There is something not quite right in the football psyche of Roberto Martinez.
I was wrong. I thought and stated very clearly he would struggle to be a success when taking on the Everton job. That was last season. This time around I may well be right.
Since the season began those defensive frailties have been on show each game. A short-term solution or long-term fixes are yet to be found. Numerous players have lost form and confidence in epidemic proportions.
Tactically he is being out thought and manoeuvred with unnerving regularity. None of this is new, hence my major reservation on his leadership skills when taken over at Everton. Seen it, witnessed it, and endured it. This pattern happened on two occasions during his time at Wigan Athletic.
He has been hailed as The New Messiah. He is not The Messiah.
Roberto Martinez had been manager at Wigan for four seasons. He stated during his final days this was his best squad to date, yet there they were heading for Championship mediocrity.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish wished Neil Warnock a happy 2015, somewhere else please, but not here. 16 Premier League games, three wins, six draws, seven losses meant he was no longer required. Contrast the impatience of Steve Parish with that of Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan.
The Latics shipped an average of two goals per game during their last Premier League season. Up to late in the season they couldn’t win three games in succession. At one stage they couldn’t muster a win in ten attempts.
In over 70% of games during the final campaign his team went behind. They managed a miserable four clean sheets during that Premier League season. Trended over his managerial term at Wigan it becomes apparent he had been unable to resolve, manage, coach, or fix these basic defensive holes which still haunt him today.
No Chairman other than Dave Whelan would have stood by a manager with the record of Martinez over four seasons.
On his arrival from Swansea the Martinez game plan was to play a high line, pressing in the opposition half, which was built on fitness, tactical structure and desire. During a home game which played out as a nil all draw, there was a total of over 400 passes from one Latics blue shirt to another. Without a goal to be had.
Counter attacking teams arrived at the DW Stadium with a plan which was simple and effective. This is now being replicated when teams take on Everton, especially of The Toffees’ home turf.
Just as managers across Europe pondered how to beat Barcelona, the conundrum was in full debate across the Premier League. How do you contain then win against an organised, fit motivated unit, as some teams were becoming?
Bayern Munich worked out the Barca jigsaw. Then the solution came tumbling down the various leagues across Europe.
It was a counter attack strategy, which required foot races to be won over 50/70 metres again, again and again. When the ball was lost by the attacking team, in order to retrieve the error and take control of the ball again, warfare began in the opposition penalty area. Yep, at the other end of the pitch.
Everton’s James McCarthy’s inability to track back over a distance of 50/70 metres was once again exposed at Newcastle on Sunday. Jack Colback out ran him in distance and speed. McCarthy was replaced at half time.
Running off the ball, without the ball, running at someone else’s tempo is physically and mentally exhausting. When possession is lost with Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman in advanced positions, who is capable of covering in the midfield engine room of Everton. Gareth Barry?
Martinez never had the personnel or tactical nous to work this out during his latter stages at Wigan. Bold statement? Not really as it’s happening all over again at Everton.
Clubs are turning players into 400 metre athletes. Over the past two seasons players who put in the repetitive box to box grunt work are favoured over flamboyance and skill. They have become the worker bees, replacing Eric Cantona’s midfield water carrier quip from many years ago.
James Milner (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Lee Cattermole (Sunderland), and Ryan Mason (Tottenham Hotspur) etc. are all athletes as opposed to gifted players. It isn’t a coincidence they seem to be on the team sheet most weeks.
Wigan are now Championship fodder. Martinez had been given the squad, financial backing and verbal backing by a very supportive Chairman.
His inability to coach a defensive unit into any type of consistency, or close out games over four seasons became his Achilles heel. It’s glaringly apparent the problem isn’t fixed. It’s history repeating itself at Everton.
Prediction: Everton won’t finish in the top nine of the Premier League this season. They have won back to back games only once this season. Now where have I heard that before?
Roberto Martinez is not The Messiah, he is work in progress. Everton fans and Chairman Bill Kenwright will soon become disgruntled, but not enough to put pressure on his job.
Unless Martinez improves his defensive and tactical awareness, Everton may be the pinnacle of his managerial career.