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.



13 thoughts on “Roberto Martinez – Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. For me the next manager has to show he can beat expectations, i.e. perform better than the expected league position. If you want ‘someone who won a trophy’ – pick Pat Fenlon or Alex McLeish. I think he fails this test year in, year out.

    • I don’t think any of the candidates are ideal, but he’s probably the best of the lot, just a shame about the relegation.

      His experience is essentially the same as Moyes’ when he was at Preston, plus 4 years in the Premier League.

  2. Pingback: Everton's new manager - Page 198

  3. “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” – That’s a worry to me. Sounds like he hasn’t really got a plan b if plan a isn’t working. It’s a pity Steve Clarke has only had 1 season at West Brom – I think he looks like a better all-round fit for EFC.

  4. Martinez is not my first choice but I trust your judgement over the average fans. He has shown some promise in his years as a manager and, with several worse candidates on offer he wouldn’t be the worst by any means.

  5. I am really concerned about his ability to get results.

    If he was that good a coach and manager how come they have only won 29 premier league games over the last 4 seasons and this season had the worst goals against record in the Premiership.

  6. I admit it, he wouldn’t be my first choice, but I have always liked the way he has managed at other clubs. He is passionate and obviously loves the game. I think we could do better, but I also think that we could do a hell of a lot worse

  7. I think Martinez will give us something different. I think we all need to get behind him and give the Manager the time to change things to his style.

  8. Brilliant article, as always. You’ve convinced me! Your forensic and entertaining work is a welcome antidote to most of the emotional, ill-informed and reactionary views I read on the worldwide web. Thanks for all your articles. Can you design the next badge too?

  9. Excellent analysis, have felt Perrera a better option than RM, but your article has swayed me slightly, only slightly that is as I am just not really convinced. Who knew anything of Moyes before he came and Perrera has nil PL experience

  10. Depressingly typical appointment. He’s done nothing but struggle year in year out at Wigan, and they could have been relegated three times in the past three seasons.
    Also, let’s not forget Wigan were a pretty comfortable mid-table club before he took over with finishes of 10th, 11th and 14th under Bruce and Jewell.

    He’s done nothing to suggest he’s good enough for the Everton job.

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