Lee Carsley: Everton FC need to build on European victories
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
Blues must find consistency in the Premier League
The second leg victory over Young Boys was the kind of performance I expected.
I didn’t think they were up to much after the first leg and it was another good win but ultimately how good will be judged against how we perform against Arsenal.
It’s important for all our players that we take that forward into today’s game.
Not getting the results on a Sunday after doing well in the Europa League on a Thursday is the main thing that is stopping us from building up that momentum.
We’re having a lot of highs and lows at the minute and the lows are low and the highs are really high. We could almost do with a little bit of consistency.
It was another open game against Young Boys. We went a goal down again but I never really felt we were in trouble. We were dominating the game so much it was just another chance to bang a few goals in. You’d want a centre-forward like Romelu Lukaku to play in games like that, he’d be absolutely champing at the bit to get out there because it does wonders for your goal ratio and he did it again, banging a couple of goals in. He needs to do it now against teams like Arsenal because that’s the bread and butter.
We should have no fears about drawing Dynamo Kiev either.
We’ve proven that we can go away in Europe and get good results. There’s no reason why we can’t do it again. It’s a tough draw but it was always going to be at this stage of the competition.
We’ll have to win at home and I’d expect us to because we don’t want to be going to Kiev needing a result, we want to make sure we get it won at Goodison. That was the problem against Fiorentina when we drew them away first. We came away with a 2-0 defeat and had an uphill battle from then on. We don’t want to be in that position where we’re chasing the game.
We’re in the last 16. We can’t be too choosy about who we get.
I still think we’re capable of getting to the final and have got a really good chance of winning it.
They’re just another domino that we’ve got to knock over.
Whereas we’re looking to build on our European form, Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their latest Champions League setback.
It proved to be a tough game for them against Monaco.
They’ll have been expecting the easiest tie of the round but they’ve ended up getting a bit of a bite on the bum so to speak. I’m sure Arsene Wenger will have them pumped-up and ready for Everton today. They just can’t see to get over the line at this stage in the Champions League but there’s no doubt about it they’re still a talented team and have got some great individuals so we’ll have to be at our best to get something out of the game.
Fit again Darron Gibson has moved up a level
There were a lot of positives to take out of the Young Boys game.
I thought Darron Gibson was looking like the top player that we all know that he is and hopefully he can kick on now and have a real strong finish to the season.
He’ll be confident in his own ability.
Darron is a good player and he’s at the right club. He’s just been a bit unfortunate with injuries.
He’s shown just what kind of character he has by coming back and looked like he’s moved on to another level. Darron is different to the other central midfielders that we’ve got.
He possesses a real goal threat and many holding midfielders are quite basic with their passing but he’s more ambitious than that and his confidence is up and he’s asking for the ball.
You could see that with the through-ball he played for Kevin Mirallas that split the opposition defence wide open.
It just depends what the manager is looking for in that position.
Does he want someone to stop the opposition from playing or does he want someone who is going to be a little big more adventurous with his passing. Blues need to find 'off the cuff' style of play again We had a dull and lethargic performance against Leicester and that’s something we need to take into account and learn from. I just thought we were a bit flat. We looked one-paced and predictable. It’s not unusual considering all the travelling and the routine you have in Europe, you do sometimes get a bit of an anticlimax.
I’m not sure whether we thought it was going to be a bit easier than it actually was against Leicester.
They made it scrappy and they were there to fight. We have found it difficult to break teams down and be that little bit adventurous at home. That’s something that is totally the opposite to last season when we were free-flowing and free-scoring. We’re a little bit more cautious now.
The difference between this season and last season is that when we make a mistake it’s generally ended up in the back of our net. It’s been happening since the start of the season. The little errors have been costing us. To counter that we’ve tried to be a little bit more difficult to break down but have become more predictable going forward.
We need to find a way of playing with that ‘off the cuffness’ and excitement without conceding goals.
Good to see Luke Garbutt back in action
It was nice to see Luke Garbutt play again against Young Boys.
Luke is one of those players who will get better the more you plays him and he’ll get more confident too. He’s got a fantastic left foot and put in a great cross for the second goal but ultimately he’ll get judged on his defending. Sometimes full-backs forget it’s a real bonus to be able to go forward but the important thing is to stop the opposition from getting their crosses in.
That’s what they should be judged upon.
Everton FC defeated 2-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates: Player Ratings
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Romelu Lukaku gets a 7 from our man Neil Jones, but his compatriot Kevin Mirallas only a 5. Do you agree?
LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 1, 2015: Everton's Romelu Lukaku in action against Arsenal during the Premiership match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by Chris Brunskill/Propaganda)
Decent touch to keep out Cazorla effort at 1-0, and could do little about Giroud's goal. Otherwise he was relatively untroubled until Rosicky's clincher. 6
Appeared reluctant to full commit himself when going forward early on, but was more prominent after the break, setting up a chance for Lennon with a trademark run. 6
Switched off to allow Giroud a free header, but redeemed himself with an excellent block from Bellerin, and made a few more before the day was out. 7
Cool intervention prevented Giroud a sight of goal, but the youngster was caught out by the Frenchman for Arsenal's opener later in the first half. A harsh lesson. 5
Mixed some good moments with some careless ones. Promising set-piece delivery, and never looked overawed by the stage. 6
Everton's Luke Garbutt in action against Arsenal's Hector Bellerin - Action Images via Reuters /Tony O'Brien
Got through plenty of work as ever, though not much of it was in Arsenal's half. 6
One ugly sloppy ball in the first half, but otherwise used it pretty well, and did a lot of dirty work in midfield. 6
Quick to close down Arsenal's midfield players and keen to get on the ball. No real penetration or invention in his passing. 5
Flickered throughout, without ever really grabbing hold of the game. Created one chance for Lukaku, but Everton need to see more of him. 6
Played infield from the right, and worked some decent positions. Final ball let him down too often. 5
Looked in the mood, nicking the ball off Gabriel for an early chance. Frustrated by the service into him at times, rightly so. Drew one great save from Ospina in the second half. 7
On for Mirallas, and almost equalised with his first real contribution. Looked a threat on the counter. 6
On late for Barry. N/A
No time to make any real impact N/A
Everton FC must plan without injured Leighton Baines for crunch trip to Stoke City
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Leighton Baines nursing a leg injury and unlikely to recover in time for Everton FC clash at Britannia Stadium on Wednesday
Roberto Martinez expects Everton FC to be without Leighton Baines for their trip to Stoke City on Wednesday. The England left back missed the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday having sustained a knock to his quad muscle in training on Friday, and is unlikely to recover in time for the visit to the Britannia. “We tried to give Leighton a breather against Young Boys, so he could be fully fit for today,” Martinez said. “But unfortunately he picked up a knock on Friday and was out of the squad.
“I don't know if he is going to be available for Wednesday, I doubt it. I just hope he can be available for the Dynamo Kiev game (on March 12).
“It's not a big problem, just a knock on his left quad.”
Baines' absence meant Luke Garbutt made just his second Premier League start, and the 21-year-old is likely to deputise again against Stoke, should Baines fail to recover.
“In that position, you need to be a specialist,” Martinez said. “You can't have someone 'filling in', and Luke has been playing very well. He's played well in Europe, and today was a really good test. We were really proud to see a young man handling the moment like he did. “His delivery was exceptional, he has a very cultured left foot, and it is testament to the development structure that we have at the club to have a player like Luke Garbutt. I couldn't be prouder of him.”
Everton FC dealt another sobering slap in face as miserable run goes on
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Two shots on target for Everton FC during latest defeat by Arsenal FC is just not good enough
A pinch and a punch is usually the way on the first of the month but Everton FC were instead dealt another sobering slap. Defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium means the Blues have now won just one of their last 11 Premier League games - and it leaves them facing a crucial run of fixtures. A point in the corresponding fixture last season had Everton looking up, but defeat this time has them glancing in the other direction. What has happened to the Everton side that came here last term and went “eye to eye” with Arsenal? It is perhaps indicative of the Blues' fall from last season's heights that the same group of players who matched the then league leaders last season, set out only with the confidence to shackle Arsenal this afternoon. This wasn't a defeat because of the lack of fight that defined their torrid run of defeats over the festive period. It was an 11th loss of the campaign because the players couldn't apply the skill and quality that set them apart from most others last season.
Maybe they didn't have the confidence to.
Everton have it in abundance in Europe but now Roberto Martinez needs to drag it out of his players in the league and, to borrow his own words, “quickly”. The Blues have 11 league games left, but it is their immediate run of league fixtures that can go some way to easing those growing concerns of being sucked all too easily into the relegation dog fight. "Everton must have something to show from the next three games" In the context of their season, Wednesday night's trip to Stoke City was always going to be the more important of this week's fixtures. And bigger than a defeat to Arsenal is how they then fare against Newcastle and at QPR later this month. Everton must have something to show from the next three games, because they cannot keep expecting that six point buffer from the bottom three to soften the blow of anymore disappointing results.
Time will quickly run out and their slide towards the bottom of the table will only accelerate.
While West Brom and Crystal Palace still talked of securing their place in the division as they overtook Everton in the table this weekend, the Blues cannot bury their heads in the sand.
Like the way they went to Selhurst Park in January and ground out their last win in the league, they must do the same in their next three league matches. As Martinez says, Everton need to pick up wins without being “perfect”.
Maybe that is where they fell down in the first-half here.
As they calmly stroked the ball about in the early March sunshine, it may not have appeared so, but Everton were playing a dangerous game. A policy of containment without offering a threat is risky game and as soon as the opposition get the breakthrough, your whole outlook has to dramatically shift. Everton were deliberate and patient with their passing in order to take the game away from their hosts, but a lack of attacking intent meant they were never going to be out of touch.
The Toffees had controlled the game by keeping hold of the ball but they had done next to nothing with it. Arsenal hadn't either - but the a momentary lapse in concentration meant the whole plan unravelled. Olivier Giroud, who had gone close with a diving header earlier in the half, stole a march on John Stones and fired the hosts in front. Plan A now had to be scrapped and with just over 45 minutes of football left, Everton had to put Plan B into action.
The problem is, the Blues have struggled to implement such an attacking approach in the Premier League all season and against an Arsenal side happy to soak up the pressure and come to life on the break, time was not on their side. It required Everton to take the game to Arsenal and be bold, confident and creative. Be incisive where too often they have been hesitant and clinical when they have suffered with being toothless. That they mustered just two shots on target in the whole game tells you all you need to know about how it went.
Sure, David Ospina produced two saves to deny Romelu Lukaku, and then Aaron Lennon in the second-half as they pressed for an equaliser, but these type of performances have happened too often this season. Once again, Everton felt the pain of falling on the wrong side of those fine margins in football but few of the fans in the away end were buying this as some form of hard luck tale. One win in their last 11 league games is not the result of misfortune.
Everton need no more slaps in the face to remind of that.
Arsenal 2 Everton FC 0: Ross Barkley needs to be central and four other things we learned at the Emirates
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton FC's trip to Stoke City on Wednesday has just taken on even more importance, says Neil Jones
Ross Barkley needs to be central
The groans could be heard across the Twittersphere when the Everton teamsheet landed at around 1 o'clock. Barkley on the wing?
It is not a sight that Blues fans like, and understandably so. If the 21-year-old is to rediscover his best form, it surely won't be out wide. Thankfully, Roberto Martinez had a subtle change up his sleeve on this occasion. Barkley and Kevin Mirallas were the two men tasked with supporting lone frontman Romelu Lukaku, but at times they played more like old-fashioned inside forwards than orthodox wide players. And though Barkley was not necessarily back to his best, there were flashes of the good things in the England man's game; his eye for a pass created a chance for Lukaku, while his powerful central runs allowed Everton to retain a threat on the counter attack.
There is a long way to go if Barkley is to scale the heights of last season again. But one thing's for certain – if he is to do so, he needs to be in the centre of the field.
Stoke away is suddenly a very, very big game for the Blues
If there is still, generally, a sense that Everton are too good to be drawn into a relegation battle, then a quick glance at the league table should provide a sobering reality check.
Results on Saturday saw the Blues fall to 14th in the Premier League table, and in all honesty they rarely looked like improving their position here. They weren't terrible, they just got beat. It's been an all-too-common theme this season. Suddenly, those glances over the shoulder are becoming more nervous. Everton are comfortably, on paper at least, the best team in the bottom half of the table, but they are simply not showing it. Now, having won just one of their last 11 league games, they are just six points above the drop zone. Wins for Aston Villa and Hull on Tuesday night could make that position even more precarious by the time they kick off at Stoke the following night.
A trip to the Britannia is a daunting one at the best of times. Right now, it looks absolutely huge.
Everton failed to take advantage of Arsenal's edgy crowd
They're used to playing in front of nervous supporters, Everton. And with Arsenal having seen their Champions League hopes go up in smoke in midweek, the chance was there for the Blues to capitalise on the sense of unease around the Emirates.
They missed the opportunity.
They tried to keep the Gunners quiet by farming possession in the first half, and managed it to a point. But with no real threat being offered – save for one Lukaku half-chance that David Ospina did well to snuff out – the home side were able to feel their way into the game, without really feeling the wrath of their supporters. Martinez, who knows how quickly an atmosphere can turn, will reflect on a chance missed, surely? Seamus Coleman is so much better when he's on the front foot
Of all the impressive things about Everton's form last season, the performances of Seamus Coleman caught the eye perhaps more than any other. Seven goals is no mean feat for a full-back, but it was about more than just statistics. Coleman's play drove Everton forward, it gave them a constant, reliable outlet, and it set the tone for their play. Martinez wants them to play with a swagger and a fearlessness, and the Irishman epitomised that. This season, something has been missing. Injuries have played their part, as has the Blues' collective loss of form, but Coleman has not been the same.
At his best, he is among the finest in the league. There are signs, just signs, of late that that best is returning. Everton need it to.
Penetration trumps possession, every day of the week
There's an overused phrase in football, which refers to “playing the right way.”
It's a reference to passing football, to keeping possession, and to moving the ball on then floor, and it's a phrase that managers and pundits (and journalists, let's be honest) love to slip in as often as they can. Here, especially in the first half, we saw two teams who would describe themselves as “playing the right way.” It made for a poor spectacle, with few risks taken, and little by way of penetration. In fact, there were just five efforts on target in the entire 90 minutes – and one of those was deflected. It is admirable that managers like Martinez and Wenger are so committed to their footballing principles. But don't let anyone kid you that possession football = pretty football. It's just not true.
Everton FC are too good to be dragged into relegation battle says Roberto Martinez
1 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
'We have got the character, the steel and, most importantly, the talent to come through'
Roberto Martinez insists his Everton FC players have the quality and character to drag themselves away from the Premier League relegation zone. But the Blues boss admits his side need to find a way to win games quickly, as their recent run of form threatens to plunge them into a dogfight.
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal leaves Martinez’s side 14th in the Premier League table, just six points above the relegation zone having won just one of their last 11 league matches.
And while the manager admits they are still short of their “first aim” of 40 points, he insists he has no concerns about his players’ ability to drag themselves clear of danger in their last 11 games.
He said: “We have been through many situations to prove that we have got the character, the steel and, most importantly, the talent to come through. “It is normal in football, to have to win games. It is something we embrace, and we always perform at our very best when we are under those circumstances. “I do feel that the group is getting stronger. As you can imagine, the dressing room is really down after this game. “But I think that for the young players at the club, getting through this experience could be the final tick to fulfil their potential and become a winning team.
“Every game is high pressure. Wednesday is no different. “We’ve got 11 games to go, we want to get as many points as we can and then get the best position in the table.
“We are in the final third of the season, and every team is fighting for the same thing.
“The first one is to get 40 points, and from that point on you look at the next aim.
“That’s where we are. We’re enjoying our time in Europe, but in the same manner, we see every game in the league now as a final. “The competition for places is strong, and the form of some of our players is good, so I’m looking forward to those games.” Martinez was left frustrated by his side’s lack of potency at the Emirates, as goals from Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky gave the Gunners victory despite a far from fantastic performance. “We didn’t carry enough intent in our attack,” Martinez said. “Romelu Lukaku had a situation where Ospina did really well to come out and clear the ball, and that could have been a completely different story. “We had two or three really good opportunities on the counter, but we never really had that intent. And to concede from a set-piece to any side away from home is always disappointing. “It’s a bit of a reflection of our season. The second goal is a deflection, and now you read the 2-0 scoreline, which doesn’t reflect what happened on the football pitch. It’s the story of our season. “We’ve never really had that momentum that allows you to win games just by doing enough. “We need to win games by being perfect, and that’s something that we need to change quickly in the next 11 games.”
He added: “Maybe I am being a bit harsh here, but when we came back in pre-season we had incredible high hopes in the league, in terms of being able to carry on what we did last season.
“We drew two games against Leicester, 83rd minute, and Arsenal, 90th minute.
“We dropped four points, and psychologically it felt very tough to go into the next game and enjoy our football. “It has been more of a chore, a feeling of having to get the points, and I don’t think I’ve seen that enjoyment in our football in the league. “I see the enjoyment in the Europa League, where it is more of an eye-to-eye situation. “And that enjoyment gives you a positive feeling, it makes you defend the box better, and you score from little chances. We haven’t had that in the league this season.”
Everton FC defender Luke Garbutt brands Stoke City trip "must-win"
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Left-back Luke Garbutt insists Everton FC won't get sucked into bottom three but knows points are needed fast
Luke Garbutt has declared Everton FC's trip to Stoke City on Wednesday is a “must-win” as the Blues look to put some breathing space between themselves and the bottom three.
The 21-year-old insists Everton are not in a relegation fight but knows that they face a pivotal period in their season with games against Newcastle United and QPR to follow in the Premier League this month. Garbutt deputised for the injured Leighton Baines at Arsenal on Sunday and felt Everton were unlucky to leave the Emirates Stadium on the back of a 2-0 defeat.
READ: Phil Kirkbride's verdict on a worrying afternoon in North London
The Blues' 11 league loss of the campaign leaves them in 14 position and still just six points clear of the drop zone but Garbutt is convinced they have the quality to pull themselves away from the wrong end of the table. Yet the England under-21 international insists a positive result at the Britannia Stadium this week is vital if they are to stop their slide towards the bottom three.
“There wasn't really much in the game but their two goals were sloppy on our part and that's what made the difference,” Garbutt said. “I wouldn't say they were exceptional goals.
"We were sloppy for goals" – Garbutt “We are due a change of luck. Our performance was solid enough for us to get a result but the boys need to stick together now because we've got a big game on Wednesday. “We absolutely need to get something out of that game. It is a must-win. At the very least we must get a point. “The lads are really disappointed but we go again on Wednesday.”
Asked about Everton's lowly league position and the bottom three, Garbutt said: “I don't think we're in danger of it. “Obviously, we've got a massive period for us coming up where we need to consolidate and not let ourselves get drawn into the mix of, dare I say it, the relegation zone.
