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Everton and Martinez are to blame should Lukaku leave

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He was young and he was raw but while Lukaku’s goals were vital his overall play wasn’t befitting of a player expecting to reach the top.

Romelu Lukaku wants to play for a club in the Champions League next season.

That club could, and should, have been Everton.

Boasting the best squad in over two decades, this was meant to be the season Everton took a giant leap forward. The season the potential was realised. The season the Toffees set themselves up to return to the glory days. Farhad Moshiri’s investment would only accelerate the climb to the top.

However, it’s not been the case; we’ve blown it. We’ve regressed. The 2015/16 campaign was a crossroads for the club and we’ve taken the wrong turn. Roberto Martinez has led us in the wrong direction and it’s going to cost us; cost us the total of a striker worth his weight in goals.

Roberto Martinez has led us in the wrong direction and it's going to cost us.

Roberto Martinez has led us in the wrong direction and it’s going to cost us.

Everton have finally received new funds – a boost the club has craved for years – but we’ve failed on the pitch. The medicore league position Everton will ultimately finish in this season means, rather than adding quality to the squad this summer, a rebuild job will be the task in hand.

The Toffees have failed on the pitch one too many times – failures which now see the star man believing he must jump the Goodison ship for a better chance of silverware.

Romelu Lukaku is one of the most ambitious players in world football. As a youngster in Belgium he dreamed of lifting trophies. The World Cup, the European Cup, the league title. You name it, he is aiming for it.

Unfortunately for Evertonians, he did not dream of finishing mid-table and reaching two cup semi-finals.

Lukaku doesn’t want to be a nearly man when he has shown he can be the man having hit the back of the net 25 times already this term.

‘Big Rom’ is determined to get to the top and, having proved himself with over 100 career goals by the age of 22, he’s now got plenty of suitors.

Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid have all been linked with the forward. Linked by his agent Mino Raiola no doubt, but linked nonetheless. Teams across Europe will be queuing up for his services.

Such talk is expected from Raiola but comments of moving on made by Lukaku and his father over the last week have been hugely disrespectful to the club who believed in him when others didn’t. Surely he has greater regard for Everton than to openly talk of his wish to play for another team?

It doesn’t sit right, but on the other hand, who can blame him for wanting to switch clubs when Everton continue to let him down when he so often delivers?

It’s not about increasing his pay packet with Lukaku, that is not why he wants to head for the exit – it’s about ambition and realising his potential. He’s been wasted at Everton this season. It was up to manager Martinez to show him we could compete but we’ve not even challenged this year. We’ve floundered.

Having done exceptionally well to land the striker – making him the most expensive buy in Everton’s history at a staggering £28million – Martinez is chiefly to blame for Lukaku’s wish to leave.

Having done exceptionally well to land the striker - making him the most expensive buy in Everton's history at a staggering £28million - Martinez is chiefly to blame for Lukaku's wish to leave.

Having done exceptionally well to land the striker – making him the most expensive buy in Everton’s history at a staggering £28million – Martinez is chiefly to blame for Lukaku’s wish to leave.

The Spaniard has laid down some brilliant foundations over the last three years but too many below-par performances could well see the team crumble this summer. Martinez’s poor in-game management has seen us blown so many leads and lost us so many points. The Everton manager’s mistakes have left us in the bottom half of the table where Lukaku does not want to be.

This was the season Everton had to be successful. Defending champions Chelsea have been dismal, Manchester United can barely buy a shot on target – never mind a goal, Arsenal have seemingly fluffed their lines again and Manchester City’s stars are well off the pace. Pre-season relegation favourites Leicester are top with an exciting Tottenham side in second. Where are Everton? Below them all.

Martinez said on Friday of Lukaku’s desire to play in Europe’s top competition: ‘The Champions League should be an aspiration for everyone. We’ve got that aspiration. The players need to be part of that.’

