Hughes punishes Martinez's naïvety as Stoke win wild Goodison contest

The manager's suspect game-management and the continuing softness of his back line contributed to another three points being swept away in a torrent of goals.

Lyndon Lloyd 28/12/2015 35comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 3 - 4 Stoke City

For a few glorious minutes after Gerard Deulofeu had gleefully converted Ross Barkley's cross to put Everton 3-2 up it felt as though Roberto Martinez's side had come of age. For weeks, the manager has been talking of his young side's need to mature, to adopt a winning mentality and now, having twice trailed to a confident and enterprising Stoke City side, they had turned the tables and had three points in their grasp.

If the energy and intensity with which his often irrerepressible attack, led by the magnificent Romelu Lukaku, drove themselves on to claw back those two deficits epitomised the best parts of the side the Catalan has assembled, what followed in terms of defending that precious advantage was symptomatic of the glaring deficiencies that underpin the fact that the Toffees, as lauded as they have been in recent weeks for their shwashbuckling approach, will begin 2016 in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Martinez acknowledged that his side needs to be better in those situations they're words that ring hollow the more they're repeated after every failure to press home an advantage or throw away points from winning positions but the main thrust of his post-match comments concerned the anger and sense of injustice around the penalty decision that handed Marko Arnautovic the chance to win the game for the Potters from the spot in stoppage time.

It was a rash challenge by John Stones but also, predictably, an awful decision by Mark Clattenburg, a referee who was for years persona non grata at Goodison Park for his antics in a Merseyside derby in 2007, but in laying all the blame on the match official's incompetence Martinez largely missed the bigger picture. As has been the case in so many games in recent weeks, a single point from this match would have been scant reward and far less useful than the succession of threes that Everton have tossed away since leading 2-0 at Bournemouth at the tail end of last month.

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More important was what it confirmed about Martinez himself and his naïvety when it comes to managing leads and closing out matches when his team is ahead in the final stages. He was criticised in the aftermath of that emotionally crippling 3-3 draw at Vitality Stadium for leaving the fatigued Arouna Kone on for the entire game when his contribution to the team's performance had evaporated. Here again, he had one substitution remaining with which he could have shored up defensive midfield and slowed the game down with the introduction of Muhamed Besic but, not for the first time, his cavalier nature go the better of him and in presumably trying to go for a fourth goal, he left the door open for Stoke to grab victory from the jaws of defeat instead.

It was a desperate shame because the attitude shown in recovering from twice going a goal down to two admittedly impressive Xherdan Shaqiri goals the second was a ridiculously sublime effort that stunned the Goodison Park crowd into silent admiration was excellent, particularly on the part of the Blues' attacking players. Lukaku was simply unplayable at times, giving as good as he got against a robust Stoke defence while scoring two well-taken goals of his own; Ross Barkley was an effervesent presence probing from deep, teasing opposition players and taking them on in tight spaces; even though he still refuses to shoot enough, Kone was all close control and neat lay-offs; while Gerard Deulofeu, who started poorly and was rightly booked for another pathetic dive in the first half, was one whose display grew in stature, culminating in what should have been the winning goal with 20 minutes to go.

In truth, Deulofeu wasn't the only one to start below par; Everton matched the visitors in the early going as the two teams traded near misses from Barkley, whose whipped shot aimed for the far corner deflected wide and Arnautovic who flashed an effort of his own across Howard's goal. But the home defence was picked apart in the 15th minute by a swift-moving move involving Bojan Krkic whose inside pass was shuffled on by Arnautovic across the Everton box to Shaqiri who swept a shot into to the corner in annoying accordance with Everton's Law, it was his first goal in Stoke colours.

It was the 13th time in all competitions this season that Martinez's side had conceded the first goal but, once again, they were quick to respond, levelling the match within six minutes with a goal that was beautiful in its execution and simplicity. Barkley carried the ball to the edge of the Stoke box and paused before rolling the ball to the open James McCarthy. The Irishman, starting his first game since Bournemouth, shaped to hit it first time but slipped it to Lukaku insead in front of goal and, level with the Stoke defence, he turned and fired past Jack Butland.

