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English Premier League

Roberto Martinez: Second Season Syndrome or Signs of a Bigger Problem?



The arrival of Martinez at Everton was met with some trepidation by the fans. Despite an FA Cup victory boast on his CV, Martinez had suffered the indignity of Wigan’s relegation in the same season. Yet the entrance of the Spaniard promised the introduction of an attacking, high-intensity passing game which stood in stark contrast to the Everton tactics of the Moyes era. In his first press conference, the Toffee’s Chairman, Bill Kenwright, revealed Martinez’s bold promise: “I will deliver Champion’s League football at Everton”. For all associated to Everton these were high hopes indeed and somewhat deemed highly improbable and out of reach by many. By May, they would be surprised how close they actually came. Everton recorded their first league double over Man United for the first time since the 1969-70 season, spent large periods of time sitting in a Champion’s League spot, and ultimately finished with their record points tally for the Premier League; all whilst playing attractive, cultured football.

Yet Martinez’s second season stood in direct contrast: the dynamism of Everton’s play quickly became sluggish and stuttering. By Christmas, Everton sat in 12th place and as form began to slip further into the New Year, even Martinez openly admitted that they were involved in a relegation battle. Despite shining in Europe, a comprehensive defeat 5-2 on aggregate against Kiev allayed any possible cup success for Everton in what was an otherwise dismal season. Everton’s defensive line leaked goals, and the attacking players lacked their cutting edge. Was this downturn associated to the idea of the “Second Season Syndrome”: An unfortunate combination of bad luck, a downturn in form of key players, and injuries? Or are there bigger problems for Martinez and Everton: Inadequate transfer window acquisitions, a predictable game plan, and poor tactical switches?

There have certainly been elements of bad luck, or “Second Season Syndrome”, about Martinez’s management. It was nigh on impossible for Everton to field its 1st XI for the majority of the season, due to the sheer length of the injury list; indispensable members of the squad including Stones, Barkley, McCarthy and Lukaku all spent lengthy spells watching on from the sideline. The cash-strapped side lacks squad depth and this is quite clearly exemplified by their poor showing in the Premier League- notably no fault of Martinez.

Martinez will be hoping his players stay injury free this season. Steven Pienaar has already picked up an injury during pre-season.

Equally nobody, not least Martinez, could ever have predicted the drop in form of his defensive players: Barry, Distin, and Howard all shadows of their former selves. The latter was lauded at the World Cup for his shot-stopping ability, nicknamed the “Secretary of Defence”, and congratulated by the US President. Yet the Everton crowd at Goodison Park could have been forgiven for thinking that somebody else had boarded the plane back to Liverpool from Brazil after many of his performances. The 6-3 defeat to Chelsea is just one example in the season where Everton’s once settled and dominant back four produced a dismal performance resulting in a heavy defeat. In the 2014/15 season, Everton held the unfortunate boast of conceding the most goals through defensive errors- This sudden drop in team ability was unpredictable and again cannot be held against Martinez.

However, there are many factors relating to Everton’s slump in form that can and should be attributed to Martinez. Martinez was aware of the added pressure that competing in Europe would have upon the squad, yet no defensive cover was purchased in the windows, resulting in the squad looking rather threadbare. When injuries took hold, and player’s form fell,

Martinez had no plan B and was left over-relying on under-performing players. The jury also remains out on the manager’s forays into the transfer window: Arguably, the only true success has been the purchase of McCarthy who now looks a steal at £13m (Despite many raised Everton eyebrows at the price). The Spaniard raided his former, now Championship side for 3 players, leading to Everton being tongue in cheek renamed on Twitter as “Everton Athletic”: Robles has had little game time and looks unlikely to usurp the American shotstopper, Alcaraz has since left the club, and many Everton fans hope that when Kone’s name is anywhere near the team sheet it’s nothing more than a bad dream. Players like Lacina Traore, Atsu and even the headlining grabbing purchase of Eto’o, have come and gone without making any impact. Of course I am not forgetting either Lukaku or Deulofeu but honestly they have to remain in the “To be seen” category. They are both players of world class potential and that is undeniable. Whether they reach that potential (Or more saliently, whether they reach that potential under Martinez) is another question entirely.