Roberto Martinez

Unfortunately aspiration is no longer enough; especially when you are sat 12th in the Premier League table. Only playing in the Champions League will suffice for a player of Lukaku’s capabilities. With two months of the season to play, it seems he has decided his future lies elsewehere.

Everton’s task this season was to prove to Lukaku that they were the club capable of making his footballing dreams a reality. The campaign has instead been a nightmare and any hopes of keeping the forward have rapidly diminished.

The FA Cup could provide salvation but will it be enough to convince Lukaku to turn down the best clubs in the world? Doubtful

The FA Cup could provide salvation but will it be enough to convince Lukaku to turn down the best clubs in the world? Doubtful

The FA Cup could provide salvation but will it be enough to convince Lukaku to turn down the best clubs in the world? Doubtful. Would an FA Cup triumph and a place in the top four have swayed his decision to stay with Everton? Definitley, but that is not going to happen. Not this year.

Lukaku has outgrown us, he’s become too good compared with our performances and results. He deserves better. The Everton squad and management have let him down by not matching his standards.
For every goal he scores, Everton concede two. For every time we fail to play him in, he grows more frustrated at a lack of service. He looks so forlorn when his goals continually get cancelled out – he can’t do much more. He does his job but those around him are not.

Lukaku has outgrown us, he's become too good compared with our performances and results

Lukaku has outgrown us, he’s become too good compared with our performances and results

Everton could choose to stand firm and reject every bid that comes in for Lukaku this summer, just as they did during Chelsea’s pursuit of John Stones. However, this time it’s different. Nobody can begrudge Lukaku a transfer. It’s our own doing he is itching to switch clubs.

Players have left Goodison before but this one will be hard to take. We had the potential to achieve with Lukaku but we have not fulfilled it. We haven’t come close and he has now lost faith.
Even an early Moshiri spending spree will do little to convince Lukaku that Everton and Martinez are capable of helping him in his quest for medals.

Many Blues mow appear resigned to losing the best striker to play for Everton in the Premier League era. What a shame and what a waste for the club to miss out on such a talent.
One can hope he scores at Wembley if we reach the FA Cup final – a victory come May could have been the start of many trophy-laden years for Lukaku in the royal blue shirt. Instead, any goal in the showpiece fixture will likely be a parting gift.

When Lukaku inevitably moves on and beams for the photographers as he holds the shirt of a European powerhouse at his grand unveiling, it will hurt.

When he likely goes on to top score in the Champions League for one of the continent’s best sides, it will frustrate us.

And when he becomes the most lethal striker in world football, Evertonians will be left wondering what could have been.

Lukaku is ours for now, though there is little chance he will be much longer. Should the striker leave, Everton and Roberto Martinez only have themselves to blame.

The post Everton and Martinez are to blame should Lukaku leave appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Oculus Rift with exclusive GrandOldTeam functionality

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GrandOldTeam is delighted to announce that we will have full functionality with the Oculus Rift; the brand new VR headset that allows you to interact with the site in a brand new way.

Featuring head tracking to browse in a never seen before way on forums, you can navigate the website in virtual reality, allowing you to explore the site in full, immersive 3D.

You can discuss Everton in a fully interactive Goodison Park – enjoy a pint of Chang in the Park End while discussing Romelu Lukaku with fellow fans, and enjoy match discussion as highlights play on the famous pitch itself with an all-new totally interactive “match thread” that tracks the movement of the players on the pitch in real time.

You can also travel to the Ale House – a fully interactive pub with threads found at each table and discussion topics found by talking to people stood around the bar. You can discuss World Football in a fleshed out interactive map – discuss Italian football in the San Siro, Spanish football in the Bernabeu, and so on.

Head Technology Developer at Oculus Rift, Ouatta Pistak, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with football forums to re-invent the way the internet is used for fan participation in the beautiful game.”

GrandOldTeam for Oculus Rift will be released in early 2017

The post Oculus Rift with exclusive GrandOldTeam functionality appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

The walking contradiction that is Roberto Martinez

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robertomartinez

When you’re in a situation, you don’t have time to think. So I thought to myself, “Don’t think”.

