Will Martinez make a difference or is it difficult to win whoever is in charge?
The game against Manchester City last weekend posed one of the more difficult away tests faced during the Premier League calendar. As the season slowly edges towards Christmas, a look at the winter fixture list shows that Everton face a bleak run of away games against those that joined them in the upper echelons of the table last season.
In recent times Everton have failed to gain any victories against the ‘top four’ teams, something which was a real blemish on David Moyes’ managerial record. In fact it would be incorrect to use the term ‘top four’ nowadays, as the phrase has essentially become extinct with the emergence of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur as title challenging teams. Furthermore, Everton have also consistently challenged for European places the last few years, so there is really a selection of seven teams now capable of finishing in the top four.
Ironically, Manchester City were a team that Everton always performed well against away from home under David Moyes and with regards to the rest of the stronger opponents, another team Everton did reasonably well against was Tottenham Hotspur. However, looking at our away record against the other teams in this bracket, the reading isn’t so sweet. Everton’s form under Moyes at Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool was particularly horrific, with a run of 46 games (plus some cup games) without a win. In fairness there were a number of occasions where Everton were close to winning games, but the fact of the matter is, close doesn’t cut it.
Now, with Roberto Martinez as manager, there is arguably a new sense of optimism when considering the prospect of going to the likes of Anfield and Old Trafford. This seems to stem from the attractive way that he has set the team out to play, and even in the defeat against City, the first half provided glimpses of the brilliant counter attacking football that Martinez encourages. A positive philosophy is certainly what has been lacking on visits to such grounds over the years, yet it is something that Martinez’s Wigan Athletic side epitomised away from home on a number of occasions during his time there.
Throughout Martinez’s four seasons at Wigan, he recorded some impressive home victories against the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, just like David Moyes did, but what separates the two managers is that Martinez had joy away from home in big games against these teams. Below there is a summary of the away games in which Martinez took Wigan to the top seven sides:
Without being disrespectful to Wigan, it is fair to point out that their squad was far inferior to Everton’s during this period of games, yet they were victorious in places that Everton were not. Although Martinez had never beaten Everton or City away in the league (or at home for that matter), it is worth taking into account that, in arguably bigger games in the FA Cup away from home, he did lead Wigan to victory. Perhaps looking at these results should provide optimism that Roberto Martinez can be the man to end Everton’s hoodoo at places such as Anfield. Of course we cannot ignore the losses Wigan suffered in these games, but the fact is that Everton did no better with a stronger team.
To return our thoughts to this season, December sees the beginning of a tough away run with a double-header of consecutive visits to Manchester United and Arsenal. The away schedule from December to February is like so:
Wed 4th 19:45 Man Utd-:-
Sun 8th 16:00 Arsenal-:-
Sun 22nd 16:00 Swansea City-:-
Wed 1st 15:00 Stoke City-:-
Sat 18th 15:00 West Brom-:-
Tue 28th 20:00 Liverpool-:-
Sat 8th 15:00 Spurs-:-
Sat 22nd 15:00 Chelsea-:-
Within this period Everton will get their most difficult away games out of the way, which can hopefully lead to a solid finish to the season. With the stronger squad at Martinez’s disposal and his proven track record of being attacking, the signs are there that Everton can improve their record against the bigger teams.
What are your views on the matter? Do you feel a new sense of excitement about going to Anfield or Old Trafford? Or are we still doomed to fall short again?