Atonement and another step on the road to redemption

Everton atoned for the two prior meetings with Stoke and took another step back towards the right area of the Premier League table.

Lyndon Lloyd 07/02/2016 73comments  |  Jump to last
Stoke City 0 - 3 Everton

Roberto Martinez's tenure at Goodison has not been without its ups and downs but it's hard to imagine a more dejected feeling than the one that engulfed players, fans and manager alike at the end of our previous visit to Stoke City. The manager cut a harrowed figure as he trouped away from the dugout at the Britannia Stadium following a 2-0 defeat that was as wretched as any he has overseen at Everton before or since.

It is to his credit that – the debacle in Kiev aside – Martinez was able to dig deep with his charges following that game and initiate something of a revival that saw the Blues win five of next 10 games and improve their Premier League standing to an 11th-place finish.

Fast forward 11 months and the Catalan is once again effecting something of a turnaround in his team's fortunes and it's somewhat fitting that it was the return to Stoke that saw his team put on what was, perhaps, their most complete and comprehensive display of the season so far. Atonement for the two prior meetings with Mark Hughes's side and another step back towards the right area of the Premier League table.

That the final score wasn't a more emphatic illustration of just how superior Everton were in this match in almost every department was largely down to goalkeeper Jack Butland who recovered from the concession of an 11th-minute penalty to make three crucial saves in the second half as the Toffees threatened to run up a rugby score in wet and blustery conditions in the Potteries. In truth, six-, seven, or eight-nil would not have flattered the visitors.

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If the actual result was reminiscent of the one at Southampton back in August, the two performances were similarly comprehensive but this was a game that was – Everton's penchant for self-sabotage notwithstanding – effectively over by the halfway stage. Aaron Lennon was still a hopeful soul in Spurs-imposed exile when the Blues ran riot at the St Mary's – and there have been times since when fans have questioned why Martinez ended up buying him if he wasn't going to use him – but the winger has been handed a chance to win back his place in the side lately and is grabbing it with both hands.

If not the star of the shows at Carlisle and against Newcastle, then at least deserving of equal billing, Lennon was arguably the standout performer in today's rout and he was run close by Bryan Oviedo, a player who, less than six months from the end of a contract, is in the process of trying to prove both his long-term fitness and his own worth to an Everton side that has certainly been upgraded since he joined the club four years ago. 'the Costa Rican put in what was perhaps his most accomplished display in a Blue jersey as Everton stubbornly refused to allow Stoke any opportunity to repeat the table-turning feat they managed on Merseyside in the reverse fixture six weeks ago.

And under-pinning it all was the humming dynamo at the centre of most of it, Ross Barkley. Scrutinised and pressurised last season, the 22-year-old has just got on with his steady development this term and is emerging as the genuine leader of this Everton side, if not in voice then certainly in deed and influence with the ball at his feet.

It was his brilliant heel flick to meet the run of Oviedo that paved the way for the opening goal via the penalty spot after Butland had committed himself to a challenge with Tom Cleverley that ended with the midfielder tumbling to the turf and referee Andre Marriner pointing to the spot. Romelu Lukaku stroked the resulting penalty straight down the middle to set the Blues on their way after 11 minutes and this time it was a lead they were determined to not only defend but also increase.

If Martinez's midfield were a little guilty of over-elaboration or questionable use of the ball at times over the ensuing quarter of an hour, a pleasingly consistent defensive shape and dogged defending by Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori ensured that nothing came of it from a Stoke point of view.

And the second goal when it arrived after 27 minutes allowed them to strengthen their grip on the match. Gareth Barry won a corner off Ibrahim Affelay and the pin-point delivery was met by the willing run and leap of Seamus Coleman who guided an impressive header into the far corner. It was his first goal of the season and he marked it with a celebration dedicated to his newborn daughter.

Everton were pressing with noticeable vigour at times and it paid rich dividends for Lennon who was alive to a poor inside pass by a Stoke defender, one which he nipped in to intercept before racing away and sliding the ball past Butland with aplomb to make it 3-0 a few minutes before the break.

The anticipated response from Stoke, who had only tested Joel Robles once and meekly so just before the interval, after half time was short-lived and impressively contained by Everton who remained steadfast in their refusal to allow the Potters to play through them or get behind them. That restricted Hughes's side to a succession of crosses that, more often than not, found one or other of the impregnable duo of Funes Mori and Jagielka.

With Barkley ready to spring attacks on the counter, Everton remained a constant threat as Stoke committed numbers forward looking for a way back into the game, and three minutes after the break Barkley bounced off his man with a strong shoulder and spun away upfield before lashing a shot into the side-netting.

And just before the hour mark, it was his accurate cross that found Lukaku for what looked to be a certain fourth until Butland got enough of his gloves on it his header to turn the ball onto the crossbar. Two minutes after that, Marc Muniesa had blocked a goalbound shot from the striker after more impressive work by Lennon along the byline and when he tried to stab the loose ball home, the 'keeper was there again to foil him.

Lukaku then turned provider for James McCarthy with a tidy lay-off that the Irishman drilled narrowly past the far post as Everton pressed for another goal that would remove all possible doubt about the destination of the points.

That spell had seen Lukaku briefly come alive in a game where his role had largely been supportive rather than central. He admitted after the match that he was only operating at 80% following the back injury he sustained against Newcastle in midweek but, as is always the case with players of his calibre, even at below strength he was always capable of making a telling contribution.

It wasn't a surprise, though, that it was he who was afforded the opportunity of a rest with the score at 3-0 and Arouna Kone came on to replace him with 15 minutes to go. The Ivorian had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes before he had a great chance to make it four when he was released into a one-on-one confrontation with Butland but the 'keeper pulled off another laudable save with an out-stretched leg.

