Arsenal exploit Everton's biggest weakness

A result that carried a depressing air of inevitability about it as Everton were punished for slack defending, indecisive goalkeeping and a continuing inability to put together two halves of decent football in the same game.

Lyndon Lloyd 24/10/2015 86comments  |  Jump to last

In the wake of Howard Kendall's passing last weekend, many of the tributes and so much of our collective reminiscence has centred around the magnificent team he built. Much has changed in the game since the 1980s, of course, but Kendall clearly understood the importance of balance to a side and the merits of a solid spine, starting with the vital position of goalkeeper.

Ex-players from that era like Andy Gray have remarked that Everton knew that if they scored, they were invariably going to win; because if an opposition team managed to battle their way past Peter Reid and Paul Bracewell, they then had to negotiate Derek Mountfield, Dave Watson and Kevin Ratcliffe... and if they made it that far, they had Neville Southall to beat and he was the best in the world.

A top-class 'keeper can be the difference between a good side and a great one; a nearly team and title-winning one. It's a notion that wasn't lost on Arsene Wenger and it's not surprsing that his only major piece of transfer business of the past summer was to bring in what many observers felt was the final piece in his jigsaw in the form of Petr Cech. Everton may no longer be in Arsenal's league since their brief flirtation with the top four in Roberto Martinez's first season in charge but a feeling has been growing that their attempts to get back there are being undermined, at least partially, by Tim Howard and a lack of a commanding presence in goal.

A worthy acquisition eight years ago as an experienced 29-year-old from Manchester United, the American has enjoyed a solid career as Everton's first-choice stopper ever since, reaching his personal peak at the World Cup last year where he gained international renown for his feats in goal for the United States. Unfortunately, his heroics in Brazil were followed by what was, arguably, his worst season at Goodison, to the point where Martinez initiated last January his search for a long-term replacement for a 'keeper perhaps finally betraying his age and Everton fans were baying for Joel Robles to be given his opportunity to prove himself a more reliable presence in goal.

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The Spanish keeper grabbed that chance while Howard was injured last December and surprised everyone with a string of excellent displays, only to be dropped again as soon as Howard was fit again. Improved performances from the manager's No.1 over the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign and the early part of this one put the chuntering of disgruntled fans in the background but Howard's position is back under scrutiny following successive defeats and an escalating number of goals being scored from within his primary area of responsibility the six-yard box.

Two of them came within two minutes of this latest defeat at the hands of Arsenal in North London. The Blues appeared to have weathered the Gunners' early storm and found a foothold in what was a largely disappointing half from their point of view. They had even fashioned the best chance of the contest thus far when Aaron Lennon, deployed by Martinez on the left flank of a surprising dual-winger formation, had jinked inside and forced Cech into spilling the ball into the path of John Stones but the defender snatched at the chance and he sliced wide. However, just as they were against Manchester United last weekend, Everton were punished for allowing the opposition too much space when Mezut Ozil flighted a teasing ball in from the Arsenal right and Oliver Giroud glanced past the static Howard.

1-0 became 2-0 in short order; Santi Cazorla took charge of a dubiously-awarded free kick on the opposite flank and whipped it onto the head of Laurent Koscielny with Howard punching at thin air and the ball flying into the net. Slow motion replays and photographic stills circulating mercilessly on social media afterwards would not be kind to the goalkeeper and his worrying lack of command of his area but it should be noted that he was equally let down by his defence. Whether Stones was operating in some sort of zonal marking system or was simply guilty of switching off is unclear but, while he was initially in charge of both goalscorers, he wasn't near either one when they inflicted the back-to-back blows that were ultimately fatal to Everton on the day.

It wasn't like Martinez's defence hadn't been served clear enough warning, either Gabriel (twice) and Giroud had both had earlier chances from free headers from corners that were unable to steer on target.

If Evertonians all too familiar with crushing defeat in this fixture over the years were fearing that the floodgates were set to open in the same manner in which the heavens above the Emirates had, a ray of sunlight emerged a minute before the break when Ross Barkley halved the deficit. Gerard Deulofeu sprinted away from his own box on the counter and swept a terrific cross-field ball to Barkley who advanced and then cracked a heavily deflected shot past Cech.

It presented Everton with a route back into the game which they almost took after Howard had twice come off his line to deny Alexis Sanchez early in the second half and then beat away a shot from Giroud after the Frenchman's neat chest-down and shot from the angle. In between, Phil Jagielka had been forced to leave the game with suspected knee damage but was replaced by the highlt effective Ramiro Funes Mori.

For a team that was 2-0 to the good, Arsenal were quite cavalier at times, leaving the back door open on a few more occasions on which Everton theatened to capitalise but just weren't able to. Deulofeu led the charge on one of them down the right flank but his centre arrived slightly behind where Barkley would have wanted it and he was surrounded after taking his first touch to gather it in.

A few minutes later, the same pair combined when the Spaniard danced inside from the flank but the England international's shot was tame and Cech saved comfortably, but it was Galloway who had a great chance to equalise with 15 minutes to go. The Blues had just survived a scare at the other end when Giroud's curling shot cannoned off the face of Howard's crossbar but McCarthy's teasing ball to the back post picked the young defender out brilliantly but, with a defender just ahead of him, he might have taken his eye off the ball for a fraction of a second and could only put a stooping header wide.

Barry turned provider six minutes later with an equally impressive cross that Lukaku rose to meet but his header bounced agonisingly off the top of the crossbar. Kevin Mirallas, who made a belated entrance for the disappointing Lennon would have a late shot comfortably saved and Wenger's own late change, Matthiu Flamini, twice went very close to restoring the home side's two-goal advantage, but a gilt-edged chance fell to Deulofeu with four minutes left. Lukaku's cross fell to him in front of goal but he opted for placement rather than the kind of power with which he salvaged a point in this fixture two seasons ago and the Czech 'keeper was able to save well.

It would be the last chance for Everton who had tried manfully to get back on level terms and looked capable of doing so. They were let down, however, by some atrocious use of the ball at times and their frustrating and continuing inability to put together two halves of consistent football together in the same game.

If the result carried a depressing air of inevitability about it, there was at least enough evidence of a decent Everton side in there if Martinez can find the right balance in terms of formation and personnel and get back to the swaggering, passing outfit that characterised so much of his first season as manager. Barry's suspension following his dismissal for two yellow cards this afternoon will allow the manager to experiement with an alternative central midfield pairing in the upcoming cup tie against Norwich, a welcome development for supporters who feel that the veteran's partnership with McCarthy has become too restrictive as neither player offers enough going forward. Indeed, for a team that played with two wingers in this game, there was precious little service into or action inside the penalty area. The hope, too, is that Mirallas is given another chance to shine and press his claims for a return to the starting line-up and that Robles makes the most of his anticipated selection to start adding to the pressure building around Howard. The American is far from the only problem but it's clear there is a need for more confidence and a dominant presence between the sticks.

The fixture list begins to ease now following a tough 10-game stretch that has yielded just 13 points from a possible 30. Things are unlikely to be much easier, though, particuarly if some of the supposedly weaker sides dig in defensively or start targeting the Blues' obvious soft centre when it comes to balls into the heart of the box. Plenty to play for but also plenty to prove, both on the field and in the dugout.

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Reader Comments (86)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 25/10/2015 at 06:34:57
I remember how confident we would be when we took the lead back then too, Lyndon. Even if we conceded a late free kick or corner, me arl fella would just smile and say "somebody's gonna get hurt".

Neville Southall was a beast of a man. crosses into his 6-yard box would pose a serious risk to the health and well being of anybody in the vicinity. He would come out with such power and simply clear house. Nobody was getting in his way.

Howard could never have been a top Goalie – too much of a tart.

Jim Bennings
2 Posted 25/10/2015 at 08:23:51
I said the same thing years ago about Tim Howard being a coward.

Look at all the goalkeepers in the league; at some point, you see the majority with a mashed hooter or cut head... you never see Howard with a facial injury because he goes for everything with his legs when strikers run clean through and on crosses or set-pieces. He doesn’t want to know, staying rooted to his line or many a time even behind the line!!