That sparked Everton into greater attacking endeavour and Barkley raced away on the break before back-heeling to Brendan Galloway his selection in place of Leighton Baines was one of four changes the manager made from the win at Newcastle but the makeshift left back dragged his shot a yard or so wide. Coleman then went down in the penalty area under Erik Pieters's challenge but referee Clattenburg only awarded a goal kick a decison that would anger Martinez further in the context of the award of a spot kick to the visitors at the end of the game.

You had the feeling as the game headed for half time that Everton now had the measure of Stoke and that the game was there for them to win if they could maintain their offensive intensity in the second half. Unfortunately, the Blues' high defensive line was caught flat-footed on the stroke of half time. Not for the first time Stones, who, frankly, had an uncharacteristically awful game, delivered a forward pass straight to the opposition and Bojan returned it with interest, a through-ball that dissected the home defence and put Shaqiri in the clear. The Swiss audaciously clipped a half-volley on the run that sailed over the hapless Howard, and spun almost in slow motion into the top corner of the American's goal.

Everton's response was everything a hopeful home faithful could have asked for. The defence had to survive a nervy moment when Glen Johnson easily got around Tom Cleverley at the byline and had to be closed down by Ramiro Funes Mori but the Blues eventually levelled in the 64th minute thanks to the midfielder's quick-thinking at the other end. Cleverley, who had been left out of the starting XI but come on after only 20 minutes for the injured James McCarthy, hooked a superb ball over the top to Lukaku who brought it down high off his chest with aplomb, set himself and then tucked it past Butland into the far corner.

The momentum now with them, the Blues pushed for a third and Steven Naismith, on for Cleverley who himself had to go off with an injury, looked to have got it but his goalbound shot deflected agonisingly wide. It was Deulofeu who got it a few minutes later though when Lukaku put Barkley in on the overlap with a nicely-weighted pass and the midfielder put the ball on a plate for the Spaniard a yard or so from goal where he couldn't miss.

That should have been the game won there with 20 minutes to go but Martinez remained un-reactive, leaving all four of his attacking players on the field and left the tiring Gareth Barry to complete his second full game in less than 48 hours. Hughes, who had thrown on Joselu at 2-2, added John Walters in place of defender Kirk Cameron with 12 minutes to go. It was the former sub who did the damage in the 80th minute, though, after good work by Arnautovic down the left flank and when Howard failed to get any decent purchase on his cross, Joselu hammered a first-time shot back past the 'keeper to restore parity once again.

Carving out a fourth and winning goal proved beyond Everton who just had a wasted corner and Coleman's snatched shot that he ballooned over the bar to show for it. Instead it was Stoke who put together one last incisive move through the space afforded them in the middle of Everton's half and Stones looked to have got a decisive knick on the ball with his out-stretched leg to deny Arnautovic as he tried to power towards goal. Clattenburg initally seemed to agree but after a moment or two's hesitation he pointed to the spot and Arnautovic clattered it down the middle with Howard gambling to his right.

"Unacceptable" was Martinez's assessment of the officials' inconsistency but it's a description equally applicable to Everton's home record. It goes without saying but conceding seven goals at home in the last two matches is no recipe for progress in what can be a relentlessly unforgiving league. Take that late penalty out of the equation and the Blues had still shipped three goals and failed to win for the seventh time in the Premier League this season. Indeed, they've only won four times at Goodison so far and one of those was via a penalty shootout against Norwich. Being one of the most entertaining sides in the top flight and this certainly was a thrilling game if you were a neutral or Stoke fan counts for nothing if it means another season of under-achievement and a mid-table finish.

The buck stops with the manager, of course. Martinez has been praised for the exciting young team he has assembled but the concerns over his team's defensive abilities that have dogged him since his days at Wigan, are as acute now as they have ever been since he succeeded David Moyes two and a half years ago. On this evidence, it doesn't look as though this particular leopard is able to change his spots. Phil Jagielka's absence is rightly held up as an important reason for the defensive frailties currently being exhibited by Everton we were conceding silly goals even with the skipper in the side as well but there is no question that his leadership and experience is needed back there, particularly while Howard fails to inspire confidence and Stones shows signs of believing in his own hype.

As unlikely as the sudden adoption of defensive solidity appears to be, the opportunity for Everton to mount a push for the top six remains open if they can get their act together as they enter what is once again a daunting run of fixtures over the next few weeks. They will go into the New Year game with third-placed Tottenham just five points off fifth place but it's a gap that will be impossible to breach without wins. Martinez's Blues need to start grinding out victories immediately or another season of frustrating medioctrity in the League beckons. Sadly, we look doomed to it unless something significant happens in the coming month.