A little over 12 months ago, I wrote an article in a state of confusion (as is often the case when writing about Everton), trying to figure out what exactly was the plan for Roberto Martinez’s side. Where were we going? How long would it take for the Martinez philosophy to shine through? I bemoaned the absence of Osman and Pienaar, entreating Roberto to sign a similar type to fill the gaping hole of our left hand side with a new injection of creativity. Since then we’ve had Naismith, Kone, and now Cleverley. Naismith and Kone in particular weren’t exactly, let’s say, enjoyed by the fans during their respective stints in the wide left berth, but you can see the logic in their inclusion. Both intelligent players, both good at finding space and receiving the ball with their back to goal – qualities we were lacking elsewhere on the pitch at the time. Both also, though, with obvious weaknesses: Naismith’s propensity to give the ball away under little pressure; Kone’s distinct lack of mobility. Nor were either capable defensively, as you might expect from strikers playing out wide. They were stop gap solutions for a long-term problem, not the answer. (As an aside here, I think you have to give credit to Martinez for finding a way to score goals with this team – it could very easily have become impotent, even allowing for his gung-ho style)

So in comes Tom Cleverley, the all-rounder, the Manchester United-schooled pass-turn-pass master of the simple. A decent player, no doubt, and one who made an immediate difference with his capacity for teamwork and genuine link play, along with – who knew – pinpoint accurate diagonal balls and a strange corner-taking technique that seems to work well on occasion. But he’s not Steven Pienaar. He doesn’t provide inspiration, or ideas. He doesn’t force opponents to stand off him, knowing that if they don’t he’ll spin them and open up the game. He doesn’t feebly collapse from an arm in the back to win freekicks. We don’t have anyone like Pienaar in the squad – Roberto said so himself. Yet now he’s fit he can’t get in the side. Maybe it’s just age, maybe it’s a new direction for the team. Maybe the plan’s always been to eventually have three out-and-out forwards and Niasse will be the one on the left. Or maybe Cleverley’s there to stay and we’ve just been unlucky in three quarters of our games this season.

Watching us play West Brom away earlier in the season – the first game Stones was out injured – I remember thinking we’d do well to get through the next few games without completely crumbling, and I was fearing the worst at two-nil down. We had no set way of playing whatsoever; Jagielka and Funes Mori would get the ball and spoon it upfield to no one in particular and wait for it to come back. We were being dominated by West Brom. Then Rom rolled in with support from Kone and Deulofeu and we won the game. It was reminiscent of Martinez’s first season: no one really seems to know what’s going on but somehow we’ve scored some goals and won the game. Since then we’ve seem some excellent away performances, sans Stones, and kept a few clean sheets to boot. But then we had some excellent away performances last season too, with Stones playing a vital part. What we haven’t had though are the away-style counter-attack games at home. Whether that’s a deliberate change of tactics on our part or simply opposition sides coming to Goodison and letting us have the ball is difficult to say with any certainty, but I’d lean towards the latter. Swansea, Leicester, West Brom – all have set up to allow us to have possession, confident in the expectation that we’ll give it away and concede chances. That’s the problem with having a side built to play on the counter try to play possession: the players don’t know what to do when they can’t just run forwards. Pienaar knew what to do, so did Osman, but they’re not in the side. Stones is made to look even worse than his admittedly poor performances suggest, so he’s out too.

In short, we’re no nearer knowing exactly what sort of team Martinez is trying to create. He says he wants possession and control, but selects players that aren’t good in possession and relieves them of positional responsibility. He says he wants to play on the front foot, yet we don’t press until the opposition get to the halfway line. Managers saying one thing and doing another is nothing new, far from it, but I don’t think I’ve come across one that’s quite so mystifyingly contradictory as Roberto. He’s supposed to have an identity, a philosophy, a set of values from which he never wavers. A clear, definite style of play is the aim, married with a tactical flexibility that allows you to change your approach mid-game. Right now I’d struggle to tell you what our style of play is, and most of the times we’ve made a tactical change during a game it’s been for the worse. Against Arsenal most recently, we looked clueless, ending the game with no recognisable structure at all. The players look lost.

