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.
Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3
While there are valid reasons to make early judgments, it’s important to note that some perceived setbacks don’t change much while others put a serious crimp in tournament hopes.
Russia (2 games played) — Fortunes way up — Two resounding wins combined with early tumult in Group B could help Russia consider a quarterfinal spot.
Uruguay — Fortunes level — Jose Gimenez’s 89th minute winner may allow the CONMEBOL side to render its group finale moot by hammering Saudi Arabia.
Egypt (2 games played) — Fortunes way down — Could be out of the tournament should Uruguay get a point against lowly Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia — Fortunes down — Unsure anyone figured the Green Falcons as anything other than an obstacle, but their performance against host Russia was miserable.
Iran — Fortunes up — Carlos Queiroz would’ve circled the Morocco opener as a must-win. Mission accomplished, however it was done.
Portugal — Fortunes level — Needed a PK, goalie error, and wonder free kick to get a point from Spain. Still, got the point.
Spain — Fortunes down — Still look capable of imposing themselves on the tournament, but too many errors in their first outing.
Morocco — Fortunes down — Probably should’ve had a point against Iran, but would’ve wanted three anyway. Very disappointing and now a mountain ahead.
France — Fortunes level — Clearly the better side against Australia, didn’t inspire title confidence but could’ve easily nabbed a three- or four-goal win.
Denmark — Fortunes up — Despite being the second-best side against Peru, now can expect the knockout rounds by beating the Socceroos.
Australia — Fortunes down — France first was always going to be a struggle, but to fight so valiantly and fall to an own goal will be a mental hurdle ahead of Peru.
Peru — Fortunes down — Terrific energy and performance would’ve led to a win with any finishing luck, but getting a result from Denmark was very important. A loss presents a major challenge.
Croatia — Fortunes up — Its tactical options for the second match against Argentina are wide open after securing three points against Nigeria.
Argentina — Fortunes down — Forget control of the game and Lionel Messi’s 11 shots on target; Not getting full points against Iceland is a significant setback. A group stage without Messi is possible.
Iceland — Fortunes up — It remains hard to picture Iceland getting out of the group, but the UEFA side has now flummoxed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in successive tournaments. Can they find a win against Nigeria to set up a wild final day?
Nigeria — Fortunes down — Group D was always going to be tough, but a 2-0 loss to Croatia means the margin of error is almost zero.
Serbia — Fortunes up — Forget how Serbia won, their fortunes have leapt due to Brazil drawing Switzerland.
Brazil — Fortunes down — Drawing their second-trickiest game could see Neymar and Co. in position to finish second in the group instead of first. The only silver lining is that Germany may also fail to claim its group and make runner-up a good thing for the Round of 16.
Switzerland — Fortunes up — Maybe Swiss supporters were expecting it, but a result against Brazil is a positive step for a team that took Argentina to extra time at the 2014 tournament but underwhelmed at EURO 2016.
Costa Rica — Fortunes down — Now needs to beat Brazil to have much hope of anything going into the final group match vs. Switzerland.
Sweden — Fortunes level — Beating South Korea was nice and we understand the chemistry argument, but a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic would’ve feasted on the spoils offered in the opener.
Mexico — Fortunes way up — El Tri is a very good tournament team, but if you had them beating Germany 1-0 in the opener you’re a better prognosticator than me.
Germany — Fortunes down — Still favored to come out of the group and deep enough to repeat as champions, being unable to get a result from Mexico will only raise more questions about leaving Leroy Sane home (fair or not).
South Korea — Fortunes down — Would’ve wanted no less than four points from the Sweden and Mexico encounters, and has zero heading into the second against El Tri.
Belgium — Fortunes up — Delivered expected dominance against Panama and could have a spot in the knockout rounds sewn up by the end of Day Two versus Tunisia.
England — Fortunes up — There will not be Wayne Rooney questions about this tournament’s captain, as Harry Kane scored twice on a day he perhaps wasn’t at his best. Will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds by beating Panama next, you’d have to think.
Tunisia — Fortunes slightly down — Needed to surprise England or Belgium to get out of the group, and still has a second opportunity after losing late to the Three Lions.
Panama — Fortunes slightly down — Not sure anyone was expecting a Cinderella story, but even those will feel it more unlikely after a big loss to Belgium.
Japan — Fortunes up — Not a bad team at all, but prospects were dim given the talent of the group. After beating Colombia in match one, there’s a house money feel to this one.
Senegal — Fortunes up — Controversy aside, the Lions of Teranga deserved all three points against Poland and are in pole position to win the group.
Poland — Fortunes down — Disappointing is an understatement leading into a match versus Colombia which could leave both on the outskirts with a match to go.
Colombia — Fortunes down — Carlos Sanchez’s third minute red card didn’t ultimately doom them, but the task is tall with equally desperate Poland up next.
Head coach Unai Emery said: “We are very pleased that Bernd Leno will be joining us. Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience. He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga for the past seven years. We are all excited that Bernd has chosen Arsenal Football Club and look forward to start working with him in pre-season.”