It's okay people saying he’s a good shot-stopper but a lot of the time it’s poor finishing from strikers and if you're a professional goalkeeper, should you not be saving tame shots fired right at you!!

The World Cup performance against Belgium sparked a major overreaction American-style. Look again: it was timid finishing from the Belgians.

Not that I just blame that dozy gung-ho idiot in goal. I blame Martinez for for his blatant ignorance, his negligence on refusing to even try working on defending set-pieces and there’s another stat that will shock no-one: we are the only Premier League team that has NOT scored from a set-piece.

We are going nowhere with this manager and for me there will be an air of despondency should we go out the League Cup on Tuesday night.

Our home form under Martinez has been poor, our defending rapidly deteriorated and our attack pretty stagnant. Questions will soon need asking if we start going on a poor run again.

Its okay saying we’ve had a hard start but a hard start hasn’t stopped West Ham from doing well has it?? We look a jaded team short on ideas and in need of change, one way or another.

Jeff Armstrong
3 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:15:57
Tim Howard needs replacing, everyone can see that, apart from the one person at the club who should do something about it. Come on, Martinez, make the decisions you’re paid a very good salary to do. Stop being Mr Nice Guy; every decent manager bar none has a ruthless streak.

I do not believe Martinez is stubborn, he is simply indecisive, and lacks ideas; his inability within a game to change things is embarrassing. His ponderous build-up from the back that just causes chances for the opposition... nothing alters!

We can all see the folly of Howard to Stones, across to Jags, back to Howard, opposing striker chases down... then what? Anything can, and sometimes does happen.

Substitutions take forever, he replaces like for like with no change to formation or game plan. For me, he is bereft tactically, and completely lost.

Jimmy Salt
4 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:16:05
What worries me is everyone keeps saying we have easier games on the way. There will be so-called lesser teams watching us thinking "Just get the ball in the box".
Ian Bennett
5 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:17:38
Can we stop saying he’s a good shot stopper, he just isn’t.

He’s just an average goalkeeper who costs us when it matters. A player that has to be replaced as soon as possible. He regularly gets beaten from distance and at his near post. His star jumps and going down far too early, are a joke. The guy is robbing a living.

We are a soft touch on and off the pitch, and will be perennial mid-table with this outlook. The club has to stop giving out such long deals to players in decline. He’s under contract until June 2018, which is just ludicrous, as was the decision to sign Barry, Lennon, Pienaar etc to 3-year deals.

Little point in making decent profits on players and squandering it in this way. I am wise enough to know that we aren’t going to win the league, but for crying out loud can we not cull the bottlers and look to youth, building to the future? If we need some old heads, let’s get them on loan, and fire them off if they’re past their sell-by date.

Rant over.

Laurie Hartley
6 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:20:36
Jim, I am sure for the majority of fans, and as Lyndon has alluded to in his final comment, the moment of truth is coming for the manager when he picks the team for the Norwich game.
Brent Stephens
7 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:21:15
"How-odd" was praised to high heaven for his performances in goal for USA in the World Cup. I might be in a minority but I thought all that was over-rated — most of his efforts were photo-opportunity, reflex saves from shots — nothing in terms of actual bravery in commanding his 6-yard box by winning balls in aerial challenges or diving at the feet of onrushing players.
Oliver Molloy
8 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:34:57
I will be amazed if Robles is not in goal against Norwich.
Bryan Green
9 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:47:41
I have said since we first signed Howard he is shocking at coming off his line or commanding his area. He is a good shot-stopper, which every Premier League keeper is, but he has no presence whatsoever as keeper. Surely Robles has got to be given an extended run? Everybody gets on Robles's back when he plays one or two games where you can see he his trying to impress too much.

Last season, when he settled down after a good run of games, he looked a really good keeper – remember the West Ham FA Cup match? He was superb that night... but, as soon as Howard was fit, he was straight back in team.

What is that saying to the senior players? Basically you play as you want but you will always be in the team Martinez needs to grow a pair and start making the decisions he is paid for...

Stephen Brown
10 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:57:23
Howard has been a decent keeper for us over the years. However, the time came last year to replace him! The fact that he still seems to be untouchable is bemusing?!

How has he got so much influence/standing? I’d go as far to say that Martinez seems scared to drop or even criticise him. Is Robles the answer? I have doubts...

Looks like we are stuck with them but will Martinez have the guts to make a change in January? Marshall from Cardiff would be a good affordable choice!

John Keating
11 Posted 25/10/2015 at 09:57:58
I think Robles would have been picked for the Norwich game regardless of Howard’s form. However, I do not think Robles is the long term answer.

Short term, I think we have to go with Robles every week from now on; hopefully he will prove me wrong, but we have to get a goalie next transfer window as a must.

Regarding the manager, I wanted him gone last New Year. I see nothing so far this season with his crap tactics and formations that make me think I was wrong.

Christopher Timmins
12 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:04:33
There were some positives from last night's game. The boy from Argentina looks the part and playing two natural wide men gave a better balance to the team. However, without going overboard, we needed to bring in a goalkeeper in the last window and we failed to do so. We need greater movement in the central midfield area if we play two genuine wide men and Gareth Barry cannot give us that 38 games a season.

Jags would be a huge loss if he is out for a prolonged period.

Howard Kendall's death and the look back at our last period of prolonged success has really put in perspective the failures of the current Board.

Norwich on Tuesday is a huge game, if we win we are 2 stops from the Wembley.

I know Ken Buckley never predicts a final league posiion for us until we hit the half way mark but I think we will finish no better than 6th and no worse than 8th this season.

Jim Bennings
13 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:18:12
There are no easy games for Everton, the way we play we never dictate games even at Goodison from the first minute.

Why should we be hot favourites to beat Sunderland next week?
We have won just 5 home matches in 11 months in the league!!

If Sunderland come next week with a well drilled defence, can anyone see us breaking them down easily??

Easy games on paper mean nothing, we didn’t beat Sunderland home or away last season or relegated Hull City!

Watching this Everton team and this management which seems to never want to learn from past mistakes just doesn’t convince me that we can ever live up to the "favourites " tag.

Nick Entwistle
14 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:26:48
That world cup performance. All the shots he saved, he should have saved. There may have been a lot of them but blame the finishing on that bloke we have up front and the one across the park. But it's not as if he kept a clean sheet either.

I was saying we should go for Kasper Schmeichel. Same age as when his dad went to Man Utd. But why would he leave Leicester now?

John Jones
15 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:34:53
We can can all blame Timmy, But the Blame falls with Martinez! It is his Goalkeeping Coach, His Defensive Coaches (if they have any). We are poor at the back and lack ideas going forward.

This is his record in the last 18 months since the start of of last season (I have not counted his first season because it was still Moyes’s team); Premier League only:

Played 48
Won 15
Drawn 15
Lost 18

Tim Sherwood, Sacked at Spurs

Played 25
Won 13
Drawn 5
Lost 7

Sam Allyardyce, Sacked from West Ham he finished with the same record as Martinez last season.

Martinez has been given more Money than at any other club he has been at and his record is only slightly better here.

Question for all Blues: how many Premier League games have we won at home since the start of the 2014-15 season??

Just 8... That’s right... 8! We have won 8 games out of 21 at home.

For me, Martinez has to go... he is just not good enough.

Ian Smitham
16 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:39:48
Interesting column. Just read an article about Tim in today's Daily Mail.

Like many players, " on his day" he is good, but his days are getting less frequent and his "off days" or games when his errors are highlighted are becoming more frequent.

I am not a professional in Football, obviously, and I doubt any on here are either, but enough people on here have observed the deficiencies of Tim over a long enough period to make me wonder why the club cannot see what to me is blindingly obvious. He needs replacing... who by? Well I leave that to those whose job it is to sort it.

Kunal Desai
17 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:44:37
The fixture list on ’paper’ looks easier but we know the next 3 fixtures are likely to be as tough as the last 3. The expectations and the pressure is far greater to get maximum points from Sunderland, West Ham and Aston Villa.

Goodison has fallen apart in the last 18 months. It might be a case where we need to sit back, soak the pressure and hit the lesser teams on the break. Fat Sam will look for a point and nick one on the break, Hammers are rejuvenated under Bilic and will break their hoodoo against us very soon. Villa could well have a new manager in place by the end of November.

