined Stones (despite what Rio Ferdinand tweets). This wasn't a tactical shift, it is simply a player doing his job properly. Martinez should have clamped down on Stones months ago instead of allowing him to stroll around like Socrates or Zico. So I will reserve judgement until Stones (and Howard) are available for selection.

Peter Roberts
19 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:35:53
Best team performance I've seen in a long time. Keep the side, no replacing players uneccesarily.
David Price
20 Posted 07/02/2016 at 15:27:26
Excellent Matt. Totally accurate with every word. Where other players of undoubted quality fit in really is not a problem. If they do not take on board the base requirement of the Blue shirt – things that were evident in spades yesterday – then they do not play.
Colin Glassar
21 Posted 07/02/2016 at 15:42:00
Rahman, don’t write off the Baines so easily. He’s had no competition for years at LB and now he has Oviedo and Galloway to push him. Same with Stonesy, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Howard etc....all of them need to feel the warm breath of a team mate/rival down their necks. Competition for places can only be good so it’s up to Martinez to manage this correctly and keep everyone on their toes.
Kunal Desai
22 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:12:00
I'll reserve judgement on Martinez at the end of the season. Yes the last two league results have been positive and much needed, I sincerely hope this time around he is learning from his mistakes but I still think it's premature. I wouldn't put it past him to spring up a few bizarre surprises and changing a winning team with the inclusion of Howard or bringing back Stones early.
As mentioned above his substitutions are still questionable.

Last season after going out of the Europa League we won 5 out of 6 league games and drawing the other, but we then went on to lose 3 out of the 4 final games. At present he is still very jekyll and hyde. If we can finish the season on around 60-63 points i'd say he will have learned because we will have maintained a consistent points return.

Andy Crooks
23 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:14:37
As Phil Walling has said, I think Martinez will be better judged when he has to make difficult team selections. In my opinion Howard's return will confirm the worst.
Paul Tran
24 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:00:45
Robles in goal, a fit McCarthy, a fit Oviedo and an early goal made the difference. I'd keep the same team and tell them to do the same things. Question is, will Martinez be brave enough to stick with something that works......?
Ron Sear
25 Posted 07/02/2016 at 23:27:24
I must admit to that with Robles in goal the side seem to be a bit more comfortable but there is one thing that ha has a habit of doing that leaves me more than a little bit nervous. Has anybody else noticed his tendency to come out almost to the halfway line shouting instructions if Everton are taking free kicks anywhere near the oppositions box. One lobbed ball by a sharp defender and he is going to look a bit daft as well as being out of breath chasing it back.
Mark Daley
26 Posted 07/02/2016 at 23:39:57
My take on the remaining fixtures gives us 59 points, probably 7th. Plus ca change. Do we want our own FSG ("turning fans into consumers" and best seats £77) or do we want Uncle Bill? Is there a middle way?

It could be worse this weekend: is not a happy place! Let's enjoy the ascendancy while we have it, and dream of spanking them at Anfield.

Kieran Fitzgerald
27 Posted 08/02/2016 at 06:54:12
Our next five fixtures are:
West Brom (h)
Liverpool (rearranged)
Villa (a)
West Ham (h)
Sunderland (a)

They are a decent set of fixtures in which to pick up points. I know it's coming to the business end of the season and the teams above are going to be really fighting for either survival or European places, but these are winnable games. These teams have been poor to average at best all season.

If we continue with our current style of play, we have more than enough on the pitch and bench, even with our injury list, to pick up at least ten points. The way this weird PL season has gone, this might get us back into the fight for a European spot.

Phil Walling
29 Posted 08/02/2016 at 08:03:17
Whilst I agree with this analysis in every way, it would be just like Everton to send out the same team with same tactics and totally bomb against the Baggies!

Such inconsistency and disappointment had been a feature of the Roberto reign.

Niall McIlhone
30 Posted 08/02/2016 at 13:25:46
Yep, spot on Matt, and I think we are all worried about RM's "niggling reflex" -if any team in the top division could be described as "cavalier" this season, it has to be us! I commented on another thread that West Brom will "park the bus" on Saturday and hope to snatch one on the break.The Baggies are desperately poor right now, we have the capacity to take them apart, and crucially, we appear to be getting a glimmer of good luck which was deserting us up to the City game. I hope Niasse will prove a good foil for Rom and take some pressure off him as the big man has shown signs of fatigue , understandably so leading the line on his own all season and carrying injuries. A great pity about Besic, what an option he would offer, but it looks like we will have to ask Gareth Barry to keep on doing the biz , which , in fairness, he is doing, very consistently. No more bad injuries, a settled team(please !), and let's see where it takes us?
Iain Love
31 Posted 08/02/2016 at 16:51:00
Nice to read a positive thread for a change. My take was alluded to before by Aidy (#16), Joel is vocal back there, that is such an important thing in the defence, and the team as a whole really; Jags doesn’t do it and I think we’ve suffered because of it. Maybe he hasn’t really been tested; maybe that's because he’s vocal and sorts thing out.

Stones, a great talent but directly responsible for a few goals against this season. I’m sure we have all played with great talents who by their very nature always give opponents a chance.

I played Sunday league for years as a defender "Thou salt not pass" was my mantra – Funes Mori & Jags seem to agree.

Ed Fitzgerald
32 Posted 08/02/2016 at 17:26:31

An excellent post if Martinez can learn to be pragmatic when required as well being expansive when required we have a good chance of finishing strongly in the league.

I absolutely agree that Barkley is far more effective further forward and McCarthy is key to the team balance and provides much needed bite in the middle.

Graham Pearce
33 Posted 08/02/2016 at 19:02:51
What we need on Saturday is a positive crowd who as we keep being told are an educated support base who know their football. Well if this is the case then patience is needed as every single one of us know that WBA will sit deep , pack the midfield and be hoping for a draw or a smash and grab win.

No moaning when Ross can only see 4 men in front and Jacob booting him from all sides whilst trying to give Rom a pass he can thrive on.......etc etc . This is a massive game simply because when away teams set up like this it’s going to be 70% possession and patient passing and probing. Patience is the key from Goodisons faithful especially if we don’t get an early goal.

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