“Quasimodo predicted this” declared Bobby Baccalieri, the blundering New Jersey mobster. The barrel chested buffoon had foolishly mistaken the hunchbacked, Notre Dame bell ringer for French oracle, Nostradamus.
You wouldn’t have needed a vocation in soothsaying to predict the downfall of Roberto Martinez, and his team, in advance of the latest instalment of woe, a 3-4 reverse to granny haired Mark Hughes’ Stoke at Goodison on Monday night.
You could argue that we haven’t beaten anyone decent all season, if you leave out sides who don’t simply turn up and let us play through them, and you’d probably be right. A derisory 7 wins from 22 home games is a damning indictment of how Martinez’ side struggles to tag tangible outcomes to the scintillating football it is capable of serving up.
So where do we go from here?
Pragmatist v Idealist debate
Post-match there was talk on social media of ‘bringing back Moyes’, the arch pragmatist, to rectify the mid table malaise the Blues currently find themselves ensconced in.
There is often an element of revisionism with Moyes, but in terms of brass tax he brought attractive football to Goodison in only a handful of his 11 seasons at the helm, and would surely resemble a massive backwards step.
In Monday’s game the obvious – and legitimate – grievance was that RM should have closed the game down at 3-2, but such logic doesn’t compute with the current boss.
I’d argue that even if he wanted to, he couldn’t. For example, could you really see Deulofeu and Kone instantly ‘tucking in’ to close off passes through our midfield in a defensive 4-5-1, with the offensive duo ‘doubling up’ with their overworked fullbacks?
The answer sadly is no, and here lies Martinez biggest problem, namely the lack of balance and defensive qualities in the personnel of his squad to see out winning positions.
We rave about Deulofeu, and he is ace, but in such situations can we really afford to have him and another flair player, whether it be Kone or Mirallas, along with the blossoming Barkley, all in the team, with no defensive brief off the ball?
The Leicester game was a good example.
The Foxes don’t possess anywhere near the talent of this Everton side, but their aggression off the ball is commendable. Sadly, and somewhat arrogantly, graft and earning the right to play is a currency which appears to have limited value with Martinez. As a result, Ranieri’s charges out-ran us, and won the ball back through tackles, interceptions and blocks 89 times to our 29, also repelling 7 crosses to our 0.
In Monday’s game we were again out-run -distance wise – by Stoke – despite RM bringing in fresh legs to his defence, midfield and attacking lines. This was against a side who fielded the same 11 players as on Boxing Day. On last glance only relegation certainties Aston Villa had covered less ground than Everton in the top flight.
I’m not saying that ‘winning the running’ is the answer, clearly it isn’t, but surely energy off the ball puts you in a better position to repel your opponent.
Idealist; A Definition
plural noun: idealists
- a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.
“he came to power with the reputation of a left-wing idealist”
|synonyms:||utopian, visionary, wishful thinker, pipe-dreamer, fantasist, fantasizer, romantic, romanticist, romancer, castle-builder, Walter Mitty, Don Quixote, dreamer, daydreamer, impractical person, unrealistic person; More
|antonyms:||realist, cynic, defeatist|
- Philosophy – a person who believes in the theory of idealism.
“Hegel described himself as an absolute idealist”
The current malaise
Martinez primary job as coach is to get the most out of what he has at his disposal, to maximise our strengths and minimise our weaknesses as best he can. Football is a simple game, after all.
In terms of our strengths, you can’t fault the man. With more goals scored from open play than any side in the division, he’s formed a team which offers bags of variety and is capable of outgunning the best defences in the league.
Would Moyes have brought in the likes of Deulofeu and developed the attacking capability of messrs Lukaku and Barkley as he has done so astutely? I very much doubt it.
At the other end, however, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out how to crack the Goodison code these days – even Phil Brown could probably un-lock it if you gave him unlimited time and some kind of manual.
Defensively, Martinez has left himself wide open to criticism.
It would be easy to apportion full blame to the much maligned, egomaniac and now overcooked shot stopper, Tim Howard, here.
The US star is increasingly crud, as most Evertonian’s will testify, but he doesn’t pick himself and I’d argue his failings, and that of the clowns in front of him, is a direct consequence of Martinez blindspot, that be the lack of a coherent, robust defensive strategy.
Replacing Howard with Robles might improve things to an extent, but the Spanish keeper would still be faced with mopping up the hurricane of piss in front of him.
Mori can head the ball, but Stones clearly can’t, or won’t, as is sadly the case with modern defenders.
In this instance, surely you have to think about mitigating this obvious weakness by closing off the flanks through affording enough protection to the fullbacks, given the consummate ease opposing sides find in getting down our wings to pop balls ‘into the mixer’.
The way forward
There is a third way, of course.
To remedy the failings, Martinez needs to tweak this ‘process over results at all costs’ strategy.
Now stay with me for a few moments, lids….I’m not pyramid selling here….but practical idealism, a term adopted by the Mahatma Gandhi, essentially offers the best of both;
“It describes a philosophy that holds it to be an ethical imperative to implement ideals of virtue or good. It further holds it to be equally immoral to either refuse to make the compromises necessary to realise high ideals, or to discard ideals in the name of expediency. Practical idealism in its broadest sense may be compared to utilitarianism in its emphasis on outcomes, and to political economy and enlightened self-interest in its emphasis on the alignment of what is right with what is possible.” (Gandhi Marg 2002).
Pseudo intellectual bullshit at its finest there, dear readers.
Back to Martinez then, I’m not talking about a seismic change that needs to take place, I don’t want the world to sing or for Roundy to come back as defensive coach, just a tad more pragmatism (or should that be realism ?) to be applied during matches, or ‘game management’ if you’re a seat sniffing bell whiff.
The penny must surely drop that to become a great coach there needs to be some sacrifice. Potentially this can be done by supplementing the ball playing talents abundant in the current defence with more old school, groc-like values; for example an ability to sense danger would be useful, defenders being able to attack crosses would be great and, ideally, for our backline to get touch tight to forwards, or preferably all 3. What’s Trifon Ivanov up to these days, lads? Obviously the return of Jagielka, a defender who can actually defend, will be a big shot in the arm when he’s back, hopefully for the City trilogy.
Personally I think Kenwright and the board will allow the current dynamic to continue regardless of results, after all they afford Moyes 11 years without a trophy. Sadly, I doubt potential new owners will be as tolerant with the process over results approach of RM.
I was in favour of Martinez getting the job, and short term I believe he should be given til the end of the season so we can accurately reflect on which of his first two seasons was the fluke.
I still hope that he can provide us with some kind of glory to accompany the undoubted improvement in terms of excitement levels at L4, but something’s gotta give.