Roberto Martinez – Strengths and Weaknesses


In our recent post we had a look at the credentials required for the vacant toffees hot seat, and proposed the question as to whether Everton would look to a pragmatic UK based, Moyes-lite type solution such as McKay/Neville or look for a more progressive idealist option like a Pereira, Tuchel or Laudrup. Speculation has mounted that Roberto Martinez – something of a fusion of both – is now the Board’s clear first choice for the role. This post will explore his credentials and try to plug some of the unknowns associated with the potential new leader of the toffeemen.

What experience and capabilities does Martinez possess to be a success at L4?

Born and raised in Spain to a father who coached in his homeland and as far as Korea, Martinez jnr began his playing career in Spain before spells at lower league outfits Wigan, Swansea, Walsall, Chester and a wretched spell north of the border at Motherwell. His past has parallels with Moyes in respect of having a rank average playing career and then cutting his teeth in the lower league as a young manager (with Swansea) after completing his football coaching badges.

Off the pitch, Martinez is a well-educated guy; he is a qualified physiotherapist and also possesses a Post Graduate Degree in Business Management. Here are his thoughts on the importance of education;

“As a manager you need to have as much information as you can when you need to make decisions. I’ve found that my Post Graduate Degree has been very beneficial in helping to put club strategy into place and draw up plans so that the clubs I have managed are not just working game by game or season by season. You can really set-out your football ideology and not only decide how you are going to win your game this weekend but how you are aiming to win your football club’s games three years down the line. Having this qualification has helped to challenge me and open my mind. I enjoyed it and I also did it to develop a better understanding of English. I wanted to be able to think in English, instead of having to translate in my head all the time”

His qualification in physiotherapy has given him a practical understanding of injuries and he attributes this with his lack of time on the sidelines as a player and as a reason the clubs he has managed rarely suffer from injury pile-ups;

“You get accidents in football, collisions that cause injuries that can’t be avoided. But even then if your body is right it will react quicker to the treatment and recover faster. I don’t believe in soft-tissue injuries. If you get a soft-tissue injury in football, a mistake has been made. It could be the training programme, a lifestyle problem. Whatever it is, it will be a mistake. The physiotherapy was more a promise to my mother. There was no guarantee I was going to earn a living in football and she wanted me to have an alternative. I was six months into doing my hospital hours when I moved to England. But it really helped me to understand my body when I was playing and to understand injuries and how the body can recover. I was never injured for more than nine weeks in 16 years of professional football.

I’ve always been fascinated by different techniques and I look at what the best physios in the world are doing. I love that side of football. Injury prevention. Maximising physical ability. The treatment of injuries. I always believe every injury can be avoided. That’s my starting point and my staff believe the same. At this club (Wigan) we are below the average for injuries in the Premier League. It’s important. It helps”.


Who will likely form his backroom staff?

With Lumsden, Round and Woods likely to move on, what will the future hold for staff further down the pecking order like Ferguson, Weir and Stubbs? On taking the Wigan job, Martinez was keen to surround himself with men who knew the club inside out such as Graham Barrow – boss when Martinez joined in 1995 – and ex forward Graeme Jones. He also raided his ex-club to recruit goalkeeping coach Iñaki Bergara, fitness coach Oscar Brau and assistant coach Dennis Lawrence. He explains his rationale for bringing in people who know the ethos of the club here;

”I want people who understand this club. As a manager you need to run a football club as if you are going to be here for 100 years. You need to lay foundations for the people who follow you. I don’t believe in short-term success”.

Whether this means there could be internal promotions for any of the ex blue trio remains unclear, but based on Martinez words above it wouldn’t be a shock.

Hold on, didn’t whale head Steve Bruce and even less well renowned operator Paul Jewell finish higher at Wigan than Robeeeeeeerto?

Well, in league terms yes they both did. Looking at the 4 seasons RM has been in charge compared to the previous 4 campaigns under Bruce and fellow fatty Paul Jewell there is a case to say Martinez has taken them backwards with the points per game figure going down from 1.21 to 1.03 in these two periods – Jewell also managed them into the top half and got to the carling cup final in their debut season in the top flight. The argument that Martinez wins more friends than points does hold weight; his win rate at the Latics is just 29% although this goes up to 50% when you factor in his time at Swansea. Martinez has however showed that in one off games he can beat the Manchester clubs and win at places like Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as keeping clean sheets when required

In winning the FA Cup he provided the silverware and excitement Blues fans crave, particular those who grew tired of Moyes pragmatism and perceived lack of adventure, especially in games against the leagues bit hitters. This should be countered by the fact that RM’s cup record was frankly crud prior to this season’s fa cup run with 5 exits to lower league opposition in the domestic cups in the 4 years he has been at the helm.

The argument goes that surely working with better players will give him a better chance of operating higher up the table and winning more games?

The data would certainly back this theory up. Wigan generally do a lot of things right, but lack the real quality to push on and this has been exasperate this season due to their inept backline.

In 12/13 Wigan enjoyed a better possession share and kept the ball better than us. They also created the 9th most scoring chances in the league, but a lack of quality in the final third cost them. The game at Goodison on Boxing Day was a good example as we were second best for the most part but due to Wigan’s profligacy in the final third we managed to eek out a narrow 2-1 win.