I just cannot see any improvment under Martinez and that's why, in my opinion, I would like him to leave at the end of the season IF we finish outside the top 7.

Ian Smitham
18 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:53:11
Jimmy Salt, I agree with you, further I believe that we are most vulnerable and predictably unpredictable against the "so-called" lesser teams.
Paul Thompson
19 Posted 25/10/2015 at 10:57:05
The two goals were superb crosses dropped with spin or speed into a difficult area for any defence. But this is not any defence - it’s ours. Tim, for all his other virtues, has never commanded the six-yard box, but as Lyndon rightly observes, he was ’equally let down by his defence’.

We have given far too many goals of this kind away, especially at set pieces. Stones is particularly vulnerable to these kinds of crosses. And, unless it’s changed, we know that the team doesn’t practice defending (or attacking) set-pieces.

So, let’s be clearer where the blame lies and stop thinking replacing a goalkeeper is enough, particularly because Robles does not fill me with any more confidence.

Peter Weaver
20 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:09:02
Whilst it is easy to set out a case for Martinez 'to be let go', the likelihood of it happening any time soon is, to my mind, remote.

First, there is the 'unavailability' of the chairman to make such a decision; second, there is the very considerable cost of 'early termination'; and third – and most importantly – whether the team is in such crisis that it is the only way seen to avoid relegation.

Clearly we are still a long way from worrying about our league status and, indeed, at the season's outcome many of us would have settled for 13 points from the opening 10 games.

Obviously, we could have hoped for a more dynamic start but no alarm bells will ring about being in 10th position in the table. We probably have to go back to John Moores's days for the board to see that as a crisis. So let's get real.

My thoughts/ fears about such a crisis coming about this season is that, god forbid that the crisis happens, this board would be on the plane to Real Sociedad post haste – and who wants that to happen?

Jim Bennings
21 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:22:29

I wouldn’t have settled for 13 points from 10 games, it’s that kind of "anything will do" attitude that is the sole reason why we never ever achieve anything.

We have lets be honest played well in just 2 of our 10 matches, we did not turn up for the best part of the West Brom match and did our best to throw away our Cup hopes in a woeful first half at Barnsley!

We are being totally outperformed by teams like West Ham, Leicester and even Crystal Palace, and last season we were left behind by Southampton and Swansea.

I’d like to be proven wrong but I believe Martinez is destined to be a manager that will only ever flaunt with relegation, at least at Premier League level.

All of the high hopes we had in his first season, building on Moyes's team which finished 6th, have completely evaporated in my opinion and you can even sense by the general atmosphere from the crowd at league matches that nobody is convinced we are on the cusp of something special, or even something a little bit different to a lesser extent.

Give clubs like West Ham, Leicester their due at least, there’s a bit of enthusiasm there and they are having a right old go each game.

Raymond Fox
22 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:28:01
I’ve not been a particular critic of Howard but he had a terrible game, he should have cleared the ball in both their goals. They all make mistakes, but it's happening much too often, he should be dropped.

Let’s get things in perspective though; a 2-1 loss is ’better’ than I expected... okay, it's still a loss but I thought it would be probably be by a greater margin.

I see there’s calls for the manager to be sacked again, but he’s only as good as his players. I agree, a manager can make a difference with how he sets a team up and you can agree or disagree on Martinez’s tactics, I broadly agree with how he’s attempting shape our play.

Take this game and compare the two midfields, there was a gulf in class and it's there in the engine room where we are sadly lacking. Until we can attract and afford a Cazorla or Ozil class player, nothing will change. They also had Flamini, and out injured, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky and Arteta!

Rick Tarleton
23 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:46:14
Would West, Martyn or Southall have allowed free headers from inside the goal area? No, but they were keepers, not shot-stoppers.

Howard has been a liability for years and I do feel amazed that more clubs don’t exploit his tentative and frenetic attitude to crosses. I can’t understand why we aren’t looking for a keeper; we could have had Butland a couple of years ago.

Dave Richman
24 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:48:25
I find the statement "Ah but Howard is a good shot-stopper" to be a curious defence of his glaring shortcomings... surely a professional who ISN’T a good shot-stopper ain’t no goalkeeper...

Stopping shots is, in my opinion, probably Number 1 on the list of Key Performance Indicators for any goalkeeper. Number 2 would be command of the penalty area – which is a huge fail because he doesn’t even command the 6-yard box, let alone anything larger.

And his kicking is risible too...

Paul Tran
25 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:55:42
When we went at them, we looked a half-decent side. Problem is, we were 0-2 down. Until we buy a keeper who commands the box and covers his near post, it will be ever thus.

Three defeats against the likely top three sides isn’t a disaster. What concerns me is the lack of strength, guile and nous needed to beat the teams around and below us.

I’d make Funes Mori a mainstay of that defence and buy a proper keeper in January. I think a decent keeper will move everyone slightly up the park and let them get on with their jobs. I’m sure he could have got one with the Naismith/Lennon money!

Good keepers make a difference. Ask anyone who watched our nearly teams in 1975, 1978 and 1986.

Jim Bennings
26 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:57:43
I think we all know what a top class keeper is...

Neville Southall and Nigel Martyn we were lucky to have, Martyn was a solid backbone of that team that finished 4th of course but we also had old school defenders like Stubbs, Weir and Tony Hibbert!

Goalkeepers should be brave, and the best over the years, like Southall, Schmeichel, Seaman, they would take out anything in front of them if need be, Joe Hart also is a man not afraid to get hurt.

Brian Harrison
27 Posted 25/10/2015 at 11:58:34
Jim Bennings,

I agree with everything you say, the atmosphere in the ground is one of apprehension rather than expectation.

As John Jones posted, 15 wins in our last 48 league matches says this is a club under RM going backward. He spent £42 million on Lukaku and McCarthy so he has hardly been starved of cash.

His style is dire; we lack ambition in the way we play... how some can say they believe his style is the right way is beyond me.

I have said on here repeatedly, he is the most negative manager I have seen. Now, he might talk positively but sets his team up to play negative football.

I never feel as if we are going to get at teams right from the off; instead, we play a pedestrian build-up that usually takes us 10 passes to get anywhere near the opponents' half.

I think I will scream if I see Barkley demand the ball off the back 4 for him to play it back to them or square to the full back then pass it back to one of the back 4. When Reid or Bracewell demanded the ball off the back 4, it was to get the attack moving, not to give it back to the defenders.

Maybe our "if you know your history" is all we have to cling onto because the present and near future don’t seem to offer anything positive.

Andy Codling
28 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:02:22
The decision to award that clown the captain's armband is a clear indication of the manager's regard for Howard, so he will not be getting dropped.
Tony Hill
29 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:33:44
The underlying concern is that the club is leaderless on several levels, including the Board as a result of BK's illness. That is very dangerous if we start to drift back to last season's mess.

Let's see how we go from here but I am worried that we look so slow and disjointed and lacking in confidence, even taking account of the difficult games we've had.

Another concern is that if Lukaku gets injured we have very few options.

Sorry to be gloomy but the last few games have made me nervous.

Patrick Murphy
30 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:35:41
Has there been a collective memory loss about our recent history in the Premier League? How many times in the last five or six years have Everton begun games on the front foot, especially away from Goodison? How many games did Everton fail to score in the first-halves of those games during that same period? I think you’ll find that the percentage hasn’t altered significantly during that period of time.

I’m all for wanting the team to be pro-active and for Martinez to send out his team on the front foot... but, in case some people have forgotten, this league is highly competitive and other teams have their aims to fulfil too. Martinez tried a bit of a gung-ho approach in the early part of last season and many people thought he was being rash and too attacking because we were losing matches, so it’s little wonder that most Premier League managers err on the side of caution with their team selections and tactics.

I’m not saying that Roberto couldn’t send his team out to be more attack-minded, just reminding some that it isn’t quite as easy as they seem to believe it to be. The one thing that Roberto should do is to be more ruthless with his players, if they make errors in consecutive matches, drop the player or players, because keeping them in the team sends out the wrong message.

