Martinez: The New Headmaster at the School of Science
In 1928, a bloke called Steve Bloomer proclaimed the Everton team of the day as ‘scientific’ because of their attractive style of play. This label led to a common nickname of Everton F.C. to come to the fore: The School of Science. The man at the helm of the science academy way back when was a man called Tom McIntosh and I’m sure he’d agree with me that the mantle of Headmaster of the School of Science should well and truly be passed on to a certain Roberto Martinez.
Even though Martinez played in a defensive midfield role, throughout his managerial career, starting at Swansea and followed by a stint at Wigan, he has always advocated attacking and attractive football that is a joy to watch. This was exactly what was missing at The Toffees. Not to be detrimental to David Moyes; the man managed to get his side, on a very limited budget, into fourth spot in the Premier League twice and to an FA Cup final however, a price had to be paid. That price was the quality of football. Frankly, I would not have enjoyed owning a season ticket at Goodison Park. Now, all that has changed and it’s all because of the Spanish maestro.
Here’s how Bobby has transformed Everton from a pigs ear to a silk purse:
The tactics deployed in the modern game can sometimes be as complicated as a physics degree nevertheless; Roberto Martinez really is a scholar of the game. The days of a flat 4-4-2 system are long gone; nowadays, fullbacks are wingers, number 10’s are vital and the system played has reverted from rigidity to fluidity. Moyes was a fan of a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1 system with the likes of Anichebe or Jelavic leading the line up top. Martinez has introduced more of a 4-2-3-1 system that has allowed the fullbacks to get forward as well as pushing some of the more creative players such as Pienaar and Mirallas further inside where they will cause more damage.
There was no fluke to this system. Martinez didn’t just stumble upon it; he knew that it was a system that could work with the players he had as long as he acquired the right players to supplement them. His shrewd nous in the transfer window has long been admired, especially highlighting his ability to pick up a player on the cheap, develop them and then sell them on for a high price. However, he can now be admired for bringing in players not solely because of their quality, but because they fit into his system and his team.
To allow Baines and Coleman to express themselves when attacking, Martinez required a midfield two that had industry and the intelligence and experience to know how to cover the two marauding fullbacks. The purchase of James McCarthy gave the midfield a youthful engine to get across the pitch but the real masterstroke was the appointment of Gareth Barry; his excellent footballing brain and years at the top is arguably the main reason that the Everton fullbacks have been the best in the league this year.
In addition, playing a system like this requires a striker who is mobile, strong and willing to work. All of which describe Romelu Lukaku. To snatch him up, albeit on loan, after the season he had at West Brom, was remarkable, mostly because I believe Chelsea would have been a lot closer to winning the title if they had kept hold of him.
Finally, one of the problems Everton have had over the years is their small squad meaning they could never go the full distance. Martinez addressed this problem by bringing in the likes of Deulofeu and McGeady and therefore, he was able to rotate his squad without losing the flair within the team.
Martinez took a lot of stick for the tactics he deployed at Anfield a few months ago as his team took a drumming. But what stands out for me is that he stands by his philosophy. Everton in the past years have been labelled as a nearly team; a team that just didn’t cut it against the cream of the crop, as proved by Moyes never winning at Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or United, the main rivals of his day.
To rise to the top, the aim has to be to hurt teams like this. Martinez was not set back by a result like the Liverpool one and his team didn’t retreat into their shell. He has brought a winning mentality to the club; a philosophy that’s underpinned by ambition and a belief that Everton aren’t in fact punching above their weight, but that they belong in the company of the best. All this is proved by wins over Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and United on their own pitch this season.
In conclusion, it is early days in Bobby’s tenure in the classrooms of The School of Science, but the signs in the corridors are there, and they all point to A* grades on the pitch in this term and terms to come.