Finally starting to prove his credentials at Everton

Roberto MartinezThere’s an irony, or amusement, or whatever you want to call it to Everton’s current position in the Premier League: directly above and four points clear of Manchester United.

But that’s not too important now. It will be a story if it remains the same after Christmas or well into the ‘business end’ of the season.

Instead, Roberto Martinez is proving his credentials as a very good top flight manager, and one who doesn’t just arrive on the scene at some point towards the end of March.

That is a criticism of Martinez’s Wigan side that too many were quick to ignore. They played enterprising football at times, but displayed a complete neglect or inability to do the defensive side of things equally well. Wigan continued to play with fire, eventually failing to get themselves out of relegation trouble last season. The problem and the reservation about Martinez was that his team would only turn up and get the job done in the final few months of the campaign. Now, Martinez is a perfectly likeable manager, I don’t think anyone would dispute that. But the praise poured on him for his ability to avoid relegation in prior seasons became a little grating.

Martinez, however, has taken a good step up in the football world by taking over at Everton. What was needed at Goodison Park was a manager who could replace David Moyes in the way of producing results on a small, if none-existent budget. But Martinez is doing much more than that. The good defensive setup at Everton and the solidity of the team, crafted by Moyes, has been married with the attractive and attack-minded football that Martinez can produce.

There is fortune in the lack of expectation or even interest. The media spotlight is focused on Martinez’s predecessor, Moyes, at Old Trafford and whatever can be conjured from the London-based teams.

Everton’s financial restrictions, combined with the other teams who are in the race for European football next season, means Martinez can quietly go about his business in transferring the good work he did do at Wigan – and there was a lot – to a team who are far stronger in terms of playing personnel.

Romelu Lukaku’s signing has been a masterstroke, and the only significant loss in Marouane Fellaini has been covered up well enough by a change in tactical focus and, obviously, the addition of others via the market. Fellaini offered the option to go direct, under Martinez Everton are passing more and retaining the ball far better.

Everton, at present, are only two points off second place in the league – a mammoth effort thus far on the part of Martinez. But it’s difficult to compare one manager to another, or specifically a handful of months to a decade’s worth of work. It is, however, about Martinez solely and how he’s adapting to life further up the league table. He’s utilising the club’s academy in allowing Ross Barkley an integral place in the setup. As mentioned, the defence needed little work, but the attack has not only become more pleasing on the eye, but arguably more effective too.

It’s comparable to Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton, with foreign managers bringing in ideas that are key in Europe or South America and applying them to English football, such as the pressing game at Southampton or the focus on greater possession at Everton.

Martinez did what he could at Wigan, but the restrictions were clear. At Everton, we’re starting to see the hallmarks of a very good manager who now has the tools to properly showcase his worth.

Is Martinez proving his worth at Everton?

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