In between, the determination by the back line to preserve the clean sheet remained evident as Funes Mori put in an excellent lunging block to divert Imbula's shot over the bar and Robles was able to make a last-minute adjustment to parry away Glen Johnson's swerving drive from distance.

The Spanish 'keeper was relatively untroubled but the calmness he brings to the defence is unmistakable and his distribution is a lot more consistent than Tim Howard, particularly with his weaker foot. Thanks to his efforts and those of the defence around him he racked up another clean sheet to add to those he earned this time a year ago, the last time he deputised for the injured American.

The travelling fans' calls for the late introduction of Kevin Mirallas were answered by Martinez with five minutes to go and the Belgian very nearly rounded things off nicely in stoppage time but the combination of a heavy cutback by Kone and Mirallas's inability to adjust his feet quickly enough saw him knock the ball harmlessly into the goalkeeper's arms from about three yards out.

Martinez's ability to craft a talented team hasn't really been questioned; with the exception of a couple of positions that still remain uncomfortably shallow, he has acquired players well and wisely in his two and a half years at the club. It's his acumen when it comes to putting out a balanced team that can be as miserly at the back as it can be electric going forward that has come under serious examination as lead after lead was squandered recently and Everton tumbled out of one cup and out of the reckoning for a Champions League place.

A combination of pressure from poor results, the timing of injury to Howard and John Stones, and the need to field a more balanced outfit where there is sufficient tracking back on the flanks and tighter, more concentrated defending, has led to three highly impressive results and as many clean sheets since the heartbreak of'that ill-fated Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.

More so than the more measured displays against Tottenham and twice against City (in the semi-final first-leg and the League) -- after which defensive lapses against Chelsea, Swansea and City (in the second leg) sowed real doubts about Martinez's ability to ever coach Everton to become a winning team – the last three games point, perhaps, to a corner having been turned.

Evertonians know all too well, however, about such corners turning into roundabouts where the Blues end up back where they started, so it's going to take a longer stretch of positive results before many can really begin to believe again that the promise of a bright future under Roberto can become a reality. One step at a time, but performances like today certainly point the way to what can be achieved and how this team can marry defensive solidity and attacking enterprise.

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Reader Comments (73)

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Christopher Timmins
1 Posted 07/02/2016 at 08:37:50
Lyndon, when we are looking back at a 10 match unbeaten run, which includes 7 or 8 wins then I can buy into the atonement line. Still, after the City defeat in the semi final it has been an impressive response to date.

Keep it going blues!

Dennis Ng
2 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:06:52
13 games left, mathematically possible to reach UCL. Be there (or close enough) and we can talk atonement for the 12 game horror streak before magpies. Staying where we are is just on par with pre RM days. Perhaps enough for a lifeline. Below that...ahem...
Amit Vithlani
3 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:08:12
Superb article and a perfect final paragraph.

It is a credit to the manager that he motivated the players yesterday to put in a good shift, tackling, closing down and competing. Then letting their attacking talent win the game.

It is a total discredit to the manager that he failed to organise and motivate the team to do this against Swansea and Stoke where were simply far too open.

He must continue in this vain and not allow the team into the laissez faire shite we have had to endure because, when this team is motivated to compete and is defensively, few sides can live them.

Michael Polley
4 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:08:17
Good article. We have responded well since the semi-final defeat – 3 wins, 9 scored 0 conceded, and a leap up the table, but we need to build on this. We need to use this as a catalyst to improve even further over the next 13 games. I’ve seen a much stronger, robust, resilient defence, and all since Howard & Stones have been out through injury??

Getting McCarthy back has been important; he compliments Barry, and protects the back 4 well.

Surely Robles has stated his claim to stay in goal. Interesting to see the keeper selection for the West Brom game. It would be a travesity if Howard plays.


Ian Bennett
5 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:10:54
It's funny that we look more solid with Robles, Jags, McCarthy, Cleverly and Lennon in the team... A captain, players who put a shift in, and a decent keeper - who'd have thought it.

The cup and a top 6 finish is still on, but the season could have had more for injuries to a number of those starting XI, and the manager insisting on playing Kone and Howard when clearly they are neither good enough.

Leicester are top of the league with the least number of used players. Sure they've had some luck with injuries, but football is not rocket science in keeping a winning side. The bench against WBA should be interesting.

Laurie Hartley
6 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:30:48
A 3-0 win at Stoke is a great result especially after what happened at Goodison but the greatest pleasure for me from this game was the contribution of Lennon, Oviedo and Cleverley.

I think it would be fair to say that none of these players are considered fan favourites but it was the inclusion of this trio that has brought balance to the side.

With the injury to Besic I suppose the inclusion of Cleverley was an easy call but fair play to the manager for picking Lennon and Oviedo in preference to Deulofeu and Baines.

I am chuffed for these three players. Lennon and Cleverley, discarded by Spurs and United respectively, and Oviedo coming back from that terrible broken leg.

These three all did well on the ball yesterday but the thing that made the difference for the team was that they pressed the ball and kept going for the full 90 minutes.

On that performance Baines, Mirallas, and Deulofeu are really going to have to fight to get back in the starting eleven.

Sam Hoare
7 Posted 07/02/2016 at 09:50:17
Perhaps unfair but it seems as though Martinez has been forced into this turnaround rather than finding it himself with the injuries to Stones and Howard proving crucial. If those two (the latter in particular) return straight into first team when fit, then I think I may reach the end of my patience.

Frustrating also that our best football should come in the league after the real prize has already escaped. Spurs and Leicester show that, if we had been well managed this season, we could surely be contesting the top 4 if not the title even!