If I could look into a crystal ball and see the progress we’d make in the next three years, with Roberto proudly leading the best possession-football side in the league to glory in 2019, of course I’d happily suffer in the short term for the long term gain. But the signs just aren’t there. We look like a side in need of an overhaul, when we’re supposed to be on the cusp of greatness. Even with the prospect of investment and a cup semi on the horizon, the mood amongst the fans is subdued. We just don’t know what to make of it. There’s no conviction, no direction; nothing, really, to get behind. It could be that that’s a symptom of modern football – apathy seems to be quite normal for much of the Premier League – but when you see other clubs making history, with fans fully immersed in the adventure, it’s harder to accept the flat-line dullness of mediocrity.

What we need, more than anything, is some fire. A booming voice to unite the club, with a message of where we are going, and how we’re going to get there. Some real leadership. Has Roberto got that in him? If he hasn’t, we could be in for a big summer.

The post The walking contradiction that is Roberto Martinez appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Howard To Leave Everton

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Tim Howard

Tim Howard will leave Everton for Colorado Rapids at the end of the season.

The American goalkeeper has signed a pre-contract agreement with the Major League Soccer side and is to join in July once their transfer window opens.

Howard, 37, is to end a 10-year long association with the Blues and return home on a deal lasting until 2019.

The post Howard To Leave Everton appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Everton v Arsenal Preview

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Arsenal

Just how do you preview an enigma like Everton?

Some weeks you’re praising them and their potential, then the very next you’re lamenting them for being so brittle.

Maybe we’re just best rolling with them for a while and seeing what happens?

For instance I give you a small challenge: tell me a game where you thought on the balance of play that Everton deserved to get beat this season?

Have a think about it and I’ll come back to it at the end.

Last game out was the quarter final against a Chelsea side unbeaten in domestic competition since Hiddink took over in December. Everton changed that with a really enjoyable two goal win in a tightly fought game. We had too much quality and for them in the end and stood right up to them trying to snide us out of the game, that’s progress indeed. But can we make it stick?

What it means is that we have another semi final to look forward to and a trip down to Wembley for some of you reading this. United or West Ham await on the day and we really need to make it count, semis don’t embellish our honours list too much but it’s nice to see Everton always in the next round of the cup. Just two more games to come and nothing particularly to fear but Everton ourselves.

Away from the cups we could do with some sort of consistency in the league to build some goodwill and excitement amongst the fans (and players) for going into next season. We start that process, hopefully, with a home game against Arsenal.

For too long in recent memory a home game v Arsenal signified us being passed off the pitch and yielding them an easy three points. There’s some notable exceptions like Wayne Rooney putting himself on the map, Andrew Johnson running away in the rain and Lukaku destroying them from wide positions.

Overall though they’ve had our number and it’s understandable as they’ve had much better players, attained with having more money and a much better chance of winning stuff. Does that still feel the same?

In short: they’re the closest thing to kopites that London has to offer with their cringey entitlement and legion of international fans seduced by their “brand” doing all sorts of cry arsing behaviour in and out the stadium that makes you wish for their total and complete eradication. If ever a team screamed sneering at you from a European Super League then it’s Arsenal. They sort of do this now as they qualify for the Champions League every season to validate their existence, not unlike how a certain type of girl who spends too much time in Toni & Guy has to be seen in Prada.

Sadly for Arsenal they totally gubb the Champions League every season, never really getting near winning the thing and normally around the time of that exit they they collapse in the league and have to batter some poor unfortunates in the FA Cup to quell the discontent in their fanbase. They’re very much a stereotype and victim of football in the new millennium. All sat in a stadium that screams corporate and eschewing the very nature of what was proudly the working class game.

