Blackburn Rovers v Wigan Athletic - Premier League

The frustrations of Roberto Martinez


Before the start of last season, Roberto Martinez refused to leave Wigan, claiming loyalty to the club and Dave Whelan. But after Wigan were relegated last May, Martinez decided his loyalties weren’t so strong as to keep him coaching in the Championship, and accepted David Moyes’ recently vacated post at Everton.

In theory, it should’ve been a great fit for the Spaniard. Martinez did well to keep Wigan in the Premier League for the four seasons he was at the helm. He was able to get the best out of difficult and overlooked players. Best of all, Martinez already knows how to deal with a club that doesn’t have much money to spend.

But — and this is just a hunch, based on his pained expressions visible on the sidelines during Everton’s goalless draw with West Brom on Saturday — Martinez already seems frustrated by his new club. The manager has managed to bring in a few players, including Arouna Kone, Antonin Alcaraz, and Joel Robles, all signed from Wigan. Everton also signed young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona.

Yet none of the new signings started against West Brom, and only Kone made an appearance. In fact, apart from Ross Barkley, who was on loan at Leeds last season, the lineup was exactly Moyes’ ideal setup from last season. While Martinez has inherited a strong crop of players, his style of management means that he leans toward a certain type, a set of players upon whom he can place his mark. These Toffees appear to have not yet succumbed to his stretching and his molding.

Or, again, this could be reading into things a bit too much. After all, Martinez has insisted that he doesn’t want to sell Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, despite Moyes’ desire to bring them to Manchester United. Of course, it’s not only the manager that influences sales, and it could just be that Everton are holding out for more money. But on the surface, Martinez’s words don’t sound as though the manager is ready to scrap the squad and start again with his own selections.

The match against the Baggies was undoubtedly both a headache and a headscratcher for Martinez, but it’s not necessarily a sign that the new man in charge is being set up to fail. The visitors spent the majority of the match determined to prevent Everton from getting the ball in the back of the net, and succeeded admirably at this task. Where the defense failed, Ben Foster was there to mop up the damage. When Foster went down injured, the post stood by to help Luke Daniels deny Fellaini.

Will Martinez spend the next week testing out different formations and player combinations before facing Cardiff next week? Of course. But he, and his club, won’t spend it desperately trying to seek out players who will magically insert themselves seamlessly into the Everton lineup. The manager may be frustrated, but he is not, and should not be, desperate.


Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.