I think that Martinez is all too ready to excuse mistakes, and that’s OK for the younger players on occasion, but not very good when it’s the experienced players making the same errors time and time again. Contrary to what Roberto believes there is no good way to lose, but there are many different ways of winning.

Tony Hill
31 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:44:58
The thing is though, Patrick, that Leicester and West Ham show the benefit of incisive, positive football. It's how we played for much of 13-14 and while nothing is easy in the Premier League, I'd rather see courage in the team than the ponderous, frightened stuff we are showing.
Mike Gwyer
32 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:46:33

Yeah, Howard is shite. You know what, he probably knows it himself. But what is totally laughable or "not" is that he has another 3 years contracted with Everton. Not sure if RM dishes out the contracts but it is absolutely shocking that both Howard and Barry have another 5 years, between them, of totally huge pay days. Fuck me, that really is totally shocking.

To replace Howard is going to cost serious money, both in transfer fee's and telling Howard and Robles to fuck off and look for work elsewhere. Robles is not the answer, he is equally shite regarding crosses into the box and ... fuck it, he is just fucking shite. Everton Football has got to take the financial hit and replace these two no-marks, who call themselves goal keepers, with a respectable keeper.

Peter Gorman
33 Posted 25/10/2015 at 12:47:20
Paul Tran, how did we look a half-decent side after going 2-0 down? I can't remember the last time we looked a half-decent side, was it the Chelsea game maybe?

Both halves we played the same as we played against West Brom, Utd and Liverpool at the very least. Badly. I'm talking about the basics of football. Players unable to complete a pass, not picking up runners into the box, not marking, inability to defend corners, inability to deliver corners, inability to claim any ball into the box (Howard), not making runs, not offering options. This was the case before the thrashing from Utd and is still the case. It makes me cringe to hear the media relate it in any way to the death of Howard Kendall, that is a total cop out.

That we are getting anything from games is a testament to the players ability. I don't believe for a minute it is the coaching.

Trevor Peers
34 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:03:59
If Howard should be shown the door, Roberto should go with him; after all, it’s his decision to keep him as our keeper this season.

Of course, neither will happen. Not just yet anyway

Michael Polley
35 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:06:06
Both goals were self-inflicted. Howard lacks any confidence coming off his line to claim the ball. Definitely at fault for Giroud’s goal. He just seems to get caught in ’no-man’s land’ all the time, and flaps his arms everywhere!!!

Martinez’s obsession of playing the ball out from the back also cost us the 2nd goal. We got caught in possession, and gave away a free kick just outside our penalty area. FFS, play the ball forward!!!

On a positive note, we did get back into the game, and should've got an equaliser. Deulofeu caused them all sorts of problems... although Barkley was once again frustrating to watch.

The next 2 games are vitally important, and winnable. These will be the games that we will be judged on, but they will not be easy, but let’s start a winning streak.

Interesting to see if Robles plays against Norwich.

Barry Jones
36 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:14:23
On the positive side, I thought we played reasonably well and Arsenal created very little, except for two half-chances from crosses... which they converted courtesy of us.

As virtually everyone on here has pointed out, Howard is crap with anything in the air and worse still, he looks scared. If a goalkeeper cannot command his 6-yard box, especially on poor crosses, then he has to go.

I thought Funes Mori looked very solid when he came on. I am impressed with what I have seen from him so far.

James Hughes
37 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:28:43
It is still amazing that, after all the losses we have suffered in the past 18 months, not much seems to change on the pitch. Still the same ’defensive’ midfielders each game and everyone obsessively passing it out from the back, regardless of risk.

Still the same attitude to set pieces: they are not important, so we neither defend them adequately nor score from them.

Lukaku still gets no support up front or balls played into his strong areas. He has looked a better player when Kone plays alongside him.

Still dithering in the final third and not shooting, we play football not rugby... we don’t need to walk it into the goal.

Still Howard rooted to his line like the tree, American Redwood... or, in his case, deadwood.

Groundhog Day. But I am sure we were 'phenomenal'...

Tom Bowers
38 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:32:46
If Robles is not good enough to oust the declining Howard, I would hope that Martinez has someone on the radar to take over when he is finally convinced Howard is no longer reliable... and that may be sooner than later?

With Sunderland on deck next in the Premier League, one might think Robles may get his chance again apart from the Capital One Cup game this week.

Harold Matthews
39 Posted 25/10/2015 at 13:39:30
Howard has blocked shots with every part of his body. Definitely not the actions of a coward. Team-mates turn their back but, like all keepers, he hopes to be hit.

Unfortunately, with time to think, the judgement part of his brain goes flying out of the window. It’s not a new trait. He’s always been that way.

For me, the goalkeeper is the main man. Clough broke the world record for Shilton. Ditto Juventus for Buffon. They wanted to win things and they did.

I don’t know where the power lies within our club but the present goalkeeping situation has a slight smell about it. Howard has been the hero on many occasions but his form is no longer of Premier League standard. Martinez, Mr Jones, Mr Lawrence, Big Dunc, Joe Royle, Unsy, Sheedy and BK will all be aware of this but, like it or not, he has to be selected. I wonder why.

Allan Board
40 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:08:58
Not posted for months... I wanted to see how the season had started before commenting. Worrying resemblances to 12 months ago as I see it. An inadequate keeper, poor coaching of basic football knowledge, awful team shape, playing his favourites regardless, disgraceful arrogant attitude toward the dead ball.

My view that this fella will relegate Everton has not changed. We may not want Mr Moyes back, but this team is in decline since he left. No discipline or team ethic – Martinez has seen to that. Take a few moments to watch other sides in the Premier League and their desire to compete.

David Cooper
41 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:11:10
Whilst much praise has been given to the defensive performances of Jags and Stones over the past 2 seasons, along with recognition by Woy Hodgson, we have never looked comfortable in dealing with crosses into our box.

I think our best defenders of corners have been Naismith, Kone and Lukaku when dealing with headers. I don’t remember seeing either Jags or Stones winning very much in the air.

When Stones was injured, the inclusion of Funes Mori certainly helped and our record and defensive performances definitely improved. Our recent 2 defeats came with him out of the starting XI.

Now, with Jags injured, Funes Mori will get another chance to show what a difference a centre-back who can win headers can make.

Ross Edwards
42 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:27:40
Martinez is too sentimental. Would any other manager willingly persevere with an underperforming GK as long as he has?

No. He needs to be more ruthless. He said last season that the No 1 spot was Howard’s ’to lose’. Well surely with his form over the last year, he has definitely lost it and has to be dropped ASAP.

He goes on about competition for places all the time, there clearly isn’t any. If Robles plays against Norwich on Tuesday and keeps a clean sheet, you can guarantee that he’ll be making way for Howard against Sunderland.

Galloway, I bet when Baines is back, he’ll be back on the bench and won’t be seen for the rest of the season.

Howard’s position is so secure and he knows it. Well it’s time for Martinez to show some balls and drop him. He needs to show players that their place in the side is far from secure and that they have to fight for their place and earn it on merit and performances.

Too many of those players are under performing and know full well that they won’t be dropped, Howard and McCarthy the main two.

David Hallwood
43 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:31:53
Great write-up, Lyndon, and absolutely spot on. Back in the day, not even top clubs would pay top dollar for a GK; Everton famously wouldn’t pay the fee for Peter Shilton – how different would Everton’s fortunes have been if we would’ve signed him?

But this is rapidly turning into déjà vu all over again, because what TWebbers forget is that, in the first 10 games of last season, we played some great football only to be undone by stupid mistakes, and the majority down to our Tim; you could see the confidence being sucked out of the team.

Last season, I posted that the difference between us & Man Utd was the GK, because De Gea won them 16 pts, which was roughly what Howard lost us. And so far this season, Howard has been at fault for Man City’s first (beaten at the near post for the xxxth time) the RS and yesterday’s goals.

I was watching Goals on Sunday and they pointed out that Stones (who didn’t cover himself in glory for the 1st goal) screaming at Howard for not commanding his area, so if the CBs are of the same opinion as the rest of us, what’s that doing for the confidence of the back 4???