“This squad of players believes that we can get out of the position we are in. We just need to win on Wednesday, it is simple as that.” Garbutt starred in Thursday night's Europa League win over Young Boys at Goodison Park as Everton stylishly brushed the Swiss outfit aside.
The Blues failed to transfer that confidence into the game against Arsenal and once again suffered a European hangover. “We've just gained momentum in Europe and some good results earlier in the campaign has given us that confidence to kick on but it's been indifferent, our form in the league,” Garbutt said. “At times last season we got ourselves out of games on the counter-attack. This season we've got ourselves into the same positions but haven't finished them off.
“The other side have come onto us and we haven't held out. We've got to look at that and put it right. “Away from home, we base our game on counter-attack. If Stoke are coming onto us on Wednesday then that can play into our hands. “Arsenal wanted to play football and come at us and there were opportunities for us on the counter-attack. We create chances, that's the thing, I don't feel we deserved to lose that game at all. “The least we deserved was a draw. There was nothing in the game, we just gave away two sloppy goals. “We have just got to move on and get a win on Wednesday.” "It's great that fans recognise my work" - Garbutt
Garbutt has quickly established himself as a favourite with the Blues faithful and says the whole squad can “feed” off their support this week at Stoke. “It's great for myself and great they they recognise my work,” the Harrogate-born defender said. “The fans were great on Sunday and will stick by the team no matter what. We've just got to feed off that and hopefully get a positive result on Wednesday.”
Everton FC youngster Liam Walsh "buzzing" at first professional deal
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Highly-rated Liam Walsh signs contract to keep him at Goodison until end of 2016/17 campaign
Everton FC youngster Liam Walsh signed his first professional contract with the Blues and declared: "I'm buzzing. It's everything I ever wanted."
The 17-year-old put pen to paper today on a deal which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2016/17 season. Walsh, a silky-skilled playmaker who is comfortable with both feet, has been a regular for the Under-18s and Under-21s so far this term, having been within the Blues’ academy for 12 years. And the Huyton-born teenager, who scored in the recent u-18s 5-0 thrashing of Liverpool, said: “It's everything that I wanted ever since I started playing football.
“Obviously, signing a professional contract takes me closer to where I want to be which is with the first team. “I'm buzzing to sign my first one and hopefully there is many more to come.
“I'm trying to get better every season. This season has been great as an Under-18s player playing for the Under-21s regularly and being around the first team. “I'm looking to push on even further now before the end of the season and into the next one.” Joining the Toffees as a five-year-old, Walsh says he is proud to now call the Blues’ senior stars his teammates. Seamus Coleman dropped in to congratulate the youngster on his first senior deal – and Walsh says it was typical of the collective team spirit at Finch Farm. He added: “I joined at a very young age and I've always played a year above my age group, so every game has been a challenge for me.
“But I think I have lived up to those challenges and I think I challenge myself well because I always make sure I have a goal or an objective that I want to try and meet towards the end of each season.
“I love speaking to the [first team] players. Obviously, the fans are always happy to speak to them, get pictures with them and things like that - but I'm lucky to be a part of the same team as them.
“They talk to us around the training ground, like Seamus who said he was made up for me. It's nice to see that they take an interest in what we have to offer as well.”
Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud recovers from midweek nightmare to down Everton
Arsenal 2 - 0 Everton
Olivier Giroud 39
Tomas Rosicky 89
Amy Lawrence at Emirates Stadium
2 March 2015 The Guardian
After the storm, the calm. An unspectacular yet entirely satisfactory three points enabled Arsenal to breathe easily again at the end of a turbulent week. There was no collective bloody nose this time, just the broken one suffered by Francis Coquelin when Olivier Giroud clattered into him. The sense of Arsenal as a team being desperate to react to adversity was summed up by Coquelin staying on to do his blocking and harrying job with a smashed-up face. “I am very proud of the response we showed,” Arsène Wenger said. Although Everton engineered a few close shaves, decisive moments by the players at both of Arsenal’s sharp ends made the difference. Giroud, who had endured the kind of striker’s nightmare that forced Wenger to remove him from the spotlight during the Champions League defeat in midweek, showed the character to climb straight back on to the horse. His persistence was rewarded with the opener. In goal David Ospina needed a mix of determination and improvisation to maintain the welcome platform of a clean sheet.
The need to address both goalmouths was obvious after the European lesson handed out by Monaco. It was unhelpful, therefore, for the first big moment of the game to bring to mind Wenger’s lament about “suicidal defending”. The game hinged on a period midway through the first half during which Gabriel Paulista, the centre-back newly arrived from La Liga, was confronted with the full power of Romelu Lukaku. In the first instance the defender dithered, let the ball bounce and Arsenal hearts jumped into mouths awaiting another calamity as Ospina rushed out to meet Lukaku. The keeper was brave to paw at the ball and then slide tackle to avert disaster twice. “That could have been a completely different story … ” Roberto Martínez said.
The next time Lukaku bore dangerously into the penalty area Gabriel showed impeccable defensive instincts to pluck the ball from him. The energy around the place changed as the home crowd were visibly lifted by the saving tackle. Over to Giroud. After his serial profligacy against Monaco he missed his first chance, steering wide Alexis Sánchez’s pinpoint cross. Wenger believes wholeheartedly in the striker’s capacity to keep going. Redemption arrived – and how Giroud enjoyed it with a celebratory flourish as he pointed to the heavens – when he shrugged off John Stones to steer in Arsenal’s opening goal from a corner. “Arsène Wenger gave me the possibility to bounce back. We wanted to do that together,” Giroud said.
Wenger was delighted: “Olivier has one great quality. When his back is to the wall he has the personality to respond. Because I know him better now that is one of the reasons why I kept him in the team. He acknowledged he missed his game and I knew he had the strength to respond.”
Everton were far more threatening in the second half, immediately challenging Arsenal with a string of set pieces. Ospina needed to be alert to repel Lukaku and the substitute Aaron Lennon. Then Gabriel arrived with another strong tackle to block off the arriving Ross Barkley.
Everton’s frustration is that they could not make those chances count. The result was confirmed in the penultimate minute. Phil Jagielka, who had intervened twice at key moments to fall on to a Giroud effort and then deflect a Mesut Özil shot, was in the way when Tomas Rosicky let fly. The ball ricocheted off the Everton captain and into the net. The goal marked the second assist of the day for Özil. “You read the 2-0 scoreline but it doesn’t reflect the game and that’s the story of our season,” Martínez said. “We have had to be perfect to win games and that is something we have to change in the next 11 games. We are in the final third of season, everyone fighting for same thing - to get 40 points – then to get the next aim.” Giroud could have scored again with a firm downward header which veered wide but with the points safe there was no need for howls of frustration. Having sprinted off the pitch against Monaco as if he could not get away quick enough, this time he enjoyed some much-needed applause in the sunshine. Man of the match David Ospina (Arsenal)
Arsenal vs Everton match report: Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky get Arsenal back to winning ways at the Emirates Stadium
2 March 2015
For two clubs whose seasons are amounting to little more than a weary shrug of the shoulders, this was an instantly forgettable match, played out on an afternoon when everything to get excited about was happening elsewhere - be it up the road at Wembley or over the Irish Sea.
After their respective midweek adventures – Everton’s 3-1 win over Young Boys of Bern and Arsenal’s crushing defeat by the same score at home to Monaco – you might have expected Everton to have the wearier limbs but the brighter spirit. Arsenal had had an extra day’s rest, but they played like a team still feeling the effects of Wednesday’s trauma. A sluggish performance was enough, nevertheless, to achieve a victory that lifted them to third place in the Premier League.
On an afternoon when everything to get excited about was happening up the road at Wembley or over the Irish Sea, it was fitting that a contest low on pace and even lower on invention should be settled by a set piece and a lucky deflection. Thirty-nine uneventful minutes had passed when Olivier Giroud drifted away from goal to meet a low corner from Mesut Özil and glance a volley into the bottom corner of the net at the far post. Everton never asserted themselves on their hosts and the result was confirmed in the 90th minute when a tame shot from substitute Tomas Rosicky took a deflection to bobble over goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the net. “Our defensive concentration was much higher than on Wednesday night,” Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said afterwards. “With the ball we can do better. But it was important to respond to Wednesday with a win. Not everyone can do that. And the win is important to us for the rest of our season.
“We have three more points than last week, and if you look at our Premier League run since November we are in a good position. On the fluency front we can do better, but today our first worry was to win the game.” Wenger also confirmed that Francis Coquelin, who in the second half of the season has become a crucial player for Arsenal, had broken his nose in a clash of heads with his team-mate Giroud. He said he did not know whether Coquelin, who played on with his bloody nose plugged with bandages, would need surgery, and how long he might be absent for.
Arsenal were far from their best, and their victory was cheaply won, but the scale of Everton’s near-total capitulation this season remains staggering. Romelu Lukaku lumbered around in front of the home defence to almost no effect. Ross Barkley was prone to occasional flashes of electricity but the pasture all around was truly barren. Kevin Mirallas went off 15 minutes into the second half, his forlorn jog towards the dugout his only noticeable expenditure of energy all afternoon.
Rarely can a team have come to the Emirates and found an Arsenal team so clearly there for the taking, and taken nothing at all. Yet Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, claimed his team played well and might even have won. Olivier Giroud's goal was his ninth in his last 13 games for Arsenal “I was frustrated. I thought we did things pretty well in the first half but we didn’t carry enough intent in attack,” he said. “If we had scored you could have sensed that the momentum would have been in our favour. “I think we played really well in the second half. Arsenal have fantastic experience in knowing how to manage this sort of game. When you create chances you have to take them. “We played well throughout the game, we had every chance of getting a positive result until right at the end, and that’s a reflection of our season. The second goal, they get the ball on the edge of the box, we have six players in good positions, but it takes a deflection and it’s in the back of the net. “It’s the story of our season. We’ve never ever had the momentum you need that allows you to win games just by doing enough. At the moment we only win games by being perfect, and that’s something that needs to change.” Arsenal played with a little more exuberance as the match wore on, but Everton countered by moving numbers behind the ball. Muhamed Besic and Gareth Barry joined the defence to form what looked like a flat back six at times. From open play, Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and the rest never really looked like they had within them that moment of invention to put the match beyond doubt. In the end, they had to rely on luck.
This is the springtime of the year, that time when the fans have finally put the thermals away until November and when every match, every point won and lost in the unfamiliar bright sunshine, starts making a tangible impact on what you might achieve come May. For Arsenal, a season that was once full of such promise is rapidly shaping into familiar form: just off the pace in the league and no serious challenge in Europe. These three valuable points lifted them a point ahead of Manchester United and three above resurgent Liverpool. But they are suddenly a team conspiring to underwhelm, and unless some urgency of application can be found, even the déjà vu of fourth place might very well elude Wenger and his men
Ross Barkley's problems for Everton FC are in his own head
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Snodin
Everton FC star's fluctuating form is due to nagging lack of confidence, says Blues columnist Snods
It’s just not happening for Ross Barkley at the moment.
And I’m starting to think the problem may now be more psychological than anything else.
I’ve got a lot of time for Ross. I always have.
Having watched him from when he was a young kid, it’s always been clear his ability is absolutely frightening. But a lot is expected of him from Evertonians and England fans in general, and we’ve built him up and up and up as a top player.
He’s struggling to deal with that. He’s not firing.
I don’t care if you are an experienced player or an inexperienced one, confidence is a massive thing in not just football, but any sport. Ross is not playing with 100% confidence. Yes, he played really well in Switzerland, but that has been the exception to the rule this season.
It’s a tough call how to address the matter. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
We know his ability. We know he is a strong lad. He’s a nice lad.
"But you don’t know what he is like deep inside and whether all this is starting to affect him, especially with the crowd beginning to moan at him now and again."
That’s not because he’s a local player. It’s more because they know what a talent Ross is, and that he just isn’t showing that at the moment. They are frustrated. And I’m sure Ross is even more frustrated. Ross is a matchwinner and he isn’t showing that right now. I believe in Ross, I really do. But Roberto Martinez has a decision to make.
Does he leave Ross out? Does he play Naisy in there or Ossie, players who have that bit more experience and are proper team players?
Not that I’m saying Ross doesn’t play for the team. Far from it.
But Ross is not great defensively. I don’t think he is aware enough, and he won’t mind me saying that. And while I don’t want to see Ross defending, now and again you have to track back and mark your runner. You can’t just leave them every single time.
That, though, shouldn’t be what he concentrates on. Free Ross to do what he does best, attacking players in the final third and pinging balls up to Romelu Lukaku on the edge of the box.
We have to use him higher up the pitch, but Ross himself needs to be clever in finding positions where he can have space in central areas.
He could do worse than to look across Stanley Park at how Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho manage it. They are a good example and Ross can do that, with practice.
It’ll be a tough call whether to leave him out at Stoke City on Wednesday. But we are really fighting for points, and Stoke is one of those places where you need your players closing down defenders all the time. I’m sure if we were challenging for a top-four spot Ross would be playing well.
But right now he is a player who is struggling in a team that isn’t playing particularly well. That needs to change soon.
I'll say it - Everton ARE too good to go down
Stoke is a big game for us. But, at this stage of the season, they are all big games.
The boys and the manager don’t want to be looking over their shoulders going into April.
We are too good to go down. Yes, I know you shouldn’t say that. But it’s true. However, we need to start living up to at least some of the expectations we had at the start of the season.
I’m not kidding myself. We’ve not been consistent. And the league table isn’t lying – we need points.
We have become harder to beat since the New Year but we need a bit more going forward.
We need to be much more positive. Draws aren’t really enough at the moment.
40 Point mark won't be a struggle for Blues There has been a little bit of a hoo-ha over Roberto Martinez saying we should target 40 points.
But I don’t think he’s sending out the wrong signal. He’s just being realistic.
The very top clubs all have aspirations of winning the league or finishing in the top four, but for 60% of the league the 40-point mark is the initial aim.
Roberto’s not saying it because he thinks 40 points will be tough to get.
And I’m not taking about it either. We have more than enough quality.
There’s no way we won’t reach 40 points. That’s my bold prediction.
There's nothing wrong with getting ball forward early!
The same old story from Everton has prompted much talk about what new things Roberto Martinez can do to shake things up.
But it’s clear what’s working in Europe isn’t doing so in the Premier League.
The reason for that is because in the Europa League teams are happy to come attack us, in the top-flight they are mainly sitting back.
That means we can’t really play on the counter-attack as much as we would like. There’s no space behind defences. And with teams happy to give us possession, we’re maybe a bit guilty of over-elaborating a bit too much.
There’s nothing wrong with getting the ball forward early.
Time for Gibbo to start at Stoke
I think it might be time to give Darron Gibson his first Premier League start of the season at Stoke City on Wednesday.
There’s no question Gibbo has done well since he’s come back into the team.
He’s a quality player, and I’m a big fan of his.
He looks to get the ball forward quickly, and when he came on against Leicester City he set up three chances simply by getting the ball into the box.
Everton have missed that.
I’d imagine Gibbo was left out at Arsenal because he had a full game against Young Boys a few days earlier. You have to be careful with his fitness having had so long out.
But I would not be surprised if he started at the Britannia.
Why talk of the 40-point mark is ominous for Roberto Martinez and Everton FC
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Where are Everton FC going to turn matters around?
Roberto Martinez first made fleeting mention of it towards the end of January.
Then, in the wake of disappointing defeat at Arsenal on Sunday, there it was again.
“We are in the final third of the season, and every team is fighting for the same thing,” said the Everton boss. “The first one is to get 40 points.” The ominous 40-point mark.
It was enough to send a shudder through an already fearful Goodison faithful.
If Europe has thus far proven a wonderful adventure this season, home comforts have been hard to find for Everton.
The numbers make for grim reading.
Including the two cup competitions, in domestic football the Blues have won just six times – only one fewer than they have managed in eight Europa League games this season.
At this stage last season, Everton had 48 points. The year before, 42 points.
Their total of just 28 points from 27 Premier League games this time around – languishing in 14th place just six adrift of the bottom three – equals the tally they managed in the 1993-94 season when the dramatic win over Wimbledon spared the Blues from the drop. Four years later, when relegation was avoided with a final-day draw at home to Coventry City, Everton had garnered 29 points from 27 games. It gets worse. "It is incredible to think Blues are 11 points off 10th-placed Stoke" Anything less than a win on Wednesday at Stoke City would mean a record low points total after 28 games in the Premier League. Using three points for a win, only in the 1926-27 would Everton have ever had a lower points total at the same stage of the season.
It is incredible to consider the Blues are nearer the bottom of the table than the top half, a full 11 points adrift of the 10th-placed Potters. Martinez spoke on Sunday of the need for momentum. And this, in the last few years at least, has been a time of the season when Everton kick for the final straight. Up until Sunday’s visit to the Emirates, the Blues had won 10 successive Premier League games in March, a run that stretched back to 2012. And last season the Blues won eight of their final 11 games in a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to secure Champions League qualification.
The paucity of quality in the lower reaches of the top flight suggests Everton shouldn’t realistically be dragged into a relegation dogfight. But while Martinez stopped short of saying his team were too good to go down – the kiss of death for any struggling side – there was certainly a whiff of it in his post-Arsenal assessment. “We have been through many situations to prove that we have got the character, the steel and, most importantly, the talent to come through,” he said.
“It is normal in football, to have to win games. It is something we embrace, and we always perform at our very best when we are under those circumstances.”
So, how to get to 40 points?
Six of the remaining 11 games are at home. However, with Everton having won only three of the previous 13 on their own patch, Goodison has been anything but a fortress this season.
Okay, one of the visitors is Manchester United who, despite defeat there last April, have a tremendous record on the Blue half of Merseyside.
Visitors on the run-in have traditionally struggled at Goodison
Fortunately, though, many of the other visitors traditionally struggle.
Newcastle United and Burnley have won only one of their last 11 visits. Sunderland’s shock win on Boxing Day last season was their first in 12 trips.
Southampton have triumphed only once at Goodison in the Premier League era, while even Tottenham Hotspur, who the Blues entertain on the last day of the season, haven’t won in their last seven games at Everton. Of course, the added complication is nearly all of those opponents are likely to be as desperate for points as Martinez’s side, although some for hugely differing reasons.
On the road, the portents are somewhat more ominous.
Everton haven’t won at Wednesday’s opponents Stoke since 2008, only once at Queens Park Rangers since 1987 and while they have never lost in the league at Swansea City, they were thumped 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium in the League Cup back in September.
Solace will come with a decent record at Aston Villa – only two defeats in eight visits – while the Blues have won five of their last six Premier League trips to West Ham United.
Rediscovering their home verve, though, will be crucial to ensuring the season ends on a high rather than a dangerous low. Fortitude and perhaps fortune will be required.
But 40 points must surely be the very least Everton aim for as they look to salvage a hugely underwhelming Premier League campaign.
TO PLAY: Wed: Stoke (A), Mar 15: Newcastle (H), Mar 22: QPR (A), Apr 4: Southampton (H), Apr 11: Swansea (A), Apr 18: Burnley (H), Apr 26: Man Utd (H), May 2: Aston Villa (A), May 9: Sunderland (H), May 16: West Ham (A), May 24: Tottenham (H).