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Reader Comments (35)

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Andy Peers
1 Posted 29/12/2015 at 01:19:44
Another roller coaster game of emotion, which you have described perfectly. When 3-2 up everybody should be behind the ball and worst case scenario you would only concede 1 goal if any with 18 minutes to go. Martinez does not grasp this results based business so get him out.
Fran Mitchell
3 Posted 29/12/2015 at 01:39:57
What on earth do they do in training?

Lukaku must be fuming, so many goals yet so few points won.

We lack composure when in front. The idea of possession based football is to control the ball and thus, maintain shape. We lose all shape. This comes down to the training.

Talented players, the lot of them (OK, Howard may be past his expiry date) but something is wrong. We have only beaten teams below us.

As an opposition manager, you would always be confident in getting a goal or two.

We still have 19 games, but we have blown our "make or break" run of 'winnable' fixtures. Now come Spurs, City and Chelsea.

We need 6 points minimum.

Personally, time for Martinez to go. Bottom half at new year, with the leagues second best striker of 2015.

Bielsa is available, and apparently willing to come to the Premier League. A talented manager with this talented squad could still do something this season.

If Leicester can get 38 points in 18 games, no reason this team can't.

But never with Martinez.

Bielsa In Now!

Anthony Lewis
4 Posted 29/12/2015 at 01:50:29
Great report, as ever Lyndon and right on the money. We have the most exciting squad I have seen as a blue in 30 years, but we just can't defend.

Something has to change

Brian Dagnall
6 Posted 29/12/2015 at 03:16:32
I find the reports and comments on here and on Ken Buckley’s page quite measured and reasoned. No angry outbursts or bad language and this is to be welcomed. I also listened to Rio Ferdinand’s comments about Stones and he gave considerable reassurance for a man not playing that well just now. Would he be better playing alongside Jags when he is fit again? Hope so.

The manager is the MAIN problem we have, down to his dangerous style of play, his apparent preference for players with modest innate ability like Kone, Galloway and Naismith, and his overwhelming positive spin.with the media. He talks like we don’t have a problem, so I wonder whether he really thinks like that. Deep down we all know Blue Bill will not do anything rash, so I suspect we are stuck with Martinez for a while longer.

Thank god we have Barry (who has come in for some bashing before on this site), Barkley and Lukaku. I thought all three played great yesterday. Barry is not only our linkman, in my view he is our best defender. Our defence has no shape, Seamus many times out of position when passes are misplaced and Galloway just doesn’t know where to stand, when to go forward and when to stay back. But my point is our bad defence is not just Stones and Funes Mori, it is almost the entire team that has to learn. All these problems down to the manager in my opinion.

But for Lyndon to let Clattenburg off the hook is just not fair. If you watch Leicester’s first penalty against us, it is eerily similar to the action that took Coleman down in the first half yesterday. And the Stoke pen was just refereeing gone mad. Remember Clattenburg when Carragher wrestled Lescott to the ground .... nothing!!!

I think this guy has a problem with my team, and this had a material effect on the result. So while agreeing we must have a defensive system, you can’t legislate for incompetence or corruption such as that displayed by Clattenburg.

Dennis Ng
7 Posted 29/12/2015 at 03:42:27
Fran (3), Biesla? There are quite a few other good ones available as well (e.g. Spalletti), but can we trust the board to find someone better? Would someone want to take over us at this juncture, with the winter window pretty much out of the question for a new manager. Not to mention, firing someone when we're not in a relegation battle is not really our nature.

The best we can hope for is for our beloved club to survive this forgettable season by RM and then maybe, MAYBE we might have a shot at hiring a good manager and fixing the mess that we've got into. We need someone who can pick out the good from the past (whatever's left I guess) and present and make them better going into the future. If not, we're likely to see an exodus of players that are talented but doesn't fit the new manager's philosophy.

For some weird reason, we're still considered better than the rest, mentioned in Men in Blazers as a challenger. Either they are still drinking RM Koolaid or they didn't watch our games. I'm thinking the latter...