Also, as Lyndon pointed out, we saw the players not being closed down. and you’ve got to question why we’re playing with 2 holders in midfield and their job is to patrol in front of the back 4 and double up and snuff out danger.

Last-but-one moan: The thing I hate about the media, apart from everything, is that, if we beat any of the Sky 4, it's because they played badly; I remember listening to TalkShite the day after we tonked them 3-0, it was all about how poor they played, whereas today it was the quality of the deliveries and the movement of the players (which admittedly was top notch) and nothing about Howard’s blunders. I fuckin' hate them.

Finally, what made me even more pissed was Mike Corcoran posted a link

Watch it and weep; to think I sat in the main stand watching this and thinking it would last forever.

John Keating
44 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:53:40
Everton's biggest weakness is Martinez. I really can’t see much difference in his set-up and tactics from last season. We still fuck ourselves up playing tippy-tappy at the back – Arsenal's second goal. We still don’t press the opposition high up the park, yet other teams know this is one of our weaknesses.

We leave Lukaku isolated, any half decent results we’ve had this season have been with having Kone help him out.

Set pieces are a disaster for us, both attacking and defending. Wenger played Giroud yesterday not because Walcott was injured but that he knew he would get more joy against our defence from set pieces.

I have no doubt that, as teams have well sussed us out about playing out from the back, more and more we will see balls lobbed in to the 6-yard box to show up that clown Howard.

Zonal marking is not working for us defensively and we have to go man-on-man with someone on the posts, unless of course we get a decent commanding keeper.

Sorry but I do not see any significant improvement from last season and expect us to finish middle to bottom half by season's end.

Aidy Dews
45 Posted 25/10/2015 at 14:54:51
I get that we’ve had a tough run of fixtures; it's been hard to string a run of good results, find some consistency and gain momentum. The next run of fixtures are going to be important and show us a lot more about ourselves but, in the last few games, personally, I’ve started seeing signs of the habits of last season creeping in!

The last few games we’ve set up to sit deep and invite teams on, hoping to win the ball in our own half when the opposition have committed men forward and look to counter. But, whilst we set up that way, and if/when we do win the ball, we're so slow and pedestrian on the ball. We don’t do any damage going forward and sometimes don’t even get near the opposition's penalty area.

We don’t close down and look lethargic off the ball. On it, we look energyless and our play is purposeless with a lot of sideways balls and no zip or crispness to our play, no incisive forward play. Our play at times is so slow it allows the opposition to get back in numbers and become hard to break down.

Only against Southampton & Chelsea have I seen us play with pace and purpose this season and both times we’ve battered the opposition!

Now for me we need to pick the right team and players for Martinez’s favoured formation. We need to start playing with two more-natural wide men and sack off playing the likes of Naismith, Kone or Cleverley on the left. Let's look to give Mirallas a run there and use either Deulofeu or Lennon down the right.

With Barry suspended for Norwich midweek, I'd like to see Cleverley given a run out in central midfield alongside McCarthy and add some more energy to midfield.

But I'd like to see us start games more on the front foot and get on the ball, play with more purpose and get at teams. When we haven’t got it, I want to see us get in teams' faces and press.

If in the next round of fixtures, we just go about them in the same manner as the last few, then we're not going to win many games and things are going to start looking a lot like last season; that will be unacceptable for me and questions will have to start and be asked of Martinez. Anther possible bottom-half finish just won't be good enough, especially with the money he’s had and the players he has got.

As for Howard, any keeper of any level should command his 6-yard box and take everything and clean out whatever’s necessary. A keeper should've been bought either in January or in the summer at least, as Tim is past it.

But come the summer, players like Howard & Barry, even though up until recently he’d been much improved, need taking out of the team and replacing.

David Barks
46 Posted 25/10/2015 at 15:01:15
Hey it’s okay people. Howard is doing commentary for the Manchester derby this morning. So he’s definitely fully focused on his job at hand and not at all distracted by getting an early start to his next career in commentary.

He truly is awful these days. He will make tough saves, the reflex type. But crosses seem to just lock his feet to the ground. And then there is the turtle-like form he chooses where instead of diving to one side or another he just flops onto his back with his arms and legs outstretched, as if he’s a turtle that has been flipped on its back.

I actually feel that even Moyes knew that a keeper needed to be found. He would sign young keepers, but then we would let them go since they apparently didn’t prove good enough. But a replacement is most definitely needed.

However, that will do nothing to solve the issue of our defenders failing to close down the ball, allowing these crosses to be sent in with ease. And it will do nothing to solve the issue around certain defenders losing their man every time a cross is sent into the box. In short, we are a defensive liability all over the pitch.

Raymond Fox
47 Posted 25/10/2015 at 15:39:25
Brian (#27), let's have it right, the two players bought cost £42m but most of that was because we sold and lost the services of Fellaini for close on £30m.

Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea spend more in one season than our overall spend in 5-10 years. Put the Reds in the large spending group also. Arsenal, even though they lashed out £42m on Ozil, thanks to Wenger's mostly shrewd buys, don't spew cash so much.

Understandably we're not top 4 class and can't hope to be unless we spend big bucks. We need a large clear-out of aging players for starters. Even though it won't be popular short-term, I'd sell Stones and spend the money on a goalkeeper and a top quality playmaker.

Ian Riley
48 Posted 25/10/2015 at 15:53:49
John (#15), thank you! After two years I am struggling to see which aspect of our game has improved.

Our ball possession is poor and defending at times is frightening. Our goalkeeper, well time to say goodbye. Five-year contracts to players in their thirties is not a good idea.

The next five games will tell us all about the manager and season ahead. Our home form is my biggest worry as we play a formation and style that allows teams to close us down. Slow tippy-tappy football is boring and predictable. Nine points from the next five games is a must!

Paul Tran
49 Posted 25/10/2015 at 15:55:33
So that's Sherwood gone. Wasn't he one of the geniuses that we 'needed' to 'save' us last season? Living proof that shouting, ranting and raving makes you nothing more than a shouter, ranter and raver.
Jim Hardin
50 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:08:28
How is every defeat Tim Howard’s fault? The excuses made for Stones on both goals are amazing. Stones is soft, point blank, on any crossed ball in the area. He wins a few when he can run onto them out of the box or there is no mass of people, but he is a coward in the air in the 6-yard box and seems to shy away from wanting to challenge, which could explain why he is nowhere near his man. It happens every game. Jags is not much better. Distin was the beast in the back who won the headers. Lukaku is by far our best defensive heading player although Funes Mori may actually surpass him given what I have seen in the last two performances by him.

Interesting that Howard is blamed. Could he have come for the first cross in the rain and through his own defender? Maybe. Would he have been able to do anything versus Giroud? Maybe or maybe not. Bayern’s GK came out for a floated cross and muffed it earlier in the week versus Arsenal so always coming is not the answer. The second one he had to stay on the line initially because it was a free kick from two yards outside the box (not a corner) at a high angle, making his first responsibility guarding the back corner and front corner and then coming out. There simply is little time to gauge where the ball is going and then react to it.

Howard’s stats this year suggest that you all are wrong, or are using subjective analysis if you say he is not EPL standard or is past it. He has faced the third most shots on target and has the fewest goals conceded from that number. What does that say about the defense that this stat is so high? He is ranked second in GK by Barclays, 7th by Fox soccer stats, and Squawka has him 6th. BTW, his distribution percentage of kicks completed and length is still top four in the league.

He has been called a coward on here by people who never played between the sticks. If that were true, he wouldn’t have been involved in the one-v-ones he saved yesterday. He did go head-first one time and feet-first the next. He does get involved in collisions so how is that cowardly? Interesting that he pulled off two excellent saves (one called for offside) but these efforts are not even mentioned or it is claimed he went feet-first instead of looking at the save. So when does subjectivity come into your analysis?

He makes the saves with the feet-first technique. BTW it is a technique being taught over here in the States by younger and more free-thinking keeper trainers because it reduces head injuries and actually puts you in a better position to get back to goal if a scramble or second save is needed versus the head first cobra method. It works for him even if the ToffeeWeb experts don’t like it.

Tim Howard will need replacing in the upcoming seasons because age will affect his reaction and speed. A new keeper must be found to work in on a rotation similar to what Spurs did with Friedel so Howard can retire in a few seasons.

