This pulsating Premier League season shows how far Everton still have to go

Having fine young players isn’t inextricably linked to success at this level; footballers need to be guided, organised, nurtured and motivated. While Tottenham and Leicester are showing the way, that process doesn’t seem to be in motion at Everton.

Matt Jones 16/02/2016 36comments  |  Jump to last

If it wasnt for the underachievement of Everton, the 2015-16 Premier League campaign is one which wed all be enjoying wholeheartedly.

Teams have emerged to upset the established order, with Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur occupying the top two positions. New stars have surfaced too, with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Dele Alli and Dimitri Payet taking the division by storm. Every round of fixtures conjures a gripping new storyline and another segment of raw drama.

If the Toffees were in the mix at the summit or even clinging onto the coattails of the top teams in this thrilling campaign, thered be a swell of confidence in the fanbase; confidence that next term, perhaps with the squad a little more mature, this team assembled by Roberto Martinez would be capable of repeating the heroics of Leicester or Spurs.

After all, few players from Claudio Ranieris squad would get into the Everton starting line-up on paper, while theres little to choose between the personnel available to Martinez and Mauricio Pochettino, overall.

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The performances of these two outfits will trigger hopes amongst other midtable sides of producing something similar in 2016-17. But as we watched the Toffees toil to a 1-0 loss against West Bromwich Albion this weekend, not to mention other underwhelming showings throughout the season, it was striking just how far this team has to go before theyre as formidable a foe.

As aforementioned, man-by-man, Martinez has a squad bristling with ability. The starting back four are all excellent players in their own right, the midfield options are a brilliant blend of experience, energy and ingenuity, while up front, the leagues second-highest goalscorer leads the line. But theres little fortitude behind a flashy starting XI.

Its the equivalent of buying all the individual parts to assemble a supercar, but when all put together, while looking pristine, it splutters and stutters down the road.

Theres no substance to the Toffees; they cant press opponents, they gift silly goals and struggle in big pressure matches.

Against West Brom, a team revered for their set-piece skill, they were unable to cope with the one corner the visitors had all game. And while there may have been some strokes of misfortune in the teams failure to find the net in the first period, theres nothing unlucky about not dealing with the oppositions only and obvious attacking threat.

Theyre basic lapses in concentration which the sides pushing on simply dont show. Two weeks ago Spurs played Watford in a game very similar in style to Evertons clash with West Brom. They dominated from beginning to end against defensively robust opposition, boasting 66 percent of possession and firing off 25 shots at goal.

They remained sharp at the back, didnt give the Hornets a sniff and a shrewd managerial change helped them to a 1-0 win. A similarly composed display and calculated change at Manchester City, bringing Erik Lamela off the bench late on, helped Spurs to a crucial 2-1 victory, thus cementing their title credentials.

Additionally, Leicester executed a counter-attacking gameplan at the Etihad Stadium which Everton failed with twice in the space of two weeks last month. Their players were intelligent, focused, pragmatic and perhaps most significantly of all, something which also applies to Spurs, remarkably hardworking.

Some expect these traits to suddenly coarse through the XI when this Everton side clicks; this writer did earlier in the season. But they dont appear from nothing. Nigel Pearson and Pochettino meticulously instilled these qualities last term and both clubs are reaping the rewards; its not as if a switch suddenly has been flicked, theres been clear and steady progress.

The altruistic attributes these teams possess have not been seen consistently from Everton for a while. Indeed, while the pragmatic shape which was used against Stoke City and Newcastle United is undoubtedly the way forward, it means sacrificing some of the attacking flair which was badly needed against a side such as West Brom.

Players like Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu are all huge attacking weapons, but playing all four carries a risk of being outmuscled, outworked and subsequently overrun.

On the flipside, players like Harry Kane, Alli and Christian Eriksen, as well as Vardy, Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki, marry graft and guile expertly; theyre all menaces in the final third, yet could never be described as defensive passengers.

Structure and solidity count for so much in the Premier League and in the most competitive competition for years, its no surprise to see the two hardest-working, highly-organised teams in the division leading the way. Theres been a balance struck which few can match.

