And that all-too-familiar story is also all-too-specific: Everton are incapable of defending corners and crosses which is almost the sole reason to why they are dropping a criminal amount of points in recent weeks. The trio of fixtures Bournemouth (a), Crystal Palace (h) and Norwich (a) should have represented a maximum haul of nine points on the balance of play. Nine very important points which would have cranked pressure on the upper echelons of the Premier League in what is an unusually open season with real opportunities for less fashionable teams to usurp the “Sky 4”.
Let’s be fair here, Everton are in blistering form from an attacking point of view, with Lukaku hitting double figures with ease, Barkley seeing his best return in the Premier League by December, and Deulofeu supplying goals like Father Christmas supplies presents. It would be wrong not to acknowledge that Everton have been a little guilty of wasting chances in those games; but let’s also remember that Wayne Hennessey and Declan Rudd were both in Man of the Match form against Everton as well as both teams being rescued by the fine margins of the woodwork.
Martinez’s recent brand of free-flowing, direct attacking football is nothing short of exhilarating and regularly has the Gwladys Street on their feet. It is a long way away from the more pragmatic approach of his predecessor and much more exciting in my opinion.
But the leaking of goals left, right and centre is a major, major concern. The list of goals Everton have conceded this term from corners or crosses is quite painful to read: Watford, Barnsley, WBA, Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, Norwich (h), Sunderland, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Norwich (a). These goals are worth up to a potential eleven points to Everton. After every match, Martinez mentions that “we must learn from our mistakes” but the fact of the matter is, he must learn from his own — and he has had long enough to do that.
Martinez’s teams are renowned for being poor defensively. His Wigan team were exuberant going forward but it was their defence that ultimately cost them their Premier League status. He also has a number of missed opportunities under his belt at Everton due to his defensive frailty, no less than in the Europa League last spring when Everton capitulated quite magnificently in Kyiv.
I appreciate that teams do have bad days at the office, but it is becoming far too frequent to be a coincidence and it places a real threat on Everton who, I believe, are on the cusp of something special if they can plug the leaks in their back 4. My primary concern is that Martinez has not learnt the lessons that have been staring him in the face for the last six years since he took over at Wigan Athletic.
Quite simply, if I made the same mistakes over and over again in my line of work, I would have serious questions asked of my ability. This is irrespective of whether I am particularly strong in another aspect of my job. Martinez is so strong from an attacking viewpoint, but questions have been asked and never answered. I can’t fathom how this hasn’t been addressed when every fan can see the problem staring them in the face.
Martinez, allegedly, places little focus on training set pieces because “there are a limited number of opportunities to score or concede from them”. Well those limited opportunities are far, far too fruitful for our opponents at the moment for my liking and if he continues with that mantra we will blow a massive opportunity in the history of Everton to close the gap on our illustrious rivals. European football is the difference between keeping players like Lukaku, Deulofeu, Stones and Barkley but at the moment, our defensive weaknesses are compromising that.
As I mentioned, if I was making mistakes in my job, I would have questions asked. What would I do? I would accept my weakness and get support and help. There is something clearly wrong with Everton’s defensive coaching staff or tactical approach. Get somebody in, accept your weakness and strive to improve. Everton cannot afford to let many more leads slip if they have aspirations of Europe or Cup success.
Any more instances of Everton letting glorious opportunities slip and I will start to call for Martinez’s head. Not because he isn’t a good manager; but because the team we have at the moment will allow us to attract top quality candidates to the club. If we let this slip, we will lose our key performers and slip back to mid-table obscurity. Then if Martinez loses his job, our ability to recruit a top class replacement diminishes significantly.
For now, I am totally behind Roberto but I can’t accept many more displays of self-destruction given where Everton are in their lifecycle.
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