I hope Denis Bergkamp gets caught with a hard drive full of animal porn for their next social media meltdown and screaming at fan camera interviews by over fifty something entitled men wearing Adidas Sambas and still thinking they’re a bit tasty. It screams of frustrated impotence.

Get back to Marbella you tragic spunkmonkeys, you’ve drove your tragic wife to a quivering mess relying on a stash of cocaine and 20 Benson & Hedges, and all through your narcissistic behaviour and domestic violence over the years you balding fat obnoxious texan. You should be taking your grandchild for a bike ride and tending to your garden by now. But no, you’re too busying ringing up talksport and staring out students in pubs as it gives you figurative hard on when your wife in suzzies cannot any more, even with the help of a blue pill.

Which leads us nicely onto their players. Here’s a list of some of them:

Giroud: fresh off a boat in a port in the Mediterranean in your chosen holiday destination with a pastel coloured jumper over his shoulders, he clocks your wife but it’s sound as he’s gonna catch herpes from the thousand euro Russian brass he’s hooking up with later, hope she takes a kidney from him too.

Welbeck: if ever there’s a tragedy of everyone telling you you’re boss at footie since you were six years old then this is it

Ozil: eyeball licking attacking midfielder who plays boss one game in five and naturally it’s our turn. Has been subject to claims he can see round corners.

Sanchez: has an expression like he’s heard his mother fart for the first time ever, he’s a neck tattoo away from being Rihanna’s next lover.

Mertesacker – has an adam’s apple so big that pensioners throw black shiny balls at it when he steps on well cut lawns.

Ospina – it’s like someone has done faceswap with a five year old, can only see in 2D due to his eyes being not far apart enough.

They’ve been dumped out of both the FA Cup and Champions League in the past week so that means it’s all systems go in the league. They’ll want to win this and no mistake.

Everton though.

Lukaku has been increasing our anxiety about summer when it’s inevtiable there’ll be interest as sadly that’s how football works now, and even more so with that nugget of his agent handling his affairs. Should just enjoy him for however long we have him, and what a centre forward we have indeed. Like any development process he’s had his lower moments at Everton too but what we are seeing is a fierce all round modern striker emerging from the cystallis. Long may he ruin defences in Everton’s good name.

Barkley had a quiet game against Chelsea but still managed to influence with a couple of key passes leading to goals. He’s been very consistent this season but a splurge of uber form before the end of the season would round off his best season yet. He’ll play with probably Lennon on one side and Cleverley on the other. Tip of the hat to Cleverley for the amount of hard work he put in against Chelsea and that may be his main purpose against the best teams in the division, still would like to see him influence a game more though.

Barry has been a tremendous buy for Everton and at some point we are going to fret over his absence. The obvious option is a midfield two of McCarthy and Besic, and if that can work so effectively? We may be about to find out with Barry’s suspension for two games against difficult opponents.

The season has turned out a bit mad with a player who we were offered £40m sat on our bench. It’s not through any particular lack of his own and he’ll still turn out ace but it’s just that Jagielka and Funes Mori look far more tight at the moment. That’s five goals conceded in eight games, with three of them in the one game.

Baines is welcomed back at left back as for all the options we have he is the best suited there and our only left back with genuine top level class for many years. We could do with someone to really benefit from his vision and movement on that left wing though, Coleman will play right back.

We’ve had to suffer a period where there’s been a whole host of enraged opinion caused by a divisive American battling against long shots, but thankfully Joel Robles seems to have cemented his place in goal.

Did you think about the games we deserved to get beat? I’d guess Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs are all in your answers. Maybe a few more and you’re probably right, after all – possession and shots on goal are for little unless you make them count.

But there’s not many teams in this league who can claim to be better than us. The margins to the very top are not as insurmountable as they were only a few years ago with all talk of glass ceilings and knives to a gunfight.

There’s a lot of good in this team, I just hope they get to realise it.
Let’s start with Arsenal. Into them blues.

The post Everton v Arsenal Preview appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Martinez Hits Back At Defence Criticism

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Everton Manager, Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez has refuted West Ham United’s claims that Everton have a weakness defending crosses.