Until the defenders, who rightfully should receive the coward label, step up like Distin and put their bodies on the line, a la Shawcross, Everton will concede goals from crosses, even if RM signs an octopus. Stones is more interested in making little slip steps and playing the ball out of the back and getting forward. Fine, make him a holding mid or an attacking one, otherwise teach him to stand his ground, track a run, and make a freaking play.

Dave Pritchard
51 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:14:47
Jim, I've asked people's views on Stones on other threads and there are not many takers. I wouldn't call him a coward though. He is still inexperienced and needs to beef up. Funes looks like he could be the 'traditional' centre-back we desperately need and we will get a chance to get a longer look at him in the next few weeks.
Jamie Crowley
52 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:18:13
This whole setting us up on the back foot. I think Roberto looks at a given game and sets us up for what he believes is our best chance at victory.

Yesterday, it was employing Lennon for defensive cover. It didn’t come off thanks to Jags really screwing up in my opinion. And Howard. More on that in a second.

Roberto may not always get it right, and he didn’t yesterday. But he’s not running us out there a la Moyes with the same approach every game. I’d guarantee that he won’t employ the same set-up and approach against Sunderland in our next PL game.

Nick Armitage
53 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:19:07
Good keepers aren't easy to find but we'll never win anything with Howard in goal. I'd swap him in a heartbeat for Ruddy and I'd drop him now for Robles. And John Stones needs a rocket up his arse too.
Mike Oates
54 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:23:16
There is no doubt Howard has had his time, he has cost us at least 6-7 points this season with his lack of command at dealing with crosses.

The next point may be controversial – Stones will never be a centre-half in the Premier League but could be an excellent centre defensive midfielder. He shirks away from any physical contact particularly with crosses. He lost both Giroud and Koschelny for the goals – both were his men and he ducked out of both challenges. He would be world class in La Liga, Bundesliga... but not the Premier League.

His class at breaking up play, building up play would be a huge asset; he should be groomed to take over from Barry.

Jamie Crowley
55 Posted 25/10/2015 at 16:29:29
Timmy Howard...

I’ve been a long-time backer of our keeper. His shortcoming is commanding his box. His strength is shot-stopping. The latter he is sublime at – he’s a fantastic shot-stopper, full stop. The former he lacks – the last two years it’s been extremely poor – his command of his box.

Yesterday, I actually saw two things for the first goal which is more or less the macro issue with Tim. Firstly, it was a sublime ball played by Ozil. Sublime. Secondly, I thought, even though Stones left Giroud for Jags to pick up, Jags did a terrible job defending. No excuse for not getting a head on that ball in my opinion.


Even the harshest of critics have it right with Howard on this occasion, and it’s a damning analysis for Tim as it occurs time and time again.

Tim should have been a middle linebacker in the NFL and cleared out everyone for the cross into the box. He’s timid with the prospective collision.

And that is where I’m starting to believe it is indeed time for Tim to assume the veteran backup keeper / positive influence / mentor to a new, young, aggressive keeper.

He simply has to start being entirely more physical and "confrontational" with balls into the box. And really it’s not "start being", it’s been a long time coming.

I think it’s a bit short-sighted and lacks memory to simply say Tim is shit. He’s made some amazing saves for us. He’s been a model Blue in my opinion and has been an outstanding servant to Everton.

But, and this pains me to say, it’s time for him to take a back seat. He either has to start to clear the box – men and ball – aggressively and with impunity, or he has to take a seat.

His entire career demonstrates that this isn’t gong to come to pass. It’s time to turn the page.

Oliver Molloy
56 Posted 25/10/2015 at 17:25:24
Jim @ 50.

I have called Howard a coward because of what he doesn’t do as a goalkeeper – catch or punch the ball and make sure you let whoever is challenging you will think twice next time! Andy Carroll will have a field day against Howard.

As for John Stones being soft, he is 21 and is brilliant for his age for a defender in the Premier League. He will make mistakes, and I would say some of his errors come from the clown of a keeper he has behind him.

Howard is 36 and should have nothing to learn. I’m no goalkeeping coach but I guarantee you that you show Howard clips to a coach and they would probably use them to show THE NEGATIVES. And no, I have never played between the sticks... but I have been flattened by people who have!

David Hallwood
57 Posted 25/10/2015 at 18:15:12
Jim Hardin (#50),

Yes, you can analyse a goal and, to coin the old cliche, when a goal’s scored, it's the whole team's fault. BUT there are fundamentals to football, and when you see a player consistently getting done on crosses and his near post because of... well God knows why, it's time to call it a day.

Yes the CBs didn’t cover themselves in glory yesterday or in the Derby in which if you remember a 5-foot nothing Danny Ings outjumped the defence and put it past static Howard who obviously lost the flight of the ball... again and again and again.

Jim, these are fundamentals that you teach to 10-year-olds: what comes in the 6-yard area is yours. FFS he’s 6’-4" and a cage fighter with more than 20+ years as a GK at the highest level, and he obviously keeps losing the flight of the ball. If only we could fire up the DeLorean and get Nev to see how he would have dealt with Ings and Giroud. Oh and Stones and Jags as well, but he would’ve come out with the ball.

Yes, it's tough being a GK; a striker misses 5 sitters then scores 1 wins the game and is a hero. whereas a goalie makes 5 world class stops and let’s a howler in and he’s a tosser. But that’s the nature of the beast and IMO Old Father Time has caught up with him – the concentration levels aren’t there, the reactions are slowing, so he’s off his game and he probably knows it, which makes him more anxious etc etc. Take it from me; I’ve been there.

RM must know that a GK is now the No 1 priority. My choice would Jack Butland – young, hungry and English. He would cost the earth but worth every penny.

Trevor Peers
58 Posted 25/10/2015 at 18:30:26
Like I've said on other threads, does Roberto even think there is GK problem and who would he have in mind to replace Howard?
He has form for picking duffers in goal throughout his managerial career, especially at Wigan.
Jay Harris
59 Posted 25/10/2015 at 18:58:03
I think our defensive performances generally have deteriorated under this manager. When he came in, we had the third-best defensive unit in the Premier League. Then as we have been told regularly by players, he stopped defensive training routines that Moyes had set up and we then shipped a record number of goals last season.

It is wrong to blame Stones for not picking up his man because we don't man-mark; we mark space and it was Jags that failed to cover both headers yesterday. I also think Tim Howard failed miserably to organize his defence and to clear crosses that were within his space. IMO, this is only a symptom of the confusion within the team.

We seem to start every game with no sense of purpose and organization. Despite saying we can give any team a game, we always seem to be incapable of raising our game sufficiently to win those games.

We defend like pussies and do not attack in strength. The number of times we trouble opposition goalkeepers is laughable. Our midfield is like a jumble sale; you make of it what you can.

What on paper looked like our toughest game of the season proved to be winnable apart from two appalling defensive lapses. Get it sorted, Roberto, before another season is over for the fans.

David Hallwood
60 Posted 25/10/2015 at 19:03:07
Good point, Jay Harris(#59). If I remember rightly, Moyes's last season, we had the best defensive record in the calendar year.
Peter Cummings
61 Posted 25/10/2015 at 19:44:13
Like Jim Bennings I have posted many times on the failures of Howard to dominate his ’territory’; Saturday was a classical example of a six-foot-plus ’keeper with the weight of a tank acting like he was a terrified rabbit caught in car headlights.

It was also deeply worrying at the sudden collapse of our once-impregnable defence in our last three games when they went AWOL leaving huge gaps costing us the points.

Against the Gunners in the first half, we were just holding our own until Howard's gifts. In the second half, we upped the tempo as they understandably started to tire after their midweek efforts, and brought on Mirallas to cause mayhem as well as Kone, they, along with Deulofeu, could have won it for us. Funes Mori did an excellent job also.

Lastly, I think that Robles should be given his chance again after doing extremely well when he filled in after RM's favourite number one was injured, starting from Tuesday night.

