With Everton struggling in the Premier League this season and Roberto Martinez under increasing pressure at Goodison Park, I put a number of questions to Evertonians to gauge their views on the current state of affairs at the Club.
Here’s what three Blues had to say on the questions posed – Darren Cronin (DC), Adam Jones (AJ) and Josh Kellett (JK).
Everton have now slipped to 13th in the League Table, just how concerned are you about our form and do you think we will (or already are) end up in a relegation battle?
DC – We are now in a relegation battle only four points off the bottom three and with our run of games coming up I can see us getting dragged further into it.
AJ – Well, as much as I like to be positive, it’s not been great has it? I think the expectations that last season built for us have been well and truly shattered at this point but there’s no reason to say we can’t fix it. Form is a really confusing thing, it just comes and goes. Yeah we’re in a bad spell now but I think there’s too much quality in this squad for us to really face a relegation threat.
JK – As much as I am behind Roberto Martinez and his vision for our club, I am incredibly concerned by what I have seen thus far from our season’s performances. There are a number of factors that are causing us to be in such a low place right now, but what concerns me the most is the apparent reluctance from the gaffer to actually change anything. In a way, I respect the fact that he is standing by his football philosophy, but if we continue to play the same way and expect any results to change, then we are definitely going to find ourselves in a relegation battle.
What do you think have been the main reasons for our decline this season?
DC – A shambles of a pre season and not strengthening the squad enough started it, and our manager not changing our system to suit games.
AJ – It’s really hard to pinpoint anything in particular that’s been going wrong for us. It’s what seemingly has all the pundits baffled, we’re just suddenly not as good. Personally I think that too often we’re playing people in the wrong positions, we’re having a lot of inconsistency with our starting XIs from week to week (obviously we’ve been massively hindered by injuries as well) and that really affects how a team can gain form.
JK – I believe there are FOUR main factors for our decline this season:
- Pre-season: Our pre-season was shambolic in its organization. The teams we played, the destinations we travelled and the timings of the games were a joke. There was no fluency to any of it, and as a result, we went in to the start of the premier league completely unfit and out of form.
- Player’s forms: On paper, Everton are a very strong top 6 Premier League outfit. The goalkeeper, the defense, the midfield and our new attack in Romelu Lukaku is by no means a weak side. So far this season, we haven’t seen any player reach the peak of their form thus far. It’s as if every player is carrying some sort of injury or sickness.Tim Howard, who most Blues would consider to be one of our best ever goalkeepers (behind Southall and Martyn), has been woeful this season. Has it been a World Cup hangover? Who knows. But he’s kept only two clean sheets this season and most goals he’s conceded have been seemingly easy saves. In a nutshell, he should be doing better. Our defense – not one player can raise his hand and say he’s been doing well. Are they now not coping with Roberto’s tactics? Have most of them passed their peaks? Lots of questions need to be asked, but from what we have seen so far this season – they have been worlds apart from past season’s heroics. Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku – two bright young diamonds of talented youth, have both been very inconsistent with their form. Barkley isn’t shining the way he did last season and Lukaku simply isn’t scoring enough.
- Injuries: It’s been probably our worst amount of injuries we’ve ever had. Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Alcaraz, Stones, Barkley, Mirallas, Naismith, McCarthy, Pienaar, Osman, Lukaku and Kone have all been injured or ill at some point this season so far. that’s more than a starting XI and bench.
- Roberto Martinez’s tactics: Last season we say Everton soar the heights of the Premier League with rock solid defending and silky, attractive attacking. This season, we have seen that every side in the league have done their homework. It’s as if the opposing managers have all watched DVDs of our games from last season and worked out how to outplay our style. Sure, we’ve had some wins this season, but there hasn’t been a single game I’ve seen where we have convincingly outplayed anyone. That’s a worry.
Couple that with Roberto’s apparent inability to change things up when we’re down, it’s been a recipe for disaster.
Roberto Martinez: what are your views on the Spaniard, his playing style, and do you believe he has to take the brunt of the blame?
DC – I love his ideals but last season was a free season and we caught teams out not expecting Everton to play the way we did. This season was the biggie and he’s been found wanting.
AJ – I still think Roberto Martinez is the right man for Everton right now, our form in the Europa League proves that we can beat anyone when we’re up for it. I really don’t know who can take the brunt of the blame for this, when a run of form this bad comes along (made worse by the fact we haven’t faced something like this in quite a while) then responsibility has to be shared evenly.
JK – As I’ve previously mentioned, I like Roberto and there is no denying that last season was amazing and surely wasn’t a fluke. But he must realise that perhaps the result of our achievements last season has resulted in opposing teams working out a way to beat us. The scariest thing about it is teams beat us by allowing us to play the style we’re being told to play. Opposing teams’ defences is allowing us to have the ball. We’re now halfway through the season. It’s no longer a ‘bad spell’. Roberto must shake things up as 20 games into the season, nothing is working.