By contrast, those teams who have been reliant on isolated, individual moments have underachieved, like Manchester City, Everton and Newcastle United. The former and the latter are upmarket and pound shop versions of Toffees, respectively; they have some very talented players which fail to cover up a lack of cohesion.

Evertonians may lament opportunities missed this term to get amongst the upper reaches of the division based on the talent of this squad alone. Yet the simple truth is that having fine young players isnt inextricably linked to success at this level; footballers need to be guided, organised, nurtured and motivated.

That process doesnt seem to be in motion at Everton, with the same players and the same manager making a succession of similar errors. When you look at scrupulous groundwork and the time taken by Leicester and Spurs to form the foundations which have facilitated their impressive positions, it makes it difficult to keep the faith.

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Reader Comments (36)

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Dick Fearon
1 Posted 16/02/2016 at 00:11:23
We often hear screams for Lukaku to camp in the opponents penalty area. When he does so it could be half our problem.

A wise old head from my past said keep that space clear until the last second. His reasoning being that for every attacker in that area there would be a defender plus a cover man and a keeper thus making it hard to see the corner flags let alone goal post.

Think back to our 34 shots against West Brom then think how few had clear sight of the target.

Don Alexander
2 Posted 17/02/2016 at 02:25:23
That’s what I despise about mere stats. I watched the game against WBA. 34 shots my arse. The vast, repeat vast, majority were pathetic. Less than five demanded action by their goalie. These guys play on a surface like a snooker table. Why the fuck are they incapable of consistently hitting the target?

Given that Bobby Brown Shoes is our/their manager it may be best that I tell them what that target is; lads, it’s the bit contained by the area with the "string" all around it.

A professional, rather than the current delusional training regime would identify that as a priority, along with defence and positive ball-usage.

David Pearl
4 Posted 17/02/2016 at 05:37:53
Excellently written Matt... yet I am still scratching my head!

Ultimately for me though the players have to take responsibility for very fundamental errors.

Andy Meighan
5 Posted 17/02/2016 at 07:16:34
Here we are into the middle February and we are still talking about underachieving. Not true – your results determine where you finish and ours quite simply haven’t been good enough.

Our home form is appalling and yet the players and manager keep trotting out the same boring excuses time after after time. Yes, to lose to the current league champions is no disgrace but failure to beat ordinary sides like Swansea, WBA and failure to garner points from the very average Liverpool and Man Utd teams is criminal. Yet some of our fan base still think its all somehow going to suddenly turn in an instant. It won't because the players are being stifled by the manager's inane tactics and moronic substitutions and while he's at the helm nothing will change.

I'd like to know why the lad Niasse wasn’t on the bench last week and given a 15 minute cameo. He's not going to get match fit sitting in the stands, but that’s just another one of this manager's conundrums. No, I'm sorry, we haven’t underachieved and we haven’t got a great squad, at least I haven’t seen it anyway.

The brutal truth is we are just not that good. Take a look at the league table – it doesn’t lie and to even mention us in the same breath as Spurs and Leicester is an insult. It's the likes of Stoke and Palace we are on par with. It's a bottom of the table finish as I've said all season.
Armando Canaj
6 Posted 17/02/2016 at 07:51:30
A thought-provoking article which I’m sure fans from many clubs would appreciate. Stoke have spent heavily, as have Crystal Palace and West Ham.

My question to you is who has qualified that ours players are ’all that’... The best squad since the last time we won something!

Sure certain players are repeatedly rumoured to be chased by the big clubs but they’re still with us. Which club I’m their right mind would pay £40 million for Stones and play him from day 1 in their first 11. Rodwell went to city and warmed the bench for months if not the first season.

The media go in about this all he time. Who says we’ve got the best team. I’m not seeing it on the pitch. If they were that good, the starring 11 against Stoke should have killed the game off in the first 45. No management tactics required.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not absolved the Manager and his coaching and staff, we’re void of the pressing game or nouse to hold on to winning positions, and subs against West Brom were baffling.

The players need to deliver. They need to show desire and work rate and stop making daft mistakes.

