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Roberto Martinez facing Everton's 'biggest game of season'

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Everton boss Roberto Martinez is determined to find solutions in adversity

Everton boss Roberto Martinez is determined to find solutions in adversity

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Everton boss Roberto Martinez is determined to find solutions in adversity

It has taken just 18 months, most of which have been spent on the crest of an Evertonian wave, but Roberto Martinez's boundless optimism and faith in his football principles are beginning to grate at Goodison Park.

Four straight defeats - the 2-0 New Year's Day loss at Hull City left Everton with seven defeats in nine games - have led to the FA Cup third round tie at home against West Ham United tonight becoming, in Martinez's words, "the most important game of the season" and one which could shape his future at the club.

Few Evertonians appear to want a change of manager, but the exasperated mood among fans was summed up neatly by the Hull match report on the Thisisnotfootball fans' website which claimed that the "eminently likeable and intelligent Martinez is looking like the mayor of Amity Beach, trying to convince everyone that the water's fine as the body parts keep washing up on the beach".

If trophies were handed out for positivity and optimism, Martinez's CV would resemble Alex Ferguson's at Manchester United, but even Everton's supremely confident manager is beginning to change the mood music.

Anxiety

In Jaws, it got worse before it got better, but as he prepared to face Sam Allardyce's team at Goodison Park, using unfamiliar words such as "anxiety" and "adversity", Martinez conceded that Everton were approaching a line in the sand.

"The next game is the most important of the season, even if it's not in the Premier League," Martinez said. "This could be a pivotal moment in our season. It's important that we support each other and trigger that bit of momentum that we haven't really had. It's completely normal that people (supporters) are getting upset.

"But we are here to build something for the future, not just for now, and become a winning team, so the message is very clear - we need to react in the proper way, find solutions in adversity and find a way to become a winning side."

Martinez knows his chairman Bill Kenwright is a man blessed with greater patience than most, someone prepared to offer time for a storm to blow over. But the Spaniard, 41, needs a positive result against West Ham, if only to gain a glimpse of blue sky behind the clouds.

"We need to start enjoying our football again," Martinez said. "The FA Cup could give us that as it's a completely different game and a different situation where you don't carry any luggage from what happened in the past."

The past is Martinez's problem, however, in that it makes the here and now appear bleak. Twelve months ago, Everton approached FA Cup third-round weekend in fifth position in the Premier League, with 38 points from 20 games. Now, Martinez's team find themselves with just 21 points from the same number of games.

The Everton boss will have to go in search of an upturn in fortunes without James McCarthy due to his lingering hamstring problem. The Ireland midfielder was withdrawn at half-time in their clash with Newcastle on December 28 and the Everton medical staff do not believe the player is up to coming through a full game.

"The hamstring is not ready to cope with 90 minutes' football and for that reason we just need to carry on with the treatment and see how every day develops," said Martinez.

Injuries to other key players, such as John Stones, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and, now, goalkeeper Tim Howard, have halted Everton's progress, but Martinez's methods, and unswerving faith in the players, remain the same.

"We lost a lot of injured players, that in particular moments we had to make too many changes," he said. "That forces errors and sometimes you get punished."

Martinez, who won the FA Cup as Wigan manager in 2013, insists his players are not "hiding".

He said: "I wouldn't say hiding, no. I do think during a period when we have had four defeats in the league, we need to do more, but that's the manager, the staff, the players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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