In an attempt to make this piece as impartial as possible (not very possible), firstly, credit where credit is due. At the moment we have at our disposal probably the best squad of players since the last time we won the league, certainly in my life time, the key figures of which were either brought to the club by Martinez (Lukaku and Deulofeu) or have flourished since the arrival of Martinez (Stones and Barkley). Well done Roberto. Oh, and we are in the semi final of the Capital One Cup. Well done Roberto. Unfortunately Roberto, it ends there. On 10 August 2015 after a dismal opening day at home to Watford, I wrote a piece questioning the manager, though I was clear in that whilst I thought certain things needed addressing, I was not in the “Martinez Out” camp and in my opinion the correct thing to do at that time was to stick with the manager. Since then, the issues I raised have not been addressed. It’s time for Martinez to go, and here’s five reasons why:
1. Poor Game Management
In my 10 August piece, I made the point that all too often Martinez takes too long to make changes in games, and the changes he makes tend to be like for like, having little effect on the game. Can it be said that this has been rectified? Absolutely not. How many times this season and last have we sat in the stands begging for a change to alter the flow of a game? And how often does that change come in time for it to make a real difference, if it even comes at all? The game against Stoke yesterday was a prime example. We went 3-2 up with 19 minutes to go in the game, and on the pitch we had 5 “forwards”, in Lukaku, Kone (how Kone managed 90 minutes is beyond me but that‘s a rant for another day), Barkley, Deulofeu, and Naismith. What does Martinez do to sure up the game and ensure that we don’t concede again? Nothing. Sweet F A. Now I’m not naïve enough think that the fact we conceded twice in the last 19 minutes is solely down to the manager. However, a defensive substitution would have sent the players a message that we could not afford to squander that lead. What is the point of having a squad if you are not going to utilise it when it really matters?
2. Poor Man Management
I have completely lost faith in the way in which Martinez handles our players. Obviously, we are not partial to what goes on behind the scenes, but the way in which Martinez seemingly freezes players out of the first team picture is quite alarming. He did it with Distin, and this year Mirallas and Naismith have been the chosen two. Again, lets keep it in perspective. Distin was a player past his best, and both Mirallas and Naismith are far from consistent enough to regularly hold down a place in the first 11. However, was Distin that bad that he didn’t even warrant a place on the bench in the second half of last season? Are Mirallas and Naismith incapable of coming off the bench and changing a game. On the contrary, both have shown already this season that they can make an impact off the bench, so to not use them when they are fit and ready to go is criminal, particularly when there are players who do start regularly who are not performing. All this type of treatment will achieve is unhappy players who are devoid of confidence, which is not what we need going into a pivotal month of the season.
3. Reluctance To Drop His “Favourites”
Another point made in my 10 August piece. It cannot be denied that Martinez has his favourites who he will never drop regardless of how they perform. Gareth Barry is certainly one, though to his credit his performances have been 100% better this year when compared to last. However, how Arouna Kone is still starting games having had one good game against one of the worst teams in the league is beyond me. There is an element of truth in the “Lukaku plays better when he has a partner” argument, but there is only so much persevering you can do at this level and as far as I’m concerned, Kone is just not good enough. If I can see that, why can’t Martinez? Of course, by far the fans favourite to be dropped is the calamity that is Tim Howard. I felt a bit awkward as I typed the word “calamity”, as he has been a top player for us over the years, but those days are gone. He has single-handedly cost us more points than any other player this year due to his numerous mistakes and errors of judgment. His error for Stoke’s third yesterday was just the latest in a long line. Yet, as with Kone, Martinez has persevered. Bad, bad management. I don’t care how bad your replacement is (in this case, actually not that bad), when a player is so out of form as Howard, he needs to be taken out, if nothing else to give him a kick up the backside. Howard knows he won’t be dropped and therefore has no reason to raise his game. And what message is it sending to Joel Robles, when no matter how bad Howard plays and how many mistakes he makes and how many goals he concedes he starts the next game?
4. So, So Poor Defensively
But how good are we going forward I hear you cry? Well we need to be when we have to score 3 goals to win a game. I’ll keep this one simple:
28 goals conceded in 19 league games, 4 more than 17th placed Swansea City
19 goals conceded in 10 league home games
2 or more goals conceded in games against Watford, Barnsley, West Brom, Sunderland, Bournemouth, Leicester, Stoke and a Manchester United team who have failed to score in 7 of their 19 league games.
Despite having the top scorer in the league, and with only Leicester and Man City having scored more goals than us, we are 11th. Need I say more?
5. Most Importantly – Poor Results
Again, this one is best kept simple as the stats speak for themselves:
6 wins out of 19 league games, 3 out of 10 at home.
Since the beginning of October we have won 3 games in 12 in the league.
In the last 6 games against Bournemouth, Palace, Norwich, Leicester, Newcastle and Stoke we have taken just 6 points out of a possible 18.
We are on course to match last season’s win total of 12 wins out of 38, a season which the less said about the better.
Driving home from the game yesterday and listening to a local radio phone in, I heard a number of fans voice their support for Martinez. “This is not a crisis” they said, “Aston Villa’s situation is a crisis.” I have no problem with fans voicing their opinions as I do myself, and I will never tell anyone that their opinion is wrong. And yes, we may not be staring down the barrel of relegation as Aston Villa are. But make no mistake, this is a crisis. This is the most crucial Premier League season that there has ever been, for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that the division is so wide open, so much so that Leicester, Palace and Watford could all end up in a European place come the end of the season. The second is the new TV deal which comes into play next year. If we fail to finish in the European places this year and the teams just mentioned do, then what will be the point in having all that money when the best players won’t think twice about coming to us. We will be in serious danger of being overtaken by middle of the road teams who have no right to be above us.
Look at our team on paper and look where we are in the league. Change is needed now. Enough is enough.