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 17/02/2016 at 08:56:28
West Brom had so many defenders back in the box Dick, it was nearly impossible for anyone to find space. When Lennon was getting to the bye line in the first half, they had 2/3 picking up Everton players, and the rest were free to intercept the cross. Easy to defend against, unless we start getting midfielders into the box, which would give those extra defenders something else to think about, instead of just cutting out A cross.

Who didn't enjoy the last 25, minutes of the first half on Saturday? It was GOOD, FAST ATTACKING FOOTBALL, and if we played like that all the time we wouldn't have a problem. Olsen said it was very hard for West Brom, at that time, and yet the tempo, dropped for the whole of the second half.

If you have got the players, just get them fit enough, to play at least 70 minutes, of high intensity football. It's the one big difference between Everton and Spurs, this season, along with a back four that look like they are organized as one big unit, of course.

Matt, that's a very good assessment of Everton mate, especially when you say we have no substance, I couldn't agree with you more.

I honestly think if we had a pragmatic manager, he would get loads more out of this squad, but then I think about the lack of substance and I wonder, if the players are happier playing for a manager, were it seems they don't have to really hurt themselves from a physical point of view, where it matters most.

Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 17/02/2016 at 09:43:07
Listening to Ian Dowie, getting asked what the main ingredient any team needs to get out of the Championship? His reply, ENERGY.

Before anyone goes on about Dowie or the Championship, think about it, we already have enough quality players at the club don't we?

Peter Carpenter
9 Posted 17/02/2016 at 09:45:01
It's not underachievement any longer, it's failure. There must be loads of experienced, pragmatic managers out there, looking at the situation, knowing exactly what is lacking, thinking 'what I could do with a squad like that' and salivating at the thought.
Tony Waring
10 Posted 17/02/2016 at 10:04:00
We do seem to go off the boil in the second half. I watched most of the PSG v Chelsea game last night and was struck by the terrific energy shown by both sides but particularly PSG whose players were going non-stop and at high tempo.

If it hadn’t been for Courtois they would have had a net full of goals; as it is they got a slim lead which will be invaluable in the return game. I find it hard to understand why the Blues are not fully fit – if that is indeed the case.

Niall McIlhone
11 Posted 17/02/2016 at 10:04:24
Good post, Matt. Although our season has been extremely frustrating, it has been a breath of fresh air to see Leicester City putting a "fox amongst the chickens" in confounding the darling Sky 4 (or whatever they are called these days) and it gives us all hope that, well, football can still surprise and delight us?

I am self-aware about how negative I must seem in my posts on TW, but there are so many good things happening at the club which do bode well for the future, that my hope is that this manager will leave a legacy, eg, much improved youth set up. I just hope for better next season.

David (#4), yes, that needs to be said, so many of our mess-ups this season have been down to really basic individual errors in bad positions around the pitch; at this level, those errors have been ruthlessly punished, most painfully at Goodison Park of course.

James Stewart
12 Posted 17/02/2016 at 10:26:56
Very true. If we had a Pochettino or Ranieri I think things would be very different. The talent in the squad is there but our tactics and work rate are absolutely disgusting.
Les Martin
13 Posted 17/02/2016 at 11:07:53
I forgot which article or thread it was now, going back a bit, but it would be very relevant to this excellent article. It went something on the lines that Everton in training do a lot of ball work to gain their fitness, rather than just getting the players really fit.

Moyes had Everton really fit and well drilled but lack adventure to take 3 points when on offer, Martinez goes for the 3 points but can't keep them. Watching the Spurs game, they were all over us until the last 70 minutes when we slowly came back into it as they tired.

Energy will always be a leveller of ability that is why minnows do well in the FA Cup, its a one off maximum effect situation. Personally I will be surprised if Leicester or Spurs can keep up their levels, but if they do then they deserve everything that comes their way.

Everton have to be fully fit. We need to work on crosses as a defensive unit, having Stones and Funes Mori playing together was a problem: Stones still learning, Funes Mori new to the Prem is a big ask. Since Jags has returned we hopefully will see us defend better as a unit.

