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Martinez’s Everton: An Impressive First Impression

Saturday saw the start of a new era at Everton with Roberto Martinez taking charge of his first competitive game for the club, away at Norwich. Despite not taking maximum points from Carrow Road there was plenty enough in Everton’s performance to suggest that the blue half of Merseyside could be in for an exciting season under the Spaniard.

Everton were dominant throughout the game as the stats show: 61% possession, 7 shots on target (Norwich: 2) and 87% pass completion. These key stats don’t just indicate that Everton should have won the game but also the apparent smooth transition to Martinez’s style of play which, at the moment, has only slight differences to Moyes’.

The main difference in play was the tempo; Everton attacked Norwich with less pace and more passes as illustrated by the possession stat: 61% possession, as opposed to 53% possession in the same fixture last season. This change in tempo, away from home, allowed more players to get into goalscoring positions as demonstrated with Everton’s 2nd goal; the slower build-up play allowed Pienaar to pick up the ball and have 4 instant options with Fellaini and Osman still to get forward.

The image above also displays another feature of Everton under Martinez; the controlled attack means that wide players play even further in-field than they did under Moyes and full backs push up in behind the Norwich defence rather than supporting the play and creating chances from deeper positions. Right back Seamus Coleman, who set-up the 1st goal and scored the 2nd, spent 32.31% of the game in the highest part of the pitch on the right side; meanwhile left back Leighton Baines, who created 5 chances (more than anyone else in the match), spent 23.28% of the game in the highest part of the pitch on the left side. Compare the stats to 16.67% (Coleman) and 6.33% (Baines) from the same fixture last season, it really shows that Martinez is attempting to turn attacking full backs into genuine wing backs and is lucky enough to have 2 guys very much up to the task.

Another impressive aspect of Martinez’s first game in charge was how the players responded to their new manager; having lost Moyes to United it might have been expected that some players might look to leave Everton but that hasn’t happened and in fact players such as Coleman, Jelavic, Baines and Mirallas looked as good as ever. One player who reacted more than anybody however was Ross Barkley, the teenager was given a show of faith by Martinez and responded with a brilliant performance.

Despite the positives, Roberto Martinez does have a bit of work to do with the defending, particular in the middle. Norwich’s 1st goal was far too easy at any level, let alone the Premier League; a lack of pressure on the ball invited the full back on and when 2 players failed to stop him, Fellaini’s non-tackle was rather pathetic. Playing Osman and Fellaini together as deeper midfielders could take a lot of work from Martinez to get right; both players are very good on the ball and they link well together but there are issues with them as a defensive paring. The main problem there isn’t a real ball winning player in there, both players can tackle but don’t set out with the aim of being a destructive force; players like Lucas, Yacob and N’Zonzi are very important for their respective teams as they spend the game very centrally, winning the ball back and setting up attacks. Everton have a player in Darron Gibson, who missed the game against Norwich through injury, that can perform that role but i’m not sure if Martinez will sacrifice Ross Barkley after such a great performance.

Everton will face a tough test at home Steve Clarke’s well-organised West Brom side for Martinez’s first home game in charge and the pressure will really be on to get the win. I would expect Everton to dominate that game and play in a similar way to they did against Norwich and get a result. If they don’t get the win I don’t think Everton fans should get too worked up, Martinez’s Everton look more than good enough to have a strong season and will only get better.

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