Their defensive record has come into question particularly as the Latics shipped over 70 goals this season – the worst in the league – with their erratic defensive line often looking like a haphazard doodle. Or, if you like, the new club crest. Here are Martinez’s thoughts on the importance of the defensive unit in a recent interview;

“The key of wanting to play attacking football is to have a good offensive balance and being able not to get exposed. It is important you know how to defend. Yes you have less bodies behind the ball but it is important you can be solid with your attacking concepts. That is the real key to a good attacking team. You look at the examples; Barcelona, they are probably the best team when they lose the ball and the way they look to regain possession. That is important in any team, whatever style you want to play; you should be able to have a good balance, either going forward or defensively. Attacking football relies on having a good foundation”.

Defensively, nine teams conceded more shots than the Latics however they suffered from some calamitous mistakes with 17 individual errors leading to goals – the most in the division – plus they gave away more penalties than anyone. Clearly, some of the blame needs to be apportioned to Martinez here for recruiting and persevering with some high risk players of ill repute.

Arguably the best element of Moyes was his ability to pick a bargain. Is Martinez up to much in the transfer market?

I’d say this is a resounding yes. In his first managerial role at Swansea he shifted Lee Trundle out for £1m and was able to recruit players like Orlandi, Rangel, Jason Scotland and Ashley Williams for a combined fee of less than half this figure, with all these players’ valuations going up considerably in the following years. At Wigan he has pretty much broken even in the last 4 seasons, compared to the 10.1m loss in the previous 4 seasons during Jewell and Bruce. The below table shows RM’s incomings and outgoings (excluding loans unless a fee was paid for the loan)


Basically he looks to sell one top player and bring in three – all of which will hold sell on value – with the average age of the players recruited a couple of years younger than the ones moved on. For example in the summer of 2011 he flogged N’Zogbia but brought in 3 (Maloney, Beasejour and Al Habsi) for the combined fee of the Frenchman. It’s likely he will bring in chief scout Kevin Reeves (also ex Swansea / Wigan) who would  need to adapt to our massive scouting network of 200 staff worldwide.

For player recruitment, the Spaniard is a known advocate of Prozone’s recruitment module to assist in bringing players in to the club;

There is a need for objective data after the initial scouting contact has been made and you have fallen in love with a player…the information is crucial for foreign players in particular to gauge how quickly they can adapt…you will have a subjective opinion first during the initial scouting contact, then there is a need to back it up with the data using key performance indicators like; the number of sprints, sprint distance, player intensity over the season as a whole to judge player fatigue and physical capability”

Spain is obviously a market he knows fairly well, with 7 purchases coming from his homeland, although he also knows the Scottish leagues well from his time at Motherwell where he worked under former blue Pat Nevin who was then chief exec, in total brining in 6 players from north of the border.  It’s also worth noting that if we look at the current squad below he has developed players well to bring added value to the majority to the tune of £26m based on their transfer fees and current value now (figures provided by One concern is that the emerging McManaman – a player we let go from our academy – is the only youth player to have come through the ranks.

martinez current

This ability to wheel and deal will be vital at a club like ours where money is often too tight to mention and where he will be required to upgrade an ageing squad, particularly in the centre forward and midfield positions.

He’s known as an astute tactician with his three man defence… does he possess much variety in how he sets up?

Martinez three man defence has been something of a revelation in a Premier League which generally has a distrust of anything that doesn’t involve 4-4-2. He cites his managerial icons as ‘Cruyff at Barcelona, Pacho Maturana when he was at Columbia, Arigo Sacchi and John Toshack at Real Sociedad” He started off at Swansea playing 4-4-2 but did begin his exploration of variants of the formation soon after;

“Everyone played 4-4-2 but we couldn’t compete like that with the budget restrictions we had. So we started with 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, and it gave us a lot of success”.

In the 11/12 season at Wigan he tweaked their four man defence into a three which proved to be a catalyst in an upturn in form which enabled them to again escape the drop. The system is described below by Martinez;

“When you play a 4-3-3, you rely a lot on the full-backs to get high up the pitch. You shouldn’t look at a system as a way to win a football match, it is the players that play the system. Maynor [Figueroa], Gary [Caldwell] and Antolin [Alcaraz] have been so solid with a back three, and it allows [other] players to be high up the pitch, like the wing-backs. They aren’t full-backs that need to get deep and then forward to give us an extra man, they are in positions where they can do both a little bit better, and we can be a little bit more solid.

We lost two very important players in Tom Cleverley and Charles N’Zogbia in 10/11 and we were struggling to create goalscoring opportunities. But we now play a system that is designed to get the best out of our players. It’s a system that has been made here to play the best we can with the players we have. Here we are now very well balanced. We are organised defensively and we are creating opportunities. It’s not a case of the players adapting to a system. It’s adapting to a system that suits our players. We are very flexible. We have been working so much in the past two-and-a-half years, tactically, and we can adapt to the demands of different games against different teams. We focus on the small details and see how we can make strong partnerships on the pitch. That’s how you arrive at a system that works.

The difference is the width that we get…before, we had to compromise a little bit, when you want to be very attack-minded, the full-backs have to push on, so you leave two players at the back. Now you’re still pushing the wing-backs on, but you’ve still got three players at the back, plus probably a midfielder. In the West Brom game , we were attacking with seven, eight, nine players and they were surprised it, and that’s what the system gives you, without being weak at the back. It suits our players. When you’ve got a Jean Beausejour who is a specialist in that position, you take advantage of that. The back three gives you that. Then there’s the energy we’ve got in midfield, players who can play between lines like Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez. It’s so difficult to play against …this is the advantage of this system – it goes where the danger is…it’s not in defensive lines, it’s not working as a unit of four, it’s not man-marking.”