Howeve,r I am always delighted to win, especially back to back, so credit to the lads and Martinez for making it an infinitely better weekend. A cup run could yet salvage this season and the last 2 weeks have proved what a lot of us have been saying all season; there is real talent in this squad and we have to use it well before the diamonds are inevitably stolen away.

Christopher Timmins
8 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:09:28
Forget to mention how delighted I am that Bryan Oviedo is playing so well after going through a year of hell. He along with Lennon brings much needed energy to the team.

It’s such a shame that we could not do what Leicester did yesterday 11 days ago, it was a huge opportunity to bring a 22-year drought to an end! When one considers that Lennon could have been used in the last 10 minutes when we were chasing the game or as a direct replacement for Dulofeu, it's hard to take.

We have a big enough squad to deal with another crack at the Europa League and our aim must be to finish 6th, which after the weekend is a feasible target; if Manchester Utd don’t win at Chelsea then they are another feasible target to catch. Unfortunately, the top four will remain the top four between now and the end of the season.

Phil Walling
9 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:13:04
Let's be frank, whatever our view of Roberto Martinez, if he manages to secure an 8th place finish, he will have done a decent job. Because that is the level our budget is set to achieve.

Two years ago, he exceeded expectations – particularly mine – by gaining 5th spot and, by so doing, set a new benchmark which he was not been able to replicate. We should not be surprised, such things have been happening forever. Just think Catterick post-1970!

The trouble is, we all demand miracles – and they do happen – just look at Leicester. But what pain there is in expecting them! Just because a team contains talented players does not mean automatic success. If it did, the talent purchased by 'the Sky clubs' would never be 'struggling' in the way they are this season.

So merely having 'the most talented squad since 1987' (not my view, incidentally) means little if they are not trained, coached, coaxed and set up to achieve RESULTS rather than display flair.

I, for one, never 'called' Moyes for his 'perpetual 7th' although the style could be a little turgid at times. If Martinez can repeat that feat as our entitlement and occasionally 'over achieve' as a bonus, I shall be happy to accept him as a worthy manager of Everton FC.

Antonio Casas
10 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:14:31
Butland needs to be priority signing number 1 come the summer... !!!
Young and super talented... Fits the current team ethos.
How much would he cost? Would he come? How much would you pay?
I think £20m well spent in my eyes for years of stabilty... Or would he cost more?
Derek Thomas
11 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:27:52
Long term Sea Change or temporary expediency for a dash to 40Pts. similar to last season and that's my main worry.

I know there will be no surprise taxi ride and He may well be here for the start of next season. So that to me means one game at a time until October.

I hope he has seen the light...permanently...but.

Christine Foster
12 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:31:43
Good article, Lyndon, and some very salient points too, not least the team improvement without Stones and Howard available. As impressive as the last couple of weeks have been since Man City, it has been against very poor teams, but clean sheets are clean sheets and you still have to win games.

I think the team are better balanced with Jag and Fumes at the back, surprised at the absence of Baines for Oviedo, I would like to see Mirallas more as he is direct. We have three talented players in Lennon, Deulofeu and Mirallas, all with different attributes bringing a horses-for-courses mentality.

Koné should now drop out of the running and be let go; Besic, great little scrapper, what we needed next to Barkley. Methinks a clearout will happen in the summer though, I hope we keep some and lose others.

A frustrating season, more so from our manager than the team, generally we have the players to be a successful side but all too often the team selection and defensive coaching has been suspect. Playing players out of form, refusing to play others smacks of a very stubborn manager who cannot adapt well in game situations or mix and match to get results.

I hope he has got the message but honestly I await to see the team when Howard and Stones are fit...

James Byrne
13 Posted 07/02/2016 at 10:52:57
Lyndon, a good report but the Manager has a very long way to redemption. We have a cracking squad but we don't and never have had real consistency under Martinez.

Yesterday was a top level all round performance but he'll do something really annoying next week like put Howard back in goal........we'll be back to normal.

Philip Yensen
14 Posted 07/02/2016 at 11:05:40
Us (EFC) and Leicester City are the most exiting sides in the Premier League when in full flow, so why do we step off the pedal? Yesterday's game was the exception; only for Butland and a poor miss from Kone, 5-1 or 6-1 would’ve been a more realistic score.

Negative point, Stoke were piss poor.
Brian Harrison
15 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:00:16
I think this has been a very strange season for a lot of clubs not least Leicester. I am not one of RMs fans, and I don't know whether he is learning any lessons or circumstances are forcing him to change. Both Howard and Stones have been out of the side for the last 3 games which have resulted into 3 wins scoring 3 and conceding no goals in all 3 games. For me playing Barkley in a more forward position has in my opinion helped the team massively, and playing Cleverley, Barry and McCarthy in that middle 3 has allowed RM to play Barkley 15 yards further upfield.
I feel that RM has let Stones down badly, by not telling him that there are parts of the pitch were you don't try Cryuff turns and places were you can. I am sure all the clubs supposedly chasing him their managers will encourage him to play but not in the wrong areas. Now some will say how do you know RM encourages him to take risks. Well because RM has said he will not criticize Stones for being adventurous, and if he was telling him to stop taking unnecessary risks then Stones isn't listening.
I don't know if Robles is the answer to our goalkeeping problem, by the way RM doesnt think we have a problem playing Howard. But unless Robles gets a run of 10 games we wont know if he is the long term answer or just a stop gap.
So I don't know if RM is learning, I sincerely hope he is because if we finish in the top 7 he will definitely be here next season. That is unless we get new owners who have a different view.
Frank Crewe
16 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:03:02
We cannot be wasting half of every season on ridiculous tactics and experimentation.

Last season it was possession, possession, possession. Getting nowhere fast with endless passing with no end product. Christmas had come and gone and RM was feeling the heat. Finally he started playing to the players strengths and we started to move up the table.

