Just what has happened to Everton Football Club this season ? That is the question most Evertonians have asked themselves over the last few months as events have come together to create a Perfect Storm in which we are at the moment struggling to overcome. This season should have been the season when we kicked on, the season when we showed everybody that we meant business and that last season was just the beginning of our resurgence however, that has simply not happened and instead we are all quite perplexed by what we have witnessed.
Despite Pre-Season itself appearing a little unorganised (to put it kindly), Everton began their summer business in the transfer market by securing loanee Gareth Barry on a 3 year deal after his spell at Manchester City had expired. Then fellow loanee Romelu Lukaku was secured on permanent deals which the majority of the supporters had screamed out for them to do. We smashed our transfer record to bring the highly rated Belgium International to Goodison on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell last time out despite the press linking him with everyone BUT Everton. We also added highly rated Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic to our ranks as well as ageing Superstar Samuel Eto’o and gave new deals to Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and John Stones. We didn’t renew Lacina Traore’s loan spell and missed out on securing a second spell at the club for Barcelona starlet Gerard Deulofeu but despite that people believed we had a stronger squad than last time out so confidence was high amongst supporters. Sadly, at the moment that confidence has drained away to almost desperation at times for results to improve quickly.
In fact to find the reason why so many fans are so massively disappointed you have to go back to July 1st 2013 when Roberto Martinez took the reigns at Everton succeeding David Moyes who had spent 11 years at the helm.
Martinez breezed through the doors at Finch Farm looking so happy and confident and he had us swooning over that Spanish accent and soon Solo Mejor and Sin Miedo were phrases we began to adopt readily whilst the amount of people wearing Brown Shoes increased massively. I have to admit that I wasn’t a full advocate of Roberto getting the job when we were linked with him on the basis that he never seemed able to solve his defensive side with Wigan shipping 275 goals in his 4 seasons at the helm.
However, once I heard his first press conference he had my full backing and I have to say that he surprised me last season when he performed absolutely fantastically. All of a sudden we had a manager at the helm that was bold, brave and seemed to take the shackles off us that the previous regime had entrenched in us when coming up against the perceived ‘Big Teams’ , this fella wanted us to be ‘Arrogant’ against them which we were and we all lapped it up after victories against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal showed that we could mix it with them.
In fact so smooth was the transition that everyone seemed to just accept that we were going to be in with the chasing pack almost as guarantees due to the swashbuckling displays and the tight possession game we played. Nobody once questioned whether that period had been too smooth and whether we had a fall coming our way as we breezed to 72 points and should really have secured a top 4 finish in truth.
So onto what appeared to be on the face of it the most disorganised Pre Season I can certainly remember. Our gaffer spent a large part of the summer out in Brazil as ESPN’s expert (something which he had also done the previous summer it should be noted) which annoyed some fans. Players returned at different times due to World Cup duty but one thing I cannot understand is the amount of time Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas were given when you consider that Per Mertesacker and Mehmet Ozil who reached the World Cup Final were back in Pre Season before our Belgians ?! Then we had a situation were we were unsure who we were playing as well as playing a game at Tranmere against Celta Vigo ?!! Add to that the fact that we also failed to win a single pre season game and perhaps this season isn’t really the shock it feels as though it is ! All this just appeared to be a bit disorganised and for me it certainly affected the way we started the season.
It started at Leicester City who for me on the day were really poor, we led twice but in the 2nd half we were at walking pace for most of the game when we should have gone to kill the game off, perhaps we weren’t fit enough but then the inevitable happened and we conceded a really poor goal to throw away two points. A week later and despite playing really well for 85 minutes we looked dead on our feet and conceded two late goals to throw another two points away against Arsenal. From that game I don’t really believe we have fully recovered, the fact is that we should have been sitting there on 6 points and we had only two and everybody was massively frustrated.
The truth is since then we haven’t really played well, there have been spells but apart from Aston Villa at home we haven’t turned in a really good display in the Premier League and that is worrying. To be sitting here now on 21 points from 20 games is massively disappointing, in fact that return is shocking given how talented the squad is. The fact that we have conceded 35 goals already when we only conceded 39 all last season is another big shock, or is it?
In the summer a new centre half was on a lot of Blues wish list despite us having four centre backs. However, in that four are 37 year old Sylvain Distin and injury prone 32 year old Antolin Alcaraz, that leaves 32 year old Phil Jagielka and 20 year old John Stones. Now the latter two are easily our best partnership and that would have been fine if everybody had stayed fit but that simply has not been the case ! In fairness supporters worries that this could happen were not born out of wild fantasy but in the world of probability were a 37 year old’s form may drop in the relentless pace of English football and were a 32 year old Centre Back that had hardly been available in his first season may do the same again and pick up injuries, they were right to be concerned on both accounts !