At home, Martinez has a Tony Soprano style cinema room. He will watch the recording of a Wigan match as many as 10 times, particularly when they lose and this demonstrates the traits of a perfectionist in that he cannot move on until he is satisfied that he understands exactly why they lost;

 ‘I have a 60-inch pen-touch screen that allows you to write on it. You link it to your computer so it becomes a 60-inch computer screen really and you can use the ProZone software with it. My wife was delighted when I had it installed, but she understands that I need that space and time to be able to come back to being myself. Once I find a solution, I’m fine. You learn more from defeats. You see how players react to situations. I don’t see it as work. I see being a football manager as a way to live. The moment you feel you need a day off, you are in the wrong business”.


He seems a lovely fella. Surely most ‘winners’ have to hold a nasty streak, as they say about ‘luis’ for example? Is a lot of his upbeat demeanour psychological?

Martinez is a keen student of the impact psychology can have on his players. This won’t be anything new to the players – Moyes used the respected doctor Michael Finnegan in a role at Finch Farm throughout his 11 year tenure at Goodison. Martinez regularly signs off his programme notes at Wigan with ‘Sin Miedo’ – without fear in Spanish – and this is a hallmark of his management style as he explains;

“I like to lead through aspiration. In a way this is an extension of my own personality. I always had great aspirations as a player and as a person and that always enabled me to give myself direction. I feel that your own aspirations can be fitted into a team dynamic very easily. I’ve never believed in forcing people to do things. Even when you are the manager, at the forefront and setting the direction, you are still part of a team, a dream and an aspiration. I only want to manage players that want to achieve. I don’t see any long term benefit of being in a position where you have to force or punish players to reach certain standards. I like to build football clubs and put things in place so that the club is going to continually develop, and get their rewards. I fully believe that you can only achieve such rewards through aspiration”

An example of this ‘glass half full’ mindset was used following the recent crushing defeat to Swansea to help build players confidence in the run up to the Cup Final against City. Self-confessed wacky guy and general momo Paul Scharner takes up the story;

 “When we walked into the training ground canteen this morning, we found the manager had taken down all the photos of Premier League games and replaced them with pictures from our Cup run. Suddenly, we were looking at the walls and seeing images of our great win at Everton and semi-final victory over Millwall at Wembley. It lifted the whole mood and made us all feel a lot better about ourselves”

This quote from an interview with the LMA gives further detail on his approach for leading and motivating players….

“When this happens you have to try to understand both the player and the human being. In football you need to appreciate that from Monday to Friday you are dealing with human beings and then you are dealing with footballers on a match day. Understanding the human being during the week allows you to understand the player. Sometimes people can get too focused on perfection and only highlight mistakes and weaknesses in the players and that doesn’t enable you to understand the individual. When you have got a player who has got the right ambition and the right aspiration sometimes they need to be understood in order to help them with any confidence issues. In such a long, exposed football environment where everything is detailed, players can suffer confidence issues so you do need to understand them as human beings”

Martinez uses the ‘impress formula’ stressing the positives and sidelining his side’s shortcomings as a supporting tool for his players, consistently looking at the positives and greeting every negative with two positives, Partridge style, an approach confirmed in this article by the Impress Coaching website;

“All season he has spoken of the good football they have played. The attention direction of the Wigan players unconscious mind is switched away from being overwhelmed by the size of the challenge ahead and internally just on what they do when they play well. He can do this because he has an unswerving outcome. Martinez has an innate and naturally inspiring language style. He believes in his ability to release that extra level of performance locked away in his players subconscious minds”

Whilst this is admirable I fear this approach wouldn’t wash with our fan base after a 0-3 tonking to a lesser light – something which is completely plausible in a transition season we are about to enter.


All things considered, the appointment makes sense on a lot of levels. Yes, there are question marks over certain aspects of his approach and league form and goals conceded is a concern, but on a lot of levels he is a good fit. It’s worth pointing out that it’s less of a risk than the appointment of Moyes back in 2002 who then had no experience in the top flight as either a player or manager, and considerably fewer contacts and knowledge of the world game at that stage which Martinez has.

I like the fact he has earned his corn in the lower leagues, is a real grafter and has stayed true to his principles even in the face of poor results and the threat of relegation. He appears a loyal guy who is in it for the long haul and on this basis he would fit the continuity model we are looking to maintain.

Ultimately there isn’t too much wrong at the club – wholesale change simply isn’t required – we are a very decent side who are arguably just a couple of players short of going even further than we have so far. Perhaps Martinez could be the one to take us there.



Everton A-Z Season Deconstruction 12/13


So, the last ball has been kicked in the 2012/13 season. It’s been a long slog with ace goals, great games and plenty of missed chances with the occasional defensive calamity. Pour yourself a large mug of coffee (twix optional) and prepare for a lengthy A-Z breakdown of the highs and lows of the last 9 months for the toffeemen…

A – Aerials 

In total we contested 1351 aerial duels, winning 707 equating to a success rate  of 52% which is up on last season’s figure of 48%. This equates to 18.6 aerials won per game, ranking us 4th in the top flight.  In terms of attempts on goal from aerials, we conceded 68 compared to 74 last season and had 111 attempts from headers – the most in the league. Unsurprisingly, Fellaini was our main ball winner in the air with 151 aerials won – a 59% win rate – ranking him…

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Everton A-Z Season Deconstruction 12/13


