Manager Merry Go Round Part 2: Roberto Martinez to Everton

July 2, 2013 in Features, Premier League

When Sky Sports shoved a camera in Bill Kenwright’s face on the day David Moyes agreed to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager, it reminded me of that stereotypical girl in American teen movies who can’t believe she lost the title of prom queen to the ‘nerdy yet beautiful when she takes of her glasses’ heroine. It was an expression of complete disbelief, of someone who thought they had all the cards getting sidelined by an event they never saw coming to pass. Kenwright clearly thought he had Moyes in a corner. Sure, Moyes was running down his contract, but no big clubs were going to come for him, and then Moyes would sign a new deal through sheer lack of options. Relax, he had this.


Then Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager, and the metaphorical Acme piano dropped on Kenwright’s head. He probably knew he’d lost Moyes the moment of the announcement. So his leniency in allowing Moyes to run down his deal meant that he had to stand there powerlessly as the manager he clearly wanted to keep forever walked out free. Roberto Martinez was the most likely candidate from minute one to replace Moyes, if not perhaps the absolute best. Talk of Vitor Pereira and Ralf Rangnick perhaps would have got Everton’s more ambitious fans more excited, but Martinez has probably earned his shot at a club with more resources than Wigan. That said, I have reservations about his ability to take Everton forward.

He certainly has his attributes. Martinez plays great football at all costs, and while Everton played some fantastic stuff at times last season, there was an innate negativity about Moyes that sometimes could hinder the quality of football they could play, and it’s safe to say that won’t be the case with Martinez. Everton have top quality technical footballers on their books like Mirallas, Baines and even Gibson, and I’d expect the absolute most to be gotten out of these players. No more playing Phil Neville in centre midfield, so to speak. Martinez also finds value-for-money transfer gems like nobody’s business, buying players for pennies and then selling them on for double, triple their price, something that no doubt attracted Kenwright. Of course, at Everton, their hand will be stronger, and the requirement to sell players would be considerably lessened than at Wigan, so perhaps Martinez could build a team in a way he couldn’t at Wigan, with Whelan selling players from under him at every opportunity.


Having said that, it would be concerning to me that Martinez has not only been unable to build a good defence at Wigan in his entire time there, but also has the reckless tendency to play 3-5-2 in the Premier League, a formation that can only work with an extremely strong and adept back three; given that he knew Wigan’s defence was so weak, this abandon basically guaranteed that if Wigan didn’t play to the utmost of their ability, they would lose. He put attacking football above all other concerns, and in many ways, this was what got Wigan relegated in the end. They just weren’t good enough to play like that against everyone, and Martinez perhaps put his own reputation and name above what was actually best for his club.

You can counter that by saying Wigan had defenders injured, Ramis etc.. But one only has to watch the FA Cup final, where Wigan had practically zero members of their first choice defence fit, yet played an immensely disciplined, positionally cautious game. This indicated that it was more a matter of Martinez choosing to throw his defensive responsibilities to the wind rather than being incapable of doing anything about it, and that would concern me. Of course, you can say Everton’s defence is much stronger and will carry him in any deficiencies he may have in that area, but Everton found clean sheets hard to come by last season, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Martinez will exacerbate that problem.

I do believe Martinez has earned his chance at a club like Everton though, and am fully prepared for him to show that it was Wigan’s limitations rather than his own that caused last season. He is a good Premier League manager, I’m just not sure he is who a club hires if they finished 6th last season and want to push for 4th this season. It seems, ironically, like an overly cautious choice. Everton will put on some great displays next season, but Martinez hasn’t proved he’s capable of consistency yetm so that would be the main challenge. They’ll be nowhere near the bottom and I’d expect him to keep them in the top half, but I would think in a more modest upper mid-table position rather than the heights Moyes reached.

Will he get the sack next season? No.

Will he do better than the last guy? No.

Will he achieve his targets? If the target is Champions League football, then no. Quality football and maintaining top half positioning, then yes.

Is he a good appointment? It’s a solid appointment, but not one to take them to the next level.


Prognosis: Slack has to be cut for Martinez, being that it’s his first season at the club, but he’ll be solid enough. There’ll be a few grandstanding days and I expect him to do better against the big clubs than Moyes did, but I’d say the absolute best that can be hoped for is maintaining their current status.