Let’s talk statistics and tactics – or rather, let’s not. This is just a fan’s viewpoint of the strengths and drawbacks of Everton’s style of play, courtesy of their current manager, Roberto Martinez. I’ve been watching Martinez from his days as a manager of Wigan Athletic, and the style of play he demands, and the type of players he likes doing the job, seems to have remained generally consistent and solid since his final couple of seasons in Wigan.
– Rotatory front three, with two dribblers on the side
Martinez likes dribblers in the two side of front three; types of players that could make spaces on their own by beating their marksman with pace and trickery. In his Wigan days, it was the likes of Jordi Gomez, Victor Moses, or even Callum McManaman in season 12-13, his final season as Wigan manager; that is virtually identical to his front-three strategy in Everton. Players like Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pineaar, Aiden McGeady, and Romelu Lukaku (yes, I don’t see him as a front man) are natural dribblers, preferring to play with the ball and cutting inside from wider positions. The other front man serves as a pivot point from which the two dribblers can revolve around. Steven Naismith has been playing this integral part of Everton lately, switching positions with the front two and dropping into spaces created by them. However, Naismith’s style of play is different from his Wigan season 12-13 counterpart, Arouna Kone, whose tendency to stay up front and hustle with the opponent defenders brings a different effect to Martinez’s game. It is therefore, no surprise that Martinez brought Kone to Everton after his managerial switch, in order to bring another layer of depth into his core tactics – it’s just an unfortunate run of injuries that have kept Kone from delivering such effect.
Everton’s Passing Network in Season 13-14
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– Full-backs? No – More Like Wingers
The type of “full backs” Martinez has been deploying in both his Wigan and Everton days share a common trait; they’ve all had experiences as wingers. And the effect shows in Everton’s recent games. The likes of Leighton Baines, Seamus Colman, and Brian Oviedo all have tendency to push up the field, and all of them also have noticeable dribbling and even finishing skills, something that are not necessarily prominent among full backs. No, they are not fullbacks. They are borderline wingers with a defensive edge, joining in the front three in attacking the opponents and suffocating spaces out of them. Here is the main strength of Everton under Martinez; they have one of the greatest attacking threats in the Premier League teams, with good dribblers and crossers to make an ample amount of goal-scoring opportunities.
And yet, here also lies their main weakness. Because of the attacking nature of the full backs, the defensive responsibilities lie heavily on the two midfield players and the two central defenders. In his Wigan days, Martinez anticipated this weakness by deploying three central defenders in certain matches; in Everton, such approach has not yet been shown, for reasons I don’t know. As such, Everton had more chances allowed with Martinez as a manager than they had been under David Moyes’ management. The fact that the first-choice players in these defensive roles – Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, Gareth Barry, James McCarthy, and even Tim Howard – are all in early-to-mid-30’s except for McCarthy has been an extremely concerning point for me, for I feel their relatively lack of pace and durability due to their age has been a factor of Everton’s recent slump and their tendency to concede late goals in matches.
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Thankfully, Martinez has been working on the drawbacks of his tactics. His attempts to inject new blood into the aging defensive positions through the likes of Muhamed Besic, John Stones, and Joel Robles are positive signs that he is aware of the shortcomings of his squad, and he will surely look to bring in other young players in his squad as well, to undergo a period of transition that seems to become increasingly necessary for the club.
Overall, it is down to mixed fortunes and a period of transition that factored into Everton’s recent slump, rather than the manager himself. I am not worried about the claims that Martinez has run out of ideas to push the club forward; if given enough time and resources for him to perfect his playing ways, he will undoubtedly drive Everton to bigger and better times.
“MNF – Roberto Martinez’s Genius”
“EPL 2014-2015 Season Preview – Everton FC”
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