Everton succumb to a dismal 2-1 home defeat against Swansea on Sunday, with England centre-back John Stones having a game to forget.
The Toffees have the worst home defensive record in the top-flight this season, which is a quite damning statistic for Roberto Martinez and his team.
Stones is regarded as one of the brightest young centre-backs in the European game, linked with moves to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea in the past month.
For all the talk about his great promise Stones has been a big part of the Everton problems this season.
Roberto Martinez’s philosophy still not perfected
Everton’s Spanish boss Martinez style is to play out from the back, which is fine if you have the right players and the man in charge has actually perfected that way of play. Martinez has never quite perfected his playing style, as his teams have always conceded far too many goals.
His philosophy is a double edged sword, as Wigan fans found out. The Latics won the FA Cup and were relegated in the same season. Everton hired Martinez on the strength of his attacking philosophy.
When the Spaniard arrived at the club he had a solid defensive base to build on. That defence was built by David Moyes, who ironically I suspect wanted to build a more attacking and attractive team, but never really had the tools to do so.
Martinez’s first campaign saw the Toffees achieve their highest ever points total, playing good football and being relative solid in defence. The last season and a half that defensive solidarity has disappeared and injuries have not helped.
Martinez not the right boss to nurture Stones
Anyway back to the highly-rated Stones. The youngster has cost Everton big time this season and made a number of mistakes. I know it is not in fashion to criticise the 21-year-old, but it’s a reality of watching Everton.
He is confident on the ball, but sometimes it verges on the cocky, which is hindering Everton at the moment. Quality ball-playing centre-backs are rare in modern football and Stones has the promise to be a world-class player, only if he is nurtured well though.
At times centre-backs need to know when to just clear their lines and Stones needs somebody to tell Stones to cut out the fancy stuff and learn where row Z is instead. The youngster is taking risks that are unnecessary and he needs someone to tell him that.
The youngster is obviously not stupid and his risk taking is maybe coming from the manager, or maybe the transfer speculation is going to his head. Stones first job is to defend and help Everton keep clean sheets and his over-confidence, or Martinez’s unwillingness to tell him to cut-out the fancy stuff is hurting Everton badly.
If you compare Stones to opposition centre-back Ashley Williams at the other end against Swansea, there is no comparison. The Welshman seemed to use all his experience to clear ball, sense danger and at times clear his lines.
I am not saying that Williams is a better player than Stones. Technically the young Englishman is far more elegant, but he can learn a lot from Williams and his defending. The Swans may be near the bottom of the table, but that is more down to the fact they have struggled in front of goal.
Potential to be a great player in the future
John Stones’ lack of experience is hindering his performances at the moment and he will not develop under the affable Martinez. The youngster is slow to sense danger and his positioning is poor at times.
The right boss can develop those weak parts of Stones game and turn him into the fantastic player he promises to be in the future. Ironically former-Toffees boss David Moyes would probably have been a better mentor for Stones.
If reports are to be believed John Stones is likely to leave Everton this summer and some Evertonians will be hoping that Martinez follows the youngster through the exit door.
Everton have the most talented squad of players in probably a decade, yet the Toffees will never improve because of Roberto Martinez’s naivety. The Spaniard looks incapable of making the best of his talented young squad and Everton may pay the price by losing their highly-rated youngsters in the summer.
Will John Stones fulfil his potential under another boss?