Dick Fearon
8 Posted 29/12/2015 at 05:06:10
Almost to the extent of biting my key board I have tried mightily to observe TWs plea of a few months ago not to be over critical of Roberto and the players. It appears that cracks in this more gentle approach are starting to appear and ere long it could see a return of open slather.

Michael Kenrick and Paul Traill are clearly losing patience with matters on the field while you and Ken struggle to accept what is staring you in the face.

Martinez has taken this team of many talents as far as he is personally able. He has failed to sort out our woeful performance at attacking and defensive set plays and corners That have been a disgrace for far too long.

A start could be made by using player/s who can consistently bypass the first defender. That also begs the question of why Barkley is given the job in the first place. He is a big lump of a lad and could be useful in the box specially as his corner kicks are crap.

Another easily fixed error is Deulofeu's tendency to do multiple stepovers while Lukaku is increasingly boxed in and wondering what Del boy will do next.

I could go on about half dozen cases where Martinez does not seem to have a clue how to remedy. Happy New Year Lyndon, Michael, Paul and Ken.
Mike Gaynes
9 Posted 29/12/2015 at 05:12:12
Am I the only one who just rolls back and laughs at the calls for Roberto’s dismissal?

Talk about unrealistic... can ANYBODY remember a mid-table team, performing essentially as expected, suddenly sacking its manager at the New Year? Ever?

I don’t mean like a Chelsea or a Man Utd, title and CL contenders crashing and burning. I’m talking about us... a team predicted to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack and currently residing there, picked by nobody for either Europe or relegation and with no danger of either one happening.

What side in our position EVER replaces a manager at midseason?

The only way Roberto gets sacked this season is if we suddenly drop eight straight and plummet towards the bottom, and that’s simply not going to happen.

There’s no way.

Eddie Dunn
10 Posted 29/12/2015 at 10:16:20
Brian 6. While I concur with most of your comments and personally dislike Clattenburg, I think that in real time Stones looked to have taken Arnautovic’s legs. When he did not immediately give the pen, I breathed a sigh of relief, but then I think he was told by the lino that it was a pen, and then he gave it. If only they could have used a video ref, like in Rugby or Cricket, then justice could have been done. Of course Stones slid in naively and any striker in this league will go down hoping for the pen in these circumstances. The travesty is that the Coleman trip was much more worthy of a pen, and was overlooked, poor refereeing.

Once 3-2 up, we should have got every man Jack behind the ball, and the attackers should have closed down their defenders. it is no good Kone and Rom and del just trotting about in these situations ,everyone has to do their bit. Kone was out on his feet, as was Del and the boss was stupid not to get Besic or Ossie on to help man the pumps.

I fear Martinez will never learn. He has been in the game long enough to deal with these scenarios, but alas, we see the same errors week after week. I am sick of it, and would like him to go elsewhere. It wouldn’t be so bad if he admitted his mistakes, and tried to rectify our errors, but he seems in denial, and never takes responsibility. Saying "we have to learn" is not good enough, as we are obviously not learning, but throwing away a rare chance to break into the top four.

It is criminal, and negligent. Although I admire the grit we have showed in not giving up and playing some attractive stuff, what is the point if the team don’t know , or aren’t allowed to defend properly?

Ian Hollingworth
11 Posted 29/12/2015 at 10:21:16
I'm sick of saying it – Martinez was not and is not the man to manage Everton FC. Mike G points out, "who sacks a manager in mid-table", etc. Well I want to know who in God's name appoints a manager who has just relegated his team?

Check his record out and ask Wigan fans what the problems were and you will not like what you hear. Check Wigans record before he took over and compare it to whilst he was there. Does anyone at Everton do these checks before appointing him?

Nice man, means well but not a top manager and never will be. A talented young squad being wasted by this waste of space.
Philip Yensen
12 Posted 29/12/2015 at 10:24:55
Mike Gaynes, never say never. We need to play 5 at the back, 4 across midfield, Lukaku as usual on his todd. Gareth Barry as sweeper. Robles in and leave him in. Then let's go and get Hughes or Bilic.
Andy Meighan
13 Posted 29/12/2015 at 10:31:18
Best squad since the 80s, exciting young team. What a load of absolute shite. Yes, we've rattled a lot of goals in but by God weve shipped a few, especially at home. This manager in a couple of seasons has managed to make Goodison one of the easiest places in the league to go and get a result. It wasn’t always exciting under Moyes but it was one hard place to come and get a result. Even under smith one season we went from September to April without losing a home game.