Everton FC's Tim Howard insists "confidence is rising..we're regaining our resilience"
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Everton FC goalkeeper in bullish mood ahead of Stoke trip despite Premier League table
Tim Howard believes Everton FC’s confidence is rising despite only one win in 11 Premier League games – and claims the Blues are regaining their resilient streak.
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal means Roberto Martinez’s stand just six points and four places above the relegation zone. Everton travel to Stoke City on Wednesday aiming to secure only their seventh win in 28 Premier League games this season. However, the Blues have lost only twice in open play in 11 games since the defeat at Hull City on New Year’s Day – at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge, two traditional graveyards for Everton. And Howard insists they aren’t far away from a return to form.
“We will go to Stoke City with confidence,” says the goalkeeper.
“When performances aren’t right you start to wonder where the next one is coming from.
“That’s not where we are. We feel confident individually, our confidence is rising.
“The team performances have been good and if we do that against Stoke we’ll get the result that we want.” Since the turn of the year, the Blues have been shipping goals at just one a game having conceded nine times in four festive games alone. “The positive we have taken from the last two to three months is that we have gotten back to that hard-to-beat resiliency,” says Howard.
“It’s disappointing when deflections happen or things of that nature that are very difficult to control. The back four have been playing well. “I’m a firm believer that if you keep work working hard, keep plugging away trying to do the right things (things will turn), which we are. Our performances, you can’t fault those. They have been really good. “I’m a believer that if you perform well often enough, you get the right results. We’ve had some bad luck, but that’s the way it goes. We’ll just keep working.” Everton dominated possession at the Emirates but were hampered by a failure to create many clear-cut chances, Olivier Giroud firing Arsenal ahead before Tomas Rosicky’s late clincher deflected in off the unlucky Phil Jagielka. “We performed well,” adds Howard. “We had the better chances but they took theirs albeit in unfortunate circumstances. We hit them with just as much as they hit us. “The scoreline doesn’t reflect the game. There wasn’t much in it. They will be delighted they didn’t play 100% particularly well and got a 2-0 result.”
Everton FC U-21s suffer 4-0 rout at Spurs
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
David Unsworth's side miss out on chance to go joint top with Manchester United FC after heavy loss
Everton Under-21s missed the chance to move level with the teams at the top of the league table after a 4-0 defeat away at Tottenham Hotspur.
All the goals were scored before half-time on Monday afternooon as the Young Blues were punished by a clinical Spurs. David Unsworth’s side improved in the second half but they had left themselves with much too work to do after a flat opening spell. Tottenham had their noses ahead as early as the fifth minute when striker Shaquile Coulthirst cut in from the right and found the bottom corner with a drive from the edge of the area. Blues keeper Russell Griffiths then did well to tip a free-kick from Grant Ward over the bar but there was little he could do when the home side doubled their lead after a quarter of an hour through left-back Connor Ogilvie, who finished off a well-worked move. Coulthirst then grabbed his second after being played in by Ruben Lameiras, who had won possession in midfield. Spurs made it 4-0 just after the half-hour mark when Lameiras scored from the spot after being upended inside the area by Francisco Junior.
Everton tried to respond and Michael Donohue saw a shot saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Luke McGee before the break. The Young Blues were sent out for the second half early by coach Unsworth, who made two substitutions. Curtis Langton and Callum Dyson were introduced in place of Ryan Ledson and Callum Connolly as Everton switched to three at the back.
Galloway, who had shifted to left wing-back, surged forward and almost created an opening for Kieran Dowell, while George Green – Everton’s third and final change – looked bright when he came on for the final 30 minutes. The forward almost robbed McGee of the ball after hesitation at the back from the hosts and then, in the dying minutes, he blazed a free-kick over the bar.
Tottenham’s best chances of the second half fell to South African international defender Bongoli Khumalo and Ward, with neither able to hit the target.
Everton must now recover in time for Thursday when they face Sunderland in a match they must win to be in with a chance of progressing through to the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup.
Everton FC midfielder Gareth Barry urges Blues to get safe then target Euro glory
2 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
Gareth Barry with safety rallying cry to Toffees
Gareth Barry has urged Everton FC to haul themselves to safety in the Premier League - then focus on a bid for Europa League glory. In a rallying cry to the under-fire Blues the veteran midfielder insisted it’s time to put points on the board, before turning to their last chance of making this a special campaign. Barry, 34, maintained there is no talk of facing a relegation dogfight in the Everton dressing room, but knows they must start winning again sooner rather than later.
He said: “In terms of performance and belief in the dressing room we don’t feel like we have any sort of danger or talk of relegation, but we are aware that if you don’t start putting points on the board then you can get dragged in there. “The quicker we do that the better it will be for the club, so we can concentrate on winning the Europa League and finishing as high up the Premier League table as possible.” Toffees manager Roberto Martinez admitted after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal his team are “not enjoying” their Premier League campaign, with just one win from the last 11 leaving them six points above the drop zone. Their domestic form is in stark contrast to that of the Europa League, where Everton are England’s only remaining representatives in the last 16 ahead of a tie with Dynamo Kiev. Barry, though, maintains the feeling within the squad is positive as they prepare to head to Stoke on Wednesday. Barry accepted Everton have not been able to carry their European form to the Premier League, again failing to build on last week’s 3-1 win over Young Boys at Goodison Park. “The contrast has been there all season we are just not transferring that form from Europe,” he said. “We need to have more confidence and belief in our play. We also have to have that bit of luck as well then things will hopefully start to turn.
“It is frustrating, but at the same time we know we have to adapt our football back to the Premier League. We have got a lot of experienced players so there can be no excuses.
“We are grateful we have another game on Wednesday to put it right.
“Stoke are having a good season and we know it will be tough, but it is going to be all about us know until the end of the season.”
Everton FC transfer gossip: Deal for Inter midfielder back on; Blues lose out on Pandev; 17-year-old youngster targeted
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
A round up of today's transfer gossip from around the web
Everton have renewed their interest in Inter Milan star Mateo Kovacic as Roberto Martinez plans for a life without Gareth Barry, that's according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Martinez is said to have had the Croatia international scouted on many occasions, and, despite him only recently signing a new deal, the Blues boss is eyeing a summer move for the 20-year-old.
Kovacic has been inconsistent in recent months for the Italian giants and boss Roberto Mancini has been critical of his performances. But he's also been hailed as one of the brightest prospects at Inter by club legend Javier Zanetti. Everton look to have lost out on Galatasaray striker Goran Pandev after the player agreed a deal with Genoa, according to TalkSport. The former Inter and Napoli striker is set to depart the Turkish giants when his contract expires in the summer but, despite reported interest from the Toffees, reports have emerged he's agreed a deal with Genoa.
The 31-year-old has struggled to secure a regular first-team place at Galatasaray this season and is keen to get his career back on track in Italy. Everton have been linked with a move for Dinamo Zagreb youngster Ante Coric this morning. The 17-year-old attacking midfielder has already made his debut for the Croatian club, having moved there from Red Bull Salzburg in 2013.
Croatian newspaper Vecernji List have reported that Everton would now like to buy the youngster. They say that Everton scouts watched the player at a winter training camp in Spain this year and were impressed. A deal of around 5m euros has been mooted, but the Blues could face serious competition from Dortmund, with the German club also credited with an interest.
Everton FC send officials to Kiev this week as decision over Europa League tie looms
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Uefa to decide if away game with Dynamo Kiev to be played behind closed doors
Everton FC are sending officials to Kiev this week ahead of their Europa League tie in the city later in the month. The Blues have been drawn to face Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 of the competition.
Everton welcome the Ukrainian side to Goodison on March 12 before the return leg a week later and secretary Dave Harrison will fly over to Ukraine and liaise with UEFA and Dynamo Kiev on the fixture.
Uefa are set to meet this week in order to rule on whether the second leg in Kiev will be played behind closed doors. Crowd trouble marred Dynamo’s last 32 second leg with Guingamp last week and they have been charged by the governing body with crowd disturbance, the throwing of fireworks and supporters entering the field of play. If found guilty, Kiev could be forced to play their game with Everton in front of an empty stadium. An Everton statement read: “Everton officials are visiting Kyiv this week ahead of the Club’s Round of 16 Europa League clash. “The club is also keeping in contact with UEFA as they investigate the trouble that occurred during Dynamo Kyiv’s Round of 32 fixture against Guingamp last week. “Everton would like to thank all supporters considering making the trip to Ukraine for their patience while we confirm details with Kyiv.
“We would like to stress again the importance of not booking travel until further information, particularly around ticket allocations, is available. We will make this information available at the earliest opportunity.”
Statistical analysis: Is Everton FC's trip to Stoke a culture clash?
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ben Pringle
Examination of Blues contrasting style with opponents
Everton FC will be searching for revenge when they face Stoke City on Wednesday night, after the Potters stole all three points during a combative encounter at Goodison Park in December.
Bojan’s first-half penalty was enough to seal the smash-and-grab raid for Mark Hughes’ men, and with Stoke currently looking down the table on the Toffees, Roberto Martinez will see the reverse trip to the Britannia as a crucial opportunity to close the gap to the teams above.
Everton have been criticised in recent weeks for a string of ineffective domestic performances where substance has been sacrificed for style, in stark contrast to the clinical dismissal of BSC Young Boys as the Blues serenely progressed through to the last 16 of the Europa League.
Everton’s possession-based style is inherently suited to European football, demonstrated by the fact that they are the only English club remaining in the competition, but they appear to be found wanting by the high-intensity demands of the Premier League. It is a widely-held stereotype that Stoke are a team packed with bruisers who play direct, uncomplicated football – the antithesis of Martinez’s idealogy. In a time where some are calling for a more robust streak to be added to their league performances, Evertonians may secretly wish to adopt aspects of the Potter’s more straightforward manner. However, statistics suggest viewing Wednesday’s opponents as simplistic long-ball-bullies is a misconception.
Stoke made an immediate impact upon their induction into the Premier League in 2008, becoming notoriously hard to beat on their home turf under Tony Pulis.
Rory Delap’s elastic arms caused carnage in opposition penalty areas for several seasons before the appointment of Hughes led to a more progressive style of football while retaining their characteristic ruggedness. Currently, former England striker Peter Crouch is ably supported by a combination of top scorer Jonathan Walters or the more mercurial talents of Mame Diouf or Bojan, while Stephen Ireland provides creative craft from deep. The midfield steel is provided by the functional, if not aesthetic, pairing of Steven Nzonzi and Charlie Adam while an uncompromising defence includes the no-nonsense figures of Ryan Shawcross and Phil Bardsley.
For all the references towards Stoke’s agricultural approach to defending, their disciplinary record is remarkably similar to Everton’s and suggests that Martinez’s side is not as meek as some have been making out. The Potters are seventh in the disciplinary table, having racked up 56 cards in the league this season, with the Blues just two bookings behind. However, the most surprising statistic relates to cautions received for verbal abuse. Everton are leading Stoke on this count 6-0, and have the highest tally of any team in the top division. This indicates a willingness to attempt to influence refereeing decisions that wasn’t present under David Moyes. Whether this trait is welcomed by supporters, or seen as a collective lack of responsibility, is open to debate.
Meanwhile it appears that Stoke have improved their behaviour dramatically since last season, with their players keeping their mouths shut and letting their tackling do the talking.
Everton undoubtedly keep the ball better than Stoke.
The Blues have an 84% pass completion average compared to their opponent’s 78%, despite having made over 3000 more passes than the Potters this season.
However they both have similar average pass lengths, registering between 19.5 and 20m. This belies the common belief that Stoke are a one-dimensional side. Moreover, Stoke hold the advantage when it comes to key passes, with the Staffordshire club registering three more created chances than Everton, despite the Toffee’s significantly higher pass count. This is a stark indictment of Martinez’s system, and a strong reflection on recent criticism of ‘passing for passing’s sake’.
The Catalan found this out to his peril when his Wigan side were relegated in 2013, heading down to the Championship on the back of a season filled with pretty performances. It is a persistent criticism of Stoke that they are a long-ball team, and while these figures suggest that this is not accurate anymore, it should be noted that a route-one game plan can still pay dividends.
The Potters established themselves as a Premier League team by utilising variations of this tactic to great effect. While Everton are in a more privileged position than Stoke regarding star quality within their squad, many fans would welcome a slightly more direct approach in the team’s play – dare I say, akin to Everton under David Moyes.
On a more positive note for Everton, the change in Stoke’s style this season has seen them become more vulnerable in defence. Hughes has adapted their set-up to provide a greater threat going forward, and this has negatively impacted on their home form.
They have lost five of their 12 league games at home already this season.
Compare that to their previous three league campaigns – they only lost three times at home last year, and five and four times respectively the preceding seasons. Everton will look to take advantage of this as they seek what will be only their second win in 12 league games.
Managers must display a level of pragmatism in the pursuit of results, and while Martinez should be applauded for attempting to play the sort of attractive football which demolished Young Boys in Europe, the Spaniard might yet consider a return to a more straightforward method that moves the ball with greater pace and intent to help move the Blues away from the lower reaches of the Premier League right now. Starting with Stoke next week, perhaps?
On this day: The day English football's two greatest goalscorers shared the same forward line for Everton FC
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
Dixie Dean and Tommy Lawton played together for the first time at Goodison Park - and both hit the back of the net
They are widely considered to be the greatest centre-forwards English football has ever seen.
And for seven fleeting matches they were in the same forward line.
Dixie Dean and Tommy Lawton are English football institutions.
No player scored more - or even came close to matching - the goals tally plundered by the legendary Dean throughout his Everton career. While his successor, Lawton, was considered by some contemporaries to be an even better player. Ivan Ponting, not a contemporary but an illustrious chronicler of footballers, wrote: “Certain footballers straddle their eras like titans, their pre- eminence so palpable that any attempt to place them in a pecking order is meaningless. So it was with Tommy Lawton, the princeliest, the most complete, simply the best centre-forward in Britain as the 20th century approached its half-way mark.” Bill Shankly once said of Dean: “Dixie was the greatest centre-forward there will ever be. His record of goalscoring is the most amazing thing under the sun. He belongs in the company of the supremely great… like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt.” And 78-years ago today both players shared a forward line at Goodison Park.
Predictably, they both scored. After appearances at Tottenham - an FA Cup replay when the Blues conspired to toss away a 3-2 lead with four minutes left to lose 4-3, and Birmingham City when the Toffees lost 2-0, Blues fans were given their first sight of the two titans together at Goodison Park on March 3, 1937.
And what a sight.
Everton hammered seven goals past Leeds United - and both Dean and Lawton were on target.
As if to suggest the King wasn’t quite ready to abdicate his goalscoring crown, Dean scored two goals to Lawton’s one ... but it was the young Lawton who was making people sit up and take notice.
After the defeat at Birmingham the Echo reported: “Dean certainly did something good in the heading department, but Fillingham was his master and the line was slow in the centre, albeit one has to remind the reader of the rainstorm of the first half and the heavy turf throughout. However, it has now become a question of tactics whether Dean should be chosen for games when the side is on visiting terms. Lawton’s promise is rich; he has height power, a shot, capacity for going through alone by first starting sharply inward to the consternation of the half-back. A rare prize in prospect.”
Everton briefly accomodated the two players, with Dean at centre-forward and Lawton at inside right - and the pair proved they could play together.
Echo reporter Pilot described Everton’s opener against Leeds thus: “Everton, however, took the lead in 15 minutes with a prime effort, Dean being the scorer.
“Lawton received the ball back from Dean, moved a couple of yards, and then slipped the ball through for the centre forward. It looked as if Dean would be outpaced by the burly Sproston, but just as Sproston tackled, Dean, who was just outside the penalty area, let go one of his famous right-foot shots and the ball landed in the corner of the net. It was a great goal, the third which Dean has scored in similar circumstances on this ground in recent weeks.”
Lawton, however, was just as clinical.
The Echo reported: “Ten minutes before the interval, Lawton scored for Everton with a fast and premeditated shot to a certain spot. There had been a corner and Lawton usually a very fast shooter seemed to hesitate in order to find a vacant spot. So soon as he had espied the left-hand corner of the goal he let out the shot that has made him famous and scored a neat goal. “Goals came to every member of the line, and Lawton in his first home senior League appearance showed how well he can take a ball, place it or drive in before anyone has realised he is about to shoot.
“He has made a definite mark in the game at his tender age of 17, and his coming has increased Everton’s attacking vein.”
It was a short-lived partnership.
The pair played together just three more times that season, then once more at the start of the 1937/38 season. In total they shared a forward line seven times - and that Leeds triumph was the only time Everton won. But the 17,064 supporters present that day witnessed two football legends on the scoresheet.
Roberto Martinez has absolute faith in Everton's third choice left back
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Impressive youngster Luke Garbutt set to carry on at Stoke
LUKE GARBUTT is standing by to make his third successive start for Everton at Stoke City tomorrow, with Leighton Baines needing a late fitness test ahead of the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
And Blues boss Roberto Martinez revealed he has “no worries whatsoever” about the 21-year-old making just his third Premier League start, every one away from Goodison Park.
“Every time that he has played in the first team, from the games against Wolfsburg and Krasnodar and then the game against Newcastle, he has been growing, getting stronger and I have no worries whatsoever to see Luke Garbutt in the starting line up,” said Martinez.
“I think he showed his level of form against Arsenal. That’s one of the biggest strengths we have as a football club. We have a production line of talent which is ready for the first team.
“Obviously we are blessed with the quality that we’ve got in the left back position. When Leighton Baines has been injured and then Bryan Oviedo picked up an injury, we had a young man like Luke Garbutt who has been taking all the right steps and shows that he’s ready.
“I thought his performance against Arsenal was very very strong and he didn’t looked fazed in any way.” Despite a worrying run of just one Premier League win in 11, Martinez says that his side isn’t far away from generating the momentum he craves. “We are not in a position to look back too much,” he said. “We want to enjoy momentum in the League which we have been chasing for a long while. “We want to be able to perform well and overcome the small margins so that good performances can reflect a good scoreline - and we are very very close to getting a good scoreline.
“In the last nine games domestically we have only lost two. And those two were away at Arsenal and in the very last minute in a very sad manner to the league leaders. “The margins are very very small. We are not talking about a team that does not perform well or does not have confidence and we feel we are getting very close to achieving momentum in the Premier League. the margins are very small and we need to make sure we affect them.”
Everton have relied heavily on their Belgian strikeforce of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas to shoulder the goalscoring burden and Martinez is keen to see the responsibility spread out.
“Scoring goals is always important to win games, but that responsibility is for the full team, not just the strikers,” he said. “It’s being able to give the service and contribute all over the pitch in the same way that the defensive duties are the responsibility of the whole team.”
How Dave Mackay foiled Bob Paisley and fouled Jimmy Husband
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Legendary hardman made an impact on Merseyside - on and off the pitch
TRIBUTES have poured in for Dave Mackay, a Spurs’ double-winner, a 22-cap Scottish international and an inspiration behind Brian Clough’s promotion winning Derby County side of 1971.
