’Enough is enough’ has been a slogan recently brought into the public conscience regarding ticket prices. Well never has it been more appropriate when appraising the managerial tenure of Roberto Martinez. The ‘Phenomenal One’ has shown, in the 18 months since its conclusion, that his debut season was nothing more than a fluke. A flash in the pan. A statistical anomaly.
Martinez has presided over some of the worst contextual results of any Everton manager in the top flight, especially at what had previously been considered ‘Fortress Goodison’. This is all whilst seemingly having the best Everton squad since the glory days of the mid ’80s at his disposal. Under Martinez’s watch, Everton have become complacent, lazy, and unacceptably soft. They are predictable and one-dimensional. They have become the Premier League's easy touches. Media professionals have started to describe Everton in the same way that they would have previously described Spurs; words to the affect of...
When they’re good,
they’re very, very good,
but when they’re bad,
Whilst the 2013-14 season was predominantly the former, the 18 months since have been consistently and alarmingly the latter. This is all whilst having spent a club record £28 million on one of Europe’s most sought-after young strikers, inheriting two of England’s brightest young talents in Barkley and Stones, and reacquiring a mercurial talent in Deulofeu.
On paper, Everton are seen as a strong team. Even after another home defeat against West Brom on Saturday, Tony Pulis was quoted as saying Everton are a ‘Top 4/5 side’. Well, anybody who’s cared to consult the Premier League table recently will tell you that they are clearly not, and haven’t been for some time.
What I assume he meant was that they should be a top 4/5 side. That’s a fairer and more realistic reflection. The players are certainly there for it to happen. This actually equates to a damning indictment from one of his peers on how, despite the manager’s dogmatic refusal to acknowledge it, this team are woefully underperforming. Whilst a statement like this on its own is somewhat objective, there are numerous cold hard facts that justify it completely.
Just 4 points from the last 6 home games; just 4 home wins this season; 26 home points dropped. Is that not proof enough? More home goals conceded than any other team in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Just 16 points from 14 home games. As many losses as wins at home in the league since August 2014. Evidence not stacking up enough yet? 11 points dropped from winning positions since November. Just 1.4 points per game achieved this season. Only 1.28 points per game since August 2014. The list could go on. It is just not good enough.
The common argument for fans still in favour of Martinez seems to centre around two idealistic points: that he has brought in good players who have come to play for him at the club; and that he has a philosophy for ‘attractive football’.
In terms of his acquisitions, many of them have certainly been welcome additions. That is not being brought into question and, if anything, is indicative of the problem. The idea, though, that Martinez’s presence in the manager’s chair was the deciding factor as to why all of these players signed for Everton is nonsense. Yes, his non-confrontational and ultra-positive management style could well be attractive to a modern-day player as it appears to openly absolve them of any responsibility or blame. However the lure of the Premier League’s shop-window, increased wages, and career progression are a much more realistic justification for every one of his signings, other than maybe his Wigan trio.
What also should be noted is that the squad he’s created is unbalanced and often under-utilised, with the manager regularly and uncompromisingly sticking to players who’ve long outlasted their usefulness. An American with an ego the size of Texas and a ‘striker’ who has scored just 6 goals in over 2½ seasons springs to mind... It also puts huge pressure on the likes of Romelu Lukaku to produce and stay fit, something that he is now clearly struggling to do.
The ‘attractive football’ comment is at best an objectively questionable opinion; at worst, a downright myth created to excuse failure. How can football be consistently considered ’attractive’ if it doesn’t result in wins? Who likes watching their own team have 60-70% possession of the football if they can’t score? Having a philosophy is all well and good, but if it’s not generating points on the board and trophies in the cabinet it’s absolutely moronic not to at least adapt (if not scrap) it.
Lets make it clear: this squad of players, whilst very talented, is not Barcelona. Expecting them to vehemently adopt similar principles, especially in a league where slow and possession-based football has never resulted in long-term success, is ridiculously stubborn. The statistics discount any reason to disagree as purely whimsical. This style, whilst at its best is easy on the eye, does not win enough football matches. At its worst, it is sideways, toothless, and frustratingly boring.
After Super Bowl L, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was criticised for his reaction to his teams defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. For those who don’t follow the NFL, Carolina were the cinderella story that rose to being majority favourites but ultimately ‘choked’ on the big stage. When asked about his perceived poor sportsmanship, Newton replied, "Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser."
This statement sums up Martinez in a nutshell. For all his talk about ‘character’, and his over-reliance on the ‘P’ word, the man and his teams are constantly found wanting. He got the Everton job after eventually relegating a team that had finished 11th before he took over, after 4 seasons of flirting with the drop. His team’s best goal difference during that time was -20. If he had not won the FA Cup in his final season, there is absolutely no chance that he would have got the opportunity to manage Everton.
So why, when he has clearly been ‘found out’ is he not being moved on? Supposedly his pitch to get the job was that he could deliver Champions League football within 4 years. With a club that had consistently competed in and around the top 6 for the previous 5 seasons, this promise seemed ambitious but potentially achievable. After the clear failure to improve upon the 2013-14 season, that statement now appears laughable. He seems to be taking a team that had not finished outside of the top 8 since 2005-06 to two consecutive bottom-half finishes with considerably better players. The buck should, and does, stop with him.
The earlier comparison to Spurs is where this defamation comes full circle. Mauricio Pochettino has transformed Tottenham from being a historically stylish but flakey team of also-rans into serious, hard-nosed title contenders. No longer can they be accused of being weak. His vision of unrelenting pressure accompanied with Spurs’ historical flair has seen them surge into the Top 4, all whilst qualifying for the knockout phase of the Europa League and remaining in contention for the FA Cup. He also got them to a cup final in his first year, falling at the final hurdle to Mourinho’s Chelsea in the League Cup. They are undoubtedly one of the fittest teams in the Premier League, and any player who is not prepared to work for his place, both in attack and defence, is unceremoniously moved on. Just ask Andros Townsend...
Leicester City also have shown that, with hard-work as the foundation of what a team is about, anything is possible. With Martinez intent on running a professional team with the mentality attributed to a youth team, with ‘style’ afforded greater importance than results, Everton will never achieve anything other than being irrelevant also-rans.
I, for one, have heard and seen enough. SeÃ±or Martinez should have one way, and one way only, of saving his job. That is to win the FA Cup, pure and simple. The man has had more than enough time to convince the world that his ideology can provide success, and now is the time to either deliver or leave. There is absolutely zero merit in giving Martinez time to change, as the lessons have clearly not been learned from last season's flirtation with the drop.
He’s made it abundantly clear that he will not sacrifice his principles, regardless of how that affects the team’s chance of winning. The odd good result against the top 4, or a convincing win here and there, may have sufficed at Wigan Athletic. However, he is no longer at Wigan and the expectations are nowhere near the same.
Martinez has a maximum of 16 games to convince the world that he is not the glad-handing fraud that he has posed as for the last 18 months. The time has come to show that he can justify his position as manger of Everton football club, rather than live off the relative and undeserved acclaim that the position affords him.