Roberto Martinez may be under growing pressure but he is certainly no Mike Walker.
First things first. When Everton appointed Roberto Martinez I feared he would either be a massive success or a huge disaster.
His first season in charge was certainly a massive success – and this season could yet be a huge disaster. But it could go the other way too.
It certainly feels like Martinez is at a crossroads after a woeful Christmas.
He’s under pressure after spending big in the summer and will not be able to do so again next month. A decent loan signing (or two) would not go amiss though…
But Martinez is not Mike Walker, whatever some might say.
Under Martinez, the Blues made a genuine Champions League push and returned to Europe playing some of the best football seen here in years.
Under Walker, they were a mess. His name alone is enough to send a shudder down the spine of any Bluenose old enough to remember his time at the club.
This is the man whose first act as boss was to have ‘MW’ painted on the parking space reserved for the manager at Bellefield – and then fine Mark Ward for cheekily parking his car in it.
This is the man who bought Brett Angel. And Vinny Samways.
Some of his former players accuse him of caring more about his suntan than this club.
They had so little respect for him by the end of his time that Barry Horne once kicked a ball as hard as he could at him in training – and Ian Snodin nicked money out of his wallet to pay a bar tab.
Everton appointed Walker in desperation after Howard Kendall’s ill-fated return to Goodison. Results were poor and just 13,677 turned up at Goodison for his last game in charge.
Caretaker boss Jimmy Gabriel had lost five games in a row when Everton turned to Walker, who had been a big success at Norwich.
But under Walker they lost seven of their last 11 games, somehow saving themselves on the final day with that miracle against Wimbledon.
They started the next season by going 12 league games without a win before he was finally sacked.
Martinez has a long way to go to hit lows like that. This is the manager who led Everton to their highest-ever points tally in the Premier League just last season.
The manager who has successfully made light of a tough Europa League draw to top a difficult group in some style.
I keep hearing some Everton fans refer to these as “dark days.” Mike Walker had dark days. These may be gloomy, but they are nothing like that.
I understand the comparison. Martinez too came from a much smaller club where he’d enjoyed success against the odds.
But he won a trophy at Wigan. Walker has never won anything.
Yes he plays possession football. But Neville Southall once described it as passing the ball 50 times in your own half, giving it away, and conceding a goal. That is not how Martinez plays.
Ask people in the know at the club and they will tell you he also still has the full respect of his players, despite (strongly denied) rumours of dressing-room unrest.
Big Nev said his piece on Twitter the other night. He thinks too many players look tired and the squad needs freshening up.
I agree with him. The Europa League grind has caught up with Everton. Too many players have been rushed back from injury because needs must.
Barry, Baines, Coleman, Naismith, Barkley and McCarthy have all looked rusty and lacking in match fitness after coming back from injuries.
That’s not to say Martinez hasn’t made mistakes. He has. Playing Barkley and Eto’o in wide areas slows the team down and robs it of width.
And I’m not sure the experiment with a new formation worked at Newcastle either, despite the early goal.
Playing Baines in midfield wastes his two best assets – pace and delivery from wide areas. He may have a future in midfield. But I’d rather see Barkley in there with two holding players behind him.
Martinez is also criticised for failing to change. For refusing to compromise his beliefs. Sometimes his teams do play themselves into trouble.
They certainly did at Newcastle. But I’m not sure you can blame a terrible pass from McGeady on the manager when Barry had already tried to hoof the ball as far away as he could.
I remember Yakubu giving the ball away in the same area in a derby once under Moyes and it cost Everton a goal. No-one blamed the manager that day.
Everton diced with death at the back plenty of times last season. They just got away with it more often. Teams are trying to exploit that more now.
But to say Martinez never changes his philosophy is unfair. The formula away from home has clearly changed.
He went with three holding midfielders at Anfield and played for a draw. He also went to Old Trafford and the Etihad with a very conservative gameplan.
He’s realised you can’t try to dominate every single opponent on the ball, home and away. He is just struggling to find the right balance. Personally I think he’ll find it.
This season is not yet a write-off. There are still two trophies to play for and a European finish is not out of reach.
Lose to West Ham in the FA Cup and Young Boys in the Europa League and it may be time to think again. Until then, Martinez deserves time to turn things around.
He’s no Mike Walker.