Going into the tenth week of the 2013/2014 EPL campaign, we hit that first major milestone: the quarter mark of the season. There have been surprises all around this year in the EPL. But one of the most scrutinized storylines leading into the year belonged to Everton and their manager change – and ‘surprising’ is an apt word to describe what is going on in Goodison to this point.
When Roberto Martinez took over, it was common knowledge that he was going to use a more Spanish style system. And there have been growing pains in implementing such a drastic change to the old David Moyes direct style of play. But the remarkable aspect is how short of a time those growing pains really affected the match results.
Part of the success of the new system really boils down to how Martinez manages his players – not just the game. After all, he did manage to lead Wigan to the FA Cup last year in a relegation year, so his personnel management has already been proven. But he’s taken his master level of shrewd dealings on a tight budget and produced something wonderful in Everton.
Right now, Everton are in 6th place in the standings with 18 points. It’s safe to say that nobody thought Everton would be doing this well this early. How was he able to accomplish this? Aside from implementing a style of play more conducive to a younger squad, he’s invested the right energy into the right players – and the results are speaking for themselves.
One of the first moves that Martinez made was to bring in Joel Robles to challenge Tim Howard at goal keeper. This was actually a very risky move – Tim Howard has been an EPL staple, and if he would’ve been benched, it would’ve probably ended his international duties as well. But Howard responded well, and Everton are better for it. Not only has Howard embraced the challenge, he’s putting forth numbers that are some of the tops in the league. To date, Howard has 4 clean sheets through 9 games and has added two penalty saves and even given an assist.
Martinez next big move was to allow Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley to play the running style they were made to play. Instead of leaving the two in the same roles they had under Moyes, Martinez has found a way to make the most out of each of his young internationals. Evertonians everywhere have been thrilled to see that transfers weren’t needed at every level. It’s plain to see now that Moyes simply didn’t get the most out of what he already had available.
Most people felt sorry for Martinez that Marouane Fellaini had to go to Manchester United. But Martinez is looking brilliant at the moment. Not only was Martinez able to secure a sizable fee for Fellaini, but he also let a player go that really wasn’t a good fit for his system. Fellaini, for all the greatness he has, really isn’t that fast of a player. With all the speed we’ve seen from Everton of these last few weeks, would Fellaini really have thrived in this system?
And the biggest impact that has been brought to Everton has been Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku, not really wanted by Chelsea, has been huge in Everton. Instead of suffering under a stagnant attack with Nikica Jelavic, Martinez found a way to bring in a true talent in Lukaku. The result? 5 goals over 5 games from the new frontman.
If Martinez is able to continue this run through the course of the season, Everton could still challenge for a European spot. Regardless, there is nothing in Everton right now that makes anybody think that this team is destined for the bottom half of the table any more.
The bar was set pretty low for expectations in this transition year – and to this point, Martinez has taken the bar in hand and is setting it wherever he pleases. In the video below, Martinez asks for patience from fans during his transition. Maybe he didn’t require so much patience after all.