But the legendary hardman, who passed away on Monday night aged 80, also made an impact here on Merseyside - on and off the pitch. Older Evertonians still wince about a challenge he made on Jimmy Husband in 1968 - a tackle which later assumed mythological status - while both Everton and Liverpool fans were left heartbroken in 1975 when Mackay the manager dashed Everton and Liverpool’s dreams of landing the First Division title. That was when Derby County were crowned champions - after one of the tightest title races for years. Billy Bingham’s Everton had led the league for much of the campaign, and on Easter Monday topped the table by a point from neighbours Liverpool, with the added advantage of a game in hand.
Derby were down in fifth.
The following day Bobby Robson’s Ipswich took over at the top - on goal average.
It was that tight.
The following weekend Everton played on the Friday night because of the Grand National - and a 1-1 draw with Burnley meant they went back on top - for 24 hours, until Liverpool beat champions Leeds 2-0 and overtook their neighbours on goal average - 1.49 to 1.42.
Everton still had a game in hand, but lost at soon to be relegated Luton 2-1.
Then when they tossed away a 2-0 half-time lead to lose 3-2 at home to Sheffield United the game was up. That left Liverpool, in Bob Paisley’s first season as boss, in with a great chance of celebrating their new manager’s debut season with a title, but the Reds lost 1-0 at Middlesbrough in their penultimate match and finished runners up. Derby finished the campaign with two goalless draws, and that was enough for Mackay’s side to land the title by a point after Ipswich could only draw their final match at Manchester City. Derby heard of their title success during their player of the year awards in a local nightclub. As Gerry Harrison wrote in The Times, “The mood was right, the setting conducive, the champagne well chilled.” Liverpool would soon get used to the taste of champagne - Paisley won the first of his six league titles the following season.
Mackay was also new to management, having only hung his boots up two years before - but one half of Merseyside remembered his playing career vividly. A brutal challenge on Jimmy Husband in a 1968 League Cup tie put the tricky Blues winger out of football for more than a month, and legend had it that the player was never the same again. The affect of the challenge was a myth, as the player himself later related: “The foul by Dave Mackay in 1968 is a bit of a myth,” Husband told Evertonian author Rob Sawyer. “It was the most diabolical foul that you could wish to see, Dave was 13 stone of muscle; the tackle came in on my knee and damaged my ligaments.
“The fans just remember the foul being awful. But I came back and scored 20 goals in the season.”
Blues fan Ray Roche, who witnessed the challenge, recalled: “Husband was an excellent player and I well remember the MacKay tackle, absolute disgrace.”
But Mackay was remembered for more positive moments throughout his career.
The 22-cap Scotland international began his career with Hearts in 1953 and captained the Edinburgh side to the Scottish League title during the 1957-58 season.
Mackay moved south of the border to join Tottenham in 1959 and helped the north London club become the first English side to win the league and FA Cup double during the 1960-61 season.
The Edinburgh-born player helped Tottenham retain the FA Cup the following season and was captain when Spurs lifted the trophy in 1967.
Mackay left Tottenham to join Derby in 1968 and helped Brian Clough’s side win promotion to the First Division the following year before taking up a player-manager role at Swindon Town in 1971.
A year later Mackay left the Robins to manage Nottingham Forest for a brief spell before succeeding Clough as Derby manager in 1973, with the Rams winning the First Division title in 1975.
Mackay passed away at hospital in Nottingham on Monday evening.
Aaron Lennon in line to start for Everton FC v Stoke City, plus other team news ahead of crucial clash
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
On-loan winger produced lively cameo as late substitute against Arsenal
Aaron Lennon is set to be recalled to the starting line-up for Everton FC’s crunch game with Stoke City on Wednesday night. The on-loan winger served up a lively cameo in the defeat to Arsenal on Sunday and looks like being rewarded with a place in the 11 for the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
Lennon, who has joined from Spurs for the rest of the season, has featured four times since signing on deadline day and is now ready to pick up his third start for the Blues.
Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, is today still weighing-up whether to hand Darron Gibson a first start in the Premier League since May 2013. The 27-year-old is now fully fit after a season and a half blighted by a major knee problem. Gibson made a telling impact as a substitute against Leicester City last month and starred in Everton’s Europa League win over Young Boys.
Many supporters want to see the Republic of Ireland international handed a start in the league but Martinez is wary of overburdening the midfielder too soon in his recovery.
Everton will hand Leighton Baines a late fitness test to see if he has overcome a quad injury in time for the Stoke game. The England left-back missed three games in February and then was ruled out of the trip to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Martinez has not given up hope of Baines being passed fit but the form of Luke Garbutt means the Blues do not need to rush him.
Christian Atsu will again miss out through illness but is expected to return to training on Friday and be ready for next week’s game with Dynamo Kiev at Goodison.
Aiden McGeady (knee) is ruled out of the trip to Stoke as is Bryan Oviedo (hamstring).
Liverpool FC V Everton FC: Under 21s mini-derby moved to Chester
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Andy Kelly
Pitch problems at Langtree Park force venue switch
THE ‘mini-derby’ between Liverpool and Everton’s Under 21s has been moved to Chester, it was announced today. The match in which Liverpool are the home team was scheduled to take place at Langtree Park in St Helens next Monday (March 9) at 7pm.
But the clubs will now meet at Chester’s Deva Stadium because of the state of the pitch at Langtree.
The match has plenty riding on it with both teams level on 20 points after this week’s fixtures, with Liverpool fifth and Everton sixth in the table. Both teams are three points behind leaders Manchester United, with the Reds having two games in hand and the Blues with one.
The teams had contrasting fortunes this week with David Unsworth’s young Blues losing 4-0 to second-placed Spurs while Michael Beale’s Reds beat current champions Chelsea 2-0 in a live TV game also played at Chester. Liverpool will be hoping for revenge after their under 18s were humbled 5-0 by the Blues at Finch Farm just 10 days ago although Liverpool’s under 16s did win their derby fixture on the very same day.
Roberto Martinez urges Everton FC to "stick together" as they look to arrest slide down table
3 March 2015 Liverpool echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues have just one win from last 11 league games ahead of trip to Stoke City
ROBERTO MARTINEZ is convinced Everton FC have the “talent and attitude” in the squad to arrest their slide down the table. And the Blues boss has urged the club to show unity as they head to Stoke City after just one win in their last 11 league games. Everton have fallen to 14th place in the Premier League table ahead of the latest round of midweek fixtures and remain just six points clear of the bottom three. Martinez insists he shares the frustrations of the fans but says the Blues’ performances of late have given him the unshakeable belief they will soon be moving up the table with a strong finish to the season. Everton have 11 league games left and the Catalan says his side must “grab hold” of this period. “I understand completely where we are and I’m very much conscious that this is a moment that we need to grab with both hands and face it as a football club,” Martinez said. “We rely on our fans and if we get together and help our players in the 90 minutes then we are going to get the benefits long-term, not just for this season.
“It is the talent and attitude that gives me the feeling of satisfaction with the squad.
“Now, it is about making sure the day to day brings results and now is the time we need to stick together because we will get the benefits going forward.” Martinez reiterated his belief that Everton were unfortunate to come away from the Emirates empty handed on Sunday after controlling large parts of the game. The Blues were undone by goals late in either half to leave them without a league victory since the end of January but the manager is refusing to hit the panic button.
“It is not just the Everton manager, it is frustrating for everyone who loves the football club and we have passion about every result in every game,” he said. “That goes for the players, staff, directors, the fans who watch the games. “The performance against Arsenal, if we had got a result it would have been an incredible analysis of what we did there. But because we couldn’t get the breaks and conceded a goal from a dead ball situation, those small margins don’t allow us to get the momentum the team deserves. “We know the talent we have and we are looking forward to the challenge ahead and we have 11 games that we want to treat as real important finals and help our group to develop. “I do feel getting through this period is going to beneficial over the course of future seasons in terms of players developing from a tough experience.
“We are aware that every game is vital in the league and we want to make sure that every result gets taken care of between now and the end of the season.”
Everton’s Roberto Martínez will not take Bill Kenwright’s support for granted
• Under-pressure manager says he has been in more serious situations
• Everton face Stoke on Wednesday with one win in 11 league games
Tuesday 3 March 2015 The Guardian
Roberto Martínez has denied feeling under pressure at Everton but said he does not take for granted the support of the chairman Bill Kenwright.
Everton travel to Stoke City on Wednesday 11 points behind Mark Hughes’s side and only six points clear of the relegation zone having won once in 11 Premier League fixtures. Anything less than a win at the Britannia Stadium would leave Everton on their lowest points total of the Premier League era after 28 games and, adopting three points for a win, with fewest points at that stage of a season since 1926-27. Martínez’s team have been unable to replicate their Europa League form in domestic competition but, despite growing criticism of the Everton manager and an acceptance that his team “are in a serious position”, he claims to be unaffected. “Believe me, I have been in more difficult situations,” Martínez said. “I played in a game – Swansea City v Hull in 2003 – and if Swansea lost the club would have lost its professional status. It doesn’t get any worse than that because if you lose your status people lose their jobs around the club. “We were 2-1 down after two mistakes and that is a pressure situation when you have 50 minutes on the pitch to get it right as a player. We won 4-2 and the football club never looked back. Ten years later they are in the Premier League, have won the League Cup, have a new stadium and are talking about a takeover worth £100m.
“Maybe it doesn’t look that way to the outside but we had moments of huge pressure at Swansea and at Wigan. Those moments help me because I can see the seriousness of a situation and it is a serious position we are in, but I look at our squad and believe me it is a lot easier to win games with this squad. I am very confident we will improve.” Kenwright, Everton’s majority shareholder, vowed to listen to supporters when appointing David Moyes’s successor in 2013 but despite alarm increasing among fans at the club’s league predicament, Martínez insists he retains the chairman’s backing. He said: “When you make a decision in becoming a manager of a club you take the chairman’s support into consideration but I would never take it for granted. I was always very aware of the support that I would get from the chairman. Bill Kenwright is a mad Evertonian who became a chairman. It’s not the other way round. He’s not a chairman that gets to know the football club.
“I had his support when we were flying in the league, I got his support when we were flying in Europe and I’ve got his support when we haven’t been able to get the wins we wanted in the league. It is just support and pain – because when you don’t win and you are a proper Evertonian we all feel pain.”
Liverpool Ladies 1 Everton Ladies 0: Reigning champions warm up for new season with derby win
3 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Mike Price
Natasha Dowie's strike enough to seal win in pre-season game
Champions Liverpool Ladies warmed up for the new Super League with a 1-0 pre-season win over Everton. With internationals looming, the halves were reduced to 30 minutes each way. But what the game lacked in minutes it made up for in action. Liverpool started stronger and an early corner to saw Kate Longhurst’s header well blocked by Everton keeper Levell before Smorsgard fired just over the crossbar. Everton hit back with a corner which saw a shot from King deflected wide. Becky Easton cleared the resulting corner and Liverpool set off on another attack.
Everton started to pick up the pace and Everton’s Danielle Turner was denied by Libby Stout inside the six yard box. The half finished with both teams level at nil nil, but Liverpool looked the stronger team. The second half began with Liverpool replacing Corina Schroder for Maz Pacheco. The Reds started strong again and showed plenty of skill, but the determination of Everton kept the Reds out. A driving run and through ball from Smorsgard saw an early attempt for Dowie thwarted by Everton’s Lea. Everton managed to pick up the pace and a corner was cleared by Reds player Easton under pressure from King. It was not all one way traffic for Matt Beard’s side and Everton had plenty of possession - but on 42 minutes Natasha Dowie pounced on to a acrobatic attempt from Asisat Oshoala to put the reigning champions in front. With 18 minutes left Everton drove forward and Millie Turner fired over the Liverpool bar. The game ended with Liverpool winning by 1-0 - but with another half an hour it could have been a different story.
Stoke v Everton: A fixture which has saved managers in the past
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
NOSTALGIA: Dave Prentice looks back at two games which shaped seasons and futures at Goodison
January 7, 1984 - Stoke 0 Everton 2
It was the greatest teamtalk never made – and it came at Stoke City’s old Victoria Ground.
There are three commonly accepted turning points in the season that turned Everton from also rans into one of English football’s dominant forces in 1984: Kevin Brock’s back pass, a late League Cup turnaround against Coventry – and the day Howard Kendall flung open the dressing room windows at Stoke. Never has an Everton trip to The Potteries – before or since – proved so significant.
The Toffees had ended 1983 at a painfully low ebb.
Lying 16th in the 22-team First Division with 24 points from 21 matches, just 13,000 fans watched the New Year’s Eve visit of Coventry City to Goodison Park. And most booed lustily after an uninspiring goalless draw. Manager Howard Kendall and Chairman Philip Carter had already survived a leaflet campaign calling for their removal and Match of the Day’s Barry Davies commented: “An angry reaction from the 13 and a half thousand faithful. How sad to see such a great club struggling.” The following Saturday Everton took almost as many fans to Stoke’s old Victoria Ground for an FA Cup third round tie. It was as if the Toffees fans had decided this would be their side’s last chance of salvaging the season and turned up en masse.
Howard Kendall enterprisingly turned the travelling army to his advantage.
Before kick-off he opened the dressing room windows to allow the fans singing to come through and said: “That’s your team talk today. Don’t let those fans down.”
Everton went out and won 2-0.
Andy Gray scored a trademark diving header, and Alan Irvine ended a long, mazy dribble with a vicious left-footed drive.
The comeback was on and Everton ended the season as FA Cup winners.
January 5, 2002 - Stoke 0 Everton 1
Another FA Cup trip to Stoke City – Everton’s first visit to the Britannia Stadium – saw another Blues boss under pressure. Just days before the visit to the Potteries, Paul Gascoigne headed a delegation of senior Everton players who contacted the Echo to hand Walter Smith the backing his board refused to give. "People should lay off him," said Gazza.
"He has no money to spend and the squad isn't massive so if we get a couple injured, like we have done, then we are struggling.” Steve Watson, Gary Naysmith, Kevin Campbell, David Weir and Scot Gemmill all echoed Gazza's support. While Portuguese international Abel Xavier was the most articulate. "I don't think it is fair to criticise the manager or talk about changing him," he said.
"For me he is a very good manager. "In football most of the teams who have success have a squad of 22 competitive players. Those who do not have that base struggle.
"It is very difficult for a manager to change his options when he has no options.
"For that reason I believe that if there is any manager who can work in these conditions I would like to meet him. He would be a magic man." In the event the players did the best thing they could to back their manager – they won Alan Stubbs struck Everton's winner with a 20-yard free-kick early in the second half.
Stoke City v Everton FC: Meet the referee - Mark Clattenburg
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Blues to come face-to-face with old foe with whistle
Tonight’s official, Mark Clattenburg, famously has history with Everton.
But the last time the Durham referee took charge of a Blues match he found himself in the unusual position of being praised by Roberto Martinez.
The Blues boss saluted “the most satisfying win of the season” after his side stretched an unbeaten run to seven games with a 2-1 triumph over West Ham at Goodison Park in November.
And they had Clattenburg to thank when Kevin Mirallas was not sent off for pushing James Tomkins in the chest before the Hammers centre-back theatrically fell to the floor clutching his face.
“The player knows what he is doing,” said the Blues boss. “It was a reaction in the moment that could help the referee make a decision, but the referee was in control.
“Kevin pushed him (Tomkins) away, but it wasn’t a slap or a punch. Then it’s down to the interpretation of the referee. “Some referees could have sent him off. So I thought the referee did really well, he showed great experience. “He also played a good advantage with the winning goal. He wasn’t too picky. “It was a tough game for the ref, the type of old fashioned game where two sets of wholehearted players were very committed and wanted to win. The referee understood that well.” Everton’s relations with Clattenburg haven’t always been so cordial.
He endured a near five year absence from Everton matches such was the level of anger at his handling of a Goodison derby in October 2007. He was finally put back on the Blues beat in 2012 when Everton drew 1-1 at Aston Villa, then returned to Goodison for the first time in more than six years to officiate in Everton’s 2-1 defeat of Southampton in December 2013.
He then took charge of a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last February, last season’s 4-1 FA Cup exit at Arsenal and the visit of Manchester United to Goodison which heralded David Moyes’ departure as United boss. That clash with West Ham is the only Everton match he has officiated this season – and for a referee who has shown 126 yellow and three red cards this season, more than any other regular top flight official, he was remarkably restrained showing five yellows.
His last Premier League appointment was on Sunday for Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City.
Everton FC's Martinez says Kenwright is a 'fan first and so supportive' but doesn't take that for granted
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Goodison boss insists he is equipped to cope with the pressures
Roberto Martinez insists he can handle the pressure at Everton – but says he will not take the support of chairman Bill Kenwright for granted. The Blues boss leads his side into battle at Stoke City tonight knowing defeat would raise serious concerns about a relegation battle at Goodison Park.
Everton currently sit 14th in the Premier League table, six points above the drop zone, though 18th-placed QPR have a game in hand. Should they fail to win at Stoke, they will have their lowest points total after 28 games since the 1926/27 season – adjusting for three points for a win.
Martinez knows the size of the task facing him, but is refusing to panic. “Believe me, I have been in more difficult situations,” he said. “I played in a game – Swansea City v Hull in 2003 – and if Swansea lost the club would have lost its professional status. It doesn’t get any worse than that because if you lose your status people lose their jobs around the club. “We were 2-1 down after two mistakes and that is a pressure situation when you have 50 minutes on the pitch to get it right as a player. We won 4-2 and the football club never looked back. Ten years later they are in the Premier League, have won the League Cup, have a new stadium and are talking about a takeover worth £100m.
“Maybe it doesn’t look that way to the outside but we had moments of huge pressure at Swansea and at Wigan. Those moments help me because I can see the seriousness of a situation and it is a serious position we are in, but I look at our squad and believe me it is a lot easier to win games with this squad. I am very confident we will improve.” Everton’s league form, in stark contrast to their impressive showings in the Europa League, has led to increased scrutiny on Martinez.
And though there is no sign that his position as manager is even under consideration, the Catalan insists he will never take the support of the club lightly. He said: “When you make a decision in becoming a manager of a club you take the chairman’s support into consideration but I would never take it for granted. “I was always very aware of the support that I would get from the chairman. Bill Kenwright is a mad Evertonian who became a chairman. It’s not the other way round. He’s not a chairman that gets to know the football club. “I had his support when we were flying in the league, I got his support when we were flying in Europe and I’ve got his support when we haven’t been able to get the wins we wanted in the league. It is just support and pain – because when you don’t win and you are a proper Evertonian we all feel pain.”
Everton FC stats: Roberto Martinez has never lost at the Britannia
4 March 2015 Liverpool echo
Number crunching the Blues trip to Stoke
This is the return fixture to the Boxing Day encounter at Goodison, with Stoke winning 1-0 thanks to a Bojan Krkic penalty.
