JAN
09
2014
Roberto Martinez Half-Term Report
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Roberto Martinez arrived at Everton in June of last year with big boots to fill. David Moyes' dependable 11-year tenure had come to a close and Evertonians were left contemplating what the future had in store.

 

They were to be led by a manager whose season with Wigan culminated in FA Cup glory, only to be soured somewhat by their relegation from the top flight a few days later. These were uncertain times for bluenoses, but exciting ones. Change was welcome, and long overdue.

 

Martinez's philosophy of ball retention was prevalent throughout his former teams. His expansive, fluid passing style looked easy on the eye, but did not always yield results. Martinez's mantra ensures his players to go out and enjoy their football and play with a smile on their face. He demands they express themselves on the field and play without fear.

 

The side inherited from Moyes was committed, loyal and contained a few exceptional individuals. But you wouldn't say it was ready to make a seamless transition into the Martinez model. Seven months into his Everton tenure, and the biggest plus point has been the speed at which the players have not only bought into his philosophy, but carried it out. Indeed, in his interview on the Followtonians podcast, Martinez admitted his surprise at it taking just seven weeks.

 

So what is the major difference between Moyes' Everton and the one that currently sits just one point off the Champions League places? Yes the playing style has dramatically changed, with Martinez changing the philosophy and transforming us into a possession-based team. But, put simply, he has retained the best elements of a well-drilled, cohesive unit, slowly introduced a system where you play from the back, and relinquished the shackles in the attacking third.

 

It is clear Martinez's man management is something that sets him apart from rival bosses. Results can be decided by fine margins, and tight encounters at both Old Trafford and The Emirates saw four points acquired in as many days. The positive mentality installed by Martinez made this possible. It was noticeable the players played without fear, in direct contrast to the sides put out by Moyes in similar environments where all too often the approach centred on damage limitation.

 

If there was one criticism of Martinez's sides in the past, it would be they lacked the defensive discipline to run in conjunction with their attacking flair. Although he inherited Moyes' defence, Martinez has been able to retain their best qualities as well as introduce his new concepts. Our defenders are now averaging around 60 passes each per game compared to 20. This evolution sees four of Everton's back five included in the Premier League's team of 2013 as voted for by rival supporters. Justifiably so - only Arsenal have conceded fewer goals this season.

 

The most notable defensive change has seen the full-backs found in advanced positions with increasing regularity. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman both got forward under Moyes, but the number of times you see them in opposition penalty areas has dramatically increased. In Baines' absence, Bryan Oviedo flourished in his preferred wing-back position. Between the three of them, they've already contributed 11 goals and we're only in January.

 

Fused with the experienced players Martinez inherited are the younger, 'arrogant' ones in the midfield and forward areas. As mentioned, Martinez demands his players enjoy their football, and this is apparent in the transformation of Ross Barkley.

 

Barkley was afforded just five more starts under Moyes after making his first-team debut against QPR in August 2011. He has spoken of Martinez's trust in him, explaining how he is encouraged to take risks in certain areas of the pitch without worrying about giving the ball away. Under Moyes, Barkley looked a shadow of the player we see today. He appeared nervy, with misplaced passes ironically born out of a fear to not relinquish possession. The faith afforded by Everton's new manager has seen the boy from Wavertree blossom into not only a first-team regular for club, but an almost certain member of Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad this summer.

 

The current wave the club is riding would not have been possible without the business carried out on the final day of the summer transfer window. Martinez was arguably the biggest winner in those final hours. Although Marouane Fellaini departed, Gareth Barry and the combative James McCarthy were brought in to fill the Belgian's void and are better suited to Martinez's 4-2-3-1 formation.

 

The arrival of Romelu Lukaku for the season was a masterstroke. Everton looked toothless in the opening five and a half games but since the striker's introduction at half-time at West Ham, we now have an attacking axis capable of scoring the goals our play deserves.

 

Martinez's conduct in the media is also something that is to be applauded. Moyes often appears guarded, withholding information in news conferences, but Martinez finds a way of striking the correct balance between keeping matters in house and informing the fans. His approach to Jonny Heitinga and Nikica Jelavic's futures is refreshing, while he is not afraid to speak out over wider matters such as his thoughts on the transfer windows and diving.

 

In many of the half-term reports in the national media, Everton have been rated with an 'A', and it would be difficult to argue with this assertion. But it is only the halfway stage and there is still a long way to go before Martinez's first season at the club can be heralded a unanimous success.

 

The squad has yet to be stretched. Recent injuries to Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin afford Antolín Alcaraz and John Stones the chance to build on their burgeoning partnership. Although both impressed over QPR, it remains to be seen how they cope with the demands of the Premier League.

 

At the other end, another striker is imperative this window. Jelavic's future appears uncertain as he seeks game time ahead of the World Cup, while Lukaku has yet to contend with this many games at this level and has appeared a little jaded in recent weeks. His workload needs to be shared, while Martinez will also be mindful of his impending return to his parent club in the summer.

 

Good as the start has been, this new-look Everton is a work in progress and defenders in particular still need to master the balancing act between when to adhere to the passing game and when to go long. Hopefully the shock of the Sunderland defeat, only the team's third reverse this year, emphasises this point better than any coaching session.

 

It is unfair at this stage to compare Martinez's tenure with Moyes'. This honeymoon period currently being enjoyed is not overly dissimilar to that seen at the start of the 2002/03 season. Moyes worked wonders in his formative years at the club, transforming a squad flirting with relegation into European hopefuls. In his latter days, he was unable to kick on and deliver a trophy his work rate deserved.

 

Only time will tell whether Martinez has it in him to break through this particular glass ceiling. As 93-year old Evertonian Annie Carson put it: "This season has been great - up until now."

THE SECRET FAN

 

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Comments about Roberto Martinez Half-Term Report
 
2
When his name was put forward,I'll be honest,I thought he was perhaps the worst option available. After all Wigan were sliding out of the Prem and had been poor for a couple of seasons. I wanted a manager to take over and improve us and move us on into a top six side. Thank God that Blue Bill didn't listen to me and instead took the decision to appoint this gentleman.In every department he has exceeded my expectations,even as I have raised them.He is a breath of fresh air,in the league,not just at club level, honest, forthright, knowledgeable and approachable. For what it is worth I offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone I bored with my thoughts before the season started.
Win, Stafford, 6:19 PM 10/01/2014
 
1
I was worried when Moysie left and if we would get the right replacemen,but in Roberto we definatly have what a man he is. POSITIVE POSITIVE POSITIVE, Coyb onward Evertonians.......We shall not be moved
Billy, Winsford, 7:28 PM 9/01/2014
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