This season it has been attack, attack, attack. Even when games were all but won we have continued to attack instead of closing down games. It's cost us dozens of points that would have put us in the top four. On top of this his urge to relentlessly pick players who are clearly out of form or just not good enough (we know who they are) has once again put the heat on RM. Once again Christmas has come and gone and suddenly RM starts picking the right players in the right positions using the right tactics and we start winning and moving up the league.

Next season RM has to stop messing about with the side. No more experimentation. Pick in form players in their proper positions using realistic tactics and stop the fantasy football. The season starts in August not January and I'm sure we're all fed up with this pattern of playing catch up.

There's still an outside chance of making a european spot and winning a cup this season so we must hope for the best. But if this happens again next season RM will definitely have to be shown the door.

Geoff Evans
17 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:07:33
Phil 9: what would be a good finishing position for Leicester given their level of investment?
Ernie Baywood
18 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:09:11
Antonio #10. Have you seen the money Stoke are spending? They don't seem short of a quid and are backing their manager. I can't see them cashing in on one of their best players.
Kevin Tully
19 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:33:37
We are currently third highest scorers in the Premier League (46) with Leicester & Man City (47) top scorers. It doesn't take a specialist to identify where our problems have been!

Lukaku only needs one more goal to take the title of our highest ever scorer in the P.L. era, he's now level with Cottee & Kanchelskis on 16 League goals already. I suppose that make it all the more galling we find ourselves in 8th spot.

You can't read any article on the Blues without the word 'underachieving' popping up somewhere - but that applies to about 70% of teams, because Leicester are top of the table in February, with a side that cost less than Lukaku! You can only hope we realise our potential, and manage to keep hold of our best goalscorer for a generation. Sadly, I think he will be sold for around £60-70m this summer.

Martinez has to shoulder the blame for sticking with players who clearly needed replacing, and our awful win ratio over the past 18 months, but let's hope he's proved he can be a little less stubborn over the run-in.

The shouts for the likes of Pulis, Pardew and Hughes have now thankfully subsided, my eyes were hurting reading those names and Everton in the same sentence. If we are to make a change, we should to be aiming a whole lot higher than those journeymen.

I am looking forward to our next game for the first time in a while, so I hope we can put the calamitous experiences of this season behind us. It has been like watching the Keystone Cops in our defence this season - totally unacceptable.

Phil Walling
20 Posted 07/02/2016 at 12:41:14
Geoff @ 17 : Avoiding relegation. Which is probably what they will be doing next season !
Derek Wadeson
21 Posted 07/02/2016 at 13:07:03
One awful week when as well as pressing the self destruct button Swansea (home) City (away) we were also on the end of some bad decisions and bad luck.

Swansea home
Stones/Howard cock-up
Swansea's second goal hand ball in the build up
Coleman's miss with the last kick
Besic & Kev's injuries

City away
No Besic
Deflected first goal
Terrible line-call for the second
Replacing Geri with Kone as a sub (when it could of been Kev M, see Swansea above)

If we had an extra three points and were in the League Cup final we would be celebrating, but that's football and at least the players & coaching staff have responded.

So let's get behind them especially Ross. The groans every time he didn't do something spectacular against Newcastle was worrying. He proved his bottle when he trotted 30 yards to pick up the ball and bring it back for his first penalty. He was taking it and no one was taking it off him.

John Keating
22 Posted 07/02/2016 at 13:30:15
Seems like we have been here before and been saying exactly the same things.

On the previous occasions the Manager has reverted to type and I have no doubt this will also be repeated.

Like last season I do not think a mid to end season surge that basically stops us getting too bogged down at the bottom gives this Manager a free pass - or atonement.

If he keeps Howard on the bench after his "injury" and sticks with the players who are presently winning then I would see something of a tangible change in his so called philosophy.

The players presently performing deserve to keep their places regardless of who is on the bench.

Lets see, however, leopards don't change their spots

Steve Guy
23 Posted 07/02/2016 at 13:42:21
Totally agree John (#22). We will only know if RM sees what we can see (the blindingly obvious) if he gives this 11 a chance to put a run together. Anything else and he deserves dogs abuse. So let's see what the home game brings; I predict a pretty negative reaction if he makes unenforced changes and TH /JS make a reappearance...
Anto Byrne
24 Posted 07/02/2016 at 13:54:39
Stones is a fantastic player learning his trade. Hopefully he can learn from his mistakes. Those calling for him to be sold are crazy.
Fran Mitchell
25 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:10:37
Phil, to suggest Leicester will be fighting to avoid relegation next season is totally absurd. They were the best and most consistent team in 2015, and despite everyone foretelling their inevitable slump to 7th place, they remain where they are: 1st, and deservingly so.

In Mahrez they arguably have the League’s best player. Why will they be in a relegation fight? They have a bloody good team.

David Price
26 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:20:52
Maybe Howard is not injured and out of loyalty Roberto is protecting him a little. In fact can we sell him outside the window as the MLS season starts in March. Maybe that is the plan.

As for Stones, I feel he has just been taken out of the firing line. Perhaps playing through a slight knock. Either way, he will come back a better player and become the outstanding defender we all know he can be.

Hopefully Delboy is looking at Lennon as a tried and tested Premier League player and thinking this is how you play in this league when the going is tough.

I feared for us after the City game. The management and players deserve praise for the recent turnaround. This steel and determination has to be the blueprint for Roberto. Then and only then should he add the flair to complete the perfect team.

Roberto himself has to toughen up with players he has felt loyalty to. I do get that as we all appreciate loyalty in our work place from our own Boss too I guess.