The 13 previous PL meetings have witnessed five Everton wins, five drawn games and three Stoke victories. Everton won on their visit to Stoke in the PL, 3-2 in September 2008, but since then we have drawn four games and lost once, in January 2011. Last season the Toffees needed an injury-time Leighton Baines penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw.
Everton need one more goal to reach 200 in league games against Stoke.
The Boxing Day defeat was Roberto Martinez’s first against Stoke as a manager, after three wins and seven draws. The Catalan has not lost in his five visits to the Britannia – winning once and drawing four games. The two managers have met seven times previously, the Everton boss winning one and losing on three occasions. Mark Hughes has won just three of his 17 Premier League games as a coach against his former club Everton (D8, L6). Stoke have won seven and drawn three of their last 13 league games, with the three defeats coming to teams in the current top four.
Stoke have not completed a league double over Everton since the 1966/67 campaign.
Everton have won once in 11 league games, 1-0 at Crystal Palace
The Toffees need a victory to ensure they do not have a record low PL points total after 28 games, previous lowest 30 points on two occasions in 1997/98 and 2001/02.
Stoke City v Everton FC: Four ECHO writers choose their team - but do you agree?
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Who should Roberto Martinez choose for the clash with the Potters?
GREG O'KEEFFE: I'd keep the defence unchanged from the Emirates, in the hope that John Stones can cut out the errors which have crept into recent displays and regain his top form.
In midfield I'd quickly dismantle the trio which faced the Gunners.
Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Mo Besic are all valuable individually but just don't bring enough attacking threat, and especially goals, when deployed together across the middle.
Aaron Lennon is direct and I like the rapport he is slowly building with Seamus Coleman.
Kevin Mirallas has slipped back into frustratingly inconsistent mode, but can still change a game in the blink of an eye. I'd stick with Lukaku up front, although feel Arouna Kone deserves more time to show what he's got again too, particularly if it's not happening for the Belgian.
My team: Howard, Garbutt, Jagielka, Stones, Coleman, McCarthy, Gibson, Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku
DAVID PRENTICE: I'm not sure that a pivotal, possibly crucial match, is the time to be changing your goalkeeper - which is the only reason why I've stuck with Tim Howard.
If Everton win and can create a little breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone, though, Robles has to be recalled.
But for now familiarity is important.
Otherwise the back-four, given Leighton Baines' groin problem, picks itself.
I remain a firm Gareth Barry fan - but this is a bold selection. Everton need a win, not another tight stalemate with lots of possession and then one mistake undermining all that ball retention.
As a result I've gone for McCarthy and the refreshingly positive Gibson, with Lennon and Mirallas offering width and pace on the flanks. Steven Naismith is behind Lukaku for his workrate, eye for a goal and aerial ability. Okay Stoke aren't quite as route one any more but they do have plenty of giants in their line up. Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Garbutt; Lennon, McCarthy, Gibson, Mirallas; Naismith, Lukaku
CHRIS BEESLEY: Presuming that Leighton Baines is still injured, I'm making three changes to the side that started the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Although getting beat away to Arsene Wenger's side is no disgrace and shouldn't define your Premier League season, I think it was the way the Blues went down with a whimper and the air of inevitability coming after another great European night that hurt Evertonians so much.
They really could do with a win at the Britannia Stadium - a defeat would see them an incredible 14 points behind the Potters and just three ahead of 'crisis club' Aston Villa so I've tried to be bold.
The Blues haven't won away at Stoke since their opponents first Premier League season in 2008 but draws aren't going to make that much different to Roberto Martinez's men's plight.
Out go Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic and Ross Barkley and in come Darron Gibson, Aaron Lennon and Steven Naismith in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Gibson has showed against Leicester and Young Boys that he can play a killer pass, or at least a forward one while Lennon looked lively and linked up fairly well against the Foxes.
I'd also have Naismith playing off Lukaku as his goal threat justifies his inclusion in that central position at the moment ahead of Barkley. My team: Howard, Coleman, Garbutt, Stones, Jagielka, McCarthy, Gibson, Lennon, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku
JOE RIMMER: Losing to Arsenal was no disgrace, but the way the Blues went about it made it such a disappointment. Like the rest of the lads, I think Everton need to attack Stoke tonight and look to put the home side under pressure. They are still a tough cookie away from home and the Blues can't afford them to get on the front foot early doors. Therefore in come Darron Gibson, Aaron Lennon and Steven Naismith with Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic and Ross Barkley dropping out.
Barkley has been out of sorts and I'd prefer the industrious Naismith in behind Lukaku. I was also tempted to pick Arouna Kone, but right now I think Lukaku is a threat and Naismith always has a knack of coming up with important goals. Gibson has looked good recently so deserves a start, and Lennon's pace could be a threat on the counter attack. My team: Howard, Coleman, Garbutt, Stones, Jagielka, McCarthy, Gibson, Lennon, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku
What team would you pick to face Stoke tonight? Leave your choice in the comments below:
Stoke City archive: Howard Kendall leads promotion celebrations at Nott County
By PeteSmith : March 04, 2015
EVERTON’S visit to the Brit today gives us a great excuse to use this picture of legendary Toffees boss Howard Kendall during his days as Stoke City’s player-coach.
Kendall is pictured celebrating with fellow Stoke players, from left, Geoff Scott, Paul Randall, Sammy Irvine and Garth Crooks in the dressing room at Notts County on May 5 1979 ... That’s right, the day the Potters clinched promotion back to the old First Division.
Stoke have just clinched promotion thanks to Paul Richardson’s winner two minutes from time, and yet young professionals Scott and Randall are confining their celebrations to sips from miniature cans of Shandy Bass.
Meanwhile, Garth Crooks appears to be either dreaming of the top flight, or is upset with Kendall for pouring the only bottle of champagne over Randall’s magnificent perm.
Kendall joined Stoke for £40,000 from Birmingham in 1977 and made 91 appearances for the Potters, including 40 league starts in City’s 1978-79 promotion season under Alan Durban.
The former Everton midfielder went on to manage the Toffees and win two league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.
Opposition View: Everton FC need to watch out for in-form Peter Crouch
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Stoke's beanpole veteran is in form and will pose a threat
Chris Beesley talks to Martin Spinks who covers the Potters for the Stoke Sentinel about what the Blues can expect tonight at the Britannia Stadium.
Beware the former Reds
Old rival Peter Crouch is the man in form and the one for Everton FC to watch.
Former Liverpool FC striker Crouch has netted five times against the Blues in the past (three for Portsmouth, one for Liverpool and one for Southampton), has hit the back of the net in his last four outings. Spinks said: “Crouch has been particularly effective of late, especially coming off the bench. He drew level with Alan Shearer at the weekend for the all-time Premier League record of 46 headed goals so he’s going for that one outright and he’s also on 95 Premier League goals in total. He’s got the century to aim for before the end of the season too. “He’s 34 now but has just signed a two-year contract extension so touch wood he can remain effective throughout that period.
“He doesn’t suffer from some of the issues that veteran players face. Weight is clearly not a problem while he admits that pace has never been part of his game so he hasn’t got any to lose.
“His manager Mark Hughes has spoken to him about how he carried on playing until he was 38 so hopefully Crouchy might be similar in that respect.”
‘Two metre Peter’ isn’t the only Anfield old boy to be making waves at the Britannia and after an underwhelming season with the Reds, Victor Moses has rediscovered his form.
Spinks said: “Moses certainly has his moments. He was always more likely to be given a chance with Stoke than he was at Liverpool where he hardly got a look in and he’s done well.
“He’s playing on the left wing and with a strong finish to the campaign he could be in line to be named the club’s Player of the Season, which is up for grabs since Bojan got injured.”
Improving Stoke can leave the Blues in their wake
If Stoke beat Everton tonight they’ll be 14 points above them in the Premier League table and it comes as no surprise to hear that most Potters fans are pleased with the way Hughes has got their side playing. Spinks said: “League-wise the supporters are generally very satisfied with the progress made. They finished on 50 points last season so they’re on course to beat that this term.
“The big disappointment was the 4-1 exit at Blackburn in the FA Cup as there was a feeling that Wembley wasn’t too far away, although it turns out they would have been drawn against Liverpool at Anfield. “The manner of that defeat was what hurt the fans but to be fair the team have suffered terribly with injuries. “Anyone who doesn’t think that Hughes is doing a good job probably needs their head examining.” Goodison old boy has ditched the long ball tactics
Hughes replaced fellow Welshman Tony Pulis in 2013 which brought an end to his predecessor’s seven-year second spell in charge of Stoke in which he had established them as a solid Premier League club. Although the Potters had made great strides under Pulis, Spinks reveals there was a general consensus that it was time for a change. He said: “Hughes has done incredibly well adapting the team’s style of play and attracting talents like Bojan to the club.
“Opinion was divided over Tony Pulis towards the end but something had to change.
“The football had become very attritional under Pulis but that’s not to say that people weren’t ultimately grateful for all that he had done. “Hughes’ appointment wasn’t universally acclaimed but the owners asked the fans not to base him on his record at QPR and they’ve been vindicated in that respect.” The Potters aren’t champing at the bit to follow the Blues into the Europa League
The next logical step for Stoke would be to aim for European football but Spinks thinks they can wait at least another year in that respect. He said: “I’m not in a rush to see them back in the Europa League as it certainly took its toll on them last time around. “I remember long away trips to the likes of Israel, Ukraine and Turkey usually followed by Premier League aways at Swansea and Sunderland.
“It was a bit of a burden really with the team still being relative fledglings in the Premier League but I wouldn’t have thought it was a problem for a club like Everton though - if that’s the reason for their disappointments in the Premier League this season.”
There’s still a battle to be won
Stoke might not quite be the bruisers they once were but with the Blues in desperate need of a victory, there’s no way tonight’s game can be considered a walk in the park.
Spinks said: “Given the way Stoke have been playing they’ll be confident and there’ll be a certain amount of expectation from the crowd. “I think the feeling is that there’s a battle to be won first before either side can think about the three points but if Stoke can get their noses in front they’ll fancy their chances.”
UEFA orders 'partial' closure of Kiev Stadium for Everton visit
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Section 21 closed for second leg tie on March 19
UEFA has ordered the 'partial' closure of Dinamo Kiev's Stadium for Everton's Europa League second leg match on March 19.
But UEFA say that the number of tickets Everton receive will be unaffected.
UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body met today following disturbances at Kiev's Round of 32 game with Guingamp. The Ukraine club was charged with crowd disturbances, a pitch invasion by supporters, setting off fireworks and having stairwells blocked due to insufficient organisation.
Kiev were fined 70,000 euros and UEFA ordered "the partial closure of FC Dynamo Kyiv Stadium, in particular, the sector 21 of their stadium."
It is unclear exactly what area of the stadium is affected.
But the 16,873 seats Valeriy Lobanovsky Stadium where Kiev play has 29 sectors.
Everton loan star takes tips from Liverpool legend
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Huyton starlet dreamed of scoring twice
YOUNG Everton striker Chris Long has celebrated the first goals of his loan spell at Brentford - a brace which was literally the stuff of dreams! The 20-year-old Huyton forward struck twice against Huddersfield in his first start for The Bees, and revealed he dragged up memories of Michael Owen to help him finish the chances. “I had a dream last night that I’d hopefully get a goal,” Long said.
“I took two bad touches in the first three minutes and I thought it was not going to be my day.
“Once I knew I had them on the turn, I knew I had the pace and the finish and luckily it went in the net. “I used to watch Michael Owen just hit the ball early and if you hit it early and hit it low down then the keeper has no chance and he had no chance.” Long, who scored his first goal for the club as a substitute last month against AFC Bournemouth, added: “I had no idea I was going to start and once I was told I thought I’d have to give it 110 per cent. “The manager said go out and enjoy it, play your own game and play with a smile on your face, which I did and I was thankful he said that. It really put me at ease.” the Huddersfield brace helped Brentford to a 4-1 win and moved The Bees up to sixth in the Championship table. On a good night for Everton loanees Conor McAleny also scored for Cardiff City in their 3-1 win at Rotherham.
Stoke 2 Everton 0: Final Whistle Report
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Everton agony goes on
EVERTON FC's fears of being dragged into a fight against relegation grew tonight after a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City. The Blues have now won just one of their last 12 league games following goals from Victor Moses and Mame Diouf at the Britannia Stadium. Everton remain six points clear of the bottom three but their 12th league defeat of the season means Roberto Martinez's side now hold a club record for lowest number of Premier League points after 28 games. The Blues went behind after 32 minutes when Moses headed past Tim Howard when Phil Bardsley's cross was not closed down quick enough. Everton poured forward in the second-half to try and find an equaliser and dominated the play but were undone on the counter-attack. A poor pass from Romelu Lukaku caused panic in the Everton midfield and after Marko Arnautovic's shot had hit the post, Diouf hammered home the rebound with six minutes remaining.
STOKE (4-2-3-1): Begovic, Bardsley, Wollscheid (Cameron 16), Wilson, Pieters, Nzonzi, Whelan (c), Walters, Adam (Arnautovic 74), Moses, Crouch (Diouf 65). Subs: Butland, Sidwell, Teixeira, Shenton.
Goals: Moses (32) Diouf (84)
Yellow cards: Walters
EVERTON (4-1-2-3): Howard, Coleman. Stones, Jagielka, Garbutt, Barry (Osman 60), McCarthy, Lennon (Kione 60), Gibson, Naismith (Mirallas 83), Lukaku. Subs: Robles, Besic, Barkley, Alcaraz
Yellow cards: Barry, Naismith
Att: 26, 431
Stoke’s Moses and Diouf push Everton closer towards relegation battle
Stoke 2 - 0 Everton
Paul Wilson at Britannia Stadium
Wednesday 4 March 2015 The Guardian
Victor Moses was the hero as Stoke City moved comfortably past the 40-point safety threshold with a gritty victory over Everton, who are still 12 points short of that target and remain on the fringes of the relegation fight.
Stoke were worth their win, if only for the excellence of Moses’ first-half goal and general attacking play. The Chelsea loanee was one of the few players on the pitch willing to take on opponents and on several occasions he proved capable of beating them, too. Everton are going to have to fight harder than this if they are going to climb away from trouble. The visitors neither battled like a David Moyes team nor passed like a Roberto Martínez one, with the result that Stoke, who keep things relatively simple and know what they are good at, saw them off with surprisingly few alarms.
Aaron Lennon returned to the Everton starting lineup to face the team he rejected joining on loan in January and was booed from the outset, though for the most part he was as innocuous out wide as he proved to be in his latter seasons at Tottenham. Gareth Barry’s attempt to recover possession from Charlie Adam led to an early booking that will put him out for the next two matches, his 10th caution of the season triggering an automatic suspension.
There was little football to speak of at first. Everton hoofed more long balls in the direction of Romelu Lukaku than Stoke launched towards Peter Crouch, neither with any sign of success. Moses showed some neat touches for the home side but initially could not get into the game, while Everton had the most tenacious and hard-working midfielder in the splendidly consistent James McCarthy.
It took half an hour for the game to warm up, which it did when Tim Howard was called upon to make the first save of any note, punching clear when Moses escaped Séamus Coleman to send in a shot from the edge of the area. That woke the crowd up, as did an altercation on Stoke’s right touchline soon afterwards, when McCarthy and Steven Naismith ganged up on Phil Bardsley. That led indirectly to the first goal, when Bardsley sent a cross over from the same wing that Moses met with a stunning header. With the Everton defence all too aware of the aerial threat posed by Crouch, Moses rose almost unchallenged to guide a header past Howard from just beyond the penalty spot. It was a goal of some quality, though sadly the only thing meriting such a description in a disjointed first period. “Victor has always had a great leap,” the admiring Mark Hughes said. “It was a fantastic header, great power and placement.” Everton began the second half slightly more promisingly. Lukaku finally managed to find space for a shot that took a slight deflection and Arouna Koné came on to test Asmir Begovic almost immediately, though Everton goal attempts were sporadic. Hughes kept making attacking substitutions and eventually they paid off for the Stoke manager. City were simply defending in the closing stages, with even Moses getting back to help, before they found the energy to make a decisive breakaway six minutes from time. Mame Biram Diouf ran clear from the centre circle with Phil Jagielka in his wake, found Marko Arnautovic overlapping on his right, and when his fellow substitute’s shot came back off the far post Diouf was still onside for a simple tap-in. Everton could have few complaints. Not only have they won only one league game in 12, of the 14 points that now separate these clubs Martínez’s side have donated six to the Stoke survival fund. There were boos from the travelling support at the end. “We didn’t have enough of a cutting edge,” Martínez admitted. “But at least we get a proper rest now. We have just played five games in two weeks and it showed, but we still have 10 games to play and six of them are at Goodison.” That is 10 league games, of course.
Everton’s continued commitment to the Europa League, something Martínez would normally never question, is currently the elephant in the room.
Stoke City 2 Everton FC 0 - Greg O'keeffe's player ratings
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Plenty of fours and fives on another grim night.
TIM HOWARD: Couldn't be blamed for either goal, however questions remain over communication with a back four which seemed frequently disjointed and vulnerable. 5
LUKE GARBUTT : A couple of early deliveries aside the usual high quality of his set-pieces deteriorated as the game wore on. The cross for the goal came down his side too, exposing a lack of experience and positioning. 5
PHIL JAGIELKA : Should never have allowed Victor Moses to have the space to leap and dispatch the header which did the damage. Won most of his battles afterwards though. 5
JOHN STONES: Took plenty of responsibility in carrying the ball from the back and trying to make something happen, but then showed his age with some nervy lapses that could have been costly. 5
SEAMUS COLEMAN: Tried to get forward and overlap but never had a pass when he did get into advanced positions. 6
JAMES McCARTHY: Never lacks energy or commitment but Everton's plight right now calls for more than that. Couldn't get a grip on the midfield like he so often does. 6
GARETH BARRY: Struggled to have any impact on the game after a predictable early booking which will mean a two game ban and a chance for a necessary rest. 4
DARRON GIBSON: Was started with the charge of opening up Stoke's defence via his range of passing. Failed on that count and fatally didn't react where Mame Diouf did in the build-up to the second. 5
AARON LENNON: Failed to build on the burgeoning signs of a link-up with Coleman from the Emirates, but at least managed the rare feat of a shot on target for Everton in the first half. 5
STEVEN NAISMITH: Has the spite and edge you're going to need in a dog-fight. Failed to deliver much in an attacking sense though. 5
ROMELU LUKAKU: Isolated for most of the evening, he briefly flared into life when a ball was actually played in front of him in the second half. Atrocious pass to create the panic which led to Stoke's second. 4
LEON OSMAN: A little added guile which suggested his return to fitness could be integral to hopes of a revival. 7
KEVIN MIRALLAS: Little time to do anything and hence did nothing. 5
AROUNA KONE: Got into the area and forced Asmir Begovic into a rare save. Deserves more minutes. 6
Stoke City 2 Everton FC 0: Phil Medlicott's verdict
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
Victor Moses and Mame Diouf condemn struggling Blues to an eighth defeat in nine away games
Everton endured further Barclays Premier League misery as goals from Victor Moses and Mame Biram Diouf condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke.