There is no doubt Martinez has assembled an excellent squad, and players have been attracted by his style of football, but this needs to be blended with fitness and steel – then we may have the right alloy to be something special.

Clive Rogers
14 Posted 17/02/2016 at 12:11:48
We have got good players and the basis for a good squad, but the squad is not balanced. We have 3 centre-mid players who are all very similar none of whom score goals. There is no one for the left mid slot, always filled by someone out of position.

Also there is a large chunk of the squad who never or rarely play. This now seems to include Mirallas.

The only tactic is 4-2-3-1. Against WBA, Lukaku was hopelessly outnumbered and needed help, but, when we brought a second striker, on he was pushed out to the left. All 3 subs were like-for-like.

Andrew Ellams
15 Posted 17/02/2016 at 12:47:29
This pulsating Premier League season has shown how far Everton have gone backwards under Martinez.
Aidy Dews
16 Posted 17/02/2016 at 15:05:34
Pochettino has done a great job with Spurs imo. As has Ranieri with Leicester also but I think Pearson must take some credit for it aswell as he was the one that got them fired up and battling away at the end of last season and that’s carried on into this, and even though the likes of Kante, Okazaki & Fuchs signed after Pearson left, he’d already lined those deals up so in theory, it’s still Pearsons team but fair play to Ranieri, he’s kicked it on!

But I like what Pochettino as done at Spurs, he’s took 2 years to bring some of his players in and get his methods into force and Tottenham are looking the real deal. Their organised, work tirelessly hard, close down in packs and are crisp on the ball and more importantly, their consistent. We lack a lot of those traits right now!

We’re not always organised and look disjointed, I don’t think enough of our players are hard-working enough, we don’t close down enough and although we can be good on the ball, it’s not always crisp and slick. And we’re definitely not consistent!

A lot is down to our manager at the end of the day. For me, man for man (apart from the GK) were just as good as Spurs imo and should be up there challenging for the European spots but were way off to be fair.

Tbh, I wouldn’t be arsed if Martinez was sacked next week but he’ll get to see the season out and I honestly think we’ll just finish within the top 10 but if next season we start inconsistently again and are languishing in mid table come Christmas time, then he definitely has to go cos it simply isn’t good enough for us. We’ve got a very good squad these days and we should be doing much better!

Russell Smith
17 Posted 17/02/2016 at 15:55:38
Aidy (#16),

Why if we only finish 9th or 10th do you think Martinez deserves to start next season? He should have been replaced last year at about this time and I remember reading a similar article saying " give him to the end of the season and 10/12 games into the new season and if nothing has changed then peddle him".

We are 3pts better off than last year and continue to make the same defensive mistakes, we do not have a plan B to unlock teams who sit back and defend, this is the third year in succession that Pulis has brought a team to Goodison, set them up in the same way and gone away without losing, winning two and drawing the other.

How many part-seasons are we going to give Martinez before the penny drops that he is incapable of doing what Pochettino is doing at Spurs. The sooner he goes and is replaced the sooner a new man will be able to mould the talent we do possess into a coherent team.

Helen Mallon
18 Posted 17/02/2016 at 18:54:06
I must say I am sick of the same old post on ToffeeWeb. Ifs and buts always we should be up there. Well, we are not; get over it.

I want Martinez out but football is not played by robots, it’s played by 11 humans who should bloody know when to close a game out but don’t. They should also know how to break another side down.

WHEN ARE WE BEING TAKING OVER???

Ian Brandes
19 Posted 17/02/2016 at 19:06:25
I am with Helen. No 'ifs' and 'Buts', we will only have a great squad when we are winning things!

And that may only start to happen if and when this takeover happens.

Can we have some action on the latter? Please!!!

Aidy Dews
20 Posted 17/02/2016 at 19:11:55
Russell, read my post again, that’s not what I said! I said that he will get to finish the season, and knowing our board they will let him, they won’t sack him!

And I said that I (myself) think we’ll just about finish top 10. I haven’t said anything about that kind of finish being deserving of another season for Martinez.

