With another mandatory international break now in full flow, every football fan across the country is enduring a painful couple of days without seeing their beloved side play regularly whilst the attention has been turned to England’s bid to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer.
During the agonising wait for league action to be resumed, supporters will spend this period thinking, analysing and discussing how the first two months and a bit have gone for their sides in their respective campaigns and that is no different for the thousands of Everton devotees, who were introduced to a new man on the Goodison Park touchline in June after 11-years of David Moyes’ unwavering presence.
Roberto Martínez, fresh from winning the FA Cup with Wigan Athletic last season, was the man chosen to replace the departing Scotsman and after a return of just one defeat in the opening seven Premier League games so far – against a Manchester City side who have spent well over a billion pounds since Abu Dhabi’s takeover in 2008 – the easily loveable Spaniard has already excited his newly-inherited passionate fanbase in many brilliant ways, as he begins to lay down impressive foundations in order to build the club in his widely respected image.
After seeing one manager leave after what felt like an eternity to some fans, with him being replaced by another of a completely different ilk, Everton were uncharacteristically busy shoppers in the transfer market this summer with seven new faces being recruited.
A trio of players formerly affiliated with Martínez’s Wigan regime were signed in the early stages of pre-season in Arouna Koné, Antolín Alcaraz and Joel Robles, whilst Gerard Deulofeu – an exciting youngster from FC Barcelona – joined them shortly after on a season-long loan from the Spanish giants.
The frenzied Transfer Deadline Day brought the other three new arrivals in Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku, whilst there were also goodbyes issued to long-standing players Victor Anichebe (West Bromwich Albion) and Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) who both parted the club on the same night.
In the first seven games, Everton drew their initial three against Norwich City (2-2), West Brom (0-0) and Cardiff City (0-0) before going onto win the next three in a row over Chelsea (1-0), West Ham United (2-3) and Newcastle United (3-2) – losing only to Manuel Pellegrini’s City 3-1 last weekend.
Martínez’s men did, however, disappointingly bow out of the Capital One Cup in the third round, losing 2-1 away at Fulham after previously prevailing against Stevenage 2-1 after extra-time in the round before.
Whilst Moyes may now not be held in as high regard as he previously was at Everton, due to his pursuit of star duo Fellaini and Leighton Baines throughout the course of the summer which tremendously upset his former admirers, the ex-Preston chief’s legacy which saw him morph the Toffees from perennial strugglers into an established top-eight side in, if not the best, certainly the most gruelling league in the world mustn’t be understated all of a sudden.
It was always going to be a difficult job for Martínez to take, when considering the extremely weighty standards his predecessor set, but whilst a small number of convinced cynics still believe the jury is out, a wider amount of people see the bigger picture and can understand why the bulk of Everton supporters have bought into his charming nature and already love him all the way down his infectious grin and brown shoes.
For the future of a football club, you need to stamp a clear way of playing and a clear identity and that doesn’t happen overnight. That comes from the understanding of the players firstly, but as importantly, you need to have the fans to understand and to be patient in order to see the evolution of that team.
Martinez explained his philosophy in an interview ahead of Wigan’s triumphant FA Cup final last season
Martínez’s sparkle in press conferences is captivating and the way he speaks about relying on the talent of players to win football games first and foremost is emblematic of his beautiful style of football, in which Everton are already ahead of schedule in terms of adapting to.
He would often end his Wigan matchday programme notes with the Spanish term ‘sin miedo’ meaning “without fear” and that is exactly how Everton are now playing in his fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, with passing accuracy and dribbling stats being heavily amplified amongst many others under the strategic instructions he deployed at both Swansea City and Wigan during his career.
So far in 2013/14, Everton under Martínez are averaging 14.7 dribbles per game compared to just 5.3 under Moyes last season – with only Tottenham Hotspur attempting more – and they have also increased their number of short passes to almost 70 more per game (448) whilst currently being the most fouled team in the league (104 times); although they were two points better off (14) at this stage of the season last year under Moyes.
The 40-year-old has been meticulous when living up to his word about how he couldn’t wait to “become soak” with everything it means to be involved with the Merseysiders at his unveiling, as he revealed to the Independent newspaper in August that he analysed a three-disc DVD set all about the history of the club within the first initial weeks of his tenure.
Martínez’s due diligence when assessing the squad he has at his disposal was also evident through his signings because he added in areas that have been scarce in the Everton ranks over the years such as the goalkeeping (Robles), central midfield (Barry, McCarthy) and the striking (Koné, Lukaku) positions.
Everton’s overall appeal has improved because of their new eye-catching and possession-heavy philosophy and that encouragement is helping the supporters become prouder of their club each day, with a chant aimed towards Martínez and their talented squad called “Allez, Allez, Allez Oh” in the midst of renowned blue smoke signifying this – whilst a recent local survey also revealed that 98% of fans believe the style of play has gotten better this season.
He’s trying to mix youth with experience, the home-grown with the big signings and whilst the whole squad is playing a part in helping Martínez get the coveted patience from the fans towards his promising era in charge, certain players have stepped up more than others under his stewardship so far and it’s those individuals that have helped ensure that the tensions at the club are more relaxed this season yet incredibly invigorating at the same time.
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Matthew is currently studying a Journalism degree at Liverpool John Moores University and writes Player Focuses, Team Focuses, Player Analyses, Transfer Reports, Scout Reports and much more for EPL Index. He is also a writer for FTBpro and an Everton juror every two to three weeks for the Liverpool ECHO newspaper.
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