Martinez hasn’t learned that you attack as a team and you defend as a team. Yes we attack as a team but we certainly don’t defend as a team. When sides attack us at home it actually looks to me like we've only got 8 men on the pitch, the space these opposition players get is criminal. That coupled with a defender who thinks he's Beckenbaur but cannot defend to save his life. He's petrified to head the ball, can't tackle and is easily bullied.

He's got a partner now who is unsure what to do with ball wen he receives it. When he first got in the side he'd clear it by putting the ball in the stands like any sensible defender. That’s been coached out of him.

He's sucked the life out of Coleman who'll never be the player he was under Moyes, and as for the keeper... well let's not go there. Sarcastically applauding the fans when he caught the ball. Arrogant fucker.

While I respect everyones views and opinions could you please spare me this "exciting team" mantra because believe me it isn’t true. The manager has seen to that.
Rick Tarleton
14 Posted 29/12/2015 at 10:47:37
We have four international defenders, five if you count Jagielka, though strangely Martinez doesn’t always select them. Two defensive midfielders, though for me Besic is the best of all in this role, and admittedly the worst goalkeeper in the Premiership, and we can’t defend at all.

As Fran Mitchell says, what do they do in training? Martinez’s selections and substitutions are a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Yet we have the best attacking trio in Lukaku, Deulofeu and Barkley since the mid eighties and possibly rivalling, Young, Vernon and Temple. Martinez is not merely a cavalier in the Keegan mould as a manager, he doesn’t understand how to close a game down and when to close a game down.

We are drawing and losing games which we control which is a sign of poor organisation and poor coaching.

John Hughes
15 Posted 29/12/2015 at 12:10:07
Just seen on Sky the powers that be to take no action on Roberto's comments about Clattenburg decisions v Stoke, does that mean they agree with them, if so will they take action on ClattenBERK?
Simon Hermansen
16 Posted 29/12/2015 at 14:53:20
When we go 3-2 up, after the celebrations, nearly everyone in the ground looks toward the Everton bench to see if the boss is readying Besic (or even Ossie) so he can replace the 'dead on his feet' Kone or Geri.

We can then get everyone behind the ball except Lukaku, who can do the 'hold it up' job when needed, and show an ugly, pragmatic side to our game (a plan B, ha!) designed to see out games.

It really isn't that difficult but RM is so obsessed and stubborn with his keep ball philosophy that history will just repeat again and again and again. Enough already!!

Garry Corgan
17 Posted 29/12/2015 at 18:10:22
I don't buy the suggestion that, at 3-2, Martinez should have made a substitution to shore up the defence. The problem I saw is that, after taking the lead, we dropped off and allowed Stoke to have the ball. We should have continued with the attacking mentality and intensity that had them on the ropes in the first place.

Whether it's the players or the manager, we allowed Stoke back into the game by going deep and attempting to defend a lead. The best form of defence, they say, is attack, and, since that's what we're good at, it's what we should have continued to do.

Ian Bennett
18 Posted 29/12/2015 at 18:20:43
I'd have brought Gibson on for Gerri or Kone at 3-2. Playing Barkley, Dealofeu, Lukaku, Kone, and Naismith in the last 10 mins is ridiculous.

Keegan out!

Anto Byrne
19 Posted 29/12/2015 at 18:59:53
It's totally insane making the same mistakes, did he not learn anything at Wigan other than how to play nice football that gets you relegated? Stoke are 2-1 up and Everton are playing the patience game of slow predictability when Cleverley picks out Lukaku with a lovely 40 yard cross field pass that this world class striker buried.

It went totally against the whole philosophy of retaining possession and endless passing. I remember under Moyes we used to lump it in with long ball specialist Unsworth and then more recently Jagielka would pump it up to Fellaini.

These tactics can work if we have the variation in the play, sometimes a big heave ho to the forwards can unsettle the opposition given they are not expecting it. I have to laugh at corner kicks, both hands go up as if it's a special signal but invariably its just lumped in the middle and a well organised defense clears it.

Just play it short for once or have some preconceived idea what your going to do with it, how’s about a flick on from the front post or delivered at high velocity at knee level making the defenders work a bit harder. Any variation is better than nothing.

