By: ALEX LEONARD
Remarkably, the list of permanent Everton managers in the club’s 135 year history only reached the small figure of 14 on Wednesday, as Bill Kenwright revealed the new face of Everton Football Club to the media at a hastily anticipated press conference. Unless you have been living in the deepest, darkest cave of them all, it was no secret who the new manager is.
Roberto Martinez: 39 years old, Spanish, the ex-manager of Wigan Athletic and Swansea City, played as a defensive midfielder, and so on. After several weeks of rumours gathering pace and Martinez being the bookmakers’ favoured candidate, every Evertonian reading this will not need me to repeat to you the facts that have become common knowledge through Twitter and the continuous media coverage. I will not need to repeat to you the opinions and reputation that follows the Spaniard from club to club as a manager like how he plays ‘attractive football’; again, you really would have had to be in that cave of yours if you were unaware of Martinez’s soft-spot for the 3-5-2 formation, or his frequency to ‘play it on the floor’. I presume that you are familiar with these attributes of his and I will not waste your time and write an article about what we already know.
I am writing about the near future of Everton Football Club, and, simply, the unknown. We can guess as much as we like – I am still unable to form a definitive judgement about Martinez myself. As soon as I feel positive about him and remind myself that he is an F.A Cup winner with a Championship standard team, I can’t help but consider the negatives (mainly his relegation), and vice versa. I can do nothing but ask questions that simply nobody can answer yet. Like me, I am sure all you want to know is what the future holds: where will we finish next season? Are we going to get into the Champions League? Will Martinez succeed in the transfer market? Is he even good enough? Can he retain the integral Leighton Baines and fight off bigger clubs? Will he persuade Fellaini to stay? How will the team adapt to his style of football?
Like I said, all we can do is look forward to what Martinez will bring the football club, and such aspirations began, properly, at Wednesday’s conference in which Bill Kenwright delivered his inspirational tale of choosing between the many candidates for the right man to succeed David Moyes. And I must say, I felt awfully sorry for Martinez as Kenwright seemed to drift off into momentary recollections of his affection for Mr. Moyes, especially when he implied that Martinez was not quite as brilliant as the Scot, as he took “45 seconds” to win over Kenwright compared to his predecessor’s “30 seconds”.
Anyhow, as Kenwright faced the media, flanked by a rather proud-looking Martinez, and discussed exactly why he had appointed his new Chosen One, I am afraid he made a rather naïve error which may have the adverse effect of which he was hoping. I imagine that he told the world that Everton’s new manager will get the club into the Champions League with the aim of instilling hope, ambition and a little arrogance into the minds of the Evertonians who are so desperate to be there. However, for the ex-manager of Wigan Athletic to have such an ambitious proposition publicly revealed by his chairman in front of millions, could be a mistake that may easily have been avoided.
Already, Martinez must be feeling some sort of pressure, partly from himself and Kenwright, but mostly because it was revealed to the masses that he has this element of certainty around him about the Champions League. I received, as many of you will have, an email from Everton reinforcing this ambition to the fans – now this, a subtle move, is timely and works well when shared with just Evertonians. Yet I can’t help but worry as, like I said, Martinez was just relegated with Wigan Athletic and this Champions League certainty has been waved under the noses of the vicious media, almost taunting them to leap onto Martinez’s back should he not deliver what has been promised. Let us hope these words have not regrettably been spoken before the Spaniard even begins his new job and creates unnecessary pressure for him.
Furthermore, this statement from Kenwright may be a rather painful shot in the foot for him, as we all know that a real push for Champions League qualification comes as a direct result of money among other factors. If, between the board and Moyes, the club had invested in a Leroy Fer type player in January, I strongly believe that sixth would not have been Everton’s final position last season; it would have been higher. And moments like this loses the board at Goodison trust from Evertonians who wish desperately to see the club move on to bigger things.
Whether you live a stone’s throw from Goodison Park or on the other side of the world, as long as you support Everton, your ambitions will be high; and it is now especially relevant given that we, as a fan-base, have been publicly told we will get into the Champions League at some point under the new manager – so Bill Kenwright and the board of Everton Football Club now have to give Martinez sufficient financial backing to achieve that. After all, they have said it themselves; I cannot imagine that Kenwright will want to go back on his battle cry. I do not expect it to be excessive amounts, naturally, however Everton’s newly employed Spaniard will – or should – receive proportionally appropriate money to spend on players for next season.
Next, there is the question I have been turning over in my mind a lot recently: what is it about next season that Martinez will have to achieve to make him a success? He cannot finish mid-table or anywhere around it; we could have hired Mark Hughes to do that. There is also no time for a ‘transition’; the Spaniard will have to come in and, whilst employing his own signature football, tactics, team selection etc., he will have to take a look at what made Everton successful under David Moyes and then build upon it, and identify the positives from the last eleven years.
I am partly thinking about the defensive solidarity that was enforced last season – it would be a large mistake to tamper with it given Martinez’s atrocious record at Wigan (yes, I know he had Gary Caldwell in defence). Furthermore, he should build on the beautiful, intricate passing in the opposition’s third of the pitch that resulted in many goals for Everton under Moyes.
On the other hand, he should unearth every single mistake Moyes has made at Everton and alter it. He should know where to play Fellaini; he should learn how to kill games off rather than draw them; he should sell Victor Anichebe; he should encourage Jelavić to be in the six yard box rather than near the corner flag, and he should not respect the top four whatsoever. Therefore, Martinez shall have to most likely succeed Moyes, as well as really interrogating the looming question of whether Everton can finish in the top four, to have a successful initial season.
What we are now going to witness is either a spectacular improvement which consists of a renovated Everton playing delicious football as Martinez defies his critics, spending wisely on a small budget and leading the Blues to the Champions League in the next few seasons. Or, we will see a club suffering from the loss of star players with the starting eleven littered with ex-Wigan employees (I’m not a fan of raiding the Lactics just because we can, except for McManaman) finishing mid-table for the near future.
It is obvious that everybody at Everton – this “team” that the new manager calls upon – from all of you Evertonians out there reading this, to Bill Kenwright and his board, to Roberto Martinez himself, seem determined to fight until they are in the Champions League; and there is nothing better than a winning attitude at this early stage.
But can Everton, led by Martinez, actually achieve that? All I, or anybody can say, is that time will tell.
You can follow Alex Leonard on Twitter @AlexLeonardEFC
You can read Alex’s blog http://thealexleonardblog.blogspot.co.uk