I never really wanted Martinez. Wigan were relegated last season and they were largely awful despite their unexpected cup win. He seemed to have fooled the media into thinking he was working miracles when his record was actually not as good as his predecessors. However, I am pleased to say that Roberto Martinez has quickly and dramatically changed my opinion. He is a man going places and he is taking us with him.
Most people know that I was a big fan of David Moyes and what he brought to Everton. Fortunately, Martinez has hit the ground running and from his opening press conference I have warmed to him more every day. David Moyes was ever the pragmatist but Roberto Martinez seems to be an eternal optimist. His opening statement of making us Champions League contenders was a refreshing change from the, “safety first forty points” attitude I was used to.
Here is a man who much like Moyes when he arrived seems to get it. He understands our history, he embraces it and wants to honour it. What is perhaps more important though is he seems to realise what fans want moving forward. They want a team and club that wins things, that plays good football and aims high. Here is a man who seems to recognise that Nil Satis Nisi Optimum is a motto that fans still think we should be aspiring to.
The transformations at the club have not been stark or dramatic but there has been a clear evolution in both our outlook and how we play. It was clear in pre-season that players used to hitting a man further forward were all of a sudden forced to pass it patiently from back to front. It hasn’t and won’t be instantly effective and I am no doubt not the only one to groan as Jagielka passes it to Distin who passes to Osman who passes it back to Jagielka. It’s slow and right now it’s all too methodical. It also has put us under pressure and led to mistakes. What is happening though is that players are starting, slowly but surely to look more comfortable on the ball. When the ball does go forward everything can happen quickly and at it’s best our new style is capable of cutting teams open incisively and can be very exciting to watch.
However, what most worried me about Martinez is that he would be rigid in his thinking, something he stated early on was not going to be the case. Thankfully he has been good to his word. Here is a Manager who reacts to things that are going wrong on the pitch. When we are under pressure against Chelsea he recognised we needed an outlet and put Mirallas up front so we could hit on the counter. Against West Ham yesterday we struggled to hold the ball up and looked too slow so he brought on the strength of Lukaku and the mobility of Mc Carthy turning the game on it’s head. He makes these changes when he sees the problem, not at a set point in a game in the hope things will turn out in the meantime and the changes are always an attempt to win a game rather than not lose it.
His transfer record also concerned me but again it is a case of so far so good. Robles, Alcaraz and Kone all add depth if debatable quality but it is in the loan market were he has really proved his mettle. Barry is certain to be inspired business and is a perfect complement to a previously soft midfield and Deulofeu looks exciting and raring to go. While the jury is still out on James Mc Carthy, initial signs are that he will add energy to a lethargic, plodding midfield.
Maybe it is looking at his man management that makes me most optimistic. Barkley while still very raw is obviously loving playing under him and is progressing rapidly and it is clear the players already trust him. Fringe players are all of a sudden in the picture and enjoying their opportunity to stake a claim. Players in poor form are being encouraged openly rather than castigated and while it’s all a bit sickly sweet, it’s hard not to be taken in by the whole bubbling ethos of it.
While this season is being described as transitory there is lots to look forward to. While it is still early days it’s hard not to think of what we might achieve with arguably our strongest squad in years. I have always been a glass half full kind of guy but Roberto is slowly turning me into a glass full to overflowing with champagne with a whacking big strawberry in it kind of guy.
Solo El Mejor.