Everton: Why Roberto Martinez must be more like David Moyes

Robbie Savage

In his regular BBC Sport column, Robbie Savage looks at Everton's problems in defence and attack and explains what Toffees boss Roberto Martinez can do to turn things around.

Everton's last-minute equaliser against West Ham in the FA Cup does not mask the big problems facing Toffees boss Roberto Martinez right now.

His side are awful at the back and look very low on confidence.

And his tweaks to their playing style have stopped them from getting the best out of their £28m striker Romelu Lukaku when they attack.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez
Martinez steered Everton to a fifth-place finish last season - they are currently 13th

I do not believe Martinez's job is under threat or that they are relegation candidates, despite them losing all four Premier League games over Christmas and New Year and being nearer the bottom three than the top four.

The real worry for Toffees fans should be what this slump means for the club's long-term future.

Everton have some terrific young talent like Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman, who should be the nucleus of their team for years to come.

If Martinez cannot turn things around, then those players will soon be asking whether Goodison Park is still the right place for them.

Just like the Latics - leaky in defence

The way they forced a replay against West Ham on Tuesday showed there is fight in this Everton team, but they still looked very vulnerable.

It is strange that the Toffees had such a good defensive record last season, Martinez's first in charge.

They conceded only 39 Premier League goals - fewer than in any of his predecessor David Moyes' final four years as manager.

What has happened this time around suggests that was down to the legacy left by Moyes, rather than any influence from Martinez.

When he has tried to change things in his back-line, things have gone badly - for example when he played holding midfielder Gareth Barry as one of three centre-halves in their 2-0 defeat against Hull on New Year's Day.

Barry has made his living out of breaking things up in front of the back four, and been fantastic at it.

But he has got no pace and there is no way he should be last man as the deepest centre-half, which he was for both of Hull's goals.

Gareth Barry was Everton's last defender when Nikica Jelavic broke away to score Hull's second goal
Gareth Barry was Everton's last defender when Nikica Jelavic broke away to score Hull's second goal

Also at the back, I have not been convinced at all by Antolin Alcaraz. He played under Martinez at Wigan when the Latics conceded a lot of goals, and does not seem to have improved.

Otherwise, Martinez has been relying on the same centre-halves that were at Everton when he took charge in the summer of 2013.

With John Stones struggling with injury for much of the season so far, Martinez has again had to use the Phil Jagielka-Sylvain Distin partnership that has served Everton so well since 2009.

But they are another year older, and it shows. Their record when Distin, in particular, is playing has dipped dramatically, and he is starting to look every one of his 37 years.

Sylvain Distin in the Premier League
Season2013-142014-15
Stats: Opta
Everton games33/3812/20
Goals conceded2926
Goals conceded per game0.82.2
Win-rate60%17%

If you listen to Martinez, you would think that his side's run of one win in their last 10 games with no clean sheets is just down to bad luck and decisions going against them.

Yes, they have had some injuries to contend with but you cannot tell me that it is just down to misfortune that they have conceded 33 goals in their first 20 league games.

That record is comparable with the 35 goals Wigan had conceded at the same stage when they were relegated under Martinez in 2013.

And the statistic that seems to sum both of those sides up is how often they see individual errors leading to goals.

Wigan saw 17 mistakes punished that season, more than any other team.

Everton, with 11 so far, are also now top of that particular table, not only in the Premier League but in any of the top divisions in Europe's five major leagues - England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

Problems going forward too

Those errors mean Everton are a bag of nerves and it is affecting them when they attack too.

When I looked at the Toffees in one of my BBC columns last season, they were well balanced and set up perfectly to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. That is no longer the case.

While they used to get the ball up to him quickly, and use both full-backs to deliver balls into the box, now they mess about with it too much because they do not want to give it away.

Martinez is probably pleased that his side have had more possession than last season and play more passes per match, with improved accuracy.

Everton in the Premier League (and rank)
Season2013-142014-15
Stats: Opta
Average passes per game481.7 (7th)535.8 (5th)
Passing accuracy83.7% (6th)84.4% (4th)
Possession55.4% (7th)57.7% (4th)

But, far from helping them, it is stopping them from giving the big Belgian the service he needs.

He showed against the Hammers, with his equaliser and also his disallowed goal, what he can do with crosses into the area. There have not been enough of them, though.

In the 2013-14 season, Everton played the seventh-most crosses into the opposition area, including corners (an average of 22.3 per game).

So far this season, they have had the fewest (16.9 per game) of any top-flight team. That is staggering when you consider how effective Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman are with their deliveries from open play.

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing a chance against Southampton
Lukaku scored 15 goals in 31 games for Everton last season - he has six in 20 so far in this campaign

Lukaku is getting stick from fans because, when a club like Everton pay £28m for a player, they have to be a big success.

Yes, he has found goals harder to come by this season - scoring a league goal every 256.5 minutes this campaign compared to every 170 minutes when he was on loan from Chelsea - but it is not all his fault.

Go on any Everton internet fans forum and they seem to be split on whether he is a lazy carthorse who is not worth the money, or a potential superstar who just needs to be fed the right passes.

Media playback is not supported on this device

FA Cup: Everton 1-1 West Ham highlights

It is definitely the latter for me, although he does need to adapt his game.

At the moment he seems to be thinking he has to do it all on his own - he likes the ball at his feet when he is running at defenders but he shoots from outside the box too often, when he should be laying the ball off and looking to get into the box.

He needs to do that more because that is where the goals will come from, but he will only do it if he knows there will be balls coming in for him to get on the end of.

What next? Go back to basics

Former Everton manager David Moyes
Everton conceded more than 50 league goals in only one of the 11 seasons that Moyes was manager

When Martinez changed Everton's style in his first season, to make them play more expansive and attractive football than under Moyes, it worked brilliantly.

His latest tweak is not working out, though, and it is time Martinez showed there is another side to his approach.

I do not doubt his teams can defend and win while playing good football, because they did a lot that last season.

But now he needs to show they can defend and win when they are not playing well. So far, that has not happened.

In a way Martinez actually needs to be more like Moyes was, and find a way of grinding out results, starting against Manchester City on Saturday.

He needs his team to get their belief back, but the first thing they need to be is hard to beat again.

Robbie Savage was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

Top Stories