Saturday’s loss against West Ham was a microcosm of Everton’s whole season thus far. Exciting attacking play, a superb Lukaku, shoddy defending and a shocked Roberto Martinez trying to find new excuses to mask his side’s shocking display at the back.
In a season dominated by Leicester punching above their weight, Newcastle being punched down by the weight of expectation and Chelsea and Liverpool making their best impression of a mid-table side, Everton’s plight has largely passed under the radar.
At times the Toffees have been awesome. Absolutely brilliant. Ross Barkley has added an end product to his dazzling build up play, Lukaku has 18 goals (more than Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and just one behind Jamie Vardy) while John Stones has been given a £50 million price tag.
Add these to Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu, Phil Jagielka and Aaron Lennon and one can argue that Martinez has good quality to rely on all over the park – apart from possibly in the goalkeeping department. Surely this squad is much better than the 11th spot in the league they currently occupy, a full 12 points off the top 4 with 10 games to go. Incidentally, 11th was their final position in the last campaign.
During his time in Wigan Athletic, Martinez built a reputation as an up-and-coming manager who wanted to play soccer “the right way.” During interviews, he came across as an articulate and polite individual who favored attack over defense. Overall a quality chap – the kind of person you wouldn’t mind your daughter bringing to the house.
Despite Wigan conceding goals all the way to the Championship, Martinez’s standing as one of the top managers in the UK remained with Everton quick to appoint him as the saviour who had to lead them to the promised land of the Champions’ League. During his first campaign in Merseyside, Martinez certainly made Everton a force to be reckoned with as they improved on the previous campaign under David Moyes by 9 points as the finished fifth.
However, back then Martinez could rely on all the good work Moyes had done in building a solid defense. Nevertheless, in the next couple of campaigns, Martinez has once more shown that he is inept in solidifying his backline, both via the transfer market and in his coaching methods and decisions during matches.
Unfortunately for Blues’ fans, Martinez seems to be in denial.
His rant against referee Anthony Taylor after the West Ham game was hilarious, if not depressing for Everton supporters. If Arsene Wenger is the winner of the manager-with-his-head-buried-in-the-sand award, then Martinez is a close second. The Spaniard accused Taylor of not understanding the game for sending off Kevin Mirallas, despite him showing a yellow card for a blatant dive and another for an ill-timed, studs-up tackle. Whatever the time on the clock, a dive is a dive and Taylor should be praised for standing his ground and punishing the Belgian.
If criticism is to be thrown at the referee, then his decision to award Everton a penalty for a foul outside the box is certainly at the top of the list. Conveniently, this was not mentioned in any of the post-match interviews by the former Wigan and Swansea boss.
Everton were 2-0 up with ten men and had a penalty kick. They should have cruised to a victory, despite the numerical disadvantage, by sitting back and not do anything stupid …something stupid such as removing a winger to bring in a striker (Baye Niasse) that has offered next to nothing since his arrival at Goodison Park. Not exactly defending a lead now is it?
As Everton chased a third goal, the Hammers gleefully pushed men forward and scored three in little over ten minutes. Wanting to score as many goals as possible is admirable, but going gung-ho with ten men and 2-0 up against an in-form side in the final quarter of an hour is senseless.
So is Taylor really the one who does not understand the game, señor Martinez?
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