There was always an irksome quality, about former Everton manager David Moyes, in that the Scot would regularly and stubbornly stick to the same footballing principles.
All too often the 51 year old would make defensive substitutions that occasionally backfired, especially from winning positions, rush players back from injury, play members of his first team squad in positions that were foreign to them, or steadfastly refuse to switch tactics despite those strategies failing to come to fruition during certain matches.
Roberto Martinez would do well to take heed of these frustrating tendencies if he is to turn around a spluttering 2014/15 league campaign.
After the Spaniard took over from the then Manchester United bound Moyes in the summer of 2013, his optimism, free flowing football and match altering tactics and substitutions were a breath of fresh air for all associated with the Blues during his debut season in charge of the Merseyside outfit.
And yet, as the halfway point of the current season draws near, it would be forgivable to think that Moyes had returned to Goodison Park, such has been the baffling nature of Martinez’s stubbornness in recent weeks.
No more so was this defiance in evidence than in the 3-0 defeat to Southampton two days ago when, despite watching his side go two goals down with twenty five minutes to go, Martinez refused to haul off some of his underperforming stars, stating in his post-match interview that he believed “the team was the right one to get back into the game”.
It has been evident, and noted on this blog previously, that playing both Samuel Eto’o and Ross Barkley in the same side, behind Romelu Lukaku, causes Everton to rely on Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman to provide the width for the team, which makes the inclusion of Steven Naismith, another player who is most effective playing off the main striker, playing alongside Barkley and Eto’o behind the Belgian even more perplexing, as this further narrowed the pitch when the Blues were on the atttack.
Of course, the Blues missed the pace, invention and directness of the injured Kevin Mirallas but, unlike earlier in the season, Martinez had options for the wing positions in Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady and Bryan Oviedo, which begs the question why were none of those options were used from the beginning, or brought on when it was clear that his starting eleven were struggling to break down the South coast outfit.
The 2014 FA Cup winning manager must also guard against the fact that his charges are lacking in penetration in the final third of the field. Too often in recent weeks has a promising attacking situation arose, only for the ball to land back at the feet of goalkeeper Tim Howard seconds later.
Naturally, Martinez’s ethos of keeping possession will allow for such behaviour but there will be occasions, much like last Monday’s home encounter to Queens Park Rangers, where Evertonians will show their disgruntlement in watching on as another attack peeters out.
That is not to say that the booing, that occurred that Monday night, should not be condemned, especially when the match was already won despite Bobby Zamora’s late consolation for the visitors at Goodison Park, but Martinez will have to be aware that frustration may boil over once more if this Moyes-like trait continues to present itself.
Perhaps most frustratingly of all, however, is Martinez’s lack of a plan B when his crisp, passing style of play is being nullified by the opposition.
The Spaniard’s philosophy is a joy to watch when the Blues are high on confidence, or when the opposition want to play football themselves, as the Toffees are then afforded more space to exploit vulnerabilities in the opposition’s own back four, but against sides that press high up the field (Southampton, Chelsea, Swansea to name but a few) or clubs that sit back to prevent Everton from incisively cutting them open around their penalty area (Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Hull City), there is a tendency for Martinez’s men to run out of ideas.
If the former Swansea player had a back up plan to counteract these tactics then the Blues might be better off in the league currently but, such is Martinez’s belief in playing football the right way, there will always be the possibility for results such as those that occurred against Southampton, Crystal Palace and Hull City.
Martinez believes that Everton are better equipped and have a better chance of achieving a top four finish this season than his squad did last season, due to the tight nature of the current league standings. Nonetheless, unless the Spaniard is willing to set aside his stubbornness and adapt to individual matches, fans may begin to feel a frustrating sense of deja vu emanating from within Goodison Park.