Moses headed home superbly in the 32nd minute before Diouf slotted in on the rebound six minutes from time after fellow substitute Marko Arnautovic hit the post to steer the Potters to a third straight win. The Toffees, meanwhile, are now without a victory in five league games and they have won only once in their last 12. Everton boss Roberto Martinez had said before the fixture that his side, who have been thriving in the Europa League, were not enjoying their Premier League campaign, and they may well currently be worrying about the prospect of a relegation battle, with them lying only six points above the drop zone in 14th place.
The picture is far more positive for Stoke, who have triumphed in seven of their last 11 league games and are now up to eighth in the table on 42 points. The Potters are looking to better their Premier League club records set last term of a ninth-placed finish and total of 50 points, which certainly looks achievable - and their fans may well be wondering about a push for Europe.
The contest began in a scrappy manner, with few attempts on goal registered.
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson, making his first league start since May 2013, struck a low shot from outside the box that was comfortably gathered by Asmir Begovic, while Jonathan Walters was unable to keep down a header from Charlie Adam's free-kick at the other end.
Gareth Barry was booked for a challenge on Adam, meaning he will now serve a two-match suspension for 10 yellow cards, while Stoke had to make an early substitution as the injured Philipp Wollscheid made way for Geoff Cameron. Moses then brought the game to life around the half-hour mark, cutting in from the left and firing a powerful strike goalwards that Tim Howard managed to parry away. Two minutes later, the on-loan Chelsea winger had his fourth goal of the season, finding the space in the Everton box to expertly guide a header past Howard from Phil Bardsley's cross. It was an effort Peter Crouch - who on Saturday moved level with Alan Shearer on 46 at the top of the standings for the most headed Premier League goals - would have been proud of.
The visitors struggled to fashion much in reply for the rest of the half, with an Aaron Lennon drive causing little problem for Begovic. Martinez looked concerned as he walked off with his players at the interval, although there were plenty of cheers of encouragement for them from Everton fans in the away section. And shortly after the restart, the Toffees went close to levelling as Romelu Lukaku's shot went across Begovic and narrowly wide of the far post.
Still the Toffees struggled to drum up momentum, though, and on the hour Martinez changed things around by bringing on Arouna Kone and Leon Osman for Lennon and Barry.
Kone swiftly brought a diving save out of Begovic, but Stoke soon had control of the contest once more. Arnautovic and Diouf were brought on and the latter had a penalty shout turned down before the pair combined to wrap up the points for Stoke.
The Potters burst forward, Arnautovic shot against the woodwork and Diouf was on hand to tuck the ball away. Luke Garbutt's free-kick was turned behind by Begovic in stoppage time before another defeat for Everton was confirmed - their seventh in the 12-game sequence, which drew some boos from the frustrated travelling fans at the final whistle.
Stoke City 2 Everton FC 0 History bites ... and four other things we learned from the latest painful Blues defeat
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton FC need Leon Osman's guile and even Aiden McGeady's lesser spotted sparkle to begin turning things around
From heady heights to gut-wrenching lows - what a difference a year makes
Last season was all about breaking records in a positive manner. The honeymoon whirlwind saw Everton's previous highest Premier League points total surpassed, and seven wins on the spin – the best streak since the title-winning season of 1987. This time the history books offer nothing but gloom. Now it's a record low in the Premier League after 28 games, and only in 1927 did the Blues last have fewer points at this stage. The end of this awful season can't come soon enough.
Leon Osman may be fit again at just the right time
Leon Osman became a player who could rise from the bench and change games last term. He's struggled with injury so far this time around, but showed in the second half that he might yet play a pivotal role in Everton's run-in. Within five minutes of coming on he'd had a shot blocked, and Arouna Kone had also tested Asmir Begovic. The veteran midfielder hasn't been involved in the soul-destroying streak of the last 10 games, so a fresh outlook and fresh legs could be key. His calmness on the ball will be a welcome fillip.
There is such a glaring paucity of width that Aiden McGeady's return is essential
Aiden McGeady in action
Remember Aiden McGeady? That's right, the wispy winger who was on his way to becoming a whipping boy. Well, the stark fact is that Everton are crying out for the proper width he provides right now, and his ability to get at full backs (even if he did offer fitful quality with his final ball). Christian Atsu could do with getting fit and showing some of that African Nations form too. Don't hold your breath. But what price seeing anymore of the former tyro that was Steven Pienaar too? There is just too much reliance on the creative resources of the full-backs at present.
Stoke City's double over the Blues rubs salt into festering wounds
Everton's James McCarthy walks off dejected as his side lose 2-0 to Stoke City.
Having done the double over the Toffees this term, Stoke City are now 14 points ahead of them. Fourteen points. Let that sink in.
If anything underpins what a woeful domestic campaign this has become it is the progress made by perennial mid-table fodder like the Potters, West Ham and Swansea in contrast to Everton's alarming deterioration.
Gareth Barry's two-game ban might allow his manager to solve the riddle
Gareth Barry will miss the next two games after picking up what was the most predictable booking in the land in the early stages. Martinez might not see it this way, but being deprived of one of the cogs of his team for a spell might actually be a good thing.
Everton's midfield has been too one-paced and lacking in creativity for a while, and playing the 34-year-old in the middle with James McCarthy and Darron Gibson at the Britannia didn't really work. Maybe taking Barry, who has played an awful lot of football for a player the same age as the habitually-rested Steven Gerrard, out of the equation could provide some added clarity to the manager's selection.
PHIL KIRKBRIDE VERDICT: The truth hurts - Everton FC are NOT too good to go down
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton FC are in for a serious fight as woes just go on
THE commonly held belief around the Premier League is that Everton FC are too good to go down.
But the brutal truth is that they are not.
And after tonight's confidence-starved performance at Stoke City sent them deeper into a losing run of games, the evidence is stacking up that the Blues are in for a serious fight between now and the end of the season to retain their Premier League status.
Where last term Everton would respond to setbacks with displays full of swagger, style and gritted teeth now they lack any form of self-belief, conviction and seem to fall further into a malaise.
Roberto Martinez assured us that his players had the character to handle this situation and allay fears of the club being dragged into the relegation mire – they need to show it and fast because there was precious little of it here.
The travelling Evertonians deserved better than this.
Their support before, during and after the game was too good for this pitiful performance.
The fans' patience with the players and the manager are wearing very thin as time runs out on a season that is hurtling in the wrong direction - for some their patience has gone.
They have seen enough of this sorry league campaign and are demanding change but now is the time for Everton and Martinez to prove them wrong. But tonight, March 4, has to be the lowest point the Blues fall to this season. They simply cannot sink any lower. This desperately poor defeat has to be the moment in the campaign when the rot stops, the players and manager hold clear-the-air talks, buck up their ideas and fight for the club. Make no mistake, many of this squad are playing for their futures at Everton and as they get together during their free weekend some frank words needs to be exchanged. Nobody can hold back. Now is not the time to be considerate of each other's feelings. Martinez, too, must remind us why he became adored in these parts and why the Blues felt compelled to offer him a new contract after his first season in charge.
The Catalan is the type of forward thinking manager that has the ability to take Everton places but for now he simply has to concentrate on keeping them up.
Martinez must also find a way of passing on his boundless, relentless confidence and optimism to his squad because defeat at Stoke, their 12th in the league this season, lacked anything of the sort.
The warning signs were there when the players trudged off with heads bowed at half-time.
Perhaps harshly, they were 1-0 down to Victor Moses' header but too many of them looked sorry for themselves as they walked down the tunnel and their fragile belief soon began to unravel.
The away supporters tried to rally the players and roared them in at the break and though Everton's second-half performance was improved, the honest assessment is that they never looked like scoring. The Blues had five shots on target but just Luke Garbutt's late free-kick forced Asmir Begovic into a meaningful save.
And so forget Dynamo Kiev next Thursday at Goodison in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Everton's biggest game of the season arrives on the Sunday when Newcastle United come to town.
By that point, they need to have figured out how to arrest this alarming slide.
Martinez needs to set his team up with width and urge them to attack, be bold and brave because this is no time for timid performances.
There have been far too many of them, not least here and a relegation scrap will devour those without the stomach for the fight.
Last season, Everton romped to a club record points total in the Premier League on the way to finishing fifth but now they hold a record of a different kind.
After 28 games of the season, this same crop of Blues hold the least number of points of any Everton side in the modern era.
That is how far they have fallen. But now they have to stop themselves from falling any further.
The stark and simple truth is that Everton are not too good to go down.
Roberto Martinez won't allow his Everton FC players to dwell on prospect of relegation battle
4 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton FC manager vows side will "give their lives" to start picking up points
Roberto Martinez admitted Everton FC are not too good to go down - but insisted he won't allow his players to dwell on the prospect of a looming relegation battle.
The Blues stayed 14th in the Premier League table after their dismal 2-0 defeat by Stoke City, and remain just six points from the drop-zone. Defeats for QPR and Burnley meant the growing unease at Goodison was, on paper at least, not intensified – but Martinez conceded that his side do not have a divine right to avoid being dragged into the mire. Asked whether the Toffees have too much quality in their ranks to get sucked into a dog-fight, he said: “No - but we are a team that is very confident in the talent we have. “The only thing we want is games and a positive feeling. We're not looking down. “There have been small margins for us but we are facing the challenge straight on as a football club. “Now we have the challenge of 10 games, six of them at Goodison and 30 points to play for and we will give our lives to get as many as we can.” The Blues were undone by goals in each half from Victor Moses and Mame Diouf, but Martinez said rank misfortune was the chief culprit for this latest setback. “We carried such a big negative momentum that everything that could go wrong went wrong,” he said.“The only free cross we let into the box we didn't defend well, and it went to the most unlikely header of the ball in that area and that's disappointing.
“In the second half we had a couple of opportunities as we got stronger.
“The second goal was a very unfortunate action. I felt Phil Jagielka was impeded.
“But we didn't show enough cutting edge. I felt we showed a lot of character and effort but showed it was the fifth game in two weeks.” Martinez also paid tribute to the near-3000 away fans who travelled to the Britannia Stadium after they notably tried to the lift the players as they entered and re-emerged from the tunnel either side of the half-time break. "The fans were incredible," said the Blues boss. "The support was amazing and the players felt that way about it.
"It's a demanding period but that starting point the fans gives us is going to help us win points.
"You can understand the frustration that we all share but at the same time that can be a very powerful tool and we know we need to take advantage of that in the games ahead."
Leighton Baines sat out the game with the same quad problem that forced him to miss Sunday's defeat at Arsenal and Martinez revealed the left-back is again likely to be absent for next week's visit of Kiev. Asked for the latest on the England international, Martinez said: "Next Thursday for the Europa League could be too soon for Leighton but I'm very confident he'll be back after that."
Judge Roberto Martinez on actions, not words - it's the only way
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton FC boss won't give fans what they crave in defeat. Accept it and focus on what he does, not what he says
Roberto Martinez walked on water last season. This time he's treading on broken glass.
But if you expect to see any hint of the acute pain the Blues boss is suffering, as his team flounders and a Premier League relegation battle becomes a genuine prospect – forget it .
Fans might find this hard to swallow in an age when public figures are so often judged on what they say, and how they say it, but that's a barometer which simply won't help them or their increasingly embattled manager. Why? Because Martinez is such a devout disciple of the psychological power of positive thinking that he won't ever give the hurting Evertonians what they want in defeat.
As this increasing woeful streak has stumbled on, the supporters have yearned for him to come out afterwards and reflect their anger. To be outspoken and show empathy with their pain.
READ: Martinez faced the media after his side's latest defeat last night
Scousers place great value in saying things how they are.
Martinez, however, bases his entire belief system on the power of optimism to influence; fans, players, everyone. So Everton could lose 4-0 to Newcastle next up in the league, see Romelu Lukaku sent off, and watch as a hole opens up in the Main Stand roof and the Catalan would still remain composed and reflective in the inquest. What's more he'd rely on his tried and trusted armoury of positive imagery about "character", "spirit" and players “enjoying their football”. That's him. That's how he operates. It has served him well at times, but currently it gives some the impression he is a little detached from the awfulness of recent months, and maybe that is reflected by his players.
But that's an approach which isn't going to change. Give the Blues boss credit at least for refusing to deviate from his principles in talking about the highs and lows. But more than anything – save yourself further agitation in the run-in to this season by not expecting anything else.
Judge Martinez on what he does, not what he says. It's the only way that makes sense.
Phil Jagielka says Everton FC players must share blame for desperate run of form
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues skipper calls for squad to "buck up their ideas" after 2-0 defeat at Stoke City
PHIL JAGIELKA insists Everton FC’s players must share the blame after their sorry league season hit a new low with defeat at Stoke City. The Blues slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium to extend their run of form to just one Premier League win in the last 12.
Everton’s latest defeat has increased the pressure on manager Roberto Martinez but club captain Jagielka says the squad must also bear the responsibility for their torrid set of results.
“The fans were great tonight. It has been a difficult season to watch us because the performances have not been as good as last season,” Jagielka said. “They are going to vent their frustrations, it is normally the manager that gets it as he is head of the food chain.
“But, we as players know we need to buck our ideas up, start performing better and take pressure off him, pressure off ourselves and start getting some more points.”
Jagielka, who has conceded that Everton now find themselves in a relegation fight, says they must ensure they pick up points in their next league against Newcastle United.
The visit of Dynamo Kiev arrives on Thursday in the Europa League but the Everton skipper says three points are more important than European progress. “We know we need to concentrate on our league form,” he said. “We have 10 games left now and need to pull our finger out and start picking up points.” Asked if he felt Everton were now in a relegation fight, he said: “Yeah, I think so.
“With 10 games to go that is not where you want to be.
“We still have that six point gap but we are not taking anything lightly. We have some tough games coming up and we are not where we want to be so need to start winning sooner, rather than later.”
Jagielka added: “We’re obviously down. They came at us and scored a fantastic headed goal in off the post. We put them under pressure in the second half and they scored the second one.
“I’m a little disappointed with the way we conceded it and I thought there was a foul on the halfway line. “But it still doesn’t change the result and there is a bad mood in the changing room.”
Everton FC midfielder Darron Gibson wants to wipe slate clean after break
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Darron Gibson hopes Everton FC can use free weekend to get over disappointment
Darron Gibson has called on Everton FC to use their weekend off to wipe the slate clean and start again.
The struggling Toffees have a break on the horizon due to their FA Cup exit earlier in what has become an increasingly woeful campaign.
But Gibson, 27, hopes the Blues players can use the free weekend to get over the disappointment of defeat by Stoke on Wednesday, and come out firing on all cylinders when action resumes next week with fixtures against Dynamo Kiev and Newcastle United at Goodison. He said: “We’ve had five games in just over two weeks so it’s been tough on he lads, not just physically but mentally when things aren’t going right. So I think it will be good for the lads to have a break, get refreshed and try an put that into our performances. “The lads are disappointed it’s been a tough period for us at the minute “All we can do is stick together and try and get through it.
“I don’t think it’s through lack of effort. The lads have given everything they can but I just think we need a bit of luck. “We’re trying our best but it’s just not happening at the minute. That’s the way football goes sometimes.” Gibson hopes honest graft and the inspiration of their dramatically different Europa League form can finally have a galvanising effect. “Last season we were brilliant, this time we’ve not been as good but we still have 10 games left so hopefully if we keep working hard it’ll turn around,” he said. “We’re in a good position in Europe so if we can take our form from Europe into the league somehow then hopefully we’ll start seeing results.” Everton welcomed Arouna Kone and Leon Osman back at the Britannia stadium, and Gibson felt the return of both was a positive on an otherwise bleak night. “Both of them made an impact,” he said. “They got on the ball and held it up when it was going forward and they were positive so it’s a good thing to have them back.”
Everton FC announce details of ticket sales for Dynamo Kiev away clash
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Tickets for Dynamo Kiev away leg on sale on Friday...for a quid!
The Blues have received an initial allocation of 1,500 tickets, priced at £1 each. Club officials stressed that tickets purchased for the fixture will only be available for collection from an Everton-run facility in Kiev.
This will ensure that tickets are allocated only to those travelling for the game on Thursday, March 19. A Toffees spokesman said: "If you do not intend to travel please do not buy a ticket. While all uncollected tickets will be cancelled and refunded, only tickets collected and used in Kyiv will be recorded as an away credit." Supporters are asked to ensure that they supply a fully up-to-date email address and mobile phone number when purchasing their ticket. Details of where, when and how fans will be able to collect tickets in Kiev will be emailed directly to the lead purchaser on Monday, March 15. Tickets will go on sale in the following order of priority and are subject to availability:
• 14/15 STHs on Friday, March 6 from 8am
• General sale on Monday, March 9 from 8am.
The club’s official travel partners Thomas Cook are offering an overnight package to Ukraine. For further information and to register interest, visit http://www.thomascooksport.com/Football/Premier-League/Everton/Everton-European-Travel
Shareholders wishing to apply for tickets should contact firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 9am on Monday, March 9. Applications after this date will not be considered. All tickets are issued subject to availability. Everton Lounge Members should contact the corporate sales team directly via email@example.com or 0151 530 5300 .
Tickets can be purchased over the phone on 0871 663 1878* (option 2), or in person at the Park End box office.
Roberto Martinez: Everton FC defeats to Arsenal and Stoke City were heartbreaking
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton FC boss believes players deserved more
Roberto Martinez has spoken of the “heartbreaking” back-to-back defeats that have sent Everton FC into a fight against relegation. The Blues have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games and find themselves in 14th position and just six points outside the bottom three.
Everton have lost their last two games 2-0 and Martinez insists his side deserved better from their trips to the Emirates Stadium and the Britannia Stadium.
“They don’t deserve that,” Martinez said. “It is incredible when football is not going to give you anything back. “When you look at the performances against Arsenal and Stoke, to have those scorelines is heartbreaking. “But again, when you look at the talent and the character these players have and the responsibilithy they are showing, they are in a position where we all need to help them and be ready in the next 10 games.”
The Catalan hopes Everton’s enforced break this weekend will allow his squad to return to action “refreshed” and “regenerated”. Dynamo Kiev visit Goodison next Thursday before the Blues welcome Newcastle United in the league. “We are in a good period now where we can recover the players and regenerate them,” Martinez said. “We have that Dyanmo Kiev game but especially in the league, the 10 games we have, six are at Goodison and we need to be strong together and look forward to getting back up the table where we belong.” Everton’s winless run in the league now stretches back to the end of January and Martinez says they need to stop the “snowball” effect.
“It has become a bit of negative snowball and anything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Martinez said of the defeat at Stoke. “We need to stop that and make sure we face the next game with a real fresh approach. “There is a real opportunity to get together as a football club.
“We need to face that challenge straight on and change the dynamics.”
How can Everton FC stay safe? Take the Tony Pulis route
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Howard Kendall doesn't think Everton FC are doomed - but he does think changes are required
I would not say that Everton FC are in relegation fight.
But, the table does not make for pleasant viewing.
