The Confusing Reputation Of Roberto Martinez

On Monday evening BBC Radio 5Live’s ‘Monday Night Club’, hosted by Mark Chapman with guests Robbie Savage, John Motson and Rory Smith, Everton’s current situation and the hostility of Goodison Park was discussed.

By @AlexLen1995

Overall they appeared to be on Martinez’s side, who following Sunday’s home defeat to Swansea, said the following: “We were looking forward to coming to Goodison and enjoying our football, but we can’t find a way to do that. We have become fearful and expected the worst.”

The pundits found it somewhat difficult to understand this, questioning the negativity and criticism aimed at the Everton team which Martinez refers to.

And this is because to much of the football media, Everton this season have been exciting and entertaining. For instance they began discussing the Blues on 5Live’s MNC by celebrating Martinez’s positivity and forward-thinking.

While Evertonians have been immensely frustrated by the woeful performances courtesy of Martinez & Co. on show not only this season but also the last, much of the media is only just beginning to wake up, smell the coffee, and check where Everton actually are in the Premier League table.

And this all seems to be because outside of Everton’s unhappy following, Roberto Martinez has a very good reputation.

The Toffees sit at a depressing 12th, and going into the League Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City their season arguably hangs in the balance.

Yet because Lukaku and Deulofeu have been in great form throughout the current campaign, making the Blues a very entertaining team for neutrals to watch on Match of the Day, the growing storm of negativity and unrest has been glossed over somewhat until lately.

The reality is this: Everton have one league win in 10, and 3 wins in 14 at home, conceded 3 more goals at home than any other PL team, and on Sunday played in a manner that was excruciatingly painful and dull to watch.

There are numerous further deflating facts and statistics out there, and despite the possibility of a cup final there is very little to shout about. Fans of the Blues are experiencing a collective season-long low, the atmosphere at Goodison is evidently unpleasant, and this is all a result of what we see on the pitch being in no way good enough for the second season running.

Yet Martinez appears under little pressure. Indeed, what he achieved in the lower English leagues with Swansea is very admirable, and he does have an FA Cup on his CV (more on that in a minute), but this is the most open and unpredictable Premier League season in years and Everton are drastically, criminally and painfully underachieving.

Martinez is in danger of leading the club to a second dead-rubber season in two successive years, and it appears that Evertonians will be stuck with him for some time to come.

This very questionable reputation he has constructed is arguably a consequence of two main factors. The style of play we are supposed to find attractive even if the defence is woeful, and the dramatic 2013 FA Cup win with Wigan.

Firstly, in a country which has characteristically played relatively ‘unattractive’ football for countless years, the rise in popularity of an ‘attractive’ continental style has given way to a mass appreciation and admiration of it.

For example, Tony Pulis’ Stoke with their particular tactics were mocked and considered unfashionable, while over at Wigan, Roberto Martinez’s fluid attacking football was celebrated. Yet Stoke under Pulis became an established Premier League side and Wigan were relegated with Martinez, after shipping a sickening amount of goals.

This conjures up the endless debate regarding the purpose of football. Is it to win, or to entertain?

If a manager can get the right balance in a fashion akin to that of Pep Guardiola, then that is the footballing ideal – but Everton are not Barcelona or Bayern Munich and ultimately, the vast majority of Everton fans would rather see their team towards the pinnacle of the table and playing cagey football than being exciting for neutrals but massively underachieving.

Furthermore, Martinez’s FA Cup victory with Wigan came at the expense of their relegation. Indeed, it must have been an incredible day for Lactics supporters, but given how far they have subsequently fallen down the football pyramid, was Martinez naive to prioritise the cup over their top-flight survival?

It is also possible that Manchester City’s poor performance that day, which allowed for Wigan’s hugely surprising victory, came as a result of wanting manager Roberto Mancini sacked.

Perhaps Bill Kenwright fell into this trap of overlooking the flaws in Martinez’s game when hiring him because of these two main factors?

Considering that Everton have been involved in exciting fixtures this season, and have scored a large amount of goals, in addition to the positive reputation Martinez already had constructed, it is possible to understand why those who do not follow Everton intimately are somewhat confused by the ongoings at Goodison Park.

Furthermore, the fantastic 2013/14 season also contributes to this lack of overall clarity.

And because Everton are not a financial giant of a club in the modern era, if their very average record continues it will not kick up too much of a fuss.

They are not Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United, after all, to many the Toffees are just ‘good old plucky little Everton’ with an authentic ground and an owner who is a supposed die-hard.

It doesn’t matter too much if they are stuck in the purgatory of mid-table. Journalists may ponder fleetingly over why Tim Howard or John Stones come into criticism and perhaps why the club isn’t further up the table, but ultimately the Blues aren’t the media’s main concern and for all many people care, Martinez is a good manager.

If Everton go out of the League Cup semi-finals, it will be shrugged off, even if we fans are outraged.

On BBC 5Live’s 606 on Sunday, after the Swansea defeat, a caller proposed that Martinez should be sacked, and this was deemed absurd and incorrect.

But why does the Spaniard deserve to remain in charge? Many supporters do not want to see him stick around. This painful facade cannot go on for much longer.

As with Wigan, Martinez is slowly taking Everton backwards, and he is confusingly managing to do it in such a way that very few outside of the club’s support see the reality of what is gradually happening.

 

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Alex Leonard

Everton and Widnes fan. Studying English at Sheffield Hallam University.