I was actually one of those that felt that Martinez needed to prove himself this season and prove that last season was just an out of sorts season for us, but, I also said give him till Christmas to see how we were doing after a tough start and imo, he’s just not doing enough. Even with good runs of fixtures we seem to take one step forward, 2 steps back and our defending hasn’t improved at all and were conceding an alarming amount of goals.

I do agree with a lot of what you're saying and for me, in the long run he’s not the man for us, he’s not the one to take us forward. The man has a great eye for talent/players but he can’t seem to fit them into his system of choice and get the best out of them. We’re too nice, not tough enough, not fit enough, we don’t work hard enough has a team or individually, we’re not organised/disciplined defensively and tbh, are football can be quite slow and boring, especially at home! Away from home the game seems to pan out better for us and we seem to play better and that shows in our results but at home, when we’re expected to be the team to go on and make in roads, we struggle and the play goes from side to side and back and there’s not enough progressive play from us.

And like you say, we don’t have no Plan B, nor a Plan C. We play one way and that’s that, regardless of if it works or not. Martinez doesn’t know how to adapt and change in a game. Love him or hate him, but Moyes knew how to change things and mix it up to get us back into a game or win it. The amount of last minute goals we used to score under Moyes was ridiculous, but under Moyes we were fit and carried on working till the death of a game; under Martinez, we start blowing after an hour, 70 plus mins and our play gets lethargic.

Personally, if things don’t improve and we keep on losing games and conceding silly goals here and there and don’t move up the table, then Martinez has to go, if not between now and the end of the season, then at the end of the season definitely!

James Newcombe
21 Posted 17/02/2016 at 19:55:23
Aidy – I definitely remember one of the criticisms regularly levelled at Moyes was our lack of a Plan B.

In fact, when Roberto first started it seemed like he wasn’t a manager who constantly picked favourites, or stuck rigidly to the same setup every week. That impression didn’t last long!

Rob Hooton
22 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:00:42
Think almost everyone seems to agree that the big difference between us and the top 2 is that they work harder and WANT it more.

Sometimes our lads seem to think they are the bees knees but they’ve still got it all to prove as they are yet to achieve anything.

There are plenty of positives but the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to be drawing any closer – I would rather see Martinez be a rip roaring success than a failure but the lightbulb needs illuminating and I am not sure if his Eureka moment will ever come at the moment.

Jack Mason
23 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:41:51
I have a saying I say to people who come to me with bad luck tales, repeating the same mistakes over and over, never getting a break etc... It's gotten me in to a few fights over the years. But I don't say it to be cruel or heartless. I say it because that's what they need to hear.

"You're the architect of your own fucking disasters."

If ever a person needed to hear this, it's Roberto Martinez. Yes he's talented and there's potential there but it's wasted if he can't or even worse, refuses to see. It's pointless talking about the players. If I try to justify failings in my business on employees, I'd get laughed at and rightly so. There's a chain of command, which ultimately rests with the board by the way. No-one denies players at times can make mistakes but when patterns emerge and are repeated. The responsibility lies with the manager for either picking them or failing to correct the problem.

It's been a fantastic season from the neutrals point of view. But I'm not a neutral. If I saw competitors racing away from me, it would be game on. It wouldn't be phenomenal and it certainly wouldn't be a special moment. I'd be damn angry. Look how Manchester City and United are already preparing for the summer. Should we wait until 12 games into next season before we have a good look at the situation? Or are we really serious about winning?

Michael Polley
24 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:42:52
Same mistakes being made week-in, week-out. I thought you were supposed to learn by your mistakes!!!

I heard a rumour Martinez will get one more season. That could mean relegation. God help us!!!

The guy will never change his ideas or game plan (with no Plan B) so he needs to go before our great club is shafted.

Dark days ahead!!!

Ged Simpson
25 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:54:41
Jack......there are a million exceptions to your philosophy.. both on management and staff sides.
Alan Bodell
26 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:55:58
Our style has been well and truly sussed by all, just watch each and every fucking game...,we have the ball and all our players are tight marked then we lose the ball and its open season as we are all too much forward and not tight on them.
We are so predictable it's a joke, Martinez just fuck off please.