To be honest, the Blues are best not looking at it
I still agree with Roberto Martinez that there is enough talent in the squad but Everton could do with a little bit of the way West Brom have been playing under Tony Pulis.
Rather than thinking they are going to go out there and dominate, entertain and score loads of goals maybe they need to start thinking about the opposition more.
It has been suggested that the players and management hold clear-the-air talks this week.
But you can talk too much. Harry Catterick offers a classic example of how to treat the players when they are on a bad run. If we had lost he would take us to Southport for a walk along the front but if we had won then he would run us to death in training. We were obviously desperate to win but we didn’t want to go in on a Tuesday and have to do all that running! But whatever Martinez does he needs to make sure they have a spring in their step ahead of the next game.
The fact that they have the Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev before the visit of Newcastle may be a good thing. It means the players won’t be deep in thought for too long about.
Spitting is the pits - but Figueroa tackle was worse
When I was a player, spitting was the worst thing one player could do to another.
It was seen as a real insult. I remember a Wolverhampton player, who shall remain nameless, doing that to Mickey Bernard right in front of me.
It was disgusting.
Now we have biting come into the game but I felt what happened to Stephen Ireland at the weekend against Hull was worse than either spitting or biting. We cannot allow a bite or someone spitting to pass, of course not, but that challenge Maynor Figueroa left on Ireland was worse than either.
A tale of two Lukes - but Everton FC's is the better
There's two promising young left-backs in the Premier League who go by the name of Luke - but one is better than the other. Manchester United paid a lot of money for Luke Shaw in the summer but Everton’s Luke - Luke Garbutt - looks the better bet for me.
The lad looks a natural. Sure there are certain points of his play that need to be improved but United have found problems with their own Luke. Garbutt looks to me like he has a hell of a chance of making it at the top level. He does need to learn that, as a defender, he must defend first and play afterwards. I don’t just include John Stones in this bracket either but if you look at other defenders at the club, such as Tony Hibbert or Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, their priority is to always defend.
The first job is to defend, and then you play - or pass it to someone who you know can.
It's never pretty in the Potteries
STOKE is a place where you go and you know it’s not going to be pretty.
You know what to expect if you are not up for it and so sometimes, you have to change your method of play against these sides. What worries me is the lack of goals in Everton and the fact that we are conceding as well. First of all, Everton need to make sure all is right at the back: defend first and then play later. Defending has to be the priority but the way things are going, it is the playing side that is coming first but the Blues can’t afford that - unless they are scoring goals.
But I can’t see many goals in the side at the present time.
Many supporters were disappointed because Everton didn’t line-up with two out-and-out wingers.
I have never been a fan of wingers.
They tend not to do their job defensively and that leaves you vulnerable, they don’t want to defend.
Everton finished the game with two centre-forwards on the pitch with Arouna Kone playing the final half an hour. I’ve seen many strikers like Romelu Lukaku in the past. They burst on the scene with their new club, they want to prove themselves to the fans and the club.
But then the next minute they’re saying to themselves ‘hang on a second, I’m up here on my own’.
Players can quickly lose that enthusiasm if they are not being helped.
Everton U21s vs Sunderland U21s: Live
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
All the very latest on the Blues throughout the day
Everton XI: Griffiths, Kenny, Galloway, Distin, Browning, Jones, Junior, Lundstram, Osman, Green, Henen
Subs: Hunt, Ledson, Dowell, Walsh, Langton, Connolly, Donohue
Sunderland XI: Dixon, Cartwright, Robson, Agnew, McNamee, Beadling, Watmore, Smith, Mandron, Honeyman, Lawson
Subs: Greenwood, Talbot, Wright, Robson, Nelson, Blinco, Ledger.
David Prentice: Why it's time for stubborn Roberto Martinez to change the record
6 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
Awful stats are piling up at Goodison Park as grim evidence of a season which has failed to ignite
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But Everton, at the moment, is broke.
Not irreparably, irretrievably, irrevocably in bits. But it needs fixing.
And doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, well you’ve all heard the old saying. Insanity that way lies. The awful stats are piling up at Goodison Park as grim evidence of a season which has failed to ignite. Wednesday’s defeat at Stoke was Everton’s 28th match of a ghastly league campaign. They have a paltry 28 points. The last time a season produced such a poor points return at the same stage was 1950. Everton were relegated 12 months later.
In a cruel comparison, neighbours Liverpool have won more points in 2015 alone than Everton have in 2014-15. But you don’t have to look across the park for stat shockers.
The Blues have failed to score in nine of their last 14 Premier League games. They have kept one clean sheet in their last seven. They have won one domestic match since December 15. Heck, they have only won six league games all season. And there are more, much more, if you have the stomach. When Roberto Martinez’s Wigan were relegated two years ago they had 30 points from 30 games. Everton currently have 28 from 28. Worrying as that statistic is, I still don’t think Everton will go down. They have largely the same squad of players who finished fifth last season.
They are a team which held the champions in January, ran the champions-elect close last month and are about the only English team to halt Liverpool’s Premier League bandwagon this year.
They can play when they want to – and haven't had an edge taken off their game by a Thursday night commitment. And they are ‘fortunate’ that there are at least three teams who are performing worse than them this season. But is that the pinnacle of Everton ambition?
To finish above Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City and Burnley?
That’s a flashback to the mediocre pre-Moyes days of the late 1990s.
But that is the best we can hope for this season unless things change quickly.
And change is very necessary. It was Albert Einstein who said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change is the definition of insanity.
And Roberto Martinez is not mad.
Scientists actually say that there is a fine line between genius and insanity – something to do with a gene called neuregulin 1 which plays a role in brain development but is also associated with psychosis. And while Martinez was hailed as a genius last season, the Spanish tactician who reopened the School of Science, plenty this season think he’s losing the plot.
But Martinez is obstinately, pig-headedly, obdurately stubborn.
That’s a quality all the best managers have. But the best bosses also know when to stick or twist. And Everton could do with twisting more than just fans’ nerve-endings at the moment.
One change should be the first name on the teamsheet. “Initially I thought Tim Howard could have done more, but when I saw it again I thought it’s just a great header,” said Phil Neville about Stoke City’s first goal on Wednesday. But similar sentiments were expressed after the Guillaume Hoarau’s long range strike in Switzerland, Willian’s near post drive at Stamford Bridge, Aluko’s equaliser for Hull and both goals against Leicester City. None were out and out goalkeeping howlers, but all carried a suggestion that perhaps the keeper might have done just a little more.
And when you’re having those thoughts again and again and again, a pattern is clearly developing.
OPTA tell us that Tim Howard has made more errors leading to goals than any other top flight keeper this season.
But still he is keeping Joel Robles out of the side, a goalkeeper dropped after three successive clean sheets and whose only error came in a Europa League tie when he was making his first appearance of the season.
Then there is the Gareth Barry question.
Barring a one game ban, he has started each of Everton’s last 16 matches, a spell which has yielded just one Premier League win and the Europa League successes over Young Boys.
Or Arouna Kone. He scored and looked bright at Newcastle United on December 28, a match which finally looked like a belated launchpad for a stalled Everton career. He has only started one match since.
Something needs to change.
Martinez is resolute in his conviction that he won’t compromise his principles.
He doesn’t need to. He just needs to change the system, the personnel or the formation. In fact anything which would give the team a lift.
Everton were wretched at Southampton a week before Christmas, but the Blues boss resolutely refused to introduce a substitute.
It smacked of a manager who was either punishing the players out on the field, or who had run out of ideas.
Modern managers have to be flexible.
Brendan Rodgers has always made it clear he won’t compromise his principles either.
But after Liverpool’s worst start to a season for half-a-century he changed his formation.
The results speak for themselves.
But Blues fans hoping for a Damascene conversion are likely to be left disappointed.
An old internet posting resurfaced this week.
It was first published four years and five months ago by a disaffected Wigan fan after seeing his side beaten by Manchester City. He or she pleaded: “We pass the ball to death and don’t go anywhere.
“Dave Whelan said Martinez must have a plan B this season. Why did we persist with pass, pass, pass on a dodgy surface? “Why do we never take a long free-kick? When we get a free-kick in the opposition half, get it in the box for God’s sake. I’m not saying we should revert to Stoke and Blackburn tactics but you never know, it’s got to be better than passing it 10 times and losing it again. “Finally this style of football is BORING! I can’t remember my backside leaving my seat today. I’ve seen one goal in four games, but hey, I’ve witnessed a million completed passses.”
Many Everton fans could empathise this week.
Something has to change...
...and why Liverpool FC should beware the link between Manchester City and Brendan Rodgers
Every time David Moyes was linked with the Manchester United job, Evertonians mocked.
And it wasn’t just Blues fans, either.
One very high ranking club official sneered: “Why would they want to take him.”
But they did. Which is why Liverpool fans should be careful of scoffing at reports that Manchester City want Brendan Rodgers. Most Reds fans’ reaction is to mock, but more along the lines of “Why would he want to go to a club with a reputation for sacking managers at every hint of turbulence.”
But people are sitting up and taking notice of the work Rodgers is doing at Anfield.
Patrick Barclay is a journalist who knows a thing or two about managers.
He has written biographies of two of the best, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, and this week he tweeted: “Especially impressed with Liverpool. They’ll be title candidates again next season – Rodgers is a truly exceptional manager.” Liverpool might have to fight off more than Manchester City in the months ahead. But it’s a fight worth winning.
The Evertonian trying to engineer Liverpool's FA Cup exit - again!
5 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Blues star who had "more natural talent" than David Beckham
HE was a cultured midfielder who possessed the kind of ability which prompted Joe Royle to describe him as having “more natural talent” than David Beckham.
His Everton team-mates nicknamed him ‘Grant-ona’ - and they weren’t taking the Mickey.
And when Andrei Kanchelskis was asked who his favoured midfield partner was he instantly answered - “Granty.” But Tony Grant’s rich talent never translated into a glittering career at the highest level. He played for Everton, Manchester City, West Brom, Burnley and Tranmere, amongst others - and won one England Under-21 cap. But there was always the feeling his talent could have taken him even further. Perversely the very attribute that prevented Grant from flourishing at the very highest level is the reason why he is now making a name for himself in the Championship as a visionary and forward thinking coach. At his peak, he weighed about 10 stone wringing wet.
“I was playing in the Premier League weighing about 10 stone,” he said.
“When you analyse yourself and look back to your playing days I have always been a thinker. I had to play intelligently because I had no body to do the other stuff! “Subconsciously I was always coaching in my mind years ago even when I was playing. I was a coach on the pitch before I became a coach actually. “I have always been a thinker of football and passionate about the game, so the step into coaching came naturally.” After helping guide Blackburn’s youngsters to an FA Youth Cup final and Premier League final, Grant was fast-tracked into the Lancashire club’s senior coaching set up.
After an eighth placed finish last season Blackburn have already shocked Premier League Swansea and Stoke in the FA Cup this term - and on Sunday come to Anfield looking to secure an even bigger upset. Grant concedes that this Cup test will be Rovers’ toughest yet, but he already knows what it feels like to finish on the winning side at Anfield.
“The last time I went to Anfield I was playing for Manchester City in the FA Cup and we lost 4-2,” he said. “But my abiding memory of playing against Liverpool is jumping on Andrei (Kanchelskis) when he scored in one and then running right down the Anny Road when Speedo (Gary Speed) scored the equaliser in another!
“When you’re from where I’m from that’s a huge game to be part of.
“Now I’m going back as a coach on the other side of it.
“Bearing in mind that Liverpool came second in the league last season and are obviously a top team, it will be very tough. “But it’s a great experience for some of the young players we’ve got and hopefully they’ll take loads from it and put up a really good fight.”
And Grant has warned Reds fans not to write off Rovers’ chances too quickly.
“Lots of our players actually suit the Premier League. We have some very technical players,” he added. “In the last round against Stoke Josh King was a revelation. He scored a hat-trick, caught Stoke cold and they couldn’t handle him. “Against Swansea it looked like becoming a bit of a stalemate until Rudi Gestede came on and changed the game for us.
“So we have players who are capable of causing an upset.”
Grant is keenly aware of just how it feels to be part of such a Cup upset.
One of his 166 appearances for Burnley was the infamous FA Cup third round tie at Turf Moor when Djimi Traore comically turned a Richard Chaplow cross into his own net to dump Rafa Benitez’s soon to be crowned European champions out of the domestic Cup.
“I remember it well,” he smiled. “It was a close game, as close as it could be, but when you get teams away from their place on your own patch it is a little bit of a leveller.
“It was a good night for an Evertonian playing for Burnley!
“This time we’re going to Anfield and it’s going to be tough, but we’ll give it a good go.”
SEVERAL of Tony Grant’s team-mates from the season he made his breakthrough at Everton have moved into coaching. Skipper Dave Watson is at Newcastle, John Ebbrell works with the youngsters at Tranmere, Duncan Ferguson and David Unsworth are both part of Roberto Martinez’s backroom staff at Everton, Gary Ablett was on Ipswich’s books when he tragically fell ill, while Craig Short is working alongside Grant at Blackburn. Many of that sextet enjoyed circuitous routes back into football - Short was a sailing instructor on Lake Windermere before returning to football - but Grant always intended to stay in the game. “It’s my passion. I love it,” he said. “Football has been in me since I was a boy. I loved playing, I love coaching and one day would love to move into management.
“But for now I’m really enjoying trying to improve players.
“I’m very good with people, especially when we’re talking about football.
“I grew up with Jimmy Gabriel and Colin Harvey at Everton and learned lots of lessons from them. What I’ve taken from them is their tenacity.
“They were aggressive, but not in a bad way where they were trying to nail you. They just wanted to improve you. “The knowledge they had I think I’ve got. And because, like them, I’ve played the game I appreciate how fast it is. “In the stand sometimes it doesn’t look as fast, but having the ability to understand what the players are experiencing when they’re in that moment helps.
“Jimmy and Colin understand that and Willie Donachie was the same.”
Grant added: “My first job in coaching was at Crewe under Dario Gradi, then I went to Chester before I got the opportunity to go to Blackburn. “Gary Bowyer appointed me to look after the Under-18 group and we got them to the Youth Cup final, won the league and got to the Premier League final.
“To get to a Youth Cup final was a real accolade for those lads.”
It was also an indicator that Blackburn had a coach of quality on their hands and Gary Bowyer quickly spotted that potential and elevated Grant to first team duties. “I’d been doing lots of individual stuff with the lads in the under-18s, hopefully trying to improve them - and I try and do the same now with the seniors,” he went on. “There’s a certain few who you take and spend even more time with and it’s just trying to give them good habits and improve them.
“When I started working with the first team we had lots of big names at the club and lots of very good foreign talent. “Blackburn was still run as a Premier League club but they weren’t getting results and were fighting against relegation. “We played Millwall in a massive game and stayed up, then the club tried to get back on an even keel, got rid of some players who maybe didn’t want to be there or weren’t up for the fight and started to replace them with young, hungry players.
“We did that and the team finished eighth last year just two points outside the play-offs in The Championship, which is a highly competitive league, and we have this Cup run going now.”
Wembley is the prize for the winners.
Grant was in Everton’s Charity Shield winning side who played underneath the twin towers in 1995 - ironically against Blackburn - and he would love to walk out there as a coach again in an FA Cup semi-final.
“It will be tough, but you never know,” he said.
In an Echo interview in 1997 then Everton manager Joe Royle said: “Tony Grant has the potential to be a superstar, there is no midfielder in the country who has all the qualities he has.
“He can defend and win the ball, he can pass, he can make chances and he can score goals. If he can put that all together he could become a truly outstanding midfielder.”
Once again Blackburn played a pivotal part in Grant’s career.
Royle added: “The turning point for Tony was at Blackburn Rovers in March 1996. I sat down and did a little experiment after that match, with a tape of the game. Grantie made 64 passes during the game, and 60 of them found Everton players. The four which didn’t were long, sweeping crossfield balls. Andrei scored from one of his passes and from another Andrei scored but he had just run offside. “I spoke to Tony about it, told him that his passing was good and that if he kept things simple and introduced his other qualities bit by bit, it would all come together.”
Ultimately injuries prevented Grant fulfilling that potential.
A series of ankle problems meant he made just 79 appearances in his Goodison career, scoring three goals. But he left an indelible mark on Evertonians as a midfielder in the club’s cherished school of science traditions - and is now trying to do likewise as a coach at Ewood Park.
David Henen learning the Everton FC way says David Unsworth
6 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton FC loan forward David Henen impresses in under-21s win over Sunderland
David Henen is starting to “learn the Everton FC way” after an impressive performance in the under-21s latest win, says coach David Unsworth.
The 18-year-old was deployed as the lone frontman last night, as the Blues’ second string saw off Sunderland to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup.
Henen is on a season-long loan from Olympiakos but Everton have the option to buy the talented Belgian teenager for £500,000. Roberto Martinez has closely watched Henen’s development this term, and is likely to make a decision before the end of the season on whether to keep him or not.
Unsworth says the gifted former Anderlecht forward has needed to learn how to deal with the physicality of English football and the work ethic that is required at Premier League level.
Martinez will continue to monitor lightening-quick Henen before deciding to buy him or not, but Unsworth has offered a positive report. “He’s young boy, he’s 18, in a different country, he’s learning the language, he’s learning his trade and he’s learning the Everton way,” said Unsworth.
“He is also learning that work ethic and you could see him last night, he has covered some distance. His willingness to run in behind and work for the team is fantastic so I am delighted for David.”
Unsworth added: “He’s got tons of ability and you can see the talent he’s got but there is more you need in the Premier League. “You need that work ethic and that desire and he is certainly showing that. He has got better and better as the season has progressed and he’s got stronger. He has worked really hard in the gym and he’s a joy to work with, as all the players are.”
Everton defeated Sunderland 1-0 thanks to Sylvain Distin’s first-half header in Southport last night.
Distin was one of three over age outfield players the Blues’ u-21s fielded in the game with Leon Osman and Francisco Junior also playing the full 90 minutes.
Unsworth’s side needed a win to book their place in the next round of the competition and the 1-0 victory ensured they qualified ahead of Villarreal from Group D on goals scored.
“It was great. They knew what they had to do: it was a win at all costs performance.
“But the biggest thing for me was the reaction they showed after the defeat to Tottenham.
“You cannot always play the type of football we want to play and the pitch wasn’t conducive to that. So sometimes you have got to dig in, you have got to fight and play second balls and it was a different kind of game. “But I am very proud, we showed grit, they dug in and showed a reaction from the other night and they deserved the win. “You will get periods like this because they are young players and if they won every game then they would never learn.
“Sometimes you do have to have a set-back to learn and the good players will do that.”
Everton’s u-21s are next in action on Monday night (7pm) when they travel to Chester for the derby with Liverpool’s u-21s. “It’s great for the players,” Unsworth said.
“It’s a proper game and there will be a few in the ground. The players are always talking about it.”
Barry Horne: There are plenty of reasons for Everton FC's current plight
6 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Barry Horne
COLUMN: The former Blues midfielder also gives his views on Osman, Stoke and Team GB
The question everyone is asking is what’s gone wrong with Everton.
