Saturday was retro day at Goodison but with constant reminders of halcyon days gone bye it was one of the new boys who grabbed the man of the match prize. James McCarthy was everywhere and is rapidly proving excellent value for money, even with his £13m price tag. The Irish international mixed the finesse demanded by Martinez with desire and hardwork to ensure his team emerged victorious after a difficult afternoon at Goodison Park.
Since Roberto Martinez took charge of Everton the focus has been on a change of style, progressing from the pragmatic style preferred by David Moyes to a patient passing game championed by Martinez and proven successful by Barcelona and the Spanish national side. But at times Everton are going to have to mix their game, especially when sides such as Hull, arrive with a tactical approach aimed at nullifying the effectiveness of Everton’s creative players and placing extra pressure on the defenders, particularly those who are unaccustomed to spending so much time in possession of the football. This made Saturday’s win over Hull even more pleasing, with ample evidence that Martinez is prepared to vary the approach of the Blues in search of victory.
The winning goal, scored by Steven Pienaar, just seconds after he arrived on the pitch as a second half substitute, provided perfect evidence that Everton continue to possess far more than a simple possession based game. Tim Howard collected the ball and immediately looked long in the direction of Romelu Lukaku, the giant Belgium won the battle in the air, flicking the ball in the direction of teenager Ross Barkley. The young Evertonian had endured a subdued game up to that moment, but quickly played the ball wide to the impressive Kevin Mirallas. The flying winger ran directly at the Hull defence, squaring up the backline before pulling a cross perfectly behind the centre back and into the path of the on running Pienaar, who directed the ball past a sprawling Allan McGregor into the Park End goal. Celebration and jubilation followed, with the smile on Martinez’ face particularly telling, sensing correctly that he had won a technical battle with his opposite number.
“What’s important is that when you are trying to master a way of playing you have other options within that.
“In days like today the three points are going to help with the confidence and allow us do what we want to do. I am happy that we are more than a one trick pony.”
“Style is very important. We had more possession than Hull, more attacking moves and controlled the game.
“If you go somewhere, sit behind the ball, get 20% of the play and come away with a sneaky win I don’t enjoy those.
“You need find a way to break things down and win the game, by taking responsibility and wanting the ball.
“In the first half we had the ball. Hull were pressing high up and hitting us on the counter.
“In the second half we handled that and got the three points we deserved.
“If you win without style and knowing what you are doing it is going to be short-term victories.
“If you do it in a certain way you will get better and stronger so style matters a lot.”
The need for the change of tactics in the second half was brought about by a sloppy approach in the first half. With a significant number of players away on international duty (only Bayern Munich had more midweek international players than Everton), it was always likely to be a tired and disjointed display from the Blues. However those fears appeared to be unfounded in the opening stages, with Everton able to dominate the early exchanges and took a deserved lead when Kevin Mirallas fired in from outside the box and into the bottom corner of the goal.
That goal proved a turning point in the game. Hull City showing fantastic resilience to fight their way back into the match and got their reward when Sagbo equalised after good work from Aluko on the Hull City right. From that moment until half time Everton lived dangerously and were fortunate not to fall behind as several corners proved unsettling for the Blues defence. The ease in which Hull won each and every corner will concern Martinez and Tim Howard and his defence will need to find a solution, particularly when they face more potent attacking sides than the Tigers.
The Hull influence dwindled after half time and it was no surprise that Everton went on to secure victory. The margin of that win should have been much wider, but Kone missed when it looked easier to score, before McGregor saved well when the Ivorian did much better.
Everton now move onto a difficult spell of fixtures, but will travel to Villa Park next week full of confidence and will welcome Spurs to Goodison in a fortnight’s time protecting a 13 home match unbeaten run.