Four games in and already these match reports feel a bit monotonous.
Faced with another side who Everton really should expect to beat, they once again dominated the possession but never really looked dangerous for any sustained period. And when you hear people saying we look like Liverpool did when Brendan Rodgers first arrived, and mean it in a positive way – as in ‘and look at them now’ – you know things aren’t going exactly to script so far for Roberto Martinez.
In his defence, Everton were denied a copper-bottomed penalty when Gary Medel’s on Leighton Baines was so late it actually started off in black and white, but there is still much work to be done if the Blues are going to finish around the position that we have all become accustomed to.
As someone commented on Saturday, the basics of the football we are playing are sound, but it just has to be done so much quicker. We have players like Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines who are clever and great at exploiting space, but the ponderous approach denies them any to work in. Eventually every move seems to break down with one of them vainly trying to ‘McFadden’ their way past a defender from a standing start. Either that or a wacky, off-balance shot from long distance.
Not having a competent centre-forward doesn’t help matters though. It’s still too early to pass a definitive judgement on Arouna Kone, but the biggest criticism of the Ivorian is that he has yet to do enough to convince the manager to start him ahead of Nikica Jelavic.
The notoriously harsh Everton supporters have been patience personified with the Croatian, but his performances seem beyond a joke now. One deflected header that forced a brilliant save from David Marshall, and a cross that Mirallas should have buried, were about the sum total of his contribution to the game. The rest was painful to watch.
However, he’s never been the best target man, which is why David Moyes used to deploy Marouane Fellaini up front. Martinez seems reluctant to do that – preferring to let the Belgian play in the withdrawn role that he favours, presumably because it allows him to gambol about playing when he feels like. It’s a waste – further forward Fellaini is forced to get involved and use the attributes that make him a unique threat. Phil Neville can play the role he’s fulfilling at the moment.
This is more than likely going to be a moot point by Tuesday though, with the Belgian press apparently letting slip that Fellaini is definitely on his way to Old Trafford. Fancy that.
It remains to be seen whether Baines will follow him there – some papers seem to think that Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand is already lined up as a replacement.
If selling one or both of those players allows Martinez to bring in individuals who can make his system work better than perhaps it will be for the best in the long run because so far, against pretty modest opposition, the players he has inherited are struggling to make any real impact.