Tonight’s FA Cup third round tie with West Ham is a vital one for Everton boss Roberto Martinez
Everton host West Ham in the third round of the FA Cup this evening at Goodison Park.
The game could be a vital one with pressure mounting on Everton boss Roberto Martinez, after five defeats in their last six games in all competitions.
With the Toffees struggling in the bottom half of the table, there is now speculation that there Spanish boss could actually lose his job if the Toffees suffer defeat against the high-flying Hammers.
That may seem unlikely, but Everton’s current form is that of a relegation battler, not a team challenging for the Champions League spots like last season.
Everton impressed last season, as Martinez merged his passing, attacking football with the more pragmatic style of David Moyes previous regime. The mixture was nearly good enough to clinch a top four finish, but in the end the Toffees ran out of steam and finished fifth, although they did claim a club-record 72 points in the process.
What was striking about Martinez last season was his willingness to adapt his tactics and even his style of play. He never moved completely away from passing football, but at times he was willing to go more direct.
This season Martinez has basically stuck with the same tactics all season and has said that he will not change his football philosophy. Here is the thing though Roberto, your team have not been playing anything like the style they did last season.
Teams have found Everton out this season, because they have not been applying the same high-tempo, pressing game that they produced last season. A concerning issue would be the fact that Martinez is too stubborn, or unable to adapt his team’s style to get back to winning ways.
Martinez’s stubbornness got Wigan, a much smaller club relegated in his final season with the Latics. They may have also won the FA Cup that season, but the Spaniard’s stubbornness saw the Latics relegated to the Championship.
Martinez inherited a very good defence from Moyes, well organised, well-drill unit that did not concede many goals. Last season the Toffees had the third best defensive record in the Premier League and still managed to play attractive football.
This season the defence has fallen apart. The Merseysider’s have the joint-second worst defensive record in the league with bottom of the table Leicester and only QPR have conceded more goals than Martinez’s team. It is an amazing turnaround for a team who looked so solid in previous years.
Critics may say that the likes of Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin aging legs are the problem, but I would argue that it is Martinez’s complete lack of defensive coaching ability that is costing Everton.
Maybe the Spaniard should invest in a defensive coach, who can concentrate on fixing the glaring deficiencies in the Toffees backline. In recent years Everton have had the likes of Alan Stubbs and David Weir on their coaching staff.
Maybe Martinez needs to hire a coach in a similar vein to the clubs two former-centre-backs, because even the keystone cops would be ashamed to be associated with the current Toffees backline.
When everybody is fully-fit, Everton have the strongest squad of players that they have had for a long time. The only problem is that they have had more injuries than a blind motorbike stunt team.
The number of key players to have picked-up injuries this season is a telling factor in their terrible league campaign so far. Currently the likes of Tim Howard, James McCarthy, Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Leon Osman are all sidelined.
Arguably only Howard and McCarthy would be first choice at this moment in time, but the Europa League and injuries have somehow destroyed the Everton squad.
Howard is a massive loss, as back-up Joel Robles looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights at times. The former-Wigan keeper is not even in the same league as Howard. The USA international is not perfect. However, he is pretty solid last line of defence.
McCarthy is another vital player for Everton. Along with Gareth Barry he formed a solid barrier in front of the Everton defence last season, which was hard to break down. The former-Wigan star was the legs and the energy of that duo and Barry was the brain.
Without McCarthy beside him this season Barry has looked poor and his form has dipped below last seasons.
There seems to be a lack of confidence throughout the Everton squad. The Toffees desperately need a victory against West Ham, which they are odds of 11/10 to achieve. The fact that the Toffees are favourites for victory is probably based on home advantage.
Everton have also claimed victory over the Hammers in the last five meetings between the two teams in all competitions. Everybody connected with the club will be praying that becomes six when the final whistle is blown at Goodison Park.
Can Roberto Martinez turn Everton’s season around?