Everton 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
Prior to the opening game of the new season, Roberto Martinez was quick to call for patience from the success starved Toffees. Martinez knew in order to make the transition from best of the rest to Champions League qualifiers, Everton were going to have to find qualities that would differentiate them from the other top Premier League sides. He was keen to build on the succesful traits established by David Moyes, but add a free-flowing attacking style that would wow the Goodison crowd and ensure the Blues were capable of competing for regular honours.
He knows that patience is rarely awarded to a Premier League manager, but feels that Everton is the perfect fit. Evertonians understand their football and Martinez witness that firsthand when a half full Goodison applauded his former team, Wigan Athletic, off the pitch after they had destroyed the Blues three-nil in last seasons FA Cup quarter-final. Now is the time for Evertonians to be patient and it is certainly not the time for panic and disappointment.
Certainly a nil-nil draw with West Bromwich Albion is not cause for celebration, but neither is it time to abandon the ethos of the new Everton manager and revert to a more direct style of play. Many leading football “experts” are already looking to write off the “Martinez Way”, determined that this continental approach fail in the highly competitive Premier League. But Martinez will not and is right not to abandon his principles. Everton will become successful, Everton will finish this transition season in the top seven of the Premier League and this will all be done playing the possession based game that makes the Spanish La Liga the top national league in Europe.
“Any period where you want to change things, that’s going to take a little bit of time. I’m trying to get to know what the fans want and look through the DNA of Everton, and that’s important for me.
“I think we are very good at things but to achieve things you need to be outstanding at something and that takes time. When you’re trying to take that next step, the changes need to be difficult to achieve, otherwise you will never get the benefit.
“It’s just having the patience and the togetherness of understanding the period we’re going through, but at the same time being able to enjoy it and making sure we’re still competitive and winning football games while that happens.” Roberto Martinez
West Brom arrived at Goodison determined not to lose, setting their stall out to disrupt the flow of the game, ensuring Everton were unable to play the free passing football that had been evident for large parts of the Norwich City game the week before. Several niggly fouls, an inexperienced referee far to eager to hear the shrill of his own whistle and Everton failing to start the game at the required tempo, were all factors in ensuring that Steve Clarke’s Baggies were successful in avoiding defeat. The Blues are going to have to find a way to breakdown teams who arrive at fortress Goodison with such limited ambition, let’s not forget that only Chelsea have enjoyed success at the Old Lady in the last 24 league matches at the ground, a run which goes back as far as March 2012.
Starting the game with a lack of pace is certainly not the answer and Martinez knew as much, demanding more from his players at half time. The Blues also need to show a little bit more ambition, far too often Nikica Jelavic found himself as the loan front man, with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas far too deep to offer effective support. Ross Barkley for all his wonderful play and brilliant start to the season, looked to do too much at times and overplayed when a quicker or simpler ball would have proven far more effective.
But despite all this, Everton did create enough opportunities to win the game and if it was not for the brilliance of Ben Foster in the West Brom goal Everton would have won comfortably. Often in these tight games the opening goal brings two or three more, but the longer the game remains at stalemate, the defence grows in confidence and the frustrations of the crowd increase. Foster did well to deny Pienaar (twice), Mirallas and Coleman before half time and was equally adept to save from Barkley and then quickly deny Fellaini from the rebound after the interval. It was after Foster had departed the action with a foot injury that the Blues went closest to breaking the deadlock. With the game entering injury time, Fellaini expertly collected a ball on his chest before poking a shot towards goal, only to see his shot deflect off the inside of the post and straight to a West Brom defender. On another day the ball would have fallen at the feet of a Blue shirt, but this was not to be Everton’s day and the Baggies cleared effectively. Everton did have one final chance, Seamus Coleman miss-hitting a cross that looped over the keeper but the ball deflected off the cross-bar and away to safety.
So with two points from a possible six it is an average start of the season for the Blues. Everton do however remain unbeaten and face two games in the next week, with Stevenage travelling to Goodison for a Capital One cup tie, before the Blues travel to Wales to take on Cardiff. Two victories in the next seven days would certainly lift spirits and ensure the Toffees go into the first international break in optimistic mood.
Team: Howard; Baines, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin; Osman, Fellaini, Barkley, Pienaar, Mirallas (Naismith); Jelavic (Kone).