In a week that has already seen Roberto Martinez’s Everton suffer a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of Merseyside rivals Liverpool, the Spanish manager now faces what is seen as a future defining game on Saturday evening.
Everton take on Manchester United in the first FA Cup semi-final of the weekend and the general consensus is that the only chance Roberto Martinez has of saving his job, and being at the Toffees next year, is to win the competition outright. But, even if he guides his side to lift the trophy at Wembley, it’s time for the Spaniard to go.
It’s been a torrid season for Everton, whose last win came in the 2-0 quarter final victory against Chelsea, well over a month ago. The criticism is rightly mounting on Martinez ahead of Saturday night and it seems only two more wins in the cup will do for the Toffees fans desperate to see a trophy for the first time since 1995.
Should Martinez win the trophy he famously lifted with Wigan in 2013, he still won’t deserve a reprieve for what has been a steady decline in performance since he took over months after that win with the Latics. Whilst Martinez has been rightly praised for his ability to coach attacking football his defensive tactics are nothing short of shocking.
The stats tell you all you need to know. In Martinez’s first season Everton conceded an average of 1.03 goals a game as they pushed for European qualification throughout the campaign, finishing with a strong 72 points. The Goodison Park faithful thought they’d finally found their man to bring some silverware to the club, building on David Moyes’ defensive nous and adding the attacking flair to take the side to that next level.
Things, however, were not to be. The 2014/15 season, where Martinez could really begin to show the progress made under his stewardship, smacked of anything but. Less goals per game, more conceded per game and a points total of 47 that began to plant seeds of doubt that Martinez was the right appointment.
This season, those seeds have become fully fledged plants. Martinez evidently isn’t improving the team; this season’s stats make sore reading for those on the blue side of Stanley Park. They’ve conceded more goals per game again than at any other point under him and are one of the leading sides at losing points from winning positions.
There’s something wrong with the mental strength of the Everton side under Martinez and clearly some of the players know it too. The recent debacle with Leighton Baines being forced to apologise about ‘misinterpreted’ quotes about team chemistry have shown divides beginning to form in the playing squad.
Clearly, Everton are on a crash course at the moment. Form in the league only worsened by Aston Villa, an increasingly poor defensive record and apparent squad disharmony all suggest Martinez should be gone. FA Cup or no FA Cup, Martinez should be getting better out of a squad that bolsters talent such as Leighton Baines, Romelu Lukaku, John Stones and Ross Barkley to name but a few. You have to question why he can’t.
Meanwhile, the likes of Stones, one of the brightest ball playing centre backs in the country, is suffering. He will never become a fully accomplished defender under Martinez’s tutelage.
Everton are showing all the signs of a Martinez side, playing decent enough looking football but cannot defend at the highest level and the blame has to fall at his door. Look at Wigan, season after season they escaped relegation somehow until it all caught up with them.
They played nice football but showed no defensive steel. It’s the same with Everton, their defenders haven’t suddenly lost their ability, when fully fit Everton have one of the strongest back lines in the league and also have some good young defenders coming through in Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway but they won’t improve defensively under Martinez much. It all boils down to the fact Martinez cannot coach defensively well enough.
Everton may well win the FA Cup this year but that should only paper over the cracks. They won’t go down like Wigan did this time around but who’s to say they won’t be struggling next? They’re definitely on their way with their current league form.
There are fundamental issues with this side that should have pushed on after that first impressive season, their team is certainly better than it was then and yet it looks a shadow of its former self.
An FA Cup win would be a moment to savour for Everton Football Club no doubt, but if they want sustained progress, a developing side that makes use of the brilliant potential its players have and finally crack Europe, Roberto Martinez has to go.