Liverpool 4 - 0 Everton
Roberto Martinez promised to make Evertonians proud before this evening's Merseyside derby. Instead, Blues fans were served up utter humilation in the worst arena possible, his Everton side disgraced at the home of rivals Liverpool.
It was repeated like a mantra in the days leading up to the first of two huge games in Everton's recent history — "we want to make our fans proud" — but those brave Blue souls who stood dejected to the bitter, sorry end in the away section had to endure mocking chants from delirious reds as Jurgen Klopp's rejuvenated team turned the closing stages into an evening kick-around.
Everton were down to 10 men and losing 4-0 at Anfield for the second time in just over two years. Ramiro Funes Mori had become the third Everton player in seven games to be given his marching orders from the referee, depriving Martinez of one of his only two fit centre halves. The other, John Stones, would follow him down the tunnel not long afterwards having gifted the ball to the opposition for the third goal and then, apparently, complained of stomach pains. It was nothing compared to the sick feeling in their guts of Evertonians who, even in their most pessimistic pre-derby mood probably couldn't have imagined things collapsing in quite so farcical a manner.
Precious little forward momentum, only a modicum of the requisite passion and belief required of such an occasion, zero shots on target, worryingly under kosh... and that was just the first 40-odd minutes with the scores level at 0-0 and Everton with their full complement on the field. It would get much worse, and embarassingly so.
Then they conceded two goals that had "Martinez regime" written all over them — acres of space afforded to the man crossing the ball, flat-footed defending and two simple headers; the first from Divock Origi and the second by Mamadou Sakho given the freedom of Anfield in the six-yard box nod home. It was, essentially, game over by first-half stoppage time; the fight long gone out of this Everton team under Martinez; the Catalan cross-armed and helpless on the touchline; his verbal battles now fought by his Assistant, Graeme Jones.
Gareth Barry, back in the side to tie the Premier League record for starts, was withdrawn at half time in favour of Muhamed Besic, a groin injury piling on the problems for Wembley on Saturday. After Funes Mori was shown a straight red for a late stamp on Origi's ankle, Ross Barkley was also hooked, the white flag raised by the manager with dreaded thoughts turning already to the cup semi-final that could yet be the death knell for Martinez if he isn't out of a job before then.
If Simon Mignolet touched the ball at all in the second period, it would come as news to Everton supporters. That the Reds weren't 4-0 up by the interval and that they didn't treble the 2-0 lead they took into the break was largely down to Joel Robles, who made some fine saves to deny Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino in particular, and some poor finishing by Klopp's front line. Nevertheless, Liverpool got it together up front on the hour mark to carve the Blues wide open and present an easy chance to Daniel Sturridge to slot home. And Coutinho's accurate low drive from the edge of the box a few minutes later was well-placed beyond the Everton 'keepers reach to complete the rout.
Of the rest, Barry perhaps excepted, there was nothing much positive to say. Bryan Oviedo, at sea as an emergency right back, suffered through one of the worst individual displays in living memory. Romelu Lukaku, the only player in Blue to come close to scoring when he was tackled at the crucial moment by Sakho, was reduced to strolling around as a spectator up front. Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas, game enough in the early going where the Belgian had two shots from outside the box that missed the target, chased shadows.
Anyone who remembers the last days of Walter Smith will remember the feeling when a manager's tenure enters a death spiral from which, by definition, he can never recover. This feels every bit like that — hopeless; the speed of descent escalating. Martinez has tried vainly to stress that he and his players would be fighting for every remaining point in the Premier League, words devoid of substance, born either of self-preservation or delusion, because, just like last season, the league campaign was lost weeks ago.
His team selection this evening at least backed up his words; Everton were as strong as they could be given the key injuries to Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman. That everything unravelled as spectacularly as it did with that line-up is, sadly, damning of a managerial stint that has run its course.
In stark contrast to their hosts on the night, this Everton team lacks fitness and organisation. As Funes Mori's red card, petulant booting of the ball away and misguided grabbing of the crest as he walked off towards the tunnel all showed, it also lacks discipline.
Recent performances and some damning goals for and against statistics in the last 30 minutes of matches suggest they're not fit enough, that they don't fight enough, that they're not clinical enough, and that the mentality of the side is simply all wrong. These players are no longer playing for the manager and when that happens, it's over.
While there is plenty of blame to go around among the players, all of it comes back to the manager. He sets the tone and the psychology; he makes decisions over training, tactics and strategy; he helps oversee the fitness regimes and requirements of his players; he picks the teams and makes the substitutions..
It is Martinez's dereliction of duty that has left Everton without a back-up right back for the best part of two seasons; that there are only three fit and available first-team-grade central defenders; that the crucial influence of Steven Pienaar in his prime still hasn't been replaced; that this club has relied on Arouna KonÃ© as back-up to Lukaku and that Steven Naismith's replacement looks, on the evidence to date, to have been one of the most spectacular transfer miscalculations in the club's history.
For all of those reasons — tonight's abject surrender was merely the crowning turd in the water pipe — Everton must call time on the Martinez era, preferably as soon as possible. In nominal control of the club, it's unlikely Bill Kenwright will be as daring or decisive as to act so soon before an FA Cup semi-final but he should be. Based on what Evertonians witnessed at Anfield this evening, Martinez's removal could be the club's best and only hope of beating United this weekend because the belief has clearly vanished from this side. A quick and immediate shot to the arm from a temporary appointee — Royle, Sheedy, Unsworth; take your pick or all three — could make the difference between yet more Wembley heartache and a chance to salvage glory from this frustrating mess of a season.
Certainly there doesn't seem to be any point in dragging out his tenure any longer beyond that. Evertonians have seen more than enough over the past two seasons for the vast majority to now be convinced that it's simply not working; that whatever magic Martinez brought in his first season has long since evaporated. It's desperately sad for someone who seems to be a stand-up gentleman and has been a terrific ambassador to Everton FC but the short-, medium- and long-term well-being of this football club is paramount.
It behooves the Chairman and the board to act quickly and decisively and then use the time between now and the summer to mount a dilligent search for a successor worthy of our club's great traditions and ambitions.
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