Tony Abrahams
62 Posted 25/10/2015 at 19:50:17
If stats don’t lie. Jim, do you really think it’s acceptable to concede four headed goals from inside the six-yard box. In our last four Premier League games?
Darren Hind
63 Posted 25/10/2015 at 20:09:34

Good to see the penny dropping brother.

Howard's been taken liberties for long enough.

Swiss cheese? When you're right, you're right... don't start going all soft on us now, son.

Ian Hollingworth
65 Posted 25/10/2015 at 21:04:23
I am amazed that we seem to think we have easier fixtures coming up. Given that we are currently 11th and teams like West Ham, Leicester and Palace all sit above us after great starts. With Martinez at the helm, I make us the under dog in most fixtures we play.

If he speaks to the players like he speaks to the media, then it is no wonder they look confused. He appears tactically inept and indecisive. Look at the stats; our form is not good. I fear for us whilst he remains in charge.

Andy Crooks
66 Posted 25/10/2015 at 21:07:47
I believe our next ten games are no easier than the first. We will expect to win many of them and that in itself is a handicap.

I just do not know what to expect from our team. Also, I think that the view that Martinez is versatile and tactically astute is plain wrong. Frankly, when we pass it around the back, I have a knot in my stomach.

Martinez is not in the Sherwood position because he has better players. I certainly do not think that Villa will be thinking "Let's get Martinez".

Martin Mason
67 Posted 25/10/2015 at 22:32:18
I agree now that Howard has an incurable weakness that Alex Ferguson saw clearly but which was masked by his amazing shot-stopping capabilities. It is worrying that we have a manager who can’t see it and who is incompetent enough to start an average right-winger as first choice on the left flank, a totally abject cover defender in a position where a young, inexperienced but adventurous and potentially international class full back needs the type of cover that Stevie Pienaar gave Leighton Baines. SP was one underrated player. I’m not slagging Lennon too much as I think he gives us a good option on his natural right flank but he is nothing special and Spurs' past – not our future.

More of a worry is: Does Stones have a positional weakness under that veneer of class? Were we better defensively with him out of the side? Is his problem the tactics he’s asked to play under?

Deulofeu I think must be kept in the side as he has genuine class and can get crosses into the good areas that nobody else can, even when he can’t get past the opposition defenders, a real gift.

However, I would like to see the club offload him if he insists on cheating. He is the worst in the division and he must stop it because the refs have him tagged already. If the defending team pulled out a gun and shot him the ref would wave play on now as a result.

Mirallas? He needs to leave Everton; he isn’t good enough and he has mental problems. Kone I see as a solution, not a problem, and can see him being a key member of the side as an essential support for Lukaku.

There is a very good team somewhere in that squad but it needs the goalkeeper, best defensive/central midfield and connection to Lukaku sorting out and the current manager is worse than clueless; another problem rather than the solution we need. I accept that he isn’t vulnerable though because we can’t afford to sack him.

Negative territory for me still, we aren’t nearly there yet despite a lot of often false promise. We carry a lot of deadwood and I’d like to see maybe 6 or 7 pieces unloaded and opportunities given to younger players who cannot possible do worse.

Raymond Fox
68 Posted 25/10/2015 at 23:17:02
Jay, stop dodging the truth and blaming the manager for all our shortcomings. What did we win under that defensive genius Moyes? A big fat zero!

Jagielka, Stones, Howard, Coleman and Baines when playing are all seasoned International players with the exception of Stones. You mean to tell me Martinez should have to tell them how to effing defend every match? Give over.

Which managerial genius could make us a top 4 side without enough players of sufficient quality to challenge for the top? If you want to kid yourself that all it would take is to change the manager, carry on; I’m sure you will find you're disappointed.

Patrick Murphy
69 Posted 25/10/2015 at 23:42:37
Martin (67) - I don’t like Del Boy falling over any more than you do, but is he really the worst in the Division at it? Mirallas may be a Prima Donna but has he really got mental problems? Has he sought psychiatric help? What is the club doing to address this affliction?

As for the squad needing a major overhaul, I think many of us accept that to be the case but could you tell me where we are going to find the money to carry out this wholesale change? And given that RM doesn’t have your or many others full confidence, perhaps a change of manager would be best.

As for the squad having a good team in there somewhere I would tend to agree but it seems that RM is no nearer to finding it than when he first walked in the door, whether that is down to him or the attitude and or ability of the players is open to question.

Andy Crooks
70 Posted 26/10/2015 at 00:44:20
Martin (#67), I agree that the manager isn’t vulnerable and, to me that is a major problem. Are we stuck with a coach who cannot get the best from a decent squad?

At what point is change necessary? Will it be as far down the line as "Roberto is the right man to get us promoted"?

We have too many good players to be bottom half but surely that is not good enough.

Abhishek Saha
71 Posted 26/10/2015 at 08:24:52
We haven’t spoken much about the Barry dismissal. I guess that’s the other positive of the game for us, apart from Funes Mori looking good.

The sending off comes at the right time for us, when we have the likes of Sunderland and Villa next in line. We can only hope (knowing Bobby Brown) that we can get load some offensive options in his place.

Dave Pritchard
72 Posted 26/10/2015 at 09:25:54
Abhishek, Barry was decent on Saturday. McCarthy is the defensive midfielder that needs a rest.
Martin makes a good point about the diving Del who otherwise looked dangerous. The ref clearly had his number and on one of his dives it looked like he could have stayed on his feet and got a shot in on the edge of the area. Of course he's not the only diver in the league but it needs RM to have a word.
Dave Abrahams
74 Posted 26/10/2015 at 09:33:36
Martin (67) good post mate, stick to football matters Martin, you're okay at that.
Jim Lloyd
75 Posted 26/10/2015 at 10:04:17
I think Roberto has had a word with Deulofeu. Only to me, he isn’t the worst diver but should cut it out.

If our current manager is worse than clueless, then who is the candidate to replace him? It is now that he has a full squad (well, almost) available for the first time in 18 months, so I’ll be looking at what the performances are like form now on.

Especially (hopefully) Steven Pienaar is fit enough to be considered for the first team with Baines not far away. Besic and Gibson there or thereabouts, he has his squad.

It might be a useful time with Jags getting injured, to see how Ramiro Funes Mori shapes up with Stonesy. They are both good passers of the ball and Ramiro is looking like a proper centre half who gets to the ball, whoever’s in the way, as well.

About Mirallas? A bit of an enigma. A good player but he nearly got booked again on Saturday. I wonder why it is thought that he has mental problems. That’s a fairly serious observation to make. Whatever it is, he is a player we could do with when he is in the right frame of mind.

I’m looking at the rest of this season to see how the team play and, for me, this is the period when a fair assessment of our team and manager can be made.

Martin Mason
76 Posted 26/10/2015 at 10:35:56
Sorry, mental problems wasn't the correct description. I should say an attitude problem that is unacceptable for a professional footballer who is being paid a lot of money to deliver performance not yellow/red cards.
Peter Jones
77 Posted 26/10/2015 at 10:42:30
I agree with Dave (#73). Barry was instrumental for the goal, getting in an excellent tackle on the edge of the box and setting Deulofeu free in space. His first booking was a joke and the second the act of a tired man who had worked his socks off.

McCarthy is the weak link in that midfield who seems even to have lost his work ethic which was his main strength.

Ray Roche
78 Posted 26/10/2015 at 10:48:08
Raymond Fox (#68),

"You mean to tell me Martinez should have to tell them how to effing defend every match?"

So, what you’re saying is that we don’t need a manager at all, don’t need someone to come up with a tactical solution to any problems we have?

It’s the manager's job to do that, just as it’s his job to get a defensive coach to sort out a poor defence, and that’s what those International defenders look like for much of the time, very poor. Look at the goals we concede from set-pieces, set-pieces that, according to Roberto, we don’t need to practice. While you’re at it, have a look at our home record for last season and this: 8 wins, 9 draws and 7 defeats.

Maybe Martinez can come up with some tactics to combat the teams that defend when we’re at home. We all thought that after the Chelsea result we’d start doing something in the League but, let’s be honest, Tranmere would beat Chelsea now, it was no big thing with hindsight.

He can also look at getting a new keeper, something we ALL knew was needed two years ago.