Jack Mason
27 Posted 17/02/2016 at 20:59:38
I won't deny it's not brutal Ged, truth is like that though. Don't you get tired of spin and half-truths? Sometimes you've just got to tell it like is.
Ged Simpson
28 Posted 17/02/2016 at 21:05:04
Yeah but the world runs on half-truths. If it ran on complete truth, we would all be fucked. Human condition!
Tony Abrahams
29 Posted 17/02/2016 at 21:18:15
If it ran on complete truths Ged, we would be playing in The Kings Dock now, instead of being fucked!
Jack Mason
30 Posted 17/02/2016 at 21:20:02
We have a manager whose use of hyperbole has gone into orbit. Who refuses to see, what 40,000 Evertonians at every home game can recognise. A board that appears to have gone awol.

Don’t you think that it’s time someone told him, that the fruits of his labour are not down to bad luck, poor refereeing, players not being in their moment, astrological alignments or whatever mumbo jumbo, pitiful excuse he comes up with? But down to one simple fact. You’re wrong. Rectify it... or you're sacked?

Helen Mallon
31 Posted 17/02/2016 at 23:00:07
I hate to say this but we need to get nasty as fans at games (just like the Red Shite did over prices; I know they walked out but it worked). Banners with "Martinez Out" all over the ground. Don't worry what the media say – our manager will get us relegated, so let's get him out.
Grant Rorrison
32 Posted 17/02/2016 at 23:11:50
Some of the criticism seems a bit harsh. Why will he get us relegated? Because Wigan got relegated? They were a bottom side financially waiting to go down. Everton are not. Is he perfect? No, of course not, who is? Give him a chance. We are close to being extremely successful.
Jamie Crowley
33 Posted 17/02/2016 at 23:14:48
Jack,

Unavoidable bad luck hits every human being at some point in their journey.

I don’t contest your premise and see it as a very valid criticism of Roberto’s tenure – even if I’m not on board with you.

But as a sweeping statement it’s pretty harsh.

I’d argue it’s how folks respond to said bad luck that separates the wheat from the chaff.

And in fact there are, albeit a very, very small minority I include myself in, some that would like to see Roberto have just a bit more time to do just that – rise above bad luck and admittedly his own mistakes and failures.

When is enough, enough? That’s subjective.

Jamie Crowley
34 Posted 17/02/2016 at 23:17:24
Matt Jones,

This was an absolutely fantastic article / submission.

Jack Mason
35 Posted 18/02/2016 at 02:39:31
Jamie, I think we can both agree that we learn far more from our failures than we do our successes. If I saw one shred of evidence that Martinez was learning, I’d be in your camp mate.

However, our manager is being defined by his failures and that is a big difference. The same failures that plagued him at Wigan are surfacing at our club. I’m sorry I can’t sit silent and let that go. It’s time for the riot act and we need someone with the balls to read it to him.

Alan Ross
37 Posted 18/02/2016 at 15:56:42
According to the OS Martinez is still targeting Europe. Having made similar utterances this season only to be followed by undesired results this doesn't bode well for the weekend. I wish he'd keep his gob shut and concentrate on the job of getting the results we all desire instead of trying to placate the fanbase with meaningless drivel.
Ian Riley
39 Posted 22/02/2016 at 00:47:26
My greatest failure this season has been expectation. I have no evidence based on last season that it should be any different this season. Yes, we have bought players with quality but it’s more than that. Look at Tottenham and Leicester, their work ethic from front to back.

Confidence is a key component to winning. Take last season, Leicester’s miracle in surviving in the Premier League has carried on. Adding a little quality and Ranieri has continued the run. Last season, we ended poorly and it continued due to the same approach taken by the manager.

At present, we are in the bottom half but have had two good cup runs. If we were to reach Wembley then have we achieved our aim? Champions League places are a pipe dream due to our inconsistency. Both Leicester and Tottenham are worthy of this due to their consistency.

I don’t put this season down to bad luck but my expectations being too high. My mindset for next season is more realistic. What will be, will be!!!


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