Sport

Martinez’s Everton Challenge

At first glance, it may not have seemed clear why Everton chairman Bill Kenwright thought Roberto Martinez would be the perfect replacement for outgoing manager David Moyes. The Spaniard’s Premier League management record isn’t exactly sparkling; only 38 wins from 152 games, a win rate of merely 25%. In addition to this, Martinez’s far from impressive CV includes his relegation with Wigan Athletic from England’s top flight just last season.

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Photo: evertonfc.com

But Kenwright had his reasons. Moyes was often praised for managing a successful team with a comparatively small transfer budget at his disposal. At Wigan, Martinez also had very little money, but managed to avoid relegation for three seasons, despite all manner of reasons suggesting it should have been impossible. Yet Martinez’s greatest achievement was winning the FA Cup with the Latics, defeating a star-studded Manchester City side in the final in May.

However, Everton under Martinez need to do more than survive. For the past two seasons they have finished above rivals Liverpool in the table – something that the supporters will be desperate to continue. There is also a desire for a first trophy since 1995. Moyes’ side progressed to the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup last season. They lost that match to Wigan.

So, has he got the players to succeed? Undoubtedly, he has taken over a stronger squad. Despite scoring an impressive 47 league goals last season with relatively slim resources, Wigan conceded a staggering 73 goals – the joint worst defensive record in the division, matched only by Reading.

At Everton, he inherits a settled back four of Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, with Tim Howard in goal. He has also raided his former employers to bring in Antolin Alcaraz as a strong back-up option.

However, Baines is undoubtedly the star, and Martinez has already acknowledged his iconic status amongst the fans. Should he succeed in keeping hold of him, and it is imperative that he does, he should have much less of a problem defensively than he did at the DW Stadium. It is likely that the 40-year-old’s primary area of concern may prove to be the attacking side of his new club’s game.

The Toffees struggled in attack last year, comfortably scoring the fewest goals of any side in the top seven. Nikica Jelavic’s excellent form from 2011/2012 deserted him, with Marouane Fellaini scoring the most goals for the club from his position just off the striker.

As a result, the former Swansea manager has also brought front-man Arouna Kone with him from Wigan, and has completed the loan signing of Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona. The 19-year-old was a regular in Spain’s Under-19 European Championship winning side in 2012 and is held in high regard at the Nou Camp.

However, it remains to be seen if this will be enough. Martinez will be hoping Jelavic rediscovers the form that saw him become the quickest player to score 10 goals for Everton for 100 years. Additionally, he will hope Kevin Mirallas can continue the sparkling form he showed at the end of last season.

Martinez brings with him his own impressive style, which he will undoubtedly want the players to embrace. With better players now at his disposal and the backing of his chairman and the fans, there is no reason why he can’t be the solution to Everton’s long wait for a trophy. That is, of course, as long as they don’t endure the slow start for which they have become infamous.

05/08/2013

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