Can Martinez turn things around and do you think he should be given the time to?
DC – Hard one personally I don’t think he can turn it around because he won’t change his system – but who to replace him haven’t a clue.
AJ – Yes he definitely can turn things around. Remember Moyes’ second full season in charge when we finished 17th? Some of the best managers in the world have had to come through far worse periods than this and have went on to achieve incredible things. I can only remember seeing three people manage Everton (including Martinez) so that proves lately we’re not the type of club to sack people on a whim; he’ll be given the time he needs.
JK – I’d like to think Martinez can turn things around. Unfortunately, history says otherwise. Despite the fact that Wigan were a very poor side, we saw that team went down because of their inability to change things up when they so desperately needed to. Right up until the last 5 games of the season, when they knew they had to win – they kept playing to his style and eventually, they lost enough games to see them fall into the Championship. Will we see a repeat at Everton? Will Roberto learn from his past mistakes? Or will he stick to his guns? Only time will tell, but if I’m honest – I’m very very concerned
What needs to change if we are to see an upturn in fortunes this campaign?
DC – Play a system to suit each individual game not what we are doing now because we are the easiest Club to play against.
AJ – January seems the natural time to change things really, doesn’t it? Who fancies buying our losses from us this transfer window? As confusing as our set-ups have been over the past few games, in hindsight it’s good to see that at least Martinez is trying to change things, eventually (like…sigh…Liverpool did) we’ll stumble across the formula that works for us again and get back to winning ways.
JK – Tactics. Simple as that. If we fall any lower down the table, we no longer have time to stick to his ‘plan A’ while attempting to master it. We need points, whatever means necessary.
Which Everton players have disappointed you most and who would you like to see depart Goodison Park?
DC – Two for me; Garry Barry first, his legs just seem to have gone, and Leighton Baines secondly, for me he is just going through the motions.
AJ – I don’t think we can seriously afford to let anyone go, our squad is depleted enough as it is, we need to focus on signing players rather than getting rid.
JK – I’ve been disappointed by the majority of the team to be fair. But if I had to pick players that have disappointed me more than others, then I would pick Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry. I never want to see any of our players depart, but I wouldn’t cry if I saw us cash in on Howard and Coleman. Hibbert and Osman, as much as they’re club legends in their own way, are eating up salaries which could be going to better and younger players, so I’d list them too.
With the January transfer window now open, how confident are you that the Club will be signing any reinforcements this month?
DC – I’d be very surprised if we sign anybody – Martinez has said himself he’s happy with the squad.
AJ – I don’t think there’s any question. Even when it didn’t look like we particularly needed much last January we brought in at least two loans. This time we have three loans available and hopefully some money left over from the summer, we need to fully put them to use.
JK – If we don’t buy anyone then we’re in deep trouble. A goalkeeper, a defender and a winger is 100% must haves for EFC to improve their season. Howard and Joel are not good enough, Jagielka and Distin have shown they’re passed their best and Lukaku is not getting any service so Roberto and Bill must address these problems.
If so, what areas of the squad would you improve?
DC – N/A
AJ – For me the priorities would be one/two wingers and a goalkeeper. Picking which players though tends to be a lot trickier, so it’ll be interesting to see who turns up.The likes of Joel Campbell from Arsenal and Kasper Schmeichel from Leicester would be my top targets.
JK – As above.
Overall what is your take on the financial situation at Everton FC?
DC – Absolute joke of a board not one of them has put a penny into the Club, they are all hanging on hoping we move for a pay cheque. Look at our sponsors, the Club shop, internet shopping – for a Club our size it’s embarrassing.
AJ – From what I can see it’s not all too different from last season. As I say we should have a bit of leftover cash from the summer, but look how well we used our loans last season. Even if there’s not a lot of cash lying around, why not re-visit that tried and tested method?
JK – We need a new owner. I do respect Bill Kenwright, and I do believe he wants what’s best for the club, but if we don’t start competing financially with other clubs in the UK, then we will soon enough see us fall away lower and lower down the table.
Do you believe there is any positives to take from the current season?
DC – Can’t think of one, Eto’o in a blue shirt the only highlight.
AJ – Like I say, I try to be positive whenever I can. Our main positive has to be our record in the Europa League so far this season. Two big wins against Wolfsburg and arguably our best Goodison performance against Lille made sure we qualified top of our group with a game to spare. How many of us would have thought that after the draw was made?
JK – I really like this season’s kits…
Where do you predict we will finish in the Premier and Europa League?
DC – 14th fingers crossed and last 16.
AJ – I can really see January turning our season around at some point, we need to start making our home games count for a lot more though. I’m predicting an 8th place finish for us in the league and getting to the semi finals of the Europa League (remember when I said I’m positive? Well there it is)
JK – I think we will finish 15th in the league and quarter finals in Europa.
Big thanks to the lads for taking the time to answer.