Just three points picked up from our last four games, conceded the same amount as 18th placed Swansea City, just five league wins from seventeen matches. The statistics speak for its self. Twelve months ago, we went to Southampton, losing three-nil. At that moment in time, we were sitting in 10th place and picked up 21 points. 12 months on, the only difference is that we’ve picked up 2 more points. We are still in the same position, without European football in the mix of our fixtures. Is Roberto Martinez really trying to take us to the next level? Is he the right man to lead Everton, trying to challenge for Europe? Has he run out of steam? In or out?
Have we seen any actual improvement this season?
For me, yes. We’ve looked a whole lot fresher. Last season everything was slow and arguably we were one of the most boring teams in the league. Now I think the tempo is a lot, lot faster. Although nothing massive has changed in Roberto Martinez’s game plan, we move the ball faster (at times) and when we do we usually do better. Out of the 31 goals we have scored this season, only two have come from a set-piece.
Although set plays have been abysmal this season, the amount of goals we have scored from open play has been very impressive. We are also the third highest scoring team; Manchester City (32) and Leicester City (37) are the only other teams to score more than we have. Scoring has been good enough, but we are massively let down by our defending.
Defensive issues: What are the problems?
Our defensive problems still haven’t been solved from last season. Although the solid duo of Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz has long gone – and we’ve brought in Argentine international Ramiro Funes Mori, nothing has changed… in fact its got even worse. Roberto’s first campaign saw us concede 1.02 goals per game, last season that increased to 1.32, now it has gone up to 1.41 goals per games (in the Premier League). No team has conceded more goals from a header than anybody else (8), most of these have came from poor defending from a set-piece and some howling errors from Howard – failing to deal with anything that comes near his six yard box.
After the Bournemouth game – Howard blamed supporters for the draw, after the pitch invasion. The truth is, Howard has probably dropped more points for Everton than any player in the entire team! Games such as Norwich, Arsenal, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Manchester City etc, all saw Howard make poor errors in-between the sticks. Back in October, I saw Everton host Norwich in the league cup – Joel Robles was in goal that night and I’ve never seen the team look as confident as it did.
Eight of the headed goals we have conceded – five of them came from inside the six yard box. The stats only get worse for us to look at, but take it into consideration with the current defensive backline we have, just Distin and Heitinga are the only defenders that have been taken out. Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka were all part of Moyes’ solid defensive structure, only John Stones has been added to the starting frame. Yes it’s true players like Howard and Jagielka look as if they are starting to age – but it’s still the same defence. These stats are damming to look at. What’s even more humiliating is the fact the main source of our goals conceded isn’t even being considered by Graeme Jones or Roberto Martinez. If you want to win against Everton, it looks like crossing into the six-yard box is the perfect way to do it.
It seems as if Roberto Martinez hasn’t learnt from his errors from last season, on whether who starts and who stays on the bench. Kevin Mirallas has started just one Premier League fixture throughout this campaign and has played only 247 minutes on the football pitch, yet being one of the only wingers in the club. Roberto’s decision to make Arouna Kone into a regular first-team starter is a shocking one. Brendan Galloway rarely had any support from Kone; he was just left by himself stuck in left-back. Although Mirallas isn’t labeled as a ‘creative midfielder’ he is certainly more clinical and has scored in some of the top games (Leicester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United). It seems a long time ago when he signed that contract in the summer.
Another poor decision he keeps making is starting Tim Howard. We’ve already gone through some of his errors, but the fact is he just isn’t good enough anymore. The American is one of six goalkeepers that have started every game (17) this campaign, Howard has kept just four clean sheets. Although not every single goal that goes in can be blamed on Howard, we’ve seen some awful errors from him that have cost us points. Arsenal’s signing of Petr Cech was arguably the best of the transfer window, mainly because he wins them games by making top saves. If Everton had any good goalkeeper, we would be challenging for the Premier League title. Another problem is Howard doesn’t want to leave his goaline. Howard has failed to claim 5 crosses this campaign – which is more than anybody else in the entire list of goalkeepers, which have featured this season. To be honest, I wouldn’t care if he punches the ball out – it still needs to be out of the area.
Roberto’s substitution decision making is still diabolical. In the Norwich game, it took him 70 minutes just to throw on Mirallas. Five minutes later in the same game, he replaced Ross Barkley with Darron Gibson. He isn’t an attacking midfielder. In the Bournemouth match, he left his second substitute on the bench until the 86th minute – a minute before Bournemouth would equalise. When we drew against Swansea City, it took Martinez until the 92nd minute for him to put on his second substitute of the game. His judgment to leave his second substitute until the 90th minute is costing us games. These are only a few cases as well! When the team is tired, he refuses to put anybody on the field to try and get us the points we need. In his first season, his substitutes were probably the most effective in the league. Now he refuses to put players on the pitch.
Back in March, I wrote an article complaining to Roberto Martinez his problems managing the side. I re-read the article, and to be honest, nothing much has actually changed. His main excuse was the fact we were in European football, but how can us not playing in Europe makes us two-points better off from the same amount of time last season? He suffers from no Plan B, no actual judgement in his decisions and refuses to tackle the main problem of our defensive weaknesses. On Sunday I did a little twitter poll asking in or out on Martinez. 52% voted Roberto to leave the club. Ok only 182 peoples voted in it (and who knows who voted in the poll) but it does show how divided the fan base is. Yes I believe in Martinez, I think he does show ambition and his game plan, overall, is very good. However his lack of judgement, his selections in the team, the fact he has no plan b have all cost us a lot. We haven’t improved massively since last season. I wouldn’t sack him now, it is the wrong time, but personally, I don’t think he is the right man to build on the Everton legacy and take us back to the top.
Up the Toffees.
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