Add the above to a Goalkeeper that returned from the World Cup a National hero and either allowed that to go to his head or simply put he peaked and is now on his way down ! Tim Howard splits Blues at the best of times but this season that split is now replaced by a belief that he needs replacing or at least a massive kick up the behind. Statistically he is the worst goalkeeper in the Premier League this season and to be honest you would be hard pressed to find someone that would argue against those statistics at the moment. In the past Howard has produced some brilliant stunning saves and has been a good solid keeper, yes he has made mistakes but most keepers make mistakes. Personally, I feel that his biggest problem has been that he has never really had a fight on his hands to be Everton’s number one and that for me has meant that he has lost his edge as every player needs to keep working hard to keep their place, when that goes so does the players edge. In the past he has made errors ( I still haven’t forgiven him for Frank Lampard’s winner in the Cup Final) but has recovered from them but this time out apart from Wolfsburg at home he has been really poor. Something like 50% of the shots he has had at him have resulted in goals and that simply cannot be allowed to continue. Even when he has made some saves he has pushed the ball straight to opposition forwards to score Spurs away and QPR at home just off the top of my head. However, Tim is now out for 6 weeks so it is time for our keeper to step up !
Joel Robles looked okay at Wigan Athletic and played in the Cup Final making a couple of great saves on the way to that famous victory. When Martinez bought him I thought that Howard had a genuine challenger for the first time but obviously that has not really been the case. Some supporters don’t like Robles and to be honest I have found that a bit harsh given he’s hardly played although the goal he conceded against Krasnodar was like going in goal in a 5-a-side when you don’t want to use your hands in case it stings !!! On the plus side he is a young keeper and a big presence but he just doesn’t look ready and could probably do with a loan spell to get some games under his belt. This is why I think that Roberto Martinez will be looking to bring in a goalkeeper this month, probably on loan to plug the gap and someone like Mark Schwarzer might have done us a job until the summer. The fact is he is we need a new number one asap and I would be tempted to go to Cardiff City and get David Marshall as for me he was the best keeper to visit Goodison Park last season. Ideally, we’d get Petr Cech but that’s not going to happen. I feel that a goalkeeper should be screaming at his defenders pulling them into position he is their eyes and our two goalies don’t shout enough and that causes problems at times and costs us cheap goals.
The ease at which we have conceded goals this season has been shocking and that is the first thing that has to change of we are to turn around this poor run of form we are in at the moment. The team needs to become difficult to score against and if that means we are not as attacking then so be it but you need a platform from which to play and we simply aren’t giving the team that at the moment.
As well as conceding too many goals we have simply stopped scoring enough goals to give us a chance to get points from games. Last season we were free scoring and created 20+ chances per game on average, this season we are down to about 10+ per game and it is costing us points. Players have to step up to the plate and start taking chances when they come along like Mirallas right on half time against Stoke or Naismith at 0-0 against Hull when his mis-kicked ! Lukaku has to step up his game also as he is simply not offering us enough at the moment, forget £28m etc he has to give us more, he has the ability but is too weak at times when last season he looked like a monster.
The truth is though there are many reasons why we are struggling this season and they have all come together to create this ‘Perfect Storm’ that we are in the middle of at the moment. Below I will list some of the things I believe has hampered us this season :
Whether you like him or not, whether you back him fully or believe he isn’t the real deal you cannot get away from the fact that Roberto Martinez has made mistakes this season that have contributed to Everton’s struggles.
One of the first errors I believe Bobby made was for the home game against Crystal Palace when after wins at West Bromwich Albion and an excellent 4-1 win against Wolfsburg he chose to leave out Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith when they were flying. It was at a time when we were trying to build momentum and we knew what Palace would do and instead of crawling all over them he disrupted the team that turned in a disjointed display and gave Palace a 3-2 victory that knocked us off out stride. To make matters worse he then didn’t use either player for the Capital One defeat at Swansea a few days later !
That disrupting of the team has been something that Bobby has done frequently this season and I don’t think it has helped us at all in my opinion. In Europe we have been great but in the Premier League he has changed it using tiredness as the excuse yet 33 year old Gareth Barry plays 90 minutes every week !
Bobby has also made some errors with switching players into other positions that they simply aren’t comfortable in none more so than Ross Barkley. Last season Barkley was the fulcrum of our team and with Lukaku they produced an edge of your seat partnership that terrified the Premier League this season that has been disrupted and it hasn’t helped us one bit ! Get Ross in behind the striker and if that means leaving out Naismith and Eto’o then so be it ! Barkley is better than both in that role and shouldn’t be put elsewhere when he’s the best at that role.
Martinez has surprised me at times this season by going against what he preaches on occasions. There has been opportunities to play younger players when injuries have arisen but Bobby has played players out of position rather than play the younger lads. We had a situation where Tony Hibbert played left back rather than playing Luke Garbutt and why Tyias Browning hasn’t been given a go at either full back or centre back has surprised me. Although, to be fair Martinez sees him every day in training !
