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

The Boot Room

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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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Tottenham Hotspur

Georges-Kevin Nkoudou clearly has no future at Tottenham Hotspur if Mainz deal goes ahead

Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly ready to let Nkoudou go on loan.

Mathew Nash

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It appears Tottenham Hotspur are ready to let Georges-Kevin Nkoudou leave the club on loan before the end of the month. According to Sky Sports, Spurs are ready to let the winger join Bundesliga side Mainz until the end of the season.

The Frenchman, who cost £9.4 million in 2016, has failed to make an impact at Spurs and was loaned out to Burnley last season. So seeing him being shipped out again may not come as a surprise.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

However, Nkoudou has recently shown what he is capable of. The 23-year-old had a brilliant pre-season as Tottenham won the International Champions Cup. He was named man-of-the-match in the penalty loss to Barcelona, in which he scored. He also found the net against AC Milan in a 1-0 win. His form this summer was electric and led many to believe might have a chance at Tottenham this season.

So the fact he is being loaned out probably suggests one thing. Nkoudou has no long-term future at Tottenham Hotspur.

Even after an impressive pre-season and with Tottenham thin on the ground the young Frenchman has been told to pack his bags and head elsewhere.

This may only be a temporary deal, but it appears the precursor to a more permanent Tottenham exit. 

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Tottenham Hotspur

Five interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Tottenham’s new stadium

There’s a lot to look forward to if you’re Spurs fan.

Liam Thomas

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Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham are still waiting to move into their new stadium and eventually the time will come for Mauricio Pochettino, Harry Kane and co. to settle into their new state of the art home.

So put aside all your disappointment, for the time being, if you’re a Spurs fan, and take a look at the positives: the fact your club is about to be playing its football at one of the world’s most impressive sport set-ups.

Here at The Boot Room, we have found five interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Tottenham’s new stadium.

(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

1. It will be the largest football club stadium in London

The new Spurs stadium will be the largest football club stadium in the English capital, with a total capacity of 62,062, surpassing fierce rivals Arsenal‘s Emirates Stadium which holds 59,867.

It had been initially planned for the stadium to only hold 60,000, but an updated layout and seating scheme have meant that the capacity has increased.

Just imagine those European nights in North London this season; will some great new memories be made?

2. 10-year NFL agreement

Perhaps the most surprising of the facts is that Spurs’ new stadium will also be the home of NFL in London, with the North London side agreeing to a 10-year deal to host NFL games, with the first taking place on October 14th.

The stadium has facilities already in place for when the American Football sides visit the UK including; four dressing rooms dedicated to the NFL and a media suite.

3. Retractable pitch

The stadium will be the first in the UK to have two different pitches inside one bowl; a real turf football pitch and an artificial surface underneath.

Is this something we’ll see more football clubs incorporating into their stadiums in the future? Or merely a bonus for the Spurs team to benefit from.

4. Skywalk stadium tour

The new stadium will feature a “skywalk”, an attraction for tourists and visitors to the stadium to use and participate in as an alternative to the stadium tour.

The skywalk will allow visitors to climb the exterior of the stadium giving them an unparalleled and unique view of the pitch.

5. Microbrewery

A world first for any football stadium; the new setup will have a microbrewery inside for fans and visitors to enjoy during their visit.

Visitors to the stadium will be able to enjoy a selection of local craft beers created and brewed in partnership with Tottenham and the fans.

Away days to Spurs will be a lot more fun in coming seasons.

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Liverpool

Two years after Jurgen Klopp phonecall Liverpool are not missing out on Ben Brereton

Liverpool wanted the young striker, but he is now struggling for football at Nottingham Forest.

Mathew Nash

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When Ben Brereton burst onto the scene at Nottingham Forest it was widely welcomed by Reds fans. The talented teenager had an excellent 2016-17 with Forest and, despite his struggles in front of goal last term, still had another productive season.

It led to plenty of reports of Premier League interest, including from Liverpool.

As reported by The Sun, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was reportedly looking into the signing of Brereton back in the winter of 2017.

The report claimed that after impressing Klopp in an FA Youth Cup game against Liverpool in 2016 the German called Forest academy chief Gary Brazil to ‘personally enquire’ about his services.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Liverpool were again linked with him that summer before the talented youngster signed a new contract at the City Ground.

But, fast forward 18 months and Liverpool fans will probably feel they are not missing out.

The striker can no longer find his way into the Forest matchday squad, after the arrivals of Lewis Grabban and Hilal El-Arbi Soudani this summer.

It has even led to Blackburn Rovers trying to sign him on the final day of the transfer window.

Of course, he is still young and has a bright future in the game. But Liverpool will surely feel he is perhaps not at the level needed to make it at Anfield after his recent struggles.

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