Another game brought another defeat for Roberto Martinez and Everton. A 3-2 loss at Newcastle meant that Everton will be in the bottom half on New Year’s Day. Considering they were only a few points off top spot this time last season, it is a remarkable decline.
There is even talk of Martinez being sacked, with Steve McLaren touted as a possible replacement. Andy Gray, a popular English pundit and ex Everton player, believes that Martinez needs to sort out his team’s defense if he is to keep his job.
A number of problems have come together to make this a difficult season for Martinez. For one, his core group of players is very old. The likes of Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leon Osman, and Gareth Barry are well over 30 years of age. Tom Rothman reminds us that they have struggled to cope with the joint commitments of the Premier League and Europa League.
Secondly, the team shape and defensive nature of Everton that was so good under David Moyes has disappeared. Martinez built on top of that defensive shape last season, making his team great in attack and solid at the back. However, his players seem to have forgotten the qualities Moyes instilled in them. This has resulted in a porous back line that leaks too many goals.
Martinez needs to find a way to re-instill that defensive shape if he is to get Everton back among the top six or seven places.