With the end of the current Premier League season in sight, there is one club in particular who will look back at their campaign with huge disappointment and that is Everton. The season of real opportunity, when you witness teams such as Leicester, Tottenham and West Ham performing to the levels they have done so consistently throughout the campaign, the Everton fans and the fans of English football must be left wondering how this current Everton squad is not further up the table chasing down a Champions League place. The group of players that are there is certainly capable of performing much better, however the biggest problem the team faces is not the quality of players but ultimately the quality of manager.
Roberto Martinez is known for playing an elegant attacking style which he built within his reputation while manager at Wigan Athletic. Defensively this season has seen Everton concede forty one goals in the league, consequently they have dropped fourteen points from winning positions this season, most notably the 96th minute John Terry goal. As individuals the Everton back four is filled with talented international footballers, so the lack of organisation and concentration must come down to how they are tactically prepared. In the three seasons that Martinez has been at the club, defensively their best campaign was the 2013/14 season when they finished fifth in the league. This success has to be seen as the squad Martinez inherited from the previous manager David Moyes. In Martinez’s second season, Everton could only manage a mid-table finish at 11th, and in the current season, the Martinez’s third season they again look destined for a poorly mid-table finish. The F.A Cup may just provide Roberto Martinez a saving grace this season however there should well still be question marks over the Spaniards career in charge of the club.
Since the arrival of Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park, there has been success stories within the Everton squad. The emergence of John Stones at the heart of the Everton defence, Romelu Lukaku spearheading the attack and finally this season Ross Barkley emerging as the player we all expected for the last two/three seasons. As mentioned, in an attacking sense Everton are as dangerous as any team in the Premier League, only when he picks the right players. The form of Aaron Lennon in the second half of the season has been highly impressive, but how can he not play Gerard Deulofeu on a regular basis on the opposite wing, but instead he plays Tom Cleverly in an attacking three? The January signing of Oumar Niasse from Spartak Moscow for a fee of 13.5 million, we have seen him play twice as substitute. Niasse is a strong, quick, hard working forward who would add even more quality to the already talented forward line. Then comes the situation with Kevin Mirallas, such a talented player, but wastefully used sparingly sparingly under Martinez.
Defensively has been much worse for the club this season, and that was after a dire campaign last season at the back as well. The inability to deal with high balls into the box looks to be Everton’s biggest weakness, against West Ham despite leading two nil, three crosses into the Everton six yard box and West Ham win that game 3-2. At this level this can not happen, but the defending looks all to familiar from watching Wigan under the management of Roberto Martinez. The holding midfielder drops into the backline more often than not and almost gets in the way, both fullbacks are given the license to drive forward and the holding mid-fielders are expected to shift out wide to cover and into the back three to receive the ball. With all respect Gareth Barry is thirty-five now, he cannot move around the pitch like he used to do, despite that he still has the ability with the ball at his feet, so dropping into his backline is not an issue getting across the pitch to cover fullbacks is the problem. James McCarthy is a top player, one of the top holding mid-fielder’s in the country, yet looks to be in more of a box to box role when playing alongside Barry, however McCarthy looks to be the holder when he plays alongside the highly rated Bosnian international Muhamed Besic. The Everton fans seemingly love the determination and hunger from Besic, however when watching these two as a pair there looks an unbalance in the Everton team.
The decision during the second half of this campaign to leave out the highly sought after John Stones is one that many can not quite understand, the fans and media alike The arrival of Argentine international Funes Mori has definitely added more competition this season, after the disaster signing of Antolin Alcaraz the previous season. When Funes Mori partners captain Phil Jagielka, Everton are exposed to pace in behind the back four, when Funes Mori partners John Stones they look solid, maybe they do not possess the experience that is needed in certain games, but Martinez certainly has got the decision to drop John Stones all wrong. Stones and Jagielka is a partnership that know each other and know each other’s game why not stick with this, instead of changing constantly. Seamus Coleman is regarded as one of the best attacking fullbacks in the Premier League , although now to his credit he looks a better defender than he has looked this season than any of his previous campaigns. The left back position at Everton is the position where the competition is very high. During the first quarter of the season Brendan Galloway held the left back position, during this period he was playing at such a high level, there was talks of interest from other major clubs and a possible outsider to gatecrash the England squad. The return of Leighton Baines from his long term injury, brought the end of Galloway’s run in the Everton team. There is no doubting the ability of Leighton Baines in an attacking sense, but defensively there have always been question marks and this season more than ever. Bryan Oviedo is the third player that has taken the left back spot this season, starting the last five games, Oviedo is reliable, a better defensive fullback than Baines but a restricted fullback as he does not possess great pace, and has a horrific injury record. The decision to bring Baines straight into the first team to replace Galloway is one that cannot be fully understood. Young Galloway can defend on the inside, can play in between the lines and has fantastic pace to get up and down the pitch, another poor decision Martinez has made this season for Everton.
Ultimately the future of Roberto Martinez will be upon the shoulders of the club’s new owner Farhad Mushiri. With the Iranian billionaire looking to invest in the club this summer he may feel a new manager to oversee the team could be needed. With the recent revelations made by Lukaku that he may leave the club for Champions League football, the top sides in Europe’s pursuits of the extremely talented John Stones and a possible big money move for Ross Barkley, Everton may have to undertake another transitional period. With further talks of a new stadium for the club, all could be changing at Everton Football Club and with fresh optimism certainly financially for the club, the question of Roberto Martinez’s position must certainly be on the agenda. Could there be a Goodison Park return for David Moyes, the famous saying is managers should never go back, surely give the opportunity the Scotsman would consider a return. FA Cup glory or not, the new owner should not risk a dramatic slide that we have witnessed before under the management of Roberto Martinez.