Speculation regarding Arsene Wenger’s eventual successor at Arsenal has intensified in the wake of their 6-0 humiliation at Stamford Bridge. Everton manager Roberto Martinez is understood by the media to be a leading candidate for the position.
But although he has only been at the Toffees since June of last year, has the Spaniard already gone as far as he possibly can at Goodison Park?
If Martinez’s side secures Europa League or even Champions League football, then what more can he realistically achieve at the club?
The Spaniard has already successfully imprinted his distinct footballing philosophy at Goodison Park. Full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have flourished in a system which encourages them to attack at almost every opportunity. Ross Barkley has enjoyed a breakout season, having been afforded the creative licence to attack.
While many feared that Everton may actually slide down the table, Martinez has actually improved upon the David Moyes era. Under the Scot, Everton initially fluctuated massively from relegation candidates to that famous top four finish in 2005 before levelling out as a perennial top-half side.
While Moyes continues to flounder under the weight of expectation at Old Trafford, his successor at Goodison Park has calmly guided the Toffees above Manchester United and into serious contention for European football. Bryan Oviedo’s late winner in the fixture earlier this season confirmed that Martinez has well and truly stepped out of his predecessor’s shadow.
However, with Everton’s financial limitations well documented, Martinez can’t realistically be expected to take the club any further.
Much of their success this season is attributable to their efforts in the loan market. Although he has not been missed at Manchester City, Gareth Barry has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts at Goodison Park, while Barcelona wonderkid Gerard Deulofeu has proven to be the crucial difference on several occasions this season.
The most inspired acquisition however, has been Romelu Lukaku. With 11 league goals already to his name, Jose Mourinho’s decision to loan the Belgian out continues to baffle.
But as the season comes to a conclusion, Martinez can’t realistically be expected to replicate this success in the loan market time and time again.
The task of successfully replacing Lukaku will likely prove impossible for Everton’s budget. Martinez has already labelled the striker as “irreplaceable” and it is highly unlikely that the Belgian will be convinced to stay beyond the current campaign.
Players of Barry’s experience and Deulofeu’s promise aren’t common in the loan market and Everton don’t possess the financial clout to buy such players outright.
For Everton to make a substantial splash in the transfer market, one of their most valuable assets will have to be sold. The vultures are already circling around the likes of Baines and Barkley.
And therefore although it is far too early to anticipate Wenger’s retirement at Arsenal, would anyone honestly begrudge Martinez the opportunity to test himself on a bigger stage?
Unless Bill Kenwright is able to find a prospective buyer, the Spaniard will continue to overachieve if he manages to maintain Everton as contenders for European football. The Toffees stand a chance in the domestic cups but will never be the favourites if paired with one of the Premier League’s elite.
From his time at Everton, Swansea City and Wigan Athletic, Martinez has proven himself ready for a test at one of the division’s leading sides.
The attacking possession-based football which the Spaniard employs would prove popular at any club. He has already proven himself capable of operating smartly on a limited budget and his ability to bring out the best in youth is evident in the progress of Barkley, Coleman and John Stones this season.
Obviously the opportunity at a leading side may not present itself for some time and Martinez could remain at Everton for a while yet. But it would already seem that he has achieved all that he can at Goodison Park.