Friday 13 December 2019

Alan Hansen: Martinez' ambition key ingredient in Toffees' return to prominence

Everton's Romelu Lukaku celebrates his goal with manager Roberto Martinez
Everton's Romelu Lukaku celebrates his goal with manager Roberto Martinez

Alan Hansen

Everton have their Champions League destiny in their own hands after destroying Arsenal, and I believe Roberto Martinez will now guide his team into the top four.

Martinez has infused his Everton squad with confidence, desire and a readiness to be bold and they now have the momentum to overhaul Arsenal and claim fourth position over the final weeks of the campaign.

While Everton were brilliant yesterday, Arsenal were so abysmal you cannot see where they will win another away game.

However, while Arsenal's frailties have been well documented, Everton and Martinez deserve enormous credit for the manner of the club's return to prominence.

When Martinez was in charge of Wigan Athletic, he oversaw lengthy losing runs on more than one occasion and there were times when his team's defensive naivety suggested a fault line in his prospects of succeeding at a top club. But he has gone to Everton and inherited a very good squad from David Moyes and made it better.

When Everton were drawing 2-2 with Liverpool at Goodison last November, Martinez went for broke in the final 20 minutes of the game by making attacking substitutions in an attempt to win the game.

It ultimately ended 3-3 and turned out to be one of the best Merseyside derbies for years, but the decision to go all out to win has been cited as an example of the key difference between his approach and Moyes', with the Scot more likely to have closed the game down at 2-2.

There is something to that argument, because the two men do have contrasting philosophies, but despite some suggestions that Everton are now better without Moyes in charge, the reality is that the Scot left behind rock-solid foundations for Martinez to build upon last summer.

It is too easy to say that Moyes has not been missed. He left Everton on an even keel when he took the Manchester United job and handed Martinez the priceless commodity of an excellent defence.

Everton's success this season has been a reward for Martinez's ambition, but the key to it all has been the back four and goalkeeper left in place by Moyes.

Martinez has recruited well, however, and the two loan signings of Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku have given Everton class and reliability in midfield and goals up front. He has also benefited from the development and growing maturity of Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley, who both made the breakthrough under Moyes.

Working with better players than he had at Wigan is another factor in Martinez's success at Goodison. When better players are in possession, they are more comfortable on the ball than less able players and, as a result, take fewer chances or risks.

Lesser players inevitably take more chances because of their inferior ability, but because Everton's players are better than Wigan's, there has been very little kamikaze football at Goodison this season.


Everton have undoubtedly become a more adventurous team under Martinez and that was borne out by the way they tore Arsenal apart yesterday. Everton were quicker to the ball, had a better structure and were more determined.

They were well worthy of the victory and winning margin. They showed real panache.

It was also evident how Everton's players are totally prepared to play for their manager and accept his decisions. You never see or hear any sign of dissent or disgruntlement at Everton and, when Martinez leaves players out, they are then prepared to run through brick walls for him when they eventually get back on the pitch.

Their top-four hopes may yet rest on beating Manchester City at Goodison next month – a result which could hand Liverpool the title – but there is so much money and prestige involved in the Champions League now that I do not believe any Evertonian would even blink at that prospect. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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