In the immediate aftermath of the West Ham catastrophe, my thoughts were to point the finger of blame at the players as if Lukaku had scored a pen or the other gilt edged chance he missed we would have won the game. And if our supposed defence had properly dealt with at least one of the 3 crosses that led to their goals we would have salvaged (maybe) a draw.
Likewise surely Martinez can’t be blamed for ridiculous indiscipline from Mirallas and for all the furore about his substitutions his change at HT to bring in Besic worked well (even if just highlighted the fact that playing Stones in the first place was stupid).
Now while I still stand by some of the above, anyone who watches even the odd game will know there is a bigger problem. This is not the first time we’ve thrown away seemingly unassailable leads (although we have been on the end of some major refereeing mistakes) and some of our defending in the last couple of years has been shambolic – I’ve still not forgiven the Dynamo debacle in the Europa League.
So where do we go from here? As I write this, I’m clinging to the hope that we might beat Chelsea on Saturday and still potentially have something to shout about by the end of the season. As, on our day, we can beat anybody. But if a defeat comes, which wouldn’t be a massive surprise, the post mortems will begin.
In the last few months, the Martinez rhetoric and soundbites, that at first when he arrived were music to our ears after increasingly dour times under Moyes, have started to wind me up no end. But at the same time I would love Roberto to turn this around, learn the error of his ways and build on the exceptional potential this crop of players has. I want him to succeed and see us play the best football in the country and challenge at the top end of the league. And I want everyone else to be proved wrong, that he will get it right.
But then I take a step back and look at the mounting evidence against him. And then I am in the camp of the “ship him out before we lose all the aforementioned exciting young players” brigade. I will move onto who could replace him in a bit.
However, if, as I expect, Martinez is still there at the start of next season (as the new “owner” won’t want to make that sort of decision yet), and I had the opportunity to sit down with him for 15 mins, I think I would offer one piece of advice. To know when to hold your hands up and admit you’re wrong or have made a mistake. To know when to ask for help, to find that missing piece of the jigsaw (I know that sounds like a RS-type clichÃ©, sorry!).
There is no shame in identifying your weaknesses and looking to rectify them. Imagine what an impact having a defensive coach like Dave Watson in his backroom team could do. Imagine what even a slight tweak to his tactics could do, if after getting a healthy lead in a game, we do go slightly more cautious. Rather than going gung ho to win games 4 or 5 nil, why not shut up shop, encourage teams to get frustrated and desperate and then take advantage on the break when they make mistakes. Rather than inviting them to score a goal.
None of this hasn’t been said before, but maybe we need to take a step back. This manager isn’t the worst one we’ve had. He has some great and very progressive ideas and has attracted some superb young players and assembled a squad that should be top 4 minimum. We play superb football when it comes together. And the way he handles the Stones situation was worthy of much praise in my book. And he is young enough (in theory) to learn and improve.
But then his biggest flaw may well be the one which undoes all of the good work and leads to his downfall – the fact that he is so stubborn, he will never admit he’s wrong or change anything about his beliefs.
In some ways I do feel sorry for him as Everton fans can be harsh and very quick to sharpen the knives. But if we’re being realistic, unless things change dramatically in his mind-set he will never reach the heights we had originally hoped (and he believes in) and a change will be necessary before it’s too late.
So who would come in? The obvious but not very exciting candidates would be mentioned – the likes of Hughes, Karanka, etc. I personally think Eddie Howe has the potential to be a top manager, but not now, not for a few years. Then you have the likes of Bilic (who we clearly have now missed the boat on), Koeman and De Boer. Any of these would be exciting enough to get us all optimistic again.
And while this article doesn’t probably answer any of the obvious questions on what we should do next or come to any sort of groundbreaking conclusions, I am going to end on one opinion, which many of you probably won’t share – if we win on Saturday, I’m prepared to forget the other stuff, at least for now. I’m prepared to push the other stuff under the carpet and deal with at a later date, if we can go all the way to Wembley and enjoy a day I’ve personally only experienced once in my time supporting Everton – a trophy.
Let’s get behind the lads on Saturday, including the manager, and remember who we are and why we’re the best set of fans in the country. And then we can deal with our bigger problems later...