There seems to be something quite taboo when it comes to dropping high-profile players in the current age. The power players have in the game means the slightest discrepancy or disagreement can prompt some unrest, a few public quotes and eventually maybe even a transfer away.
Throughout his career at Everton, Tim Howard hasn’t ever showcased the traits of a man who would kick up a fuss if he was left out of the XI. But with the aforementioned facets considered, it’s perhaps understandable Roberto Martinez is looking to keep a figure he perceives to be vital in the first team and subsequently settled.
But at this juncture, Howard can’t be considered as a critical figure; if anything, throughout the entirety of this campaign—while some of Everton’s defending has also left much to be desired—the American stopper has been a hindrance to the Blues. His latest pair of errors against Leicester City cost the Toffees three points and sapped the momentum from a wonderful 4-1 win in the Europa League midweek. Sadly for the 35-year-old, this can no longer be considered as a blip, rather an emphatic regression.
Dropping Howard in the early stages of the season wasn’t deemed to be a feasible option in the eyes of a lot of Everton supporters, primarily due to the lack of quality options available for this bespoke role in the team. Back-up choice Joel Robles had resembled an erratic, unsettling presence during his scattering of appearances in the first team, but after the American was felled with an injury on Boxing Day, the Spaniard got his chance.
He seized it, too. While Howard was costing the Toffees almost a goal a game with his lack of authority, flimsy shot stopping and all-round rudimentary errors, Robles blossomed into a commanding presence.
The former Wigan Athletic man took the pressure of the back-four with some authoritative displays between the sticks and in the his last three Premier League games he kept three consecutive clean sheets. Indeed, the 24-year-old’s showing away to West Ham United in the FA Cup was one of the standout individual performances in Everton’s season.
By comparison, Howard has only kept his goal intact in three of his last 19 games. But despite these seemingly damning statistics, once he was fit, he was straight back into the team; already he’s conceded four in three, a trio of which he should have prevented.
Martinez admitted that the team “defended with fear” in their disappointing draw with the Foxes. Naturally, he refused levy his goalkeeper with the blame, but having the American between the sticks transcended a jitteriness into the back-four that’s been missing as of late; against effervescent attacking opponents like Liverpool and Crystal Palace, nonetheless.