Gerard Deulofeu (centre) and Romelu Lukaku (right) both have potential but their growth may be hindered by Martinez’s management.

Martinez’s tactics at times in his second season looked like him attempting to put square pegs into round holes. Like with his squad selection, there was no tactical plan B. He liked to play the 4-2-3-1 even if the fit players did not fit this tactic; Martinez would always try and make it work. This led to players like Barkley being utilised out on the Left Wing where it was obvious he was not comfortable. Equally while this game plan proved extremely effective in the first season, many teams learnt quite quickly how to combat it. If they placed players behind the ball, Everton did not have the creative spark upfront to break teams down. If they countered with pace they had a good chance of success against the Blues. Everton were second to none in the league for intricate passing around the pitch, leading to some joking after defeat, “at least we won the possession”. However, without Deulofeu, and with an injured Lukaku and Barkley, players like McGeady and Atsu did not have the ability to break down opposition sides. Therefore rather than decide to change tactics to fit the squad, Martinez tried and tried again without success. What’s the famous quote? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Rather apt, no?

So what’s the prognosis, Doc’? Is there a cure for the syndrome, or is the condition terminal? It really remains to be seen how August pans out. A rejuvenated, more confident side finished the last season strongly. The purchases of Deulofeu and Cleverley for a combined figure of £4m have been two astute signings. However, if Martinez is not willing, or certainly not able, to shell out anymore money on players then Everton have to fear being left even further behind. Everton, so far in the window, remain by far one of the lowest spending teams. Thankfully for Everton fans there has seen to be a change in tactics within the preseason games: Martinez has played 3 holding midfielders: Barry, McCarthy and Barkley (With a license to get forward, and attack the opposition defence); and 3 up front: Lukaku leading the line with two attacking wingers playing either side normally Deulofeu and Mirallas. Despite a pre-season defeat to Arsenal in extremely hostile climatic conditions, this new tactic seems to be working effectively. If Everton can keep their star players (Stones to Chelsea for example), have a fully fit squad, and start the season strongly, the second season will be nothing more than a distant memory. Lose a couple of players, and start poorly, and Martinez will certainly be bookie’s favourite in the sack race. Luckily for Martinez, his fate this season lays in his own hands.


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English Premier League

Everton must secure Frank Fabra signing before World Cup

The Colombian is set to star at the World Cup with his nation.



Photo: Getty Images

Everton are currently being linked with a move for Colombian left-back Frank Fabra. According to Argentine radio station El Crack Deportivothe 27-year-old is being considered as the left-back option Everton need.

Everton have been lacking in the department this season. With Leighton Baines suffering injury trouble throughout the campaign, natural right-back Cuco Martina has done his best in the role. Everton thoroughly need a new left-back and Fabra is an impressive option.

(Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

The Boca Juniors defender was linked with Manchester United and Chelsea by Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio in 2016. A powerful full-back, he has all it takes to be a star in European football.

Everton are, therefore right, to be targeting the Boca star.  However, the Toffees must try to wrap up any potential deal before the World Cup in Russia this summer.

Fabra is looking increasingly likely to be Colombia’s first-choice at the competition. Pablo Armero has had his day and Fabra is the popular choice to play the role of left-back or left wing-back.

Colombia, who are in Group H with Japan, Poland and Senegal, have high hopes of going far in the competition. Four years ago they suffered a narrow quarter-final exit at the hands of Brazil.

(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Fabra will no doubt be key to any success that Colombia have in the competition and therefore will catch the eye.

Everton will be fully aware what a top World Cup performance can do to a player’s value. If the Toffees want to bring in Fabra doing so before the Russia World Cup could end up being a worthwhile cost-cutting exercise.