But this is Everton and nothing but the best is good enough. We are not faraway from this goal. Roberto now has to deliver the FA Cup. We are good enough to beat anyone to achieve this...COYB.

Phil Walling
27 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:25:13
The trouble is, Anto, that the defence looks more solid without him but he won't learn by not playing. He certainly won't have much of an incentive to stay and his fee value will start to go south. Pretty soon.

What a dilemma for RM. I suspect our 'FEC ' will not be in the wings for long!

Michael Williams
28 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:32:32
First win at the Britannia sine 2008. A relaxed and comfortable walk in the park. Nice. Thanks for your thoughts Lyndon.
Denis Richardson
29 Posted 07/02/2016 at 14:58:27
Delighted with the result but it’s going to need a lot more than this to convince me RM is the right man for the job. Changes called for by the fans for ages only seem to have been made because of injury after all. Let’s see what happens once the likes of Howard and Stones are deemed fit again.

We have a run of games coming up that (on paper) should result in points on the board. If we can put a run together that includes a lot more wins than draws or defeats then I might be convinced, long way to go though.

I see some people are unbelievably talking about CL after that result. Can only laugh at that.

West Brom, Bournemouth and the RS up next. I'll hold judgment until we’ve safely navigated these games. 7 points, balanced team selection and I might start to be convinced.

Frank Crewe
30 Posted 07/02/2016 at 15:25:31
Why people are going on about Stones coming back as a better player is beyond me. Come the summer Stones will be sold and not because we want to sell him but because he wants to leave. If it had been up to him he would already be telling Chelski fans to calm down instead of us.

I don't see why we should make Stones a better player for another club. Let them do it. We need to concentrate on Jags and Mori. We look more solid with them anyway and Mori is more dangerous at set pieces and corners than Stones is.

Look to the future. There are only 13 league games left. We are on a winning run so I don't see any need to tinker with the side. In the summer let Stones go to wherever he wants to and use the cash to buy cover for the aging Jags and bring in a GK because no doubt Howard will be on the boat back to the US of A.

Phil Walling
31 Posted 07/02/2016 at 15:26:06
Then, next season, the uncertainty will begin over again, Denis. Probably without several of our 'stars' ! I've come to think that you have to take it game by game, season by season. But then, I now live far away so am only a supporter in spirit not body.

'It's the hope...........'

Harold Matthews
32 Posted 07/02/2016 at 15:29:44
Excellent article with a very clever heading Lyndon. How could we possibly ignore it. A little bit early after two or three good results maybe but enough to provide interesting debate.

Obviously, the big talking point is success and improved performance without Howard and Stones. or even Howard, Stones and Baines. I won’t add Deulofeu and Besic because they had very little to do with 18 months of poor results.

Many will be pleased with the change of keeper but, for me, the big difference at the back has been the absence of Stones. A very talented inexperienced lad who stuck rigidly to the possession policy but was caught out and made to look foolish far too often. In contrast, if Jags and Ramiro need to hoof it, they will.

We now have a problem. If Stones, Jags and Baines don’t play, they don’t go to the Euros. Hodgson will be on the phone to Martinez who will tell him that all three will get plenty of game-time. Of course, pleasing Hodgson and keeping the fans and players happy will not be easy.

Besic, Coleman and Lukaku are certs for the Euros but Mirallas, Cleverley and Gibson need to impress. Not sure about Lennon and Barry. Good players but Hodgson seems to be building a young squad.

So where does that leave us? Ranieri tries to field the same Leicester team every week but Martinez will be pressed to make changes. Tough decisions to make which we hope he gets right.

As for atonement. Bit too late for those with great expectations I’m afraid. Personally I’m just hoping the penny has dropped and we continue to improve.

Geoff Evans
33 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:08:24
Phil 20: Thinking of this season.
Denis Richardson
34 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:12:25
See where you're coming from Phil but game to game is a bit too up and down. The manager imo needs to demonstrate basic things like picking a balanced side and dropping players who are out of form.

If RM picks a side that looks decent and we lose on the day, then fair play. However, he's consistently cocked up the selection and often only changes (for the better) when injury has forced his hand. The stoke result was a real surprise but I'm yet to be convinced he's learnt why the side is playing better. I.e. The likes of Howard and Stones are not in it! The defence seems more settled with much less farting about at he back.

Will be interesting when Howad and Stones are fit again..

Dennis Ng
35 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:29:52
Harold, given Hodgson's rep and history, I'm not convinced Lennon and Cleverley stand a chance, not to mention Gibson. How long do you need to give Vardy a chance?

I feel that he will bring Stones no matter what (to showcase his talent to Sky 4), possible question is Baines and his last Euro. Let's hope a few weeks away from first team football does JS a world of good, seeing how Jags and Mori do the job and then adding his own flavor when he returns (hopefully to no mishap).

Still, RM's job is to push us higher up the table first, Stones will have to wait if that needs to be the case. Will RM has the guts to do that? Or will he go back to showboating and try to showcase JS?

His past few poor games can't do his England credentials any good so if he's not back in form, I don't see why we should play him, because it will not only hurt us, but also his career.

Sid Logan
36 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:34:11
Good piece Lyndon.

Also some pertinent comments to the effect that we have been here before and will we revert to type after a couple of decent results.

The fundamental question is whether Martinez has intentionally and fundamentally changed our tactics. There were long periods during the Stoke game when we were pressing the opposition higher up the pitch and if the first tackle failed immediately this was followed up by another Everton player.

It wasn’t ’keeping possession’ that was the single one-dimensional mantra because it was coupled with a ’win the ball back as quickly as possible’ approach.

