Nothing Should Be The Same

By @WatchedToffee

After turning one of the most positive weeks in the life of an Evertonian in years completely onto its head in one outrageous 15 minute spell, momentum is growing for Roberto Martinez to be relieved of his duties as manager of Everton Football Club.

Following news of Farhad Moshiri acquiring just under half of the club and the beating of Aston Villa without really getting into gear, defeat at home against West Ham was another example of an all too predictable Everton under the Spaniard’s leadership.

For what is rightly claimed to be the best group of individual players the club has owned in decades, the current position is simply unacceptable. Last season was too, with only a decent European campaign somewhat papering over the ever widening cracks.

Two seasons ago, David Moyes left Everton to manage Manchester United. The club turned to FA Cup winning, relegated Wigan Athletic manager, Roberto Martinez. Only weeks earlier, Martinez produced a footballing master class, defeating Moyes’ Everton in the Quarter Finals of the cup.

In searching for information when writing this piece, I uncovered an article which illustrates alarming similarities between Everton and Wigan, and the failings in Martinez’s armoury causing Wigan to be relegated.

Attacking, Wigan scored 47 goals, equalling Swansea who finished 9th. They scored 32 goals from open play, ranked 11th for most shots taken, 11th for shots taken from open play and 10th for shots taken as a result of set pieces.

However……

They conceded 73 goals. Since reducing to 20 teams, no team conceding more has stayed in the Premier League. They conceded the 2nd most penalties and won only one. They conceded 3 own goals. They dropped a total of 9 points as a result of these penalties and own goals, four would have been enough to keep them in the league.

From dead ball situations, Wigan conceded 14 goals – half were from corners and direct free kicks and the other from indirect free kicks.

As for clearing the ball rather than playing it out from the back, only Arsenal and Liverpool made less clearances. Wigan cleared the ball 963 times. They conceded free kicks in wide areas and, to quote the author of the piece “when the ball swung into the box, the defence panicked. It also failed to pressure the opposing attackers in open play, allowing them to score more often than expected given the situations when they take their shots.”

73 goals conceded. Relegated.

At present, Everton have scored 51 goals. 10 of those goals are from dead balls; 7 from corners, 3 penalties. That ranks 14th in the league. Spurs are top with 20 goals. We have had 392 shots on goal, 49% of these were accurate.

Everton has conceded 39 goals, 37 of which have been inside the penalty area. Only Aston Villa, Norwich, Sunderland, Newcastle and Bournemouth have conceded more. We have cleared the ball 807 times and are ranked 12th for “defensive actions,” that is interceptions, blocked shots and clearances. We have made 17 defensive errors, 5 of which have lead to goals.

Additionally, I refer you back to the quote earlier. “When the ball swung into the box, the defence panicked. It also failed to pressure opposing attackers in open play.”

Sound familiar?

Martinez came to the club with no notable top flight managerial experience. He managed Swansea City before leaving for Wigan Athletic. He won the FA Cup, granted, but was relegated days later. Martinez finished 16th, 16th, 15th and 18th with Wigan.

Martinez brought with him Graeme Jones as his Assistant Manager. Jones played in the lower leagues in England before moving to St Johnstone for £100k. He was sold to Southend for £10k before joining 4 other clubs in as many years. He played 261 games and scored 90 goals. Jones was assistant manager at Hamilton Academical before joining Martinez at Swansea.

Dennis Lawrence played for Crewe Alexandra, Swansea City and Wrexham as well as representing Trinidad and Tobago 89 times. He coached Wigan Athletic under Martinez after impressing during a “trial.”

Inaki Bergara played in Spain 49 times across a career spanning 12 years. He retired and took up a coaching role at Athletic Bilbao. In 2007, Martinez took Bergara to Swansea before following to Wigan and now Everton.

Duncan Ferguson played 360 times in the top flights of Scotland and England. In 360 appearances he scored 126 goals and represented Scotland 7 times before cutting short his international career for well documented reasons. Ferguson spent 10 years at Everton, winning the FA Cup and playing in the Champions League qualifier and the Europa League.

The top flight experience amongst the first team coaching setup doesn’t exactly inspire, in my opinion.

Martinez inherited a squad built on David Moyes’ foundations of defensive organisation and knowing how to grind out a win, and added power, pace and flair going forwards. Topped off with an out and out goalscorer for the first time in years, things were looking good for Everton when finishing 5th, securing European football again.

Flying the flag for English football last season and taking a one goal lead over to the Ukraine filled travelling blues with optimism. Scoring an away goal to equalise on the night added to it. In a predictable crash, largely down to the manager’s decision to select Antolin Alcaraz over John Stones and continually neglect working on defending in training, Everton scored 4 goals over 2 legs in a European quarter-final and exited the competition. Coincidentally, Everton scored 3 goals over 2 legs, taking a one goal advantage to the Etihad in the League Cup semi-final, and exited.

Martinez’s Everton: Out of both domestic cup competitions early on, out of the Europa League at the quarter final stage after leading, and an 11th placed finish in the league.Largely seen as an underachievement and rightly so when you compare our average finishing position under the previous manager was 7th.

Before I continue, this isn’t a “get Moyes back” campaign. However, some of the defensive structure and practice which Moyes ingrained into his players has been absent for far too long.

Martinez doesn’t believe in point accumulation. He has said so himself – it’s about how we perform as a team. His assistant, Graeme Jones, doesn’t believe in defending set pieces. He’s said so himself – what’s the point in working on them when we could work on moving the ball.

It shows.