So, the last ball has been kicked in the 2012/13 season. It’s been a long slog with ace goals, great games and plenty of missed chances with the occasional defensive calamity. Pour yourself a large mug of coffee (twix optional) and prepare for a lengthy A-Z breakdown of the highs and lows of the last 9 months for the toffeemen…

A – Aerials 

In total we contested 1351 aerial duels, winning 707 equating to a success rate  of 52% which is up on last season’s figure of 48%. This equates to 18.6 aerials won per game, ranking us 4th in the top flight.  In terms of attempts on goal from aerials, we conceded 68 compared to 74 last season and had 111 attempts from headers – the most in the league. Unsurprisingly, Fellaini was our main ball winner in the air with 151 aerials won – a 59% win rate – ranking him 5th in the division behind Carroll, Benteke, Fletcher and Crouch. The poorest statistically in the air was Kevin Mirallas who recorded just a 17% success rate. We have conceded the second most headed goals (15) behind Wigan (16) and scored the second most headed goals (13) behind Chelsea (16)

defence prem

B – Back Four

Generally the defensive operation started badly with just one clean sheet prior to Christmas. We conceded 11.9 Shots per game which is slightly less than last season’s figure of 12.5 shots per game. This represents a steady improvement on the 10/11 figure of 13.3 per game. In total we kept 11 clean sheets which is just short of last season’s haul of 12. Our best clean sheet haul under Moyes was the 2008/9 total of 17.


In terms of the type of chances conceded, the figure for chances conceded in the box went down from last season’s 267 to 248 whilst the amount of crosses conceded went up slightly from 772 to 784. The amount of ‘big’ chances conceded per game went up considerably from 40 last season to 70 this.

C- Chance Conversion

We generally created more in the first third of the campaign; in the first 12 games we created 10+ chances in each game, whilst for the following 26 games we did so in less than 50% of matches.

In total we created 480 chances, ranking us 4th in the top flight and ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United. This is a significant improvement on last season’s figure of 378.

The most creative player was Baines who fashioned 116 of these openings – the most in the top flight and the most in Europe’s top leagues.


D – Dribbles

Our most frequent dribbler was Kevin Mirallas who beat his opponent 1.4 times per game (37 in total)  ranking him the 18th most frequent dribbler in the top flight. Last season our most frequent dribbler was Baines with 28. Leon Osman was our most dribbled past player (58) and the second most in the top flight behind Cazorla (63). Our team’s successful dribbles went up to 201, well up on last season’s figure of 170 although both were eclipsed by the 10/11 figure of 266.

E – Errors leading to goals 

As a team we made 26 individual errors with 7 of these leading directly to a goal, ranking us the fourth least clumsy side in the division with only Chelsea (3) and West Ham / WBA (both 4) making fewer. Last season we made 13 errors, five of which led to a goal.

F – Free kicks /Set Pieces

Goals from set pieces account for 25% of those scored in the English top flight. We conceded 121 attempts from set plays with 8 leading to goals. This is down on last season when we conceded 141 attempts from set pieces. We created 180 scoring chances from set plays – the most in the division – but had a relatively poor conversion rate with just 13 goals scored – ranking us joint seventh in the division.

new sot

G – Goals scored

We scored 55 Goals this season which is up on the 11/12 figure of 50 but still below our best figure under Moyes of 60 from the 2009/10 campaign.

On average it has taken us 11 shots to score a goal, the 4th worst ratio in the league. This season we hit 16.7 shots per game which is well up on the 11/12 figure of 13.7 shots per game. We hit the woodwork 16 times in total, the joint most along with Manchester Utd. The below table shows our 4 year trend for goals output

 new defence

H – Home Record

A key factor in us being towards the top end of the table was our consistently excellent home form with just 1 loss all season – against clown kecks Benitez. This was the lowest loss rate in the league  with the 42 points gathered from our home games ranking us third behind the Manchester clubs in terms of points gained. This is our best home record (in terms of games lost) since the championship winning years of 69/70 & 86/87 when we also lost just once. The home form was particularly vital given that our win record on the road under Moyes has year on year fallen after the turn of the year – this was again the case this season as we won just 1 game on the road since Christmas (the same  figure as last season) crucially failing to score in 5 of our last 8 on the road.

I – Interceptions / Regaining Possession

In total we regained possession via tackles and interceptions 1312 times which is up on last season’s figure of 1241 despite us being on the ball more this season. The most interceptions in a game was 26 vs Man City and the fewest against Stoke (7).

J – Jelavic Decline

The decline of last season’s chief marksman has been one of the most discussed subjects of the season. The below table shows his match data from last season and this. The data shows us that 1) he has as many shots per game and 2) he did as much graft outside the box as he did last season, and actually spent more time on the ball in the opposition penalty box – and less time ‘working the channels’ outside the box – this season than last.


For me the issue is more about confidence. It’s also worth noting that in the last 10 games he started up front without Fellaini this season he has also failed to find the target, so the argument it’s the role of the Belgian is flawed for me.

K- Keeping

Tim Howard had a below par start to the season, but finished it on the front foot with 7 clean sheet from his last 10 games. Howard made 4 errors that led to a goal, compared to last season’s figure of 2. In terms of distribution, Howard’s short pass completion hit 56.5%, up on last season’s figure of 50.2%. His often derided long kicking also went up to 43%, a tangible improvement on last season’s 35%.