Whether this change was related to the players brought in because of injuries is hard to tell at this stage. I don’t believe it was. I honestly beieve (and hope) that Martinez has been forced to accept some of our horrible to bear capitulations arise more from apparently single basic doctrine that keeping possession is the truth, the light and the way!

Having said that, Martinez being Martinez, you always get the feeling that a couple more good results will see the old cappuccino- sipping press conference confidence comes creepin back with a predictable readiness to resume the ’Barcelona’ project.

I am a happy man after the Carlisle, Newcastle and Stoke games. The next half a dozen games will demonstrate whether the leopard really can change his spots and whether Martinez (or Roberto as I will again be happy to call him) is after all the man who has it in him change our fortunes.

Sid Logan
37 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:42:26
I should add the the Robbles/Howard selection will provide the litmus test for everything!
John Crawley
38 Posted 07/02/2016 at 16:56:10
Harold have to disagree with your assessment that the big difference has been the absence of Stones. I think its pretty clear that the big difference has been the goalkeeper. It's surely no coincidence that when he's come in now and last season we've kept more clean sheets. A lot of those games have been with Stones in the side. Its seems pretty clear to me that the defence have a lot more confidence when Robles is playing behind them. He regularly communicates with them which is something that Howard just doesn't do.

We've got a litany of goals that have been down to Howard, I would be interested to actually see how many have been down to Stones being caught in possession at the back, perhaps you could enlighten me because I'm struggling to think of many over the past 3 months. Please don't say the Swansea back pass because that was all down to Howard, who stood waiting for the ball for over 4 seconds whilst Ayew ran from the edge of the penalty area. Any half decent goalie would have cleared that ball comfortably. I can think of good play by Stones bringing the ball out from the back that have started a move off that has resulted in us scoring. I think there are areas of defending that Stones needs to work, but I think this argument that he's causing us to concede lots of goals by trying to keep possession is a myth.

William Cartwright
39 Posted 07/02/2016 at 17:19:22
So, so pleased for Oviedo, and respect the club management for sticking by him. Interesting that he may continue to keep my favourite player Baines out of the side!

The thing I like about Oviedo is his attitude on the pitch, a bit of the Besic about him and he is never intimidated or fazed by the opposition. Also his attitude off the pitch is exemplary. And he is only just 22 - another young gem. Same age as Byram. . . . . !

One of the best memories of the Martinez era thus far must be the shoulder ride of Distin after beating Manure at Old Trafford.

The biggest challenge for next season will be keeping the squad together and slotting in any potential new players. I will be pleased if we can keep hold of Stones, Lukaku and Mirallas, but if not, then I think a large chunk of the sales price will go for a 'keeper, a play-maker and another utility forward player as we seem to have a good cover on most fronts.


Jack Mason
40 Posted 07/02/2016 at 18:32:36
Can the team do it in the games that matter. That will be the litmus test for me. Yes we've avoided dropping further into danger and thanks to back to back wins, which have been as rare as Haley's comet in footballing terms, we're climbing the league.

In the last three games, I've noticed certain players taking the game by the scruff of the neck, showing leadership, aggression and organizing players around them. The two banks of four that confronted Stoke when in possession, could've been lifted straight out of the textbook. Is this a consequence of the managers instruction or the players? If we are to progress, it has to be a combination of both.

A minimum of an away win to our neighbours and against Bournemouth in the cup, will go some way towards convincing me that Roberto Martinez is the right man for the job. Great managers deliver, consistently and in my opinion that's the criteria for any manager of Everton.

Phil Walling
41 Posted 07/02/2016 at 18:39:14
I've never been able to see how ALL our problems stem from Howard's keeping and to ignore the frailties in CENTRAL defence when Stones is present, as John does above, is somewhat one-eyed. The lesson of the last three games is surely in the clean sheets.

As far as the future is concerned 'the proof of the pudding' will be in RM's team selection when all players are available and whether he insists on a return to a less pragmatic approach.

Last season we heard an injured Baines say from the commentary box after one of the team's limited number of victories that ' the manager will always demand a return to his preferred style' and Roberto has said as much himself no more than a fortnight ago. (' I will never change my principles in pursuit of short term results' )

But, come what may, I repeat my assertion that whatever we may desire, his job is safe as long as the budgeted 8th place is attained. And it will be.

Geoff Evans
42 Posted 07/02/2016 at 19:10:40
Other than Besic I can't think of anyone not in yesterday's starting line up who can count themselves unlucky to be left out.
Graham Mockford
44 Posted 07/02/2016 at 19:42:16
The midfield three of Barry McCarthy and Cleverley makes a big difference. Add to that a wide player like Lennon who has great work rate will mean we will improve defensively.

Scoring goals is not our problem. We have now scored 64 goals in 33 games in all competitions which is a title winning rate. We have scored 3 or more on 10 occasions in just 25 league games. It is encouraging that our shape seems much more solid, whether that is through design or circumstance I don’t care, as long as it continues.

I still think our strongest eleven sees Baines and Stones returning but have no problems continuing with yesterday’s side.

Just the fact we could have a bench that reads Howard, Funes Mori, Oviedo, Besic, Niasse, Mirallas and Deulofeu shows the progress in quality of our squad.

Colin Glassar
45 Posted 07/02/2016 at 19:50:19
The pressing game suits us Graham. When we stand off we end up in sixes and sevens and no one seems to know what position to take or which opposing player to pick up. This, obviously, puts a lot of pressure on the defence and add to that a hapless goalie then we are bound to concede.

I say, stick with this team until injuries, or loss of form, dictate otherwise.

Andy Crooks
46 Posted 07/02/2016 at 19:52:38
Frank, #16, is a scary post. You are actually talking about what Martinez will be doing next season? I hope he will be enjoying life in the lower divisions of Spanish football.
Andy Crooks
47 Posted 07/02/2016 at 19:58:49
Kevin, #19, the shouts haven’t quite subsided. When Martinez is fired, I hope we are ambitious but right now, I would have Pardew or Hughes ahead of him without a doubt.