Regardless, Everton fans will just be pleased to hear that the club are starting to identify potential options to strengthen one of their weakest positions on the field, even if it is not a household name.

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English Premier League

£43m for Toby Alderweireld would be great business for Tottenham Hotspur

It seems that the Belgian defender is definitely on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.



It seems as though Toby Alderweireld is on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.

It is being reported by Het Laatse Nieuws today that the Belgian’s contract talks with Spurs have been halted.

With the Belgian out of contract in the summer of 2019, Spurs will attempt to cash in on Alderweireld now.

A fee of £43 million has been mentioned for the player, who reportedly wanted a wage to match that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.

Tottenham’s stance of not paying out big wages to their top players has often been criticised. But on this occasion, the Lilywhites are doing the right thing.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

On his day and when fit, Alderweireld might be the best centre-back in the Premier League. However, it has been a long time since the Belgian had such a day.

Most of this season has seen Alderweireld on the treatment table. When he has played, it has always seemed a precursor to his next injury.

Given his age and contract situation, the injury record gives Alderweireld three strikes. At £43 million, Tottenham would be getting a fantastic deal for their defender.

The report from HLN claimed that Alderweireld wanted a wage in the region of €180,000-a-week (£160,000-a-week). Such a sum is vast for a player with his current issues.

The fact Spurs were reportedly willing to go as high as €120,000 (£105,000) per week shows that Daniel Levy tried to keep the Belgian, even doubling his current wage, but Alderweireld is on his way.

It will be a shame for Spurs but breaking the wage structure at the club for an injury prone defender would not have been a wise move.

Eventually, Tottenham might have to be more lenient with their wages, but that should be saved for the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen.

Tottenham should take £43 million for Alderweireld and persevere with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth.

Alderweireld’s next club will hope they can keep the Belgian fit long enough to reap the rewards of his potential signature.

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English Premier League

Ronald Koeman admits he wanted Memphis Depay at Everton

But would Everton have benefited from his arrival?



Ronald Koeman is about to kickstart his managerial career with the Dutch national team. It is his first role since getting sacked by Everton and his first foray into international management. Speaking about his new role he discussed the former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay.

Speaking to the press, as reported by Football Oranje, Koeman revealed that he had tried to convince Depay to join Everton whilst he was manager at Goodison Park:

“I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon.”

during the Netherlands Training session held at KNVB Sportcentrum on March 20, 2018 in Zeist, Netherlands. The Netherlands will play England in a International Friendly match on March 23 in the Amsterdam ArenA.

Depay was with Manchester United at the time, where he had struggled to live up to his potential. Instead of joining Everton he headed to Lyon in France in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £16 million.

So have Everton missed out?

Depay’s struggles to settle in English football are well known. Since his move to France things have certainly improved. Depay has scored 18 goals since his move to France. However, considering he scored 28 goals in his final season at PSV prior to his United switch it is still not a massive amount.

ZEIST, NETHERLANDS – MARCH 20: Netherlands Head coach, Ronald Koeman walks out for the Netherlands Training session held at KNVB Sportcentrum on March 20, 2018 in Zeist, Netherlands. The Netherlands will play England in a International Friendly match on March 23 in the Amsterdam ArenA. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

In the time he has been in France those 18 goals have come from 61 games. His form has been good at Lyon but certainly not to the standard many expected of him when he made the move to Manchester United.

That said, £16 million today in today’s market is not a lot of money. Looking at Everton’s team, having Depay playing from the left side would have been a massive bonus for Koeman, and now for Sam Allardyce.

Depay still has plenty to improve upon and hopefully Koeman can get the best out of him during his time as the Netherlands boss.

As for Everton, they did not get their man and paid a lot more for the man he would be battling for first-team football Yannick Bolasie – who has not yet been a hit at Goodison Park.

So, all things considered, Everton probably should wish Koeman had managed to convince Depay into a Merseyside switch last January.

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