L – Long passes

Our % of total passes hit long was 14%, the lowest in 4 seasons. Our most frequent long passer was Phil Jagielka, who hit 6.3 accurate long passes per game with a 58% accuracy – the same accuracy figure as last season and the best figures for a centre back in the top flight. Jags also recorded the longest distance average pass at 27 metres. Leon Osman had the best accuracy from long balls at 80% completion, the main receiver being Baines.

Our highest percentage of long passes in a game was the home game vs Norwich while the shortest % of long passes per game was against Liverpool at home – a game we were ironically derided for long ball tactics.

M – Most fouls for and against 

Steven Pienaar was our most fouled player, winning 2.5 free kicks per game – the most in the division. Fellaini committed the most indiscretions (2.6 per game) and 80 in total. As a team we are ranked 8th for fouls committed (446) and 1st for fouls suffered 1 (498).  Leon Oman picked up the most yellow cards (9). Marouanne Fellaini was suspended for the most games (6) due to his various indiscretions.

 New Picture (3)

N – New right side

One of the big pluses this season has been the emergence of a more vibrant right sided alternative to the much heralded left flank. It was much needed given that sides have tended to overload down our left to negate space and were happy for us to have space down the right (Man United away being the prime example). Coleman’s chance to assist efficiency has ramped up post Xmas and the marauder has more assists from open post than Baines. Only Wigan’s Beausejour (7) at Wigan claimed more assists from a full back position than Coleman’s 5.

O – Offside, High Line & Counter Attack

A feature of our play has been a territorial game plan manifested by  a high defensive line meaning we spend a higher percentage of time ( 32%) in the opposition half than anyone in the league. The Blues got caught offside 2.6 times per game, ranking us 3rd in the top flight, albeit less than the 3.1 from 11/12. Jelavic was unsurprisingly caught offside more per game than anyone else (1.3) ranking him 2nd in the top flight behind Christain Benteke (1.5). Offensively our goals output from counter attacks has gone up this season to 4 from the 1 last season with the notable effort Kevin Mirallas wonder goal that seen off slazenger deodorant scruffs Stoke.

Our ability to quickly get in shape when possession is lost has long been a feature of our defensive play and why we have allowed our opponents the fewest attempts (5) from counter attacks in the Premier League this season.


P – Possession

Our share of possession was a healthy 52.9% which is considerably up on last season’s figure of 47% indicating a more progressive, less reactive approach. In total we lost possession 448 times which is an improvement on 487 times last season.  In terms of the danger areas, we had 1196 touches in the opposition 18 yard box, well up on last season’s figure of 870, and more than Chelsea, Man United & Spurs. The joint highest percentage share in a single game was the 61% vs Allardyce and his protein fuelled gang of mutants at Goodison, whilst the lowest share was the 40% against Man Utd on the opening night of the season.

Q – Quality on the ball

Our pass completion figure was 79.5% ranking us  11th in the league for pass accuracy.  This is marginally up on last year’s figure of 77.3%. The most accurate passing display of the season was the 87% completion against Southampton at Goodison with the lowest figure recorded the 68% at Spurs.

R – Resilience

We have generally been good at retrieving points after falling behind in games. In total we have taken 21 points from such situations, ranking us third to Spurs (23) and the champions (29) in terms of resilience. This is compared to the 11 points we retrieved from losing situations last season.

S – Substitutions 

Making changes has been a major issue all season and in total we have made the fewest substitutions in the league. A total of 3 of our 55 goals have come from subs which is consistent with the league average of 5%.In terms of substitute  goals that have actually impacted outcomes of games, Anichebe home and away vs Newcastle (3 point impact) is our limit.  This is down on the impact of 8 last season. Man City lead the way with 15 points ‘impacted’ via sub goals, that’s a 12 point swing on our figure, which is roughly the difference between ourselves and champions league football. Our average substitution time was 71 minutes. The most subbed player was Mirallas, who got the hook in 18 of his 23 starts.  A study from ‘Soccer by the numbers’ showed that  making subs at 58, 73 & 79 mins improved a team’s match position 40% of the time. Sadly, we just didn’t have enough game changing options from the bench to get the edge in tight games.

T – The left flank 

Whether it be via the overlap or underlap, the Baines/Pienaar axis has again been massively influential with us attacking 42% down the left – the joint most in the top flight with Wigan. The lateral schemers have created 41% of our scoring chances and also contributed the same figure of assists/goals in relation to our overall goals output. Unsurprisingly, Baines to Pienaar was the most frequent passing combination and most for a single game (31) v Wigan away.  Going the other way, opposition sides have targeted their adventure which has led to us conceding more crosses from the left side than the right side.

U – Utilisation

We have used the fewest players in the top flight (23) with consistency in selection one of our biggest strengths and weaknesses.

V – vs The Top Sides

Moyes record against the top sides historically is poor, however this year that has not been the case. Against the top 5 clubs we’ve picked up 13 points, with other sides only taking 14 points from us.  Last season we took just 9 and conceded 21. If anything it was our record against the crud teams that cost us; whereas Arsenal took 32 points from the bottom six clubs, we accrued just 21, roughly the points difference Arsenal finished above us.


W – Win % With and Without

The following table shows the win rate in games a player has /hasn’t started or played a minimum of 60 minutes;

win with without


The Blues have been a bookies dream this season – we are the kings of the x on the coupon with the abundance of draws – 15 in total – costing us in the final standings. No side in the top flight of England, Spain, Italy or Germany could muster more deadlocks than us.

