Everton have moved closer to appointing a successor to David Moyes with the news that compensation has been agreed between the Toffees and Wigan Athletic for the services of Roberto Martinez. But, if the Spaniard is to take up the reigns at Goodison Park, the uncertainty will still be far from over.
Questions linger not only about the playing squad Martinez will have to work with – specifically the futures of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – but also the manager himself. He oversaw Wigan’s phenomenal FA Cup victory, but also a dispiriting relegation. How could the Latics be so impressive in one competition – not least in knocking out Everton – but so limp in another?
Quality tells over the course of a 38-game league campaign. In one-offs, such as Wigan’s 3-0 quarter-final win at Everton, the quality gap can be closed. Wigan were superb that day – feisty, organised, ambitious. They were everything Everton weren’t. Tactically, Martinez got it spot on and his players understood the game plan to a tee. They were motivated, eager to prove they belonged in the latter stages of the tournament, whereas Everton were sloppy and lacking ideas.
But it was an aberration, as the league table shows. Everton lost only one match at home in the entirety of the league season, to Chelsea. Wigan won only five times on the road – which is actually once more than Everton – and conceded almost two goals per game. The cup isn’t a true measure of the quality of a team, and perhaps nor of a manager. Martinez has won one more major trophy than the out-going Moyes, but Moyes regularly took Everton into the top six. Martinez never took Wigan out the bottom six and eventually, took them out of the top flight.
Is what Martinez achieved with Wigan – both good and bad – a true measure of his ability as a manager? Only time will tell. Everton, under Moyes, had Champions League aspirations. Wigan, under Martinez, had aspirations that extended little further than avoiding the Championship. Martinez’s failure to keep Wigan out of the second tier is a point made by those opposing his seemingly-imminent appointment, with questions also raised over the manner of Wigan’s defending.
With his side conceding 73 goals in 38 league games, those questions are genuine. Is that tally a reflection on the quality of players Martinez had at his disposal, or his inability to set up and coach a defence? Everton’s first-choice back four last season is made up of three internationals and a highly-experienced Sylvain Distin and let in little more than a goal per game – 40 in 38.
No doubt, should Martinez take the Everton vacancy, he will be asked why he left Wigan now, and why for Everton? Why not Liverpool, or Aston Villa, last summer? Has he seen something in Everton that wasn’t there in his previous suitors? Or has he jumped ship, having sunk Wigan, with Everton simply the best available life raft? It would be nice, from an Evertonian perspective, if it was the former, but perhaps the latter is more realistic.
Expect dissenting voices from to emanate from the Everton support in the next day or two over the likely appointment of Martinez. The club may trumpet the former Swansea boss as the outstanding candidate, the one who ticked all the boxes, but they have to say that.
The truth is, there was no outstanding candidate, and a close enough look at any of the contenders would reveal a flaw or two – a lack of managerial experience, a lack of experience in English football, a mixed record in previous jobs. What counts is the new manager’s ideas, his vision for where the club goes next – and his ability to answer the questions that will inevitably be asked
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