The latest instalment of yuletide toffee misery took us to Hull for a six pointer with steak-bake faced motivator Steve Bruce.
Martinez went back to his preferred approach at Wigan with three centre backs – something he also tried to bed in towards the end of games at Goodison last season. Given that we don’t have one in form fit centre back at the club it seemed a bit of a forced move with Barry coming in as the third centre half alongside Jagielka and Alcaraz.
That said, the opening exchanges were relatively encouraging with Coleman from the right having the beating of Robertson and Kone looking like he could do some damage down the same flank, albeit the Ivorian can lack urgency and gets caught in possession a bit more than what he should do. All things considered the first 30 minutes were ok compared to what we’ve seen of late.
Those of a nervous disposition look away now.
Ultimately the players should determine the system rather than the other way around, and Martinez tinkering (he hasn’t kept an unchanged team all season) looks increasingly that of a man who is changing things incessantly in the hope that he eventually finds something that will stick.
The comments after the Newcastle game from Luke Garbutt hinted that the changes have been difficult for the players to comprehend, and our whole approach does now seem a tad watered down. Whether that’s true or not, the players seem to be using the confusion as an excuse to hide on the ball and certainly not show the ‘swagger’ that Martinez likes to refer to. This was reflected in our passing data as we posted both our lowest amount of passes made (309) and the lowest pass completion total (78%) of the season.
The first goal came from one such situation as Jagielka panicked on the ball despite there being nobody within 10 yards of him. Rather than put distance and height on the clearance to allow his defence to push up, the skipper delivered a flat pass straight to a Hull player. A hopeful punt into our box ensued, and whereas most sides would simply repel the cross Baines is guilty of being yards off his man which enables Elmohamady to head home.
In fairness to Baines he was one of the few who were at least running their tripe out, however there continued to be no real coordinated approach to press when possession was lost.
Martinez took time out from his most recent blue sky press conference to mention that we needed to get ‘back to basics’ which conjures up the image of an ‘up and atem’ ‘in your face’ approach favoured by former Hull life coach guru Phil Brown, but there was little sign of it here.
In terms of the first ball, we regained possession via tackles or interceptions just 25 times compared to Hull’s 47, whilst on the second ball we fared little better, winning 58 to Hull’s 78.
The second goal was a perfect example of this. To begin with Robles launched the ball forward in the rough direction of Naismith which led to the Scot unsurprisingly being out jumped by Davies. When the ball bounces in the centre circle the slight frame of Besic is then outmuscled for the second ball.
What happens next is the personification of amateur hour as Barry tries to play some sort of offside trap before turning his back on the ball and allowing Jelavic a clear run on Robles. The limited Croatian’s job is then made even easier by the bumbling galoot falling to his knees like he’d been tazered, thus allowing the ex toffee to lob a half volley into the vacant net.
There seemed little confidence in Robles particularly with the accuracy of his long kicking which yielding only a 1 in 4 strike rate to a blue shirt. Naismith gave him an absolute bollocking in the second half after Hull almost scored again following another disastrous kick out, but it’d be unfair to lay blame exclusively at the feet of the young keeper.
Going forward there was never any real hope that Everton would turn this one around. The tepid 4 chances we created was the lowest yield of any of our league games this season and Hull were simply better than us in every area of the pitch, both on and off the ball.
The latest loss has Martinez looking down the barrel of a gun following a trio of defeats against Hughes, Pardew and Bruce – hardly the intelligentsia of British football management.
The worry is that the our next 3 league games all look awful, with City followed by 2 sides with new managers, both of whom got the better of Martinez last time round at their former clubs. Either side of these fixtures are a probable dog of a game against West Ham in the Cup and then the derby, with 4 of these 5 games taking place in the current reverse-bear pit atmos of Goodison.
Quite how we have unravelled so quickly is anyone’s guess and the stick Martinez is getting is increasingly difficult to bat back, with legitimate beefs being made about selections and approach with every game.
Sadly you get the feeling that it could get even worse before it gets better.