Y – Year on Year comparison

Our 63 points total was our joint second highest of the Moyes era and comfortably up on our figure last season of 56. The best tally of the Moyes era was 65 points in 2007/8. In terms of shortfall in points to 4th place, the 10 points we came up short this season makes it the closest we have come to getting 4th since 2009/10 when 61 points got us 9 points off 4th spot. Since 2002 under Moyes our average position has been 7th, compared to the ten year average position of 14th which preceded his tenure.

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Z – Zenith Moment & Conclusion

In the end we just came up short with the form of Chelsea, Arsenal & Spurs too consistent and also setting a new points record high for champions league qualification in fourth spot. There has been plenty of highs with the best one a tough call. The Manchester Utd win on the opening day was superb, as was Jelavic last gasp winner against Spurs. On the road there wasn’t as much to write home about although the performances against Swansea and Fulham were superb. The atmosphere against West ham on the final day of the season was probably as good as it’s been since Fiorentina.

For me, the win against Man City at Goodison just edges them all in terms of ace factor and fist pumping pandemonium. It was also probably due to the fact the season’s nadir was reached 7 days prior in the shambles against Wigan.

That’s about your lot I’m afraid. Hopefully it hasn’t been too painful to read and apologies if I missed anything out.

Thanks for reading.


Who next for Everton? Analysis of the likely managerial candidates

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The Current Situation

Like anyone I was surprised with the timing of this week’s events and we now find ourselves at a crossroads in terms of how the club moves forwards.

The club is amidst the change curve; Moyes was ace but football is massive and change happens, often for the better and there is no reason we can’t kick on. With the foundations he has left we are in good shape to move forward given the right appointment.

The conundrum for the board is do we go for someone who can provide ‘like for like’ continuity,  Scottish pragmatism i.e. a Malay Mackay type (essentially Moyes-lite) or look for a more dynamic solution that could provide more short term gain like, say a Laudrup.

Unless Kenwrong is a great poker player we need to assume that the search for a successor only started this week. This leads us to ask the question of what exactly have the club done to mitigate the risk of DM leaving?   Was there a contingency ‘Plan B’ on the team shared drive ready to be implemented on Wednesday morning? Or is the more likely option that we have adopted a wait and see, eyes closed, hide under the table approach? Sadly, the answer is obvious. This excellent article by footballing head-hunter Tor Karlsen shows what properly organised clubs do in recruiting future managers.

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 ‘The Everton change curve’

The Transition that lies ahead…

Given that continuity has been one of our key strengths in recent times it’s a real worry that short term we could struggle to compete if the post- Moyes transition of any potential appointment isn’t well managed.

Clearly, given the far reaching autonomy DM enjoyed there will be a significant period of transition to endure. Some transitions have been handled better than others in the top flight in recent years. If we look at the worst, Villa’s replacement of long ball tramp Martin O’Neill with the contrasting strategist Gerard Houllier springs to mind. In that case, not replacing like for like led to the creation of haphazard recruitment and a playing squad that still to this date resembles a detritus.

Swansea’s transition from Martinez>Sousa>Brenny > Laudrup has been seamless given that they have a defined strategy and thus didn’t need to chop and change too much. Yes, Laudrup added better players but wholesale changes were not necessary. This continuity has also bagged them over £5m in compensation. Often though, what people disliked most of the previous regime will lead to the polar opposite being brought in. The England job is a good example with Sven -for being foreign-  leading to englishman McLaren coming in, before he was denounced as not clever enough hence the need for tactican Capello to come in,  who was also too foreign and a loose canon, which led to ‘safe hands’ englishman Roy coming in.

I certainly don’t subscribe to the belief that Moyes departure will somehow lead to implosion, although this is very much in the hands of the board.

What are we looking for?

The key capabilities required for the job is evidently different from when the Scot took the helm. Back then, the basic premise was survival and to reduce the average age of the squad which then stood at 56 (although it’s still quite old now)

We are now challenging at the top end of the table with an expectation of a top six placing and cup glory. With no cash and FFP now ‘in play’ the candidate will need experience in bringing players through, and given how we can’t compete like for like in the transfer market with the sides above us (and some below us), a tactical edge to find another way of winning will be crucial. So essentially it’s likely any successor will be more pragmatic than idealistic.

Given the broadness of the role and working on the assumption the board are not going to carve the duties up with additional costs (e.g create a director of football role), any future boss will need to be able to turn his hand to more functions than most bosses in the top flight including responsibilities for the academy and scouting as well as day to day coaching duties.

Key Criteria

1. Long term role to re-build the second oldest side in the division

2. Tactical edge to find a way to win ‘by any means necessary’

3. Pragmatist

4. Willing to accept a minimal transfer budget

5. Getting the best out of average players (e.g Naismith, Anichebe)

6. A willingness to be subservient to the board

7. A degree of arrogance and flair to move us forward from current position

8. Capability to effectively trade and make a profit on transfers

9. Available with no/minimal compensation

10. Hard worker with a steely desire to win

What’s in it for them? 

