So...the delirium of Martinez's flurry of signings has now settled and we can assess what we make of his workings so far.
It seemed Evertonians were just happy to see some signings in early doors regardless of who they were. It was abundantly clear the new man was trying to recruit players that he knew behind the scenes, hence he brought the three lads who he had managed before. We need to ask ourselves what our reaction would've been had Moyes made those signings.
As frequent readers of this site may be aware, I was not the biggest fan of Moyes but I feel his transfers where always met with a different yardstick than Martinez's. Alcaraz and Roubles would've garnered a lukewarm reaction, I'd imagine from most of the fanbase, and Deulofeo would've excited us given his supposed prodigious talent and Barcelona stamped on his CV.
I just cannot get groovy with this Arouna Kone signing. I first saw him turn out for Ivory Coast in the 2006 World Cup and, admittedly, he looked a talent. However, seven years on, that's a big amount to pay for a 29-year-old and a burden to bestow upon his shoulders. It is clearly not a signing that the masses are used to from Everton, given it's not in alignment with Moyes' transfer policy to buy older players, with little resale value, for hard cash.
What does impress me, mind, is how Martinez is identifying areas of the squad that need improvement. Alcaraz and Roubles provide both cover and competition for next to nothing. Deulofeo, in terms of upfront fee, cost nothing, will invigorate the midfield/wings and provide genuine creativity and could prove to be a match-winner if he settles. Kone provides competition upfront for Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe.
All of a sudden, in one fell three-day swoop of the transfer market, provided there are few or no departures, the squad looks considerably healthier. We have genuine options up front and on the wings and competition in a much-needed area; the defence.
Two of Everton's prominent problems in the last few years of the Moyes regime were the leaky, weak, clumsy defence and the inability to break teams down. Clean sheets were antiques from a by-gone era inherent in the make-up of post-Lescott Everton (how many times did we see teams counter attack and one of Distin/Heitinga/Jagielka/Hibbert/Neville/Howard make some daft mistake and give away a goal?). Howard started to become a hindrance and Moyes struggled to strike a balance between the centre-backs to make Everton intimidating again.
In a stretch from December 2007 and April 2009, even when we struggled to retain the ball, Everton looked definitively solid. Jagielka was drafted in to cover as Yobo was due to be on ACON duty and, after two back-to-back impressive displays at Upton Park, they never looked back. If Lescott and Jagielka did concede it was almost a shock. Lescott leaving was the start of the fall of Moyes' empire.
At home against lesser teams the other problem of the toothless attack arose. Match-after-match we'd either enjoy the lionshare of possession but struggle to convert it into a chance/goal or we would score, but only one, and would be pegged back because of the aforementioned problem.
We only took 29 points from a possible 42 against non-top 4 opposition at Goodison last year. Against Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal we took 7 points from 12 at Goodison and only Chelsea beat us.
We cannot possibly say that Martinez has identified the areas of the squad that need to be improved. Results considerably improved when Donovan provided his services, meaning we had the natural pace and width to open teams up at home and stretch them. The defence and goalkeeper position will be under more scrutiny than in previous years and we have options at the other end of the pitch as well.
Martinez impresses me with his all-around demeanour and talk in the interviews I've seen. In one particular interview, I believe in the United States, he alludes to the different systems and styles of play he may need to adapt dependent on who we are facing. This excites me. Under Moyes, I was under the impression his system was his system and seldom did he change it.
Whether it was Beattie, AJ, Yakubu, Beckford, Saha, Jo...the strikers were pretty much deployed in the same way, in terms of hurrying the defenders, running the channels and anticipating the knock-ons from Cahill/Fellaini. Obviously, each striker offered different attributes to the role but that wasn't Beattie's game, it wasn't Saha's game and it wasn't Jelavic's game.
Moyes asking the midfield to harass and win the second balls and his all-around percentage football were endemic to the whole regime and, in my opinion, was one of the reasons Everton hit a glass ceiling under his tenure. Obviously, we also need to look at the heavy external investment in other clubs in contrast to Everton's finances but that would be for another discussion.
It is my firm and deep-rooted belief that Moyes performed excellently in the first 7 years of his role but struggled after that. Even after the fall-out of Lescott, Moyes still had the squad to finish fourth. He built a squad capable of finishing in the Champions League but it was he himself who held Everton back in the final few seasons.
His strength was finding bargains in the transer market and even though there were a few poor signings in there, my main gripe was that he never identified the areas of the squad that needed immediate attention. As I've mentioned in another thread, one summer he went after Moutinho, failed, and then went for Fellaini (even though they are two vastly different players). Or how he went for Leroy Fer in January, but then when he missed out he decided to part with some of his money for John Stones instead (who became the fourth out-and-out right back at the club). Sometimes it seemed he was just on the lookout for good players as opposed to what Everton needed at the time.
This is where I feel Martinez differs, for better or worse. The proof will be in the pudding. I expect a slow start to Martinez's tenure. I don't think the defence will be as titanic as the Lescott-Jagielka union of 2007-09 but an improvement on the last few seasons would be highly appreciated. Hopefully Martinez can identify what makes Jelavic tick in terms of style-of-play and service and get the best out of him to revive his Everton career (whether that be playing with support of Kone or as the lone wolf again). I'll make a prediction Everton will finish 7th again next year, but then hopefully we'll start to see steady improvement as the squad settles in the next few years.
As an aside, I don't know if this was scheduled while Moyes was at the club or not but it's a refreshing change to see Everton play good teams in pre-season (Real Madrid and Juventus) as opposed to farmers (Melbourne Heart, Perth Glory etc.)
*Disclaimer: Moyes probably would have been more proactive in the market this year with the new TV deal money but who can say for sure?