I have enjoyed our recent victories but I believe they came about because Martinez has fluked upon a winning line-up and because we have good players. I still believe he is utterly useless.

Bill Gall
48 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:02:11
The difference yesterday with Stones's absence was it allowed Jagielka to play at the right side of the central defense, a position he seems more comfortable in.

Everton have to be congratulated in adapting to the poor conditions and especially disregarding the tippy-tappy at the back that the heavy pitch dictated that it would have to be tippy-wacky to succeed playing that style. We may have achieved by having a couple of injuries, eg, Stones and Howard, a more balanced side, and we will only notice if this is the case when both players are fit,nand if the manager brings them back right away, if we maintain this balance or we revert to our previous failings.

If we revert to the latter, it shows he has learned nothing and is definitely too stubborn to change. If we keep a balanced side, it will show that he is willing to adapt, and although it is late, will have dodged a bullet.

Denver Daniels
49 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:14:04
Andy, Palace has 1 point from the last 18. And Stoke has 4 points from the last 18. I wouldn't touch either Pardew or Hughes with a barge pole.

We need to be more ambitious than that.

John Crawley
50 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:20:23
Phil 41 we kept 3 clean sheets last season as well and that was when Robles was in goal and Stones in defence. There's no doubt Stones recent form has dipped, he's a young player and it happens. But Stones doesn't trust Howard, that much is obvious from some of the incidents in the past few months and no defence is going to play well when they don't have confidence in their goalie. Saying all that there's definitely a weakness with the way Martinez sets us up to defend but that's a collective problem.
Colin Glassar
51 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:25:42
Denver, thanks for getting in there first. Last season some wanted Garry Monk and look where he is now.
Tony Hill
52 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:41:41
The potential problem with playing Cleverley, Barry and McCarthy is that it leaves us light further up the field when sides sit back as West Brom will do next week. It was encouraging though to see Cleverley running beyond for the penalty and our full backs getting more involved.

If we can return to the 2013-14 model of compactness combined with incisiveness then we will be a threat. Next season I would like to see us play with only one withdrawn midfielder and find a proper number 10. As I say, West Brom will be interesting to see how our formation deals with Pulis who's held us 0-0 the last 2 years at Goodison.

Ron Marr
53 Posted 07/02/2016 at 20:49:34
As well as Ross, Lennon and Oviedo, I really liked McCarthy's performance. His constant harrying of the Stoke players was very effective.

I want wins at Anfield and OldTrafford. Bring ’em on!

Harold Matthews
54 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:00:12
John C. # 38. Please don't get me started on Stones. I like the lad but he was starting to do too much fancy stuff in and around the area and the opposition were targetting him.

He was also slowing us up. Walking with the ball then stopping and putting his foot on it. No wonder the crowd were getting at him. When Albrighton handled Coleman's throwin before sending the ball over to Okazaki for Leicester's 3rd goal, Stones was standing by the corner flag and no-one knew why. Against Stoke at our place, Bojan ran him ragged. He was too slow on the turn. Great on the ball moving forward but much to learn on the defensive side.

As for the goal-keeping situation. I didn't want Howard when he came from United and I still don't want him. He suits some people, fair enough, but he doesn't suit me. Strangely enough, I've voted him player of the season on more than one occasion despite him causing me to pull my hair out. Like all players he has his good points but his time with Everton is reaching the end. I hope big Joel keeps his place. He has sat on the bench behind Courtois, De Gea and Howard and deserves a run in the First XI.

Ed Fitzgerald
55 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:06:49
Perhaps Martinez isn't the right man to lead Everton although I find it laughable when people suggest Pardew and Hughes as possible alternatives? There is a little historical revisionism going on here though given some peoples love in with the Moyes era. How long should a manager get three years, four years?

Thus far Martinez has managed a 5th place and an 11th place, we are currently eighth and have a reasonable chance of finishing higher, we have reached a semi-final already and are still in the FA Cup.

Consider Moyes record over his first four full seasons in charge. He finished 7th, 17th with our lowest point score ever in the PL, 4th and then 11th. Phil Walling suggested the football could be turgid I think that is generous viewpoint. In his first four full seasons we had a negative goal difference in every single season. Yes we could defend but the evidence suggests we didn't really attack too much and still ended up conceding more than we scored.

Moyes got 11 years and benefitted from more or less loyal support from the crowd throughout that time. I think Martinez and more importantly the team deserve a little more backing at home at least for a while longer. We have lost once on the road this season and judging by the 'stick' that some players have taken at home particularly Barkley I am not greatly surprised that we are sometimes nervous at home. We do truly have a 'diamond' in Barkley, when a thief such as Man City steal that particular jewel we might then realise what we actually had.

Andy Crooks
56 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:11:32
Ed, I never suggested Pardew or Hughes as a replacement, I rate both more highly than Martinez but, as I said, when Martinez is sacked I hope will be ambitious.
Ed Fitzgerald
57 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:16:33

Can I ask you why? What have they won given the years they have been managers? And what is their best position in the Premier League as a manager?

Phil Walling
58 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:17:21
Please, please, don't re-kindle the Moyes v Martinez argument, it's been done to death and then some !
Charles McCann
59 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:18:21
Great post Ed Fitzgerald. Agree with everything you said.
Ed Fitzgerald
60 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:19:27

It is the previous contributors on this thread including yourself that have invoked the spectre of the ginger one

John Crawley
61 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:25:14
Harold we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Stones. He only holds onto the ball when there’s nobody to pass to. He doesn’t slow the game down, look at either first or second goal against Chelsea (can’t remember which one it was) and he starts the whole move off by playing an inciteful forward pass (under pressure) to Barry. I don’t think any other central defender is making that pass.

