It seems a strange time to be writing that question, but on the eve of the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi final – into which we take a 2-1 lead – there is talk of Everton fans wanting Roberto Martinez sacked.
18 months ago (almost to the day, in fact) there was graffiti daubed on the walls of Goodison Park demanding Martinez be removed from the manager’s job at Everton, but many urged more patience. There were (roughly) equal numbers of comments from fans on both sides of the fence – and those on it too! – but with just 15 wins from the last 50 league games, opinions appear to have swung.
Following Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to struggling Swansea City, the floodgates opened across social media, forums, and in the pubs around Goodison Park and one thing is certain: Roberto Martinez is not a popular figure among Evertonians at the moment.
In his opening season as Everton manager, Martinez shocked many onlookers – both in the stands and beyond – with the way in which he turned Everton from a defensively-obsessed team of hard-working players into a free-flowing attacking machine. Gone were the days of lumping the ball forward and expecting a striker to chase it down a dark alley. Instead we passed it out of defence, we broke with pace, and Seamus Coleman juggling the ball out of defence against Arsenal wasn’t labelled “showboating” in the dugout. The flashes of brilliance we had seen were nurtured and encouraged.
There were lapses, of course. At home to Sunderland on Boxing Day Tim Howard played a goal kick to Leon Osman who’s poor touch allowed Sunderland forward Ki to surge forward into the box and win a penalty from the USA stopper. Then Everton fell to a 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace when fourth place was within our grasp.
But they were just blips, surely? They are forgivable when you’re on the chase for a Champions League place can’t they? To a degree, yes. That degree depending on how well those mistakes are learned from.
But he is increasingly begging the question of whether or not he is learning from the increasing number of “blips.”
When teams press Everton high up the pitch, they score goals. We have been shown this time after time and Swansea was a prime example at the weekend.
John Stones is an accomplished ball-playing defender with an incredibly bright future ahead of him – if he learns from his mistakes – but he was pressured into a sloppy backpass to Tim Howard who hesitated, then panicked, then brought down Andre Ayew to gift Swansea the lead.
The second was gained from pressure on the half-way line (and a strong suspicion of handball) and before we knew it Swansea had scored from their first two attempts on target.
Everton go into their first semi final in 4 years on Wednesday night with a goal advantage against a side we have shown we can beat (at home) or draw with (away) and we should be jumping for joy and pretending we’re not planning trips to Wembley when we secretly are. Instead it feels like a noose around our necks waiting to tighten and eventually plunge us back into the abyss.
We have been handed a kind draw in the FA Cup next weekend, which could see us just two more games away from Wembley. Under previous regimes, even considering our league position (8 points from 5th, the same from 17th) this would have been seen as a relatively good season. Under Roberto Martinez, somehow it feels like the wheels are falling off.
We do, however, have two of the top ten most potent strike partnerships in European football in Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, and Rom and Arouna Kone. This should be an exiting time for Evertonians, but while we have the worst home defensive record in the Premier League, there will always be a nagging doubt that Roberto Martinez can lead us to the glory we so desperately crave.
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