It was impossible not to see them. The two flags flying underneath the April clouds. The first 'Baines is one of us' acted as a threatening reminder to Roberto Martinez that the supporters are fiercely loyal to some of their players. The second 'Martinez out' an obvious statement of discontent showing who they blame for their awful season. Historically Everton are one of the biggest clubs in English football. They have nine league titles, five F.A cups, one European winners trophy and have played top flight football for 112 seasons. Yet they haven't won anything for over twenty years. After David Moyes, who managed to transform the club after the dreadful Walter Smith years, Roberto Martinez was drafted in to win trophies. He was optimistic, idealistic and had just won the F.A Cup with his then relegated Wigan side. His teams scored goals, held on to possession and bombed forward. It was a risky appointment and attracted both hugh scale praise and cautious criticism.
Yet after Martinez's first year in charge the risk seemed to have paid off. Everton were flying high in the league playing fast flowing attacking football with a strong and firm back line. By the end of the season they had achieved a double over Man Utd, finished agonisingly close to a Champions League spot and achieved a club record of 72 points. This was meant to be a turning point. No longer were they the cautious gritty side of David Moyes, that despite constantly finishing in the top half, failed to challenge for titles and frustrated fans with a 'small club mentality' that lacked the finesse and quality to break into the top four.
Instead, Martinez seemed to bring a positive and optimistic hunger to the club. His Guardiola inspired philosophy of technical football was deemed as far more progressive and exciting. He had a squad brimming with young technically gifted players like Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu, who were allowed to shine next to the more experienced faces of Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry and Phil Jagielka. It seemed to many fans and pundits that a Champions League spot was glistening in the near future.
Yet Martinez's second season didn't go as planned. The football was slow, tedious and ineffective. Instead of challenging for the Champions League, the squad were on the fringes of the relegation battle. In the end they managed to limp towards a mid-table finish with the lowest point tally since the 2003/4 season. The squad didn't do any better in the Europa League or any of the domestic cups. They scored less goals than the previous season and conceded far more. Despite this dismal performance Martinez kept his job. His third season has been no different. Even though Romelu Lukaku has scored 25 goals in all competitions and Ross Barkley has chipped in with 12 goals and 8 assists, Everton are currently languishing in 14th on a five game streak with no win. They have also dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the league.
At first glance this could be put down to a lack of defensive experience or quality. Yet their back four screams both. With Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka they have three experienced premier league veterans who, under David Moyes, were all praised highly for their defensive capabilities. Then there's John Stones who is, despite a weak season, one of the most exciting young ball playing defenders in Europe. So what's the problem? As even with John Stones on the bench they have Ramiro Funes Mori who is after all an Argentinian capped international and a Copa Libertadores De América champion.
It's therefore hard to look past Martinez and his philosophical approach. With Roberto it's idealism over pragmatism, it's scoring goals instead of keeping clean sheets, it's playing it from the back instead of putting into row z. It's a plan A whilst refusing to accept the potential of a plan B. It's idealistic football that is quite simply not working. The squad are moving backwards instead of forwards and with recent comments from Leighton Baines highlighting the lack of chemistry, cracks from the dressing room are starting to flood into the media. Furthermore the fans are fed up and are beginning to show their discontent to the new shareholder. With the millions that Farhad Moshiri has brought into the club expectations have risen and fans are expecting more than just a good cup run.
So the question needs to be asked, has Martinez got what it takes to deliver ambitions of this re-awakened giant? At the moment the answer appears to be a clear and obvious no. However with seven league games left in the season, including a Merseyside Derby, and a F.A Cup semi final looming over the horizon, Martinez will hope he still has the opportunities to prove his growing list of critics wrong. Yet, if the results of these opportunities don't go a certain way, they will most certainly provide the hammer to nail his already closing coffin shut.
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