He’s not slow on the turn and I don’t think Bojan gave him the run round, he misread the ball against Bojan and committed himself when he should have dropped off. His positional play needs to improve without a doubt but he’s still very young for a centre half and he’s learning. I’m not sure Martinez helps him too much in that regard. Alvin Martin had a lot of interesting comments on Stones on Talksport the other night after the Newcastle game. Worth a listen.
Phil Walling
62 Posted 07/02/2016 at 21:46:48
Only a gentle nod in his direction, Ed, not a fill scale comparison website !
Peter Cummings
63 Posted 07/02/2016 at 22:00:38
One of the things that pleased me was the way we coped with the atrocious weather conditions of heavy, rain icy winds and a heavy pitch all of which were overcome with a show of skill passing and speed which at times were breathtaking.

It must be admitted that we played a much depleted Stoke but the way we took advantage of their defensive problems, plus the desire for revenge at the Goodison loss meant that our display at the Britannia would have happened anyway,Most pleasing was the reaction of the national media to the game including many of our rival supporters who were generous in their comments,all in all a great day all round,COYB.

Brent Stephens
64 Posted 07/02/2016 at 22:05:01
Peter #63 - yes, I attended the game and watched it again when I got back. The recording doesn't do justice to the very poor weather conditions and the very wet, greasy pitch. In those conditions, the control and use of the ball was something to behold.
Tom Bowers
65 Posted 07/02/2016 at 22:17:35
Everton did everything right in this game considering the very wet conditions. First time this season they have won 2 Premier League games in a row.

Praise goes to all the players and Martinez for the big defensive improvement and picking the same starting eleven. Lennon is showing tremendous work rate and Cleverly was a lot better than he has been.

Hopefully this is the start of a good run after the 2 earlier victories albeit at Carlisle and against the Barcodes. It would be nice to be bang in tune for the derby game and Bournemouth in the cup.

Harold Matthews
66 Posted 08/02/2016 at 03:32:29
Fair enough John. We know Stones is very gifted with a big future ahead of him. If Jags and Funes Mori stay fit does he get a game? Jags is the skipper and the River Plate lad is our only left footed centre back. He's also a Martinez signing. Stones isn't.
Brian Mahoney
67 Posted 08/02/2016 at 09:56:00
Just a thought, like, but if most of us get what we wish for and Robles does get a run in the team, that would make Howard our second choice keeper. This means he’ll be playing against Bournemouth... which would probably result in us exiting the cup unless he has a blinder.
Nick Entwistle
68 Posted 08/02/2016 at 13:10:25
This is the capricious nature of the football fan at play. We know we're good with the ball, and its not as if the defence is non existent, so the moment we score a couple of wins on the bounce we're all well chuffed and it placates us until we throw away the points in the next couple of games - because that is what mid table teams do. And that is still what Roberto Martinez has done for Everton. How many midtable finishes in a row does this guy get to have before something is done? Or does another 3-0 v Newcastle put ambition on the back burner and our mid table position will of course be bettered next season... or the one after that... or why the fuck is Bill not on the phone with Mourinho?
Ed Fitzgerald
69 Posted 08/02/2016 at 17:14:34

If we finished 7th would that be good enough for you? Or is that mid table? That position seemed to be good enough for many on here when Moyes tenure is considered. Martinez has thus far finished 5th, 11th and ?

Jose may have won many trophies but with the exception of his initial success at Porto he has been bankrolled at all clubs and this clubs have experienced success under different managers as well. I'm not sure Martinez is the right man for the job but he does deserve a reasonable amount of time to evaluate his performance. If we can finish 7th and can manage a further cup run I think he will have earnt one more year to try and win something. I'm not sure whether we are on the brink of something great or not, what I do know is that we were ready to get rid of our greatest ever manager just before we went on to taste success in 84, whilst another manager got 11 years without winning anything.

Nick Entwistle
70 Posted 08/02/2016 at 18:19:59
Different times, Ed. With HK that is. I'm not going to go comparing like for like with Moyes as its about getting the most out of your players and budget at your disposal.

Roberto does not do that and plainly got 5th off the back of Moyes' drill sergeant approach still ringing in the defence's ears.

I think we're 12 points off top 4 and 12 points off the relegation zone. If RM scrapes top half I'd be happy, as that's his potential realised.

Martin Mason
71 Posted 08/02/2016 at 19:13:27
I've been a big critic of Martinez recently after being on the fence but he is almost there tactically and we have a pretty good squad. It's a far better situation if Martinez learns where he is wrong and we avoid the expense of firing him and the risk of hiring a new manager. It's possible that this has happened and that we've turned that corner with Howard dropped for good and Stones taken out of the firing line for a while and possibly even sold now. My opinion? We've been brilliant for 3 games against 3 pretty weak teams and as soon as we come up against a certain level of team we'll crack again. I also believe an unreformed Howard and Stones will be back.
Ed Fitzgerald
72 Posted 08/02/2016 at 22:48:51

I am not arguing that times are different but continually changing your manager is as nuts now as it was back then.

Ben Mackenzie
73 Posted 11/02/2016 at 18:15:52
If we win our next 3, West Brom, Bournemouth and the Shite, then even the most ardent anti Martinez fans may start to believe.
Rob Halligan
74 Posted 11/02/2016 at 18:22:48
Next three games are actually West Brom, Bournemouth and Villa, Ben. RS game postponed due to carling cup. After Villa it's then West Ham at home then Sunderland away. Real chance to get maximum points from the next four league games and progress in the cup.

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