1. A very good first X1 good enough to win a trophy

2. Quality youth setup and ‘state of the art’ training complex & fanbase

3. Opportunity to build something long term

4. Free reign on transfers, full autonomy on first team affairs and academy

5. One of the top 15 best paid jobs in world football

6. With the new tv deal a club no longer dependent on selling to survive

The Unlikely Options

Based on the criteria listed lets dismiss some of the names linked so far…

Personally I rate Paul Lambert as the closest like for like fit for Moyes in the top flight but given the way Villa have finished the campaign (and the compensation involved)  this looks a non starter. Michael Laudrup would appear a complete long shot given the reported £5m release clause in his new deal-  a clause he signed in recent months as our board watched Moyes contract wind down. He’s also something of a journeyman though with 5 jobs in 7 years – I don’t see him being anyway very long. Mark ‘project’ Hughes is not good enough to work in the club shop. Steve McLaren hasn’t really been mooted but I rate him; he’s one of the few English managers with the get up and go to try his hand abroad and whilst his spell at Wolfsburg was not great his time in Holland was excellent. He also bagged a trophy for Boro and had them settled in mid table – something which seems a million miles away now. Neil Lennon is Michael Douglas in Falling Down waiting to happen. Pip Neville – doesn’t like the sopranos, also no experience and is predominantly disliked (a tad unfairly) by a large section of the fan base so his appointment would be divisive.  Duncan Ferguson and Alan Stubbs are well liked but have no real experience. I also think Freedman at Bolton is a more credible option that McKay at Cardiff, although neither fits the bill for me.

x4 more serious contenders to consider….

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1. Roberto Martinez (Wigan Athletic)

Age 39 / Best Odds: 3/1 (Stan James) / CareerTrophies: 1 / Career Win Rate; 37%

Martinez role at Wigan in recent seasons has been to provide sustainable longevity following the early years of heavy spend prior to his appointment. Based in the North West and accustomed to the division, there would be minimal ‘setting’ issues associated with relocation and he would be able to hit the ground running. His salary is also a fraction of what Moyes was on. He’s also a fully qualified physiotherapist (boring fact)

RM’s transfer approach has been to bring in three cheap players for every big name player that he moves on and the money banked on players like N’Zogbia and Moses has been plentiful. He also has a good scouting network of previously untapped markets in South America. The way RM has recruited for minimal spend and developed players like McCarthy and Maloney is admirable and this will be something the board will look at for sure, as will be his subservience to Whelan. Tactically he is also adventurous with his three at the back system quite edgy for the vanilla tactics of the premier league.

I like his approach although I’m not sure his style wholly fits our club mantra. For example, could you see Martinez coming out after a 0-4 defeat and saying ‘yeah, but we played great football’… the fans would hound him out within 3 months. His win % is also the lowest of all the candidates and it’s even worse when you focus on top flight games only (29%). RM has never taken Wigan higher than 15th which is worse than two of the complete numbskulls who occupied the hot seat before him – the Aberdeen Angus headed Steve Bruce for instance got them to 11th while Burberry enthusiast Paul Jewell also got them in the top half, albeit both had more cash than RM.

Then there is the issue of compensation and the senile coffin dodger Dave ‘I broke my leg in the cup final’ Whelan who would be looking at £4m to fund his Thatcher memorial statue, the tit. Despite this, I think he’s the most likely option.

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2. Vitor Pereira (Porto)

Age 44 / Best Odds 12/1 (Ladbrokes) / Trophies Won: 3 / Career Win Rate 54%

Similarly to Martinez and ‘Rafa’ Benitez, Pereira comes from a background of a not so great career as a player but one that excelled through the education system and who has a sports science accreditation under his belt. Prior to becoming assistant at Porto to ‘AVB’ , Pereira enjoyed moderate success in the lower leagues with Santa Clara where he developed a reputation as a progressive manager. His core skill is a work ethic and as a proficient fitness coach with a track record of getting the best out of what is available to him.

He isn’t the most charismatic figure though, and he certainly isn’t the next Mourinho, or even the next ‘AVB’. He’s something of a ‘yes man’ to the Porto president and has a willingness to be subservient so the Board which would give him a tick in the box for our role.

He has achieved the Portuguese title though – although some Porto fans perceived it as Benfica throwing it away rather than Porto winning it – however you can’t question the home form with the Dragons currently unbeaten in 44 home league games which is not to be sniffed at. They are also still in the hunt for back to back titles this season although the division is essentially a two horse race.

With his contract expiring in the summer (Porto haven’t offered him a new deal) Pereira would be free to move clubs, but it would be a surprise for me if his destination was L4 given our ‘traditional’ approach.

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3, Rafa Benitez  (Chelsea)

Age; 53 / Best Odds; 45/1 (Betfair)  / Career Trophies; 11 / Career Win Rate; 50%

An outside bet given his connections across the park, ‘clown kecks’ is the best qualified candidate by some distance and would be able to hit the ground running. Yes, his affiliation with the other lot is hard to shake and his comments in the past will have done little to endear him to the L4 faithful. However for me the positives outweigh the negatives by some distance.

His time at Valencia was impressive, as was his feet in taking a rank average Liverpool side containing Djimi Traore and Djibrill Cisse to the Champions League crown. His ability to get the most out of such players and the tactical edge to get the better of teams possessing better players is crucial to the Everton role. His critics will argue he was a reckless spender at Liverpool where he came in for criticism for spending £40m on calamity duo Robbie Keane and Alberto Aquilani, however the club did recoup almost half this outlay in moving them on –  a figure dwarfed by the £50m he banked the club from the Torres/Alonso deals.

What would his motivation be for taking the job then? Well, his desire to stay in the English top flight is clear, and his ego  will dictate that he wants to operate at the top end. We are the only conceivable option for him to be able to compete here, plus he would get the autonomy on playing affairs and recruitment which has led to him leaving previous jobs. It’s a long shot though; his appointment could be divisive within the fan base and it would take a gutsy board who wanted success at all costs to appoint him – something we don’t have.