West Ham striker, Michail Antonio, who scored in West Ham’s 3-2 comeback at Goodison on Saturday, revealed Slaven Bilic instructed his side to exploit what they perceived as a vulnerability in the Blues’ backline.

Martinez said: “It’s easy to talk, especially when you’ve won a game.

“When we were 11 against 11, we were the better team and scored the goal to go ahead. Then we had to change things tactically and with 10 men you wouldn’t have seen a difference – it was like we had the extra man.

“Then we scored another goal from open play and controlled the game completely and never got done on crosses in that period.

“It’s more that we felt we had something to lose. Winning the penalty was a massive high but then missing it was an emotional low, and all of a sudden we gave West Ham momentum that unfortunately they got a big reward from.”

The post Martinez Hits Back At Defence Criticism appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Review: Looking for the Toffees

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lftt

James Oakley has reviewed Brian Viner’s Everton Book, ‘Looking for the Toffees: In Search of the Heroes of Everton‘. If you’ve read an Everton Book and would like to review it for Evertonians on GrandOldTeam, please send us your review here: Submit Article.

I wasn’t yet born when the 77-78 season kicked off so I was unsure how I would get on with Brian Viners look back at one of his favourite seasons in “Looking for the Toffees“. Although the likes of Bob Latchford, Andy King, and Duncan McKenzie are familiar names to any Evertonian, my earliest heroes are 10 years later when Sheedy, Sharpe and Cottee were the Gwladys street favourites. I needn’t have worried as the book is a much broader look back at football in the late 70’s, an era where George Woods could be found cutting the lawns in your local school, and a time when Bob Latchford winning £10,000 was memorable stuff.

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The first interview starts in a pub car park with Bob Latchford and you get an immediate sense of just how different life was as a player in 1978 to modern day. The influx of money with the rise of the Premier League and Sky has created a gulf between players and the fans and set the majority of modern players up for a life where money will never be an issue. This wasn’t the case in the late 70’s where top earners were getting £500 a week and had to think carefully about their lives after football. Not that any of the ’78 squad are on the bread line, infact some have stayed working in football with Dave Jones managing at the top level, and George Wood the goalkeeping coach at Crystal Palace.

As the book progresses and Viner manages to track down the majority of the team you get the sense that although football was very different back then, not one of the players would swap to be a modern pro. The enthusiasm with which they speak about the era makes you realise that although the quality of the game has improved the actual experience of playing, and the relationships between player and fan has gradually eroded leaving a totally different game.

The interviews with Andy King, and Martin Dobson are particular highlights, as 2 completely different personalities remember the highs and lows of the season and the book becomes genuinely laugh out loud funny as they enthusiastically recount stories, and tales from the F Troop days. Every player which contributed speaks highly about the club whether they were true blues like Mike Lyons or more short term like Mike Pejic, and the relationships they had with the fans, and the continued work that the Former Players Foundation does makes you realise the meaning behind “Once a Blue, Always a Blue”

James (@mikesglove)

Looking for the Toffees: In Search of the Heroes of Everton

The post Review: Looking for the Toffees appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Baghdad Bob strikes again?

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Roberto Martinez

IN SOME circles Roberto Martinez has become known as Baghdad Bob.

That was the name the Americans gave to the Iraqi Information Minister when they were invading Baghdad.

Remember him? Little guy with a cap who used to say more and more preposterous things as the war went on. We called him Comical Ali.

He was relentlessly positive, even in the face of crushing defeat. He would tell you how the brave Iraqi forces were repulsing the cowardly invader even when they were in full retreat.

Martinez is relentlessly positive too. He’ll tell you his players have put on a brave, outstanding performance even when they’ve just blown a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at home.

martinez3

He’s so positive so often that the next time he calls one of his players world class, it’s a fair bet few will listen. In the same way, his excuses are starting to get ignored too.

