What a time to decide to start updating this a bit more
Because the temptation after this latest orphanage fire was to just pretend to be too busy. It’s something written for a hobby, a bit of a laugh, and there’s just nothing in the slightest bit amusing about Everton at the moment.
In terms of analysing what went wrong against Steve Bruce’s incredibly limited side, well, to be honest we discussed most of it after Stoke City and Newcastle United. We’re presently that worst of all things, the passing side that can’t pass the ball. We adopt a style that requires players to be brave on the ball, to demand it when tightly marked and to make endless runs into space to pull opponents out of position. When confidence is low though – confidence in yourself and in your teammates – then it’s tempting to be a little less bold and to ‘play for yourself’. You hold back a bit just in case moves break down, and position yourself just a yard closer to opponents when we have the ball so that the pass doesn’t come to you. It doesn’t take many players retreating into their shells like that before the whole machine grinds to a halt, and that’s what’s happened with Everton.
Roberto Martinez looks shellshocked. Like every other observer he seems mystified as to why a side that finished with a record Premier League points total last season is now getting contemptuously turned over by, let’s be frank here, utter shite. Hull only had to turn up here to win, and by the end of the game such luminaries as Alex Bruce were stroking the ball around like Franco Baresi as Everton’s sorry-looking lot appeared as if they wanted to be anywhere but jogging around in the rain, struggling to contain the outrageous talent of David Meyler.
Gareth Barry’s form has been an alarming signifier of the Blues’ struggles, and arguably last season’s best player had another nightmare here. Without the energy and physical presence of James McCarthy alongside him, and the team no longer hogging the ball as they do at their best, the former England man is being dragged into situations where he’s not comfortable and his lack of pace is being massively exposed. His frustration at trying to cover more ground manifests itself in increasingly desperate challenges, and one of them should have given Hull a penalty in the first half. Incredibly though the referee only awarded a free kick outside the box following Barry’s blatant trip half a yard on the business side of the white line.
No worries for the home side though, as on 33 minutes Ahmed Elmohamady headed home a nothing cross that any decent side would have dealt with easily. Leighton Baines’s attempt to hold him up was about as convincing as the fat copper at a crime scene who says ‘You can’t go in there sir’ to which the hero replies ‘That’s my wife and kids in there!’ as he ducks under the tape.
And if that bad boy was poor, well, there was even more of a doozy in store just before half time. Barry stepped up trying to spring the world’s most ridiculous offside trap, then stood rooted in a tar pit as the jet-heeled Nikica Jelavic – that bit was sarcasm – gambolled forward and lobbed the seven foot Sascha Baron Goaly who had obligingly slid to his knees.
Everton’s response was their first attempt on goal of the half, a tame Baines free kick easily caught by Allan McGregor.
We said last time that Martinez is in that awkward spot where he looks weak if he changes nothing but indecisive if he chops and changes without producing an upturn in form. At half time at Hull, two goals down, he tried to make an impact by replacing Muhamed Besic and the half-fit Kevin Mirallas with Romelu Lukaku and Bryan Oviedo, pushing Baines into midfield again. It never worked, we remained all over the place and the whole thing just looked increasingly muddled and confused.
To cap it all off, Antolin Alcaraz received a harsh second yellow card in the closing stages. Normally you would say that totally killed off Everton’s chances of a late rally, but the result had been in no doubt for ages by the time the pedestrian Paraguayan mooched off.
So, since beating Queens Park Rangers at home, we’ve taken precisely not a single point from Southampton, Stoke, Newcastle and Hull. That’s piss poor by anyone’s standards and you can’t even blame the Europa League seeing as the last meaningful tie played in that was Wolfsburg at the end of November.
Just for good measure, West Ham, who gave us a real game in the league, are next up in the FA Cup on Tuesday, followed by a home game against champions Manchester City. The scenarios for humiliation and all-round Goodison meltdown during these games seem almost endless at this point.
The eminently likeable and intelligent Martinez is looking like the mayor of Amity Beach now, trying to convince everyone that the water’s fine as the body parts keep washing up on the beach. He’s not going to abandon his principles – if he did then they wouldn’t be principles really – but regardless of tactics or formations what he has to rediscover is the essence of what Joe Royle described as the real key to football management: getting good players to work hard for you. At the moment Everton’s look like they are taking to the pitch with their excuses already made and that’s just not acceptable. Some very experienced players need to take charge and make themselves heard, while young so-called superstars need to realise that football for them is a job, not a hobby. Being a professional is about doing some things you don’t like, and doing them for 90 minutes, not just when the mood and the circumstances suit them.
How has it come to this so quickly though? The whole thing seems to have unravelled quicker than a busty strumpet’s jumper caught on a nail in a Benny Hill sketch. It can’t all be down to McCarthy’s injuries, can it?
It’s so bad now though that Bill Kenwright must already be assessing doomsday options. He trusted David Moyes implicitly and so found it easy to keep faith with him through the toughest of times – does he have that same belief in Martinez after only 18 months? What does he do if we go out the FA Cup and then get smashed out of sight by City? Does he back him regardless, and trust him to make big decisions over the futures of players like Seamus Coleman who are reportedly interesting other clubs at the moment?
At times like these what’s required is strength of character and proper leadership. From the chairman through to the managers and the players on the pitch there needs to be a clear and unequivocal vision: this is what we are doing, these are your responsibilities, and if you don’t like it then get the fuck out of Dodge. Indecision and mixed messages create grey areas, and that’s where the cowards and the shirkers hide.
We really thought we’d confined all this sort of stuff back in the Walter Smith era or the bleakest points of Moyes’s ten years. To be having to write about it now, following last season’s brave new dawn, and hearing Evertonians genuinely, and let’s be honest, not entirely without justification, wanting Martinez sacked, feels absolutely horrible.