Finally, the rumours that some of the players have fallen out with the boss are easy to believe when you see some of the performances that we have witnessed this season. The Distin incident after Swansea affected some relationships but even if they all hated Bobby, which they don’t by the way, they still should be playing for us the fans and the shirt. Phil Jagielka was at pains the other day to insist that the players fully back the manager so it’s now up to them to show us all that they do.
Despite those examples I think that Roberto Martinez is still the man to lead us forward to a bright future. Calls for his head are ridiculous to be honest as he is a young man learning his trade, he will make mistakes and as long as he learns from them we will be fine. He will have learnt more this season than the whole of the last and I believe that if he can get the defence sorted then we will be back in business asap !
The injuries we have suffered this season have quite frankly been ridiculous! I’ve never known anything like it, we have now had every one of our players injured at some time or other this season and it is only January !
It started with Ross Barkley 2 days before the season began, then Romelu Lukaku hurt his toe and it bothered him for 3 months. Losing James McCarthy and John Stones has really affected us and we even lost Darron Gibson again after a jaunt with his National team ! It is crazy, Mirallas, Coleman, Barry and Naismith were all missing for long periods but you would never know it if you listened to the media who hardly ever mention it ! In fact when we went down to Southampton we had 6 players missing and they had 4 and it was reported as Everton lost to injury hit Southampton !!!
It has gotten so bad now that Justin Bieber only wore the Everton kit and left the tournament he was playing in on crutches !!!
In all seriousness though it would be remiss to ignore just how many injuries we have had this season and to believe that it hasn’t affected us. I was told the other day that 4 players aren’t even training they are just getting through game to game because they are carrying knocks ! If we can get some players fully fit then the intensity and results will improve.
You cannot lose 6 out of 8 games without having players out of form. The problem I have with us this season is that the majority of players have played well below their level and that is a problem. Baines and Coleman look like shadows of their former selves as do Lukaku and Barkley. Barry and McCarthy haven’t been the same and Mirallas continues to be hot and cold. Add to that McGeady who is fast turning into Peter Beagrie, a defence that can’t defend and a massive lack of confidence and it’s no wonder we look like X1 lads who have never met before. If we can string a couple of wins together then the form will come flowing back and with that the performances will improve.
No Plan B ?!
I have thrown this in merely because it gets bounced around so often. Has anyone actually seen a Plan B by the way ? Is it called that ?
Anyway, I think the problem is that at times we are simply just too slow in moving the ball about the pitch. We aren’t blessed with any real pace and that is certainly what Martinez needs to address asap but we are also taking too many touches at the moment but that is indicative of our confidence currently. The people complaining at the moment are the same ones that lauded us last season for our possession. I think we just need to quicken up what we do and when we get the opportunity we should be shooting. Personally, I would set my team targets like 10 crosses, 20 attempts, 500 passes etc to ensure that they have a specific aim rather than just pass pass pass.
I think we will get there let’s just speed things up and oh yeah PRACTICE SOME CORNERS !!!!!
Incorrect Refereeing Decisions
Now I really don’t like referees at the best of times but this season they have been absolutely woeful ! We have had some shocking decisions go against us this season that have totally affected the result of the game.
To name but a few, Sunderland away, Gomez should have seen red as should Connor Wickham but neither did. Tottenham away, handball from Lukaku’s header last minute should have been a penalty. Manchester City should have had both Magala and Fernando dismissed in the 1st half then were awarded a soft penalty. Stoke at home, penalty on Mirallas (albeit soft), Walters should have been off, soft penalty awarded to Bojan and how both Glen Whelan and Charlie Adam stayed on the pitch was beyond me ! Papas Cisse straight red card not given then equalises and even when we got away with something when Hull should have had a penalty so should Steven Naismith although apparently kicking someone in the head in the box is legal !
However, we can’t do anything about that and I have to be honest it will only get worse as the standard of refereeing is horrendous in this country !
All of the above have come together to create this Perfect Storm that has totally derailed us this season, anything that could go wrong has done. We have even had supporters claiming that maybe we should be selling the likes of Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman to ensure we have the funds to ensure we survive but there are still enough games left for us to mount a decent run in the second half of the season. We also have to FA Cup and the Europa League to go for so if Bobby can weave his magic we may have a season to look back on with fond memories !
We are now into the winter transfer window and on my shopping list would be a Goalkeeper, Centre Back and a Winger. That would freshen the squad up and give the fans the belief that we can continue forward on this journey. This was never meant to be a quick fix, David Moyes left us with an ageing squad that was going to take 4/5 windows to correct. I can understand some fans being worried and I believe that everyone should be a bit worried but we also need to remember that we are 18 months into a philosophy that requires better than what we have. We may have to be patient but I am confident that Roberto will improve us and if we get behind him and the team our fans can be quite imposing.
As the saying goes :
‘The darkest hour is just before the dawn’
Let’s get behind Roberto and the boys starting on Tuesday and let’s hope that that is the platform to improved results. Let us also hope that we now start to have some good fortune as I am told it evens itself out over the course of a season. If that is the case then we are in for one tremendous finish to this campaign. Stay strong Blues !!