Raymond Fox
79 Posted 26/10/2015 at 12:13:30
While we are giving full titles, Ray Roche (#78):

Under what circumstance did we concede both Arsenal goals, indeed most goals usually...? Up in the air – that’s where.

It's Howard's judgement what crosses he comes for, that’s basic play for an experienced 'keeper; what’s Martinez supposed to do, stand behind the goal and tell him when to come out to meet the ball?

Same with the central defenders when a cross comes in, you're saying any manager has to tell them to jump and meet the cross before the opposing player? It's schoolboy stuff. They're both examples of poor play by individuals – not the system.

As an attacking force, Arsenal are one of the very best and we did okay apart from the 2 goals which were poor/bad play by individuals.

Harold Matthews
80 Posted 26/10/2015 at 14:46:15
Raymond. Your post reminded me of a coach who said that many of his players had been performing under heavy instructions since the age of seven or eight. If he sent them out with no instructions they would have trouble putting one foot in front of the other.

This doesn't apply to Howard of course. A keeper of his experience should deal with crosses with his eyes shut.

I don't know who Fabianski plays for these days but I wish we had him. He can make the odd mistake but commands his area and catches every cross with ease.

Ray Roche
81 Posted 26/10/2015 at 16:46:57
Harold, Fabianski went to Swansea on a free...

Raymond, Sorry, I just copied your name in full.
(not sure of your full title...Mr?Sir? Dame?;-) )

I think we may be singing from the same hymn sheet here, I said that we should be concentrating more on set pieces, something anathema to Martinez who doesn't believe in that sort of thing, and most set pieces are balls hit into the box, invariably in the air. Or in our case, to the head of the first man. Obviously I'm not saying that a "manager has to tell them to jump". But a manager has to set up a system and talk tactics to counter these situations and a defensive coach still needs to coach the players different strategies for different set pieces. That's what they do. That's why different managers have different styles. Wenger's sides play football, Allardyce sides play a bit And Pulis sides used to play a lot of hoofball.

If you read my post you will also see that I would have expected Martinez to have brought in a new keeper by now. He did bring in Robles but doesn't seem to fancy him any more or else he'd have been playing long before now.

Do you not think that Martinez should be able to set his team up to win more home games than he does? I do. And that is not the players job, players will always make individual errors, but the manager is responsible for how a team is set up and the team will respond to his instructions.

Barry Jones
82 Posted 26/10/2015 at 17:25:57
Quite honestly, one of the better goalkeepers in this league that I have seen attacking the ball from crosses is Szczęsny. I would try to get him from his loan at Roma at the end of the season.

Addressing two other issues:
I think that Mirallas is just frustrated at his treatment and that is translating into some rash tackles. Why did Martinez bring him on and then stick him at right back after Kone came on? Mirallas is still a very potent attacking threat, more so that Kone in my opinion. His turned the Arsenal defence in the box sublimely a few minutes earlier.

Lukaku has to be one of the laziest forwards I have ever seen. If the ball is a yard or so away from him, he makes no effort to get it or to close down a defender in possession. This cannot happen. ALL players have a defensive function of some kind. His irresponsible and lazy actions just causes a domino effect and the mids have to press the central defenders running at them. It was really evident once again on the weekend. I was watching Fletcher playing for Sunderland earlier. He is nowhere near as talented as Rom, but his energy in closing down and pressing was admirable.

Raymond Fox
83 Posted 26/10/2015 at 18:00:51
Ray while agreeing with you about managers setting up strategies for defence and attack which affect results, I think the abilities of the players involved/available to the manager probably has a greater effect.

If Martinez had a Cazorla or Silva in midfield, a Aquero up front and Hart in goal he’d be seen as a better manager overnight.

Martinez seems a thorough and intelligent guy I’m sure the players are aware what the game plan is when they take the field, the hard part is carrying it out well!

Darren Hind
84 Posted 26/10/2015 at 19:01:24
How can Martinez not be to blame for Howard's catalogue of Howlers ?

He (listen carefully Raymond) picks him every time. The way he handled the Robles situation was a disgrace. To tell a guy who has come in and done well that the clanger merchant he replaced, is, and will be his number one, was as bad a piece of management as I have seen.

I don't mind people defending Martinez, but you are embarrassing your self. You cant keep absolving him of everything.
Every Manager has his own way of defending set pieces, whether it be zonal Marking, a man on the post, Man for Man, whatever . . and they are all responsible for the practice and drill that goes towards making it work. Not one of our defenders knows what expected of him because the manager doesn't think they are worth practising .

We keep conceding from free kicks and you'd rather blame the tea lady than accept the fact that your sweet heart might just be responsible

Harold Matthews
85 Posted 26/10/2015 at 23:20:02
Yes Darren, Martinez should have Howard working night and day on cutting out high crosses. If he misses one more cross he sits on the bench.

The giant Lukaku should defend corners and freekicks and our other giant, Barkley, should not be sending over corner kicks to his smaller mates in the middle.

Ronald Koeman likes to play everything forward. He says he hates back passes to the keeper or anyone else. It slows things up. I hope Martinez was listening.

The lads on the pitch are his choice and they are trying to play to his instructions. It's the same with every team and every coach. Big Sam and Klopp will say they need time but they will both know that they will have to do it now.

Martinez is safer than most but ran very close to the edge last season and will not want a repeat. Unfortunately, we appear to be going backwards and I can't put my finger on the problem. We seem to be playing the same system with the same players with too many goals conceded at one end and too few goals scored at the other.

Jags will be a massive loss. He doesn't have the class of Stones but he's twice as tough and doesn't dilly dally with his blocks and emergency clearances. Get well soon, lad.

The major shock is the massive improvement in teams which normally finish below us. New managers, fresh ideas and quality signings. Easy fixtures are now hard fixtures but, that said, none of them will fancy playing us. We do have decent players and, on our day, we're pretty good. Bring 'em on. We're ready to roll.

Ian Smitham
86 Posted 26/10/2015 at 23:34:12
Harold, as always a reasoned point of view. One issue I have with your comments though. Tim does not miss crosses. He comes for none.

Personally, I believe he is being instructed that way. He is erratic in other aspects of his game so as he is consistent in not going for crosses I conclude it is because of his orders.

Regards defending corners, I do believe that RM has no idea, this is based on my observations of what happens in the technical area each time we conced a corner. The Laws of the Game say there can only be one person standing in that area at one time and when we defend corners it is normally his assistant conducting the orchestra. Or not!!

That said, why why why can we not get the ball over the first man when we have attacking corners, or am I missing something??

Ian Smitham
87 Posted 26/10/2015 at 23:41:00
While I am at it, Mirallas. On the positive, I would have made him Centre forward. Quick, shoots has a goal in him. On the negative, and without going over all the stuff on here, he loves himself. I am sure it was Harold who commented that RM does not even know who Leighton Baines is. Equally, if you are bored and he is looking to come off the bench, watch him, his idea of warming up is a few stretches then waving to his Wife and baby.
Ray Roche
88 Posted 27/10/2015 at 09:36:25
Raymond (#83),

True, we don’t have a Cazorla or Silva in midfield, we don’t even have the Aldi version, nor do we have a decent keeper and that is all down to Martinez. For heaven's sake, if we can see what’s missing, how come he can’t?

Harold, you, me and the rest of us may not be able to put our finger on exactly what’s wrong but we can pick up on some of the problems right away. As you say, Koemann likes to play things forward. We don’t or can’t. But what we can do is fart about with the ball along the back line and then pass back 30 yards to Howard who then waits an age until the forward has closed him down before hoofing the ball forward in desperation so that we lose possession. Either that or some poor sod in Row Z gets hit in the face.

We are poor at corners, both defending and attacking, in fact we are dreadful at all set pieces. It’s almost as if we don’t practice them... We have no variation with free kicks. It’s Barkley, Baines or Lukaku lining the ball up and having a shot on goal. No thought about what we might be able to do with a bit of invention.

None of it is rocket science, just common sense. No need to be seen as ultra clever or a new Messiah. Clarke said at the weekend that football is a simple game made difficult by coaches, echoing Shankly from years ago. "Football is an easy game, just give the ball to a man wearing the same-coloured shirt".

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