When David Moyes was announced as the heir to Sir Alex Ferguson’s throne at Manchester United, the Everton board were faced with the decision of deciding whether to install a manager in the same vein as the Scotsman or whether to appoint a different type of manager in order to embed a new philosophy on the pitch.
They decided to go with the latter and appoint Wigan’s FA Cup winning manager, Roberto Martinez on a four-year-deal and the last couple of weeks have highlighted why. The current crop of players that have served Everton so well under Moyes are ageing and a fresher mentality to integrate younger players into the first-team was of high importance to the club’s hierarchy and Martinez ticked that particular box upon the interview process.
Everton’s recent EGM also pointed out that the financial outlook, despite the new TV deal and the bonus for finishing sixth in the Premier League coming into play, remains as bleak as ever and they needed a man who had the experience of working on a tight budget but understood the important role the club’s academy will play in the future.
Martinez worked on a relatively small budget with Wigan, introduced a possession-based game that highlighted his tactical acumen with the Latics, and has thus far been constantly linked with bringing three or four of his former players with him on his new journey with the Toffees. This has been met with mixed emotions from the supporters, as granted, Wigan did get relegated from the Premier League, but there’s some logic to why it could pay off for the Blues in the coming seasons.
Everton are entering into the 2013/14 Premier League off the back of a successful end to Moyes’ era at the club, finishing in sixth place and just ten points off UEFA Champions League football – an achievement when considering the budget the teams around him had compared to his own.
But without sounding too downhearted and begrudging of Everton’s performances last campaign, many felt there was a missed opportunity to achieve something big, as 15 draws massively held the team back from finishing in the European places. There is no doubt that Moyes’ Everton were more defence based and would sometimes look to settle for a point, whereas Martinez will want to bring a more attacking approach to the squad and adding more depth is the key to his thinking when he looks into signing former or current Wigan players.
Arouna Kone endured a fruitful first season in English football at the DW Stadium, scoring the same amount of Premier League goals (11) as Everton’s top goalscorer Marouane Fellaini did, whilst playing in a side combating relegation all season. Kone has become the first to join Martinez at Everton from Wigan for a fee believed to around £5m and although he is 29, the Ivory Coast man has the potential to be a reference in order to get the best out of other players around him, proving to be a shrewd piece of business by the club.
Kone didn’t just score goals but he made them. The former Sevilla and Levante forward claimed five assists for Wigan last season and will add more options in attack, as Everton suffered upfront because Nikica Jelavic wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Kone, however, can get the best out of Jelavic, an out-and-out penalty box finisher, and will run and work the channels tirelessly for the Croatian.
Jelavic proved to be a deadly poacher when he arrived from Rangers in January 2012, but as Fellaini was moved further up the pitch last season, the Belgian became the main point of the attack and the 27-year-old Jelavic struggled to get any service at all. Kone’s also a target man and will link up with everybody on the field. And by playing with more creative players at Everton, Kone could match, or perhaps even improve, his goal tally from last season.
The Merseysiders have earned a reputation as one of the toughest sides defensively to break down under Moyes in the league. Goodison Park remains as intimidating as ever for opposing sides to visit but over the last few seasons, there haven’t been many strikers that have terrorised the Everton back four as much as Kone did in the three games he played against his new club last season, scoring two and setting up two when both sides crossed paths.
Antolin Alcaraz, who left Wigan on a free this summer, is understood to be close to following Kone and Martinez and would provide solid back-up in the centre-half position and there is no room to complain at his age, as the Paraguayan is five years younger than Sylvain Distin, who has been a revelation since his move from Portsmouth in 2009.
What formation Martinez plans to implement at Everton depends on how many games Alcaraz will play. The 30-year-old isn’t the quickest but he tactically reads the game very well and will fit into either a back three or a back four. The same goes for the latest player to be linked, Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper Joel Robles.
The 23-year-old spent the second of half of last season at Wigan, keeping three cleansheets in the four FA Cup games he started, and also made nine Premier League appearances during his brief spell. This signing again would be down to depth, as the only competition Tim Howard currently has in the goalkeeping department at Everton is academy shot-stoppers, Mason Springthorpe and Mateusz Taudul.
Although some fans are questioning Martinez’s transfer policy, as signing players connected with Wigan wouldn’t be the biggest indication that the push for European football is to get stronger under his guidance. But he needs to get players he has a rapport with, feels comfortable managing and the same goes for every manager looking to make their stamp on a club.
These players were part of the squad that got relegated with Wigan but on the flip side, they were amongst the group of underdogs that defeated Everton along the way to winning the FA Cup in May. They outclassed Manchester City in the final and their triumph will go down as one of the biggest shocks in the famous trophy’s history, thus the players can’t be all that bad.
Everton’s new captain for the foreseeable future, Phil Jagielka, was originally signed from Sheffield United following the Blades’ relegation to the Championship in the summer of 2007 and is also an England international. Some seem to forget that just because a team has been relegated, it doesn’t necessarily mean every individual player is below par and signing a couple of Wigan players to ensure Everton’s starting eleven can have a rest so they don’t burn out in the closing stages of the season would be a good thing. Plus, it’s not as if these players are going to walk straight into a side that finished twelve places above them.
Martinez also has a budget to stay in line with, and besides a goalkeeper being a must, Alcaraz providing more depth, for a total transfer fee of nothing, doesn’t have many negatives. Robles faces tough competition at Atletico Madrid from Thibaut Courtois and Sergio Asenjo, therefore a switch to Everton would be good for all parties and again, would be okay on the budget.
Everton currently have a strong goalkeeper and defence, thus saving money in these positions is crucial because Martinez will want to buy a few attacking players to make that transition from a rigid structure to a more open and expansive setup quicker. Victor Moses, another ex-Wigan player under Martinez that now plays for Chelsea, could find his chances to play at Stamford Bridge next season slim because of the quality in his position such as, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Marco Van Ginkel, Oscar and Juan Mata.
Moses, 22, scored six goals in his last season under Martinez at Wigan and embodies everything the Spaniard wants to create on the pitch at Everton. The winger made 210 dribble attempts and 911 open play passes in the 2011/12 Premier League campaign and Martinez will need to save a good chunk of his budget if he wants a reunion with Moses, whom cost Chelsea £10m last season, or any other player that would command a fee of that size.
The arrival of Kone is a good start for Everton. To build on that, Martinez will need to try and bring in one or two of his own type of players, maybe a new face in Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona and keep hold of key man, Leighton Baines. There is an air of excitement and anticipation around the club, as everybody wants the Martinez plan to work and signing players he’s previously coached in his time at Wigan wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.