Why are they so different to last year? I would argue they have been different over the past two or three years. The team was playing well under David Moyes. Football is a simple game – a lot of things need to go right to play well.
One or two key players are 12 months older and powers are waning – they’re past their best. I don’t need to name names. Another factor is the lack of consistency in team selection. It hasn’t been a crippling injury list but there have been spells on the sidelines for Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman, John Stones, James McCarthy – and others. If you look at that Everton team, not too many players have played over 25 games this season. I was a big fan of Southampton earlier in the season, and Swansea – they played the same team every week.
I’m not saying rotation doesn’t work but it isn’t good when being forced to change the team week in, week out. The tactics and style has to be questioned, too. I’m not one to criticise Everton but there has to be be questions. Is it effective? Does it get the best out of Romelu Lukaku? Do the players believe in it? Stoke clearly believed in their style on Wednesday. Statistics can be used in any way but Everton had passed Arsenal to death at the Emirates, yet at half time Arsenal had managed seven shots on goal – Everton had two, both off target. The team also are missing two players from previous years – one who is sadly past his best, Steven Pienaar, and another who has been injured, Leon Osman. When flying under Moyes they were at the heart of everything in conjunction with Leighton Baines. Everton miss these three down the left and it was the left-hand side that often opened up teams. Against Stoke, during a pretty poor first half, there were just two occasions of midfielders getting beyond Lukaku or giving Luke Garbutt an option ahead. Only McCarthy and Darron Gibson did that. Baines used to be able to play into the penalty area.
Osman is underrated and they miss him. He came on at the Britannia and lo and behold, we were a different team. The formation was bolder of course but he was at the heart of everything. Osman was helping Garbutt and Coleman on Wednesday - and he is experienced with good decision-making, so he would help the team.
FAIR PLAY TO STOKE - EFFICIENCY COULD HELP BLUES
I was at The Britannia Stadium on Wednesday night for the Stoke City match. Over the years Stoke City have had a lot of bad press and as in all walks of life reputations can be quickly earned but very difficult to shake off. Over the last five years I have seen a lot of Stoke games and even under Tony Pulis when they were at their most direct and functional there was a certain pleasure to be gained from watching good, solid professionals going about their business knowing that they were trying to put into practice what they had worked on for hour after hour on the training pitch and believing that they trusted in each other and their manager. It was also fascinating, of course, to watch how teams would set out to play against them and the reaction of players to the perceived or expected brutality of their opponents. Many weren’t up to challenge and Tony Pulis must have loved it every time an unimaginative journalist perpetuated the myth of the physicality and limited ability of his charges. It is no surprise that Pulis has gone on to prove that his methods are transferable and that he is no one trick pony. He has demonstrated that he can adapt his tactics to suit the players he has at his disposal and that his reputation as a coach and as a motivator has soared since he left the Potteries. Another Welshman, Mark Hughes, has of course been credited with making Stoke more ‘attractive’. Indeed they look well placed to improve on last year’s highest Premier League finish and points tally and whereas Pulis’s Stoke relied heavily on the ‘fear factor’ at fortress Britannia, prior to the game on Wednesday this year’s model had accumulated 19 points away from the The Britannia, against 20 gained at home – some achievement. Yet, for all of that, on Wednesday there was plenty of evidence of Tony Pulis’s legacy. Despite the fact that Mark has brought in several new faces his team were well drilled, defended magnificently and looked like they not only knew what they were doing collectively and individually but, crucially, believed in it which is great testimony to Mark and his ‘taffia’ coaching staff. The contrast with their visitors on the night could not have been more stark. Once again Everton toiled and failed to trouble Asmir Begovic until well into the game and, it has to be said, looked disjointed and lacking conviction.
If Roberto Martinez’s brand of football is deemed to be ‘attractive’ I am sure most Evertonians would accept a bit of functional efficiency for a few weeks to settle the nerves and banish any thoughts of getting involved in the relegation scrap.
TEAM GB FOR RIO BORDERS ON DISGRACE
I was delighted that Trefor Lloyd-Hughes, the President of the Welsh FA, spoke unequivocally about his anger over the English FA’s decision to enter a Great Britain team into the Rio Olympics.
Whilst the FA seem to be constantly outflanked and frustrated at every turn globally they feel empowered to flex their muscle closer to home and the way they gone about putting forward Team GB for Rio is typical of their arrogance domestically.
To go ahead and enter the competition without any consultation is little short if a disgrace especially when everybody was under the impression that entering a team at London 2012 was a one off for obvious reasons. I am not sure that people take the threat of FIFA insisting that the Home Nations compete as ‘Great Britain’ seriously enough. Sepp Blatter has on several occasions insisted that this isn’t the case but seriously, is he a man to be trusted? The Home Nations Associations are the four oldest in the world and as such have permanent seats on influential Committees as well as having a vote each in any ballots of course. It doesn’t take a political genius to see why he wants to turn four into one. It is a further example not only of the FA’s arrogance but also folly because if FIFA does merge the Home Nations it is not only Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that will lose their identity, England would do so too. The fact that England under-21s will qualify on behalf of a Great Britain team just adds another layer of confusion to the proceedings.
Whilst the FAW will find it impossible to prevent players making themselves available for selection they should continue to protest as vigorously as they can.
Neville Southall: Everton FC would have dominated Europe if not for ban
6 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
Welsh goalkeeper also hits out at British government for conduct in aftermath of Heysel disaster
Everton FC legend Neville Southall believes the Blues would have dominated in Europe if not for the ban on English clubs in the 1980s.
Everton were one of the teams affected from the five-year suspension which was handed out following the death of 39 people at the Heysel disaster in 1985.
The Blues would have qualified for the European Cup the following season after winning the league title, and would have played in European competition in four of the five years.
And the Welsh goalkeeper has also voiced his displeasure at the British government for their actions at the time. In an interview with the Guardian, Southall said: “We would have gone on to dominate Europe for the next five or 10 years – we would have been a massive, massive, massive club now.
“We wouldn’t be in the situation we are now, we’re still trying to catch up to everybody else. That ruined a lot of things to a certain extent, we couldn’t attract the players, we lost our managers and our players. “There was a feeling of everything being unjust – but when you look what happened, people losing their lives, there’s not much contest.”
Video: Neville Southall talks about his career (credit: The Guardian)
The Blues lost Gary Lineker, Trevor Steven, Adrian Heath and Gary Stevens to clubs eligible to play in Europe, while others also exited Goodison Park. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had put pressure on the FA to withdraw English clubs from European competition, before Uefa confirmed the ban.
Liverpool FC served an extra year after violence broke out between their fans and those of Juventus.
Southall added: “It frustrates me that the government were a bunch of cowards because they could have stuck up for us. “I’m absolutely sure that British fans weren’t the only troublemakers in Europe – so you have a whole mix of people but for some reason [the authorities said] ‘let’s get them out’.
“And I think sometimes it’s to do with British teams winning everything.”
Southall, now 56, signed for the Blues in 1981 and remained with them throughout the ban during his 17-year career on Merseyside.
Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez must accept that compromise is not defeat
7 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Roberto Martinez must embrace own message about winning at all costs
It was before their listless and pitiful display at Stoke City when Roberto Martinez hit the nail on the head. Sat in the bowels of the Emirates Stadium six days ago, the Everton manager said his side were now at a point in their season where they needed to win without being “perfect”.
Now let’s hope the Blues show their all their imperfections.
What Martinez was referring to wasn’t the dross which was served up at the Britannia where a confidence-starved Everton lacked the conviction to get back in the game, but winning games without the style and panache he would normally like. But the brutal truth is that they just need to win games - and by any means. Or by hook or by crook and as football adage says, it can go in off a player’s backside for all we care, the Blues just have to start winning.
Facing such a scenario was, of course, not in Martinez’s plans after a record breaking debut season built on a refreshing approach to the way the game should be played.
It was the first campaign in a long term plan to have Everton passing their way into the top four on a regular basis - and this season was meant to be the next stage of the project.
But here we are. With Everton no longer looking at the top four but peering nervously down at the bottom three. And here is where footballing principles must be compromised.
Martinez has deep-rooted beliefs about the way Everton should be playing.
Some agree with them, some don’t but last season - and in the Europa League this term - he showed that it can be successful. READ: Dave Prentice on why it's time for Martinez to change the record
But recently, Everton’s deliberate passing style has been anything but.
And so Martinez must now mould himself to the situation and be willing to take some short-term pain for long-term gain. The Catalan, simply, needs to set up his side with one task: to win their next league game. But he cannot see this as accepting defeat in his plans.
Martinez’s possession-based ideals can be picked up when the stench of relegation has cleared and so for the next couple of fixtures, with Newcastle and QPR, Everton need to find a way to pick up points and prioritise fight above flair. The belief of a growing number of beleaguered Evertonians is that the Catalan is so stubborn that the Blues will sleep-walk their way to relegation like Wigan Athletic did by refusing to change the way they play.
Martinez must dispel those fears by showing he has may strings to his bow.
The Everton boss has shown degrees of flexibility in his time at Goodison but it is now, with the team just six points clear of the bottom three, that he needs to bend that bit more.
Not even his fiercest critics truly believes Martinez will abandon his principles for good but his biggest supporters are hoping he at least proves himself malleable in Everton’s time of need.
Barry Horne: English FA has shown arrogance towards other Home Nations over Team GB
7 March 2015Liverpool Echo
The former Everton and Wrexham midfielder on Team GB proposals for 2016 Rio Olympics and Everton's current poor form
I was delighted that Trefor Lloyd-Hughes, the President of the Welsh FA, spoke unequivocally about his anger over the English FA’s decision to enter a Great Britain team into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Whilst the FA seem to be constantly outflanked and frustrated at every turn globally, they feel empowered to flex their muscle closer to home, and the way they have gone about putting forward Team GB for Rio is typical of their arrogance domestically. To go ahead and enter the competition without any consultation is little short of a disgrace especially when everybody was under the impression that entering a team at London 12 was a one-off for obvious reasons.
I am not sure that people take the threat of FIFA insisting the Home Nations compete as ‘Great Britain’ seriously enough. Sepp Blatter has on several occasions insisted that this isn’t the case but seriously, is he a man to be trusted? The Home Nations Associations are the four oldest in the world and as such have permanent seats on influential committees as well as having a vote each in any ballots of course. It doesn’t take a political genius to see why he wants to turn four into one.
It is a further example not only of The FA’s arrogance but also folly because if FIFA does merge the Home Nations it is not only Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that will lose their identity, England would do so too. I love the Olympics and appreciate that the IOC and each host country want to grow the event as a spectacle but in my opinion the Games should represent the pinnacle of every sport contested therein and competing at them and winning a medal should be the greatest ambition of the sportspeople taking part. As far as football is concerned it is neither of these things. In fact it is difficult to know what it is. The age restrictions mean it can be just about classed as a developmental tournament but the over-age player rule somewhat dilutes that when experience is given some sort of recognition at the end of their careers. Dan Ashworth claims that competing in the tournament would help the development of players through to the national team but even that will be restricted by the fact that the team will include several players at the end of their careers as well as a handful of players who will never be eligible to play for England. I am sure that all of the players that played at London ’12 enjoyed the whole experience but the novelty of being the first British players to do so and the fact that it was played ‘at home’ will have fed into that experience.
The fact that England Under-21s will qualify on behalf of a Great Britain team just adds another layer of confusion to the proceedings. Whilst the FAW will find it impossible to prevent players making themselves available for selection they should continue to protest as vigorously as they can.
Stoke prove there should be more than style for Everton I was at The Britannia Stadium on Wednesday night for the Stoke City v Everton match. Over the years Stoke have had a lot of bad press and as in all walks of life reputations can be quickly earned but very difficult to shake off.
Over the last five years I have seen a lot of Stoke games and even under Tony Pulis when they were at their most direct and functional there was a certain pleasure to be gained from watching good, solid professionals going about their business knowing that they were trying to put into practice what they had worked on for hour after hour on the training pitch and believing that they trusted in each other and their manager. It was also fascinating, of course, to watch how teams would set out to play against them and the reaction of players to the perceived or expected brutality of their opponents. Many weren’t up to challenge and Tony Pulis must have loved it every time an unimaginative journalist perpetuated the myth of the physicality and limited ability of his charges.
It is no surprise that Pulis has gone on to prove that his methods are transferable and that he is no one-trick pony. He has demonstrated that he can adapt his tactics to suit the players he has at his disposal and his reputation as a coach and as a motivator has soared since he left the Potteries.
Another Welshman, Mark Hughes, has of course been credited with making Stoke more ‘attractive’.
Indeed they look well placed to improve on last year’s highest Premier League finish and points tally and whereas Pulis’s Stoke relied heavily on the ‘fear factor’ at fortress Britannia, prior to the game on Wednesday this year’s model had accumulated 19 points away from the The Britannia, against 20 gained at home – some achievement.
Yet, for all of that, on Wednesday there was plenty of evidence of Pulis’s legacy.
Despite the fact that Mark has brought in several new faces his team were well-drilled, defended magnificently and looked like they not only knew what they were doing collectively and individually but, crucially, believed in it which is great testimony to Mark and his ‘Taffia’ coaching staff.
The contrast with their visitors on the night could not have been more stark. Once again Everton toiled and failed to trouble Asmir Begovic until well into the game and, it has to be said, looked disjointed and lacking conviction.
If Roberto Martinez’s brand of football is deemed to be ‘attractive’ I am sure most Evertonians would accept a bit of functional efficiency for a few weeks to settle the nerves and banish any thoughts of getting involved in the relegation scrap.
Motherwell loan signing Conor Grant hopes to emulate Everton legends Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Sheedy at Fir Park
7 March 2015 Daily Record
By Gavin Berry
GRANT provided a great cross for Louis Laing to score the winner in Motherwell's vital victory over Inverness last week, and revealed it was an assist made in Merseyside.
CONOR GRANT looked on as Kevin Sheedy fired in the crosses for Duncan Ferguson to bullet home the headers.
And now the Everton loan kid hopes learning from those two Goodison legends can help him come to Motherwell’s rescue. Grant provided a superb ball for Louis Laing to nod home in the Fir Park side’s crucial win over Inverness Caley last week. That brought to an end an eight-game winless run for Ian Baraclough’s side and now the 19-year-old wants to kick on.
Grant was one of six players brought from England by Baraclough during the January transfer window in a bid to beat the drop. The youngster has shown his deadball skills already, including a curling free-kick on his debut in the 3-2 defeat by Ross County.
And Grant admitted learning from ex-Goodison Park star and current Everton academy coach Sheedy has helped him immensely. Asked about his set-piece ability the teenager said: “I hope I can bring that quality to the team. It was a great cross and a better header from Louis Laing.
“It was good he was on the end of it as it gave us a bit of momentum and after they equalised we showed great character to go on and get the win. “When I was in the youth team at Everton my coaches were Kevin and big Duncan. “You don’t get many better crossers of the ball than Sheedy and Ferguson could get on the end of them in training – not a bad combo!
“Duncan was a hero for me as a kid so to have him around was superb.”
Grant admitted the decision to move north of the border was a no-brainer and is loving the experience which he hopes will help him when he returns to Merseyside.
Ahead of today’s clash with Kilmarnock he said: “It’s my first time away from home and I hope it gives me a chance to show what I can do and that I can mix it and play professional football.
“I haven’t felt any pressure. I know we’re in a relegation battle but maybe because it’s my first loan move I’ve been allowed to just get on with business.
“I’m full of enthusiasm and it’s not really something I think about.”
Meanwhile, Well have secured 19-year-old Dom Thomas on a new long-term contract following his exciting introduction to the team. The attacking midfield man’s new deal ties him to Fir Park until the summer of 2018. Baraclough, who also signed 17-year-old full-back Luke Watt this week, said: “Dom has the potential to be an excellent footballer. “He’s still young and learning but his raw talent and enthusiasm for the game is infectious. “We are being careful about how we use him just now but there is no doubt he has it within himself to play at the top level.”
Everton FC View from the Gwladys Street - "Not enough passion, width or purpose"
6 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Everton FC fan Rhodri Cannon speaks out on the Blues slump
Every week, the ECHO gets the views of an Everton FC fan. Today we speak to RHODRI CANNON, co-editor of the efcfeelinblue.com website.
1. What are your thoughts on the performance at Stoke if taken in isolation?
Not enough passion, not enough width, not enough purpose. The game away at Stoke became vitally important to Everton’s fortunes in the Premier League, but, like every other domestic game with an essence of importance this season, Everton failed to deliver. The players are playing as if we have nothing to play for, but there is the small matter of our Premier League survival at stake right now, and if performances continue in this vein then we WILL go down. Dramatic, but correct.
Gone are the days of any attacking purpose or know-how, we’re completely clueless in the final third, proven by the fact that we’ve failed to score in 9 of our last 14 Premier League games.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” - Albert Einstein. Dozens of Evertonians tweeted this quote last night, as it seems apt to apply it to our Catalonian manager. There may have been slight variants to the system, but by and large it is the same system that has not produced results in the league for most of the campaign. There needs to be change, but we’ve been saying this for a while now.
2. What would you change tactically to try and create an upturn in fortunes?
I’d start between the sticks. Tim Howard has been abysmal this season. Joel Robles was improving with every passing game, he was commanding in the air, his kicking was impressive, and some of his saves were very good. Dropping a keeper with 3 clean sheets in a row was poor management by Martinez, whose Midas touch from last year has completely eroded.
There also needs to be actually width on the wings. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have been shadows of their former selves, with their vital attacking presence of last season a distant memory that has seemingly little chance of being rekindled. Martinez has also been persisting with Steven Naismith or Ross Barkley on the wings, which is a detriment to both the players and the team.
Both the Scot and the Englishman are nullified out wide, they are both central players, so play them centrally or don’t play them at all. When Barkley and Naismith did play centrally, we won! Play wingers on the wing, and no.10s in the hole. It’s not hard, Roberto. We could benefit from playing Arouna Kone more often as well, he has power, a good footballing brain and hold-up play, and his presence could benefit Lukaku, who is becoming increasingly isolated with every passing game.
3. Do you share Roberto Martinez’s point of view when he says “we’re not looking down.”
When people say ‘Don’t look down’, it’s because they’re terrified of the drop they may face.
The players and coaching staff at the club should be terrified of the prospect of relegation that looms large over the club, but they’ve seemed to found a way to cope with it, judging by the lack of urgency or effort on the pitch. Martinez and co. might not want to look down, but as the season reaches crisis point, they have to be looking over their shoulder, or face the frightening consequences. Is there even any point in looking up anyway? We’re 11 points away from West Ham United, who are 10th.
4. Is it possible to explain how the same squad and manager that recorded the club’s record Premier League points haul last season can be struggling so much now?
There could be a few reasons that culminate in the Toffemen’s demise.
Martinez could have fallen out with some of the players, the squad may have rested on their laurels, and teams have found us out. From what I’ve read and heard over the last couple of months, it seems as if Martinez is seen a