He chose to explain Everton’s defeat to West Ham by blaming the referee for the soft red card he dished out to Kevin Mirallas.

Instead, many Everton fans quickly piled in to blame the manager, who made a series of substitutions that have been heavily criticised since.

So who was right? Feel free to make up your own mind. But here are some observations after watching it back.

Firstly, the switch to 3-4-3. Maybe Martinez saw how West Ham switching to three at the back stopped Tottenham playing last week by nullifying their full backs, and decided to match up. It’s also possible he fancied having a third centre back as insurance with Barry and Besic not fit to start.

Whatever the thinking, it ended up being a very attacking line-up, with two out-and-out wingers playing narrow, like old-style inside forwards, and wing backs encouraged to overlap. In his defence, it worked too.

To begin with, Everton are well on top, have scored, hit the post and drawn two good saves from Adrian, while Joel Robles has not had one to make.

Then Kevin Mirallas gets sent off. His first booking may have been harsh. There have been worse dives this weekend, some in an attempt to win penalties, that went unpunished. But having been booked, Mirallas was foolish in the extreme to make the tackle which got him sent off. He let his team-mates down. And not for the first time.

But here’s where it gets interesting. To see out the half, Martinez goes to 4-4-1, John Stones moving to right back, with Seamus Coleman in front of him, and Aaron Lennon moving to the left wing.

West Ham almost score immediately, down Everton’s right flank. They survive until half time. But having seen how bad Stones was at right back against Manchester City, it’s no surprise he’s the man brought off at the break, with Mo Besic coming on.

Logically it’s the right call. But instead of slotting Besic into central midfield, his natural position, Martinez plays him on the right. Presumably, he is worried about the threat from Dimitri Payet and wants Besic there as cover. It feels unnecessary, but to start with it works, and keeping Lennon on the left to accommodate it helps create the second goal.

But despite being 2-0 up with just ten men, he lets them carry on going forward when many would shut up shop. This is risky. But again, to begin with it pays dividends when Everton win a penalty. Unfortunately, Adrian makes the save. At this point, a more pragmatic manager would be thinking about protecting a two-goal lead. Not Martinez. Still Everton go forward, opening the game up and testing their legs. They start to tire.

Realising, he makes another sub. An odd one on the face of it. Niasse for Lennon. Now, Lennon had done a lot of running, and was clearly tiring. But instead of bringing a more defensive player on, he chooses to replace him with one who can chase and harry up front. Niasse does just that and quickly wins a free kick deep in enemy territory by chasing a long ball, relieving the pressure. But may would have put Gareth Barry on at this point to close the game down.

Two minutes later West Ham score, from a set piece. James McCarthy heads the first ball clear at the near post, but he and Lukaku (whose legs look gone) can’t get out quick enough to stop the follow-up, which is headed in. It’s Coleman’s wing, but he Michail Antonio, who he is marking, has dragged him to the other side of the box. Clever. But if Everton had had 11 men on the pitch, the extra defender probably means it doesn’t go down like that.

From this point on they start to look ragged. They’re not stopping crosses at all, and quickly let in an equaliser with both Barkley & Oviedo failing to get near the delivery. Having played with a man down for so long, it’s no surprise they’re now struggling to close people down.

Still, it’s 2-2 and a point is better than nothing right? Apparently not for Martinez. You have to admire his optimism in continuing to chase the game, and again it almost pays off when the referee misses a West Ham handball. But opening the game up at this point, with his players clearly struggling for energy, feels suicidal.

He finally does send Barry on, for Lukaku. But West Ham score almost immediately from another cross they can’t stop, and with hindsight that sub came far too late.

So, his last two subs can be questioned certainly. The timing of the last one especially. But the two biggest reasons why they lose are because a) they’re knackered after playing with ten for so long, and b) he still has them going forward when he could (twice) have chosen to settle – at 2-0 up and at 2-2. Being so positive very nearly worked, but ended up being costly.

Baghdad Bob strikes again?

The post Baghdad Bob strikes again? appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

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