Not even the misery and disappointment of last season could have prepared me for Everton’s dismal first half showing on Saturday. It wasn’t just the fact that we went in at half time 1-0 down to newly promoted Watford that was unacceptable, but the performance was distinctly average, and Watford, to their credit, took full advantage, proving that even the sides threatened with relegation have the quality to punish you if you are at anything less than your best. I have never been one to boo the team I support, particularly at such an early stage of the season, though given the season we had to endure last year, the fans’ reaction to the half time whistle on Saturday was understandable. But who is to blame?
There is no doubt that there are ever-increasing sections of the Everton fan base who are of the opinion that the club cannot and will not progress under the current ownership of Mr Kenwright. Certain groups in particular are becoming more and more outspoken, with meetings even taking place on Saturday morning with the sole aim of voicing discontent with a view to the current board resigning their posts. Firstly, let me say, I have no problem with fans expressing their opinions, as I do myself. I also agree to a certain extent that the current board have a lot to answer for with regards to a number of key matters that affect our football club, from transfers in and out to the ongoing new stadium saga. As I mentioned in last week’s piece, as things stand we have currently spent the least amount of money of any team in the division, which is frankly inexplicable. As far as I am concerned there are no grounds on which to whole-heartedly defend the current board.
However, contrary to the opinion of many of the supporters sat near me on Saturday, and the opinions of a few I have read since, the board cannot be blamed for the pathetic performance of the players. That responsibility, I’m afraid, has to fall on the players, and more so in this case, on the manager. Roberto Martinez was scathing (by his standards) with his post-match comments, conceding that we were “in pre-season mode”. I have to say I agree. The performance, particularly in the first half, lacked the energy, tempo and intensity required to break down a team intent on defending and playing on the counter attack, a tactic that we have seen Everton fail to come to terms with all too often. But that then begs the question, with the last pre-season game having been a week earlier, why were the players still in pre-season mode come the first game of the Premier League season? A game, I might add, that was a must-win given the run of fixtures to come. There is no doubt that an influx of new players would certainly freshen things up, and for that the board must hold up their hands, but surely it is the manager’s job to ensure that the players he has at his disposal are ready and raring to go from the first whistle to the last. As far as I am aware the board have no control over that. The simple fact is that for all the board have done wrong, our 11 is better than Watford’s, and had the team been prepared properly, 3 points would certainly have followed. There is only one man to blame for that in my opinion.
Now, I am by no means in the “Martinez out” camp, and I believe that sticking with the current manager is the right thing to do as I am confident that he will come good. He proved his worth during his first season when he tactically outwitted Moyes and Wenger to name but a few. Recently though we seem to have lost the dynamic, innovative manager who re-opened the School of Science, and instead, Martinez has become, dare I say it, almost Moyes-like in his approach, to the point where sometimes I wonder whether he and I are even watching the same game. By that I mean we seemingly only have one way of playing, he has his favourites who he will never substitute regardless of how many times they have passed the ball to the other team (Moyes with Neville, Martinez with Barry), he takes too long to make changes and the changes he does make are often like for like and have little effect on the game, and his apparent refusal to sacrifice a defensive midfielder at home is all the more frustrating when the introduction of Arouna Kone on Saturday yielded 2 goals. Had the change come at half time for example, who knows what the outcome of the game might have been.
I am willing to give him and the players the benefit of the doubt after Saturday – it was only the first game of the season after all. The sooner Martinez remembers and gets back to what it was that endeared him to us in the first place the better, and there is no better place to start than at St Marys on Saturday, when the team will certainly need to be well and truly out of “pre-season mode” if we are to get any kind of result. If he doesn’t, then decisions will have to be made.
About the author:
I am a lifelong Evertonian (since the early 90s) and season ticket holder. You will find me in the lower Gwladys every week singing songs and cursing referees. If we win another trophy in my lifetime I will die happy.