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4. Thomas Tuchel (Mainz)

Age: 39 / Best Odds; 142/1 (Betfair) / Career Trophies: 0 / Career win rate 40%

A big outsider, the Mainz boss has won a lot of friends in Germany for turning the fortunes of an unfashionable side that in recent history have rarely been above Bundesliga2. As a sign of the progress he has brought, the club has finished 5th and 13th in the German top flight in recent seasons.  Initially he was brought in as the successor to the now much coveted Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, and there are many similarities that can be drawn between the duo. Both are passionate, animated characters and both excel at rearing young players into the first team such as Marcel Risse, Shawn Parker and notably Jan Kirchhoff who is joining Bayern this summer.

They currently lie in 10th position in the league but have struggled a bit this season, drawing 9 of 15 games in 2013. Overall they have scored 38 and conceded 38 from as many games this season, giving them a 0 goal difference and one of the best defensive records in the league. Sound familiar?

Their style also has a cross over with ours, playing an energetic, pressure game in the opposition half, again an approach similar to Moyes – Everton spend a higher proportion of time in the opposing half than anyone in the top flight.

Tuchel is paid in the region of 1 million euro’s per year, a drop in the ocean to Moyes £2.9m per year wedge. The hat wearing tactician’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed with the top clubs in Germany with Schalke – a club who also supposedly looked at Moyes – holding an interest in the manager. He fits the bill but again would the board spread their net this wide?

In Conclusion

The fear is the board will choose the easy option which guarantees no kick back and allow them to continue doing nothing, i.e Martinez.  It’s also the reason that Benitez probably won’t be considered. If it is Martinez then it will be interesting to see how things develop. He’s has had moderate success at Wigan, but would need to change his approach to adapt to a much bigger football operation with great expectation at Goodison Park. It all makes for an interesting few months ahead.

Final Third Blues

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Everton’s final third domination has been mentioned several times on the site over the last 12 months. No other team has spent as much time in the opposition’s final third as Everton over the last three seasons.

On average Everton spend a third of their time in the last third of the field. However, using our expected goals model similar to the ones used by the analysts at Prozone, we can see that Everton haven’t scored as many goals as they should for the shots they’ve had. We can also see that Everton have conceded more goals than they should have for the shots they’ve faced.

Basically, Everton’s dominance of the pitch is achieving the exact opposite of what it should be. Using these measures, we can calculate that Everton should expect to have scored 56-57 goals so far this season. They’ve managed 52. Also that they should expect to have conceded 33 goals so far but have actually conceded 38.

It’s easy to point the finger at individual mistakes for this – Jelavic up front and maybe Heitinga and Howard at the back. It’s a little harder to look at the system and say: “this just isn’t working”. So that’s what I’m going to try to do here…

My theory is that camping out in opposition territory isn’t doing Everton any favours. There’s generally two types of approach and both look to utilise width. The first approach involves working it methodically out to the flanks, and often involves an interchange between full back and wide midfielder before the ball gets sent in.

The second is utilising the long ball – aiming for the target man who brings others in before it’s again, generally worked wide. Everton use both the long ball and the cross more than the majority of teams. Defenders know what’s coming. They sit back and defend deep content to face play knowing they’ll seldom get turned round. If they do it will be close to their own goal line and there’ll be plenty of team mates defending the cross centrally in the box. Rarely do you see teams playing a high-line against Everton.

I wanted to test how Everton’s attacking efficiency changes depending on how territorially dominant they are. Thankfully, the split between games where Everton have spent a third or more of their time in the final third, and games when they’ve spent less than a third of their time in the final third is almost equal.

It actually turns out that Everton score more and are better at converting chances when they’ve been territorially dominant – chance conversion is around 95% of that expected. This is compared to around 87% when Everton spend less than a third of their time in the attacking third.

While these figures blow my original theory out of the water, they point to the fact that Everton don’t really have variety in their attack and simply aren’t prepared or equipped to break quickly on an opponent as a team. Mirallas is key to this. He’s demonstrated his ability to do this by going it alone in recent games against Stoke and Spurs.

The rest, however, struggle as they don’t possess the Belgian’s pace. Even with the goal against City, Fellaini’s pass to Jelavic was fairly dismal and the Croatian was forced to check inside to pot-shot from outside the area. The shot even needed a looping deflection and Hart to be caught in no man’s land before it found its way into the net. The key then, may be to get Mirallas more involved centrally to enable quicker and more direct transitions between attack and defence. Hopefully it’s something that Everton will improve on as a team next year.

The figures are much more revealing defensively. Splitting the games again as before, Everton’s defence becomes solid when the team isn’t dominating the opponent. Forced to concede territory, Everton resume shape with bodies behind the ball. In these games Everton concede less than expected , letting in 19 goals when they’d expect to concede 20.

In the games when Everton dominate the opponent, the defence collapses alarmingly, conceding 19 goals when they should only be expecting to concede 13. It’s really not surprising when you consider how advanced Baines and Coleman become in these games.

Distin and Jagielka are relied upon heavily to hold the fort. They’re both physically gifted and need to be as they’re expected to hold a high line. Everyone’s still having nightmares about Heitinga being expected to do the same against Kone at Wigan and Benteke at Goodison.

Finding the perfect balance between defence and attack is always going to be tricky. It makes more sense to fit the system to the players rather than the players to the system. You only have to look at Villas-Boas at Chelsea or Rodgers at Liverpool earlier this season to see that.

By @footballfactman