If Everton had seen out games in which they were winning comfortably this season, beaten Swansea and West Brom at home, we would be in the top four. If’s and buts, you may say. But not many conceded goals have been those which you stand and applaud, they’ve been ones you sigh “not again” before leaving your seat and heading for the exit.

As an opposition manager, the last 15 minutes of the West Ham game highlighted the way to beat Everton. Exploit the wide areas, deliver quality crosses and ensure someone meets them to convert. That includes corners.

When you’re at the next game and we concede a free kick warranting a cross, or a corner, have a look at the dugout. Look on, as Roberto Martinez takes a back seat, and up steps Graeme Jones. You’ll see him belting out instructions to the players, move his arms indicating positional correction, and generally provide an additional distraction to the team. When it’s passed, he disappears and Martinez reappears, arms folded.

This only adds to the belief that set plays are ignored.

Under the previous leadership, the end of the week was for walking through set-pieces. Players understood where they had to be and when. This was reinforced on a matchday with diagrams for players to reference before walking onto the pitch. Now, when we get a set piece, there’s no excitement. When we concede one, there’s panic, including on the bench.

There’s a distinct lack of game management. When a team is 2 goals to the good with 15 minutes remaining, the requirement should be to keep possession. If keeping possession isn’t a possibility at certain times, the best option is to put the ball towards the corner flag, let the forward chase it and reorganise. Or simply clear it out of play.

Substitutions also play a huge part at this point in a game. When Martinez decided to withdraw Lennon for Niasse on Saturday, confusion reigned. We were 2-0 up with 10 men and not long to go. Martinez decides to bring a half fit striker on and play with two centre forwards.

Whether Lennon was tired or not isn’t the issue. He had a very good game. It was the player he replaced him with and the subsequent set up which caused bemusement. A narrow three in midfield left the wide areas exposed, allowing West Ham to cross the ball; our Achilles heel exposed not by Slaven Bilic, but by our own manager.

Martinez’s interviews pre and post match have become incredibly unbearable. He continually contradicts himself and at times, doesn’t answer the given question. Rhetoric nonsense will fill the gaps.

Supporters said that the Christmas fixtures were most important and that they would judge Martinez then. We didn’t do well at all. Too many times, Martinez said “this is a game we have to learn from.” But, predictably, nothing changed and we drifted down the standings.

“We have to learn.”

A phrase to which the manager has no comprehension. Continuing to select Tim Howard, continuing to select Arouna Kone over Kevin Mirallas despite saying Mirallas had a huge part to play, continuing to play 4-2-3-1, continuing to play from the back, continuing to make the same two substitutions, continuing to select Oviedo while Baines looks on, continuing to dismiss the importance of set pieces, continuing to allow crosses to fly into our area, continuing to not see games out….. nothing changes. Nothing is learned by the person who needs to learn most.

Martinez is ruining very talented players and wasting a huge opportunity to succeed with this squad. His stubborn attitude and refusal to practice what he preaches has resulted in unrest in the changing room. Senior players have voiced discontent at the lack of work on defending in training. One of those, Leighton Baines, hasn’t played much football recently for this reason. Sylvain Distin, Samuel Eto’o and Steven Naismith, amongst others, were left out in the cold for voicing their opinion before eventually moving on.

And so, we go into what is arguably Roberto Martinez’s defining game, an FA Cup Quarter Final at home against Chelsea. Win, and I think Interim Chairman Bill Kenwright will stand by his man. Martinez will be afforded time to try and win the cup, which would be very doable if we eliminated Chelsea. And rightly so.

Lose, and there’s nothing to play for. There is also the genuine possibility that a host of talent, Romelu Lukaku, John Stones… maybe even Ross Barkley could seek moves away to add silverware to their CV.

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in Martinez’s eye for talent identification. Some of his buys have been unfortunate; Arouna Kone, Aiden McGeady, Antolin Alcaraz, but flip the coin and appears Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon and the rapid emergence of Ross Barkley playing in his rightful position. He’s a scout at best, and his signings shouldn’t distract from the rubbish he speaks.

When asked about the incoming Farhad Moshiri, Martinez explained he would welcome the “added pressure” on him.

He later said there is no added pressure on him. I believe the only pressure on the manager from the boardroom has been to remain in the Premier League. It’s difficult to think otherwise, for the past 12 months no one has actually known for definite who is in charge of the club.

I’m certain this will change. I don’t believe a billionaire has left a club like Arsenal and invested in another football club in the same league for it to simply continue existing and hoping for a top 6 finish and the odd cup run. The same applies to the approach off the field.

Nothing Will Be The Same.

Martinez has said this is the start of a new era for Everton. The club’s campaign for season ticket sales next season is based on “nothing will be the same.” The pricing is a fantastic gesture. But, the club needs a complete clearout from top to near bottom.

The Commercial Department need to greatly improve or be replaced. The shackles of these ridiculously limiting deals need releasing, starting with Kitbag and including Chang.

The CEO has to go. This week he made a comment about how “irrational” away fans were, whilst giving a very similar presentation to the utter dross he showed the shareholders at the AGM. “Be a club, compete in Europe every season….” All whilst club officials tweet about how excellent the travelling support was, and is, and the only realistic chance of European football is via the FA Cup.

He talks as much nonsense as the manager, if not more, and I suspect there may be panic setting in within his tanning salon at Finch Farm this week.

Most importantly, the Manager and Coaching staff have no option but to improve, and quick. And what better place to start than 90 minutes away from a semi-final at Wembley in the FA Cup this Saturday? The talent at their disposal warrants more than finishing 9th, 10th or 11th.

The supporters do, too.

 

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