Earlier in the week one of our columnists wrote an excellent article explaining why in their opinion it was time for Martinez to go.
I am not going to disagree with the points made in that article, all of which are valid, however I don’t believe we should be removing Martinez and I will explain why we should instead be backing Roberto to make our club great again.
Roberto Martinez took over as Everton manager at the conclusion of David Moyes’ 11 years in charge of the Blues. The wily Scot had transformed Everton from regular relegation candidates to consistent top 8 finishers. The vast majority of Evertonians were disappointed to see Moyes leave but there was also an acceptance that maybe he had taken Everton as far as he was capable.
I have set out five ways in which Martinez has improved Everton and therefore should be given more time to complete his transformation.
1. Style of play
Under David Moyes and Walter Smith before him, Everton’s style of play was pragmatic, at times we opened up and played some attractive football but Moyes set out his team firstly not to lose and then secondly to win. This often brought a solid season, but when we needed to smash through the glass ceiling to actually win a trophy or achieve a top four finish (with the exception of 2004-05) we came up short, the manager and players philosophy meant we could not adjust when we needed to. Although Everton drew lots of praise for their approach, you would really find a neutral commenting on how pleasing on the eye Everton were, in fact it was normally the opposite.
In two and a half seasons, Roberto Martinez has made Everton one of the most attractive sides to watch in the Premier League. Everton’s attacking football is superb and this is certainly the most entertaining Everton side since the 1980s. At present, the Blues are struggling to balance their attacking flair with a need to remain resolute at the back. We must remember this is a young team, full of exciting attacking talent that will in time realise that you can’t always chase games without remembering your defensive duties.
2. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were Howard’s Champions
Many who remember the glory days of the 1980s will also remember that in the season or two prior to finding the magical formula, Howard Kendall endured some difficult times. His young team were learning lessons, from when he took the hot seat in 1981, until they lifted the FA Cup in 1984. When they did learn however, they became the greatest team in the land.
Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager in the history of English football, struggled at first as he tried to change a long held philosophy at Manchester United. Out went the ideas of previous incumbent Ron Atkinson, replaced with the attacking intent of Sir Alex. Ferguson’s first three seasons in charge failed to bring a trophy, league finishes of 11th, 2nd, 11th, 13th, 6th and 2nd in his first six seasons in charge brought added pressure, relieved partly by that success in the FA Cup in 1990.
Martinez enjoyed an excellent first season at Everton, with the Blues recording a record points tally and narrowly missing out on fourth place. Since then he has looked to further change Everton’s playing philosophy. At times this has felt like he has taken a backwards step, certainly in terms of results, but sometimes you need to make temporary sacrifices for the long term benefit. The record of Sir Alex Ferguson is evidence of this. His United side finished second in his second season but then endured two poor seasons before finally rising up the league table.
3. Cup run
It should not be forgotten that Roberto has guided us to the semi final of the League Cup and we have an excellent opportunity to end 20 trophyless seasons.
At the beginning of the season, several Evertonians were willing Martinez to prioritise the League Cup at the expense, if necessary, of a good league finish. Many of those Blues are now chastising Martinez.
A trophy, as we witnessed with Howard Kendall can kick start a glorious period in the club’s history, the League Cup semi final against Manchester City represents the two most important games since Martinez took charge and playing adventurous attacking football is surely the only way to beat a very strong Manchester City side. Sit back as we have done under previous managers and as experience tells us we will probably be beaten. We need to be brave and attack a weak City defence, if we do that anything is possible.
4. Revitalised an ageing squad
Moyes left an ageing squad and admitted himself that it represented a huge challenge to reinvigorate the team. The average age of the team in Moyes’ final home match at Everton was 28.4 years old, in Everton’s most recent home match the average age of the starting XI had dropped to 26.6. An average drop of almost 2 year per player.
Not only has he dropped the age of the players, the quality of the players are significantly higher, all this done on the same shoestring budget that Moyes worked under during his reign. The team from Moyes’ final game vs the most recent game against Stoke is listed below. It is worth noting that Leighton Baines was rested for the Stoke match and Phil Jagielka is currently out through injury, both of whom would take their place in Everton’s strongest line up.
In Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and John Stones we have four of the best young footballers in the Premier League. Roberto Martinez’ management style has allowed all four to flourish under his tutelage, all four have grown under fabulous players after they (with the exception of John Stones) struggled under different managers. Let’s not forget that Ross Barkley was struggling to get a game under David Moyes!
5. Protection of players
The most controversial of all, but the one that appears to annoy supporters the most. Roberto is incredibly loyal to his players, however in return his players repay the same respect.
Why would a manager publicly criticise one of his players? You would not expect a manager to do this and retain his job (just look at Jose Mourinho). Yes, Tim Howard is out of form, yes, Arouna Kone has struggled to recapture his performance levels since his hat trick against Sunderland, but a manager is not going to chastise them to the press just to appease the supporters.
Tim Howard, is in the mind of Roberto Martinez the best goalkeeper we have. He therefore has to do all he can to protect him. I am sure he is looking to sign a new goalkeeper, however he is not going to announce that to the public. It maybe that he can’t get another goalkeeper of the required standard until the summer, he therefore has to do all he can to boost the confidence of his existing number 1. The odd public statement in defence of his goalkeeper is not doing anyone any harm. He is just looking at the bigger picture!
This respect towards his players is returned in kind. John Stones summer transfer saga is a perfect example. The England international, who at the time was in receipt of several offers from Chelsea, accepted Roberto’s stance that he was not for sale at any price and after his transfer request was rejected returned to work with the minimal of fuss, happily playing for his manager against Chelsea just a few weeks later.
I hope I have set out the argument for Roberto. Recent results have not been good enough, but we need to allow time and stability to see through Roberto’s plan. While we wait, enjoy the football, it is quite brilliant! We will enjoy some good days, hopefully a glorious one at the end of February, but we will also endure the pain of losing games we should really win. The players are learning with every draw and defeat, as will the management team. I truly believe Roberto is the man for Everton.