Watching Stoke and Leicester defend with a half decent keeper they have been miserly but it's not surprising when you get ten bodies behind the ball and have a couple of tall commanding centre backs. I’m thinking John Stones should be playing along side Barry. Mori and Jags with Baines and Coleman. Mori at least wins a few headers but we do lack a bit of height and muscle at the back.

After what is 9 seasons at Everton the fall from grace of Tim Howard is just sad. He never was an agile keeper always was an error waiting to happen. Those typical flaps and reckless penalties that gifted goals was made up for it with outrageous stops that are bread and butter for most keepers.

Lyndon Lloyd
20 Posted 29/12/2015 at 20:17:28
Brian (6) "But for Lyndon to let Clattenburg off the hook is just not fair."

Not sure I did, Brian. I said it was a disgraceful decision, worse because he appeared to rely on the eyes of his assistant on the other side of the field.

My point was that I was would be just as angry and Everton would be only marginally better off points-wise had we drawn 3-3. Draws are useless in the current Premier League – if you want to progress you need to rack up wins. We had one in sight and let it slip away, either because we didn't go for the jugular or didn't try and get compact, bring on that third sub and protect the lead.

Harold Matthews
21 Posted 30/12/2015 at 04:29:47
Mirallas has always been against playing twice within a week but not having Lennon on the bench was a big error. We needed his defensive energy in the last 20 minutes when Stoke’s last two goals came from the rear righthand corner he always helps to protect. Saving players for the Spurs game was no way to win this one.
Paul Kelly
22 Posted 30/12/2015 at 04:33:33
" the opportunity for Everton to mount a push for the top six remains open", it is, but not with this current farcical Spaniard in charge, do you honestly think he could turn it around?

Everyday I wake up and put on SSN hoping to see that yellow band scroll across the screen with the words "Martinez sacked" splattered across it. If he's not, I fear for our club.

Mike Gaynes
23 Posted 30/12/2015 at 16:32:50
Philip Yensen #12, good luck with your application for the job.
Harold Matthews
24 Posted 31/12/2015 at 08:32:57
Martinez has changed things. In the last two games, the big hole in front of the left back became the big hole in front of the right back. Instead of their nornal role to the right of Barry, McCarthy and Cleverley both patroled the left.

With Lennon on the pitch this would not be so bad because he always tracks back to help Coleman and Stones. With Deulofeu on the pitch it's asking for trouble and that's exactly what we got. A left back and a left winger with all the space in the world and they murdered us.

Ian McDowell
25 Posted 31/12/2015 at 08:58:07
Harold your spot on. Before the Newcastle game I said I would of played Lennon and then started Delufeou v Stoke. If Lennon had been on the bench v Stoke the last 20 mins would of been an ideal situation to bring him on. He'd of tracked back and helped out Coleman and gave us a cracking option on the break.
Dave Abrahams
26 Posted 31/12/2015 at 09:26:09
Mike (#9), I understand what you are saying re Martinez will not be replaced in mid-season, does this mean you are happy with the manager?

You are usually much more realistic than that.

Henrik Lyngsie
27 Posted 31/12/2015 at 09:42:51
It is only the very very top players like Messi who are not being asked to track back and actually do some defending.

As much as I like Barkley and Deulofeu they are not up there. They need to learn to play both ways. Barkley got the physique to do it but Deulofeu needs to develop it.

It is simply naive to have 3-4 players who are not defending. Even if we had Cech and shawcross in our team we would leak the same amount of goals.

Look at Sanchez in Arsenal or Silva in city they defend much harder than our attacking midfielders. You can’t defend with 6 men in the PL.

Harold Matthews
28 Posted 31/12/2015 at 11:28:33
Interesting to note that our 2nd and 3rd goals both came from moves initiated by Ramiro Funes Mori who leapt high to head their keepers punt. This is one tough strong Argentinian with a mighty jump.
Jim Hardin
29 Posted 31/12/2015 at 17:54:54
I don’t mind attacking with the lead instead of substituting a defensive player and trying to see the game out. Bournemouth and Leicester attack even with a lead. The problem I see is fitness once again.

Our players don’t seem to be fit enough to continue the attack which then leads to us going flat and the other team scoring late goals. The players as a whole certainly aren’t able to press and chase down the other players all game. If Vardy can run all game then why can’t Deulofeu and Barkley and everyone else?

I don’t mind attacking football so long as the players are capable of sustaining it.

Harold Matthews
30 Posted 01/01/2016 at 05:49:51
Henrik / Jim. The point you both make is far too serious to ignore. To be honest, it's been on my mind all week.

I've watched the full Stoke match umpteen times and the same question always comes to the fore. How on earth does Mark Hughes get his players to work so hard? From Shawcross to Shaqiri, every single player closes down quickly and tries to regain possession.

Apart from the three amigos up front, they're just ordinary solid pros but in the space of a couple of days the same bunch of players mullered both United and Everton. Of course, it remains to be seen how they will fare in the next couple of games, but with six points in the bag I guess Hughes will be sleeping more soundly than Martinez who looked to the future and made four changes.

Derek Thomas
31 Posted 01/01/2016 at 06:43:44
Harold @30; Q) How on earth does Mark Hughes get his players to work so hard?...A) He’s the Boss, he tells them to – or else, no doubt.

Just like Martinez tells them to pass – or else. He’s the boss, as Andy @13 says, when Funes Mori first played he put it in Row Z... now he doesn’t.

The real reason Stoke got the pen for the winner is Martinez... not Clattenberg being a kopite twat... or Stones being rash or somebody giving the ball away out wide.

It’s because the team are playing exactly how Martinez tells them to.

Mike Gaynes @9; you can be forgiven for saying... Can ANYBODY remember a midtable team, performing essentially as expected, suddenly sacking its manager in the New Year?

Well, yes I can; Everton January 1977, right before a League Cup Semi Final as well... There IS a precedent.

Tony Hill
32 Posted 01/01/2016 at 10:10:06
Yes, I think Jim's point is critical. We don't maintain an intense approach and we flop at crucial stages of our matches. All the successful teams press and keep pressing and are able to control the rhythm of games.

There is always a moment - and you can see it coming - when we just glaze over and stand aside for our opponents.

Henrik Lyngsie
33 Posted 01/01/2016 at 10:43:28
Happy New Year, all.

Well, Harold (#30) it is always a trade-off, isn’t it? If your creative players are spending all their energy defending, they won’t be creative anymore. But our mix is just not right. We have too many players who are not taking defensive responsibility.

My 11-year-old son, who is a central midfielder, is asking "Why isn’t Barkley running when Stoke has got the ball?"

If we got that defensive/offensive mix right, I think our defense would suddenly look good.

Harold Matthews
34 Posted 01/01/2016 at 10:49:27
Derek, 100% with you on the passing business but I'm sure he doesn't tell them to pass the ball straight to the opposition or to go to ground in the box and turn their back on crosses and shots.

I'm also sure he didn't tell Deulofeu to ping those early right foot bending crosses to Lukaku. They were the lads own invention when he couldn't get down the line. They worked so Martinez allowed him to continue.

All the same, I do get your drift. He firmly believes his football philosophy will bring us success and demands that his players follow it. You don't believe it will work so you want him out. Fair enough. I don't think you are on your own.

Martinez has hinted that he may need three or four more windows to make us truly competitive.The squad faces may change but we will be much stronger with decent backups for every position. Unlike now where things are getting pretty desperate. Okay but we'll probably lose Lukaku and Stones. So what, I think. There are 10 teams above us who don't have Lukaku and Stones.

Interesting times ahead.

Derek Thomas
35 Posted 01/01/2016 at 11:44:54
Very Interesting times indeed Harold, but we could be competitive now with only a slight compromise in the Philosophy. Now he might see it as a step back, but if you are right, in 3 or 4 windows (summer windows) Imagine just how competitive we could be. So instead of seeing it as a step back, it could be a run up for, in the words of Mao, A great leap forward.

But it won’t happen... he won’t change, adapt, tweak, tune etc etc. Standing still is actually moving backwards.

Paul Cherrington
36 Posted 01/01/2016 at 12:17:05
I would agree with the point made re Funes Mori and his reluctance to clear his lines as he did when he first came. Not the player's fault, obviously... but can’t the manager see that doing that was what made him a good addition to the team? Sometimes you just need to get rid!

Now that we have both him and Stones doing their Total Football impression at the back, we are again one slip away from giving stupid goals away.

Harold Matthews
37 Posted 01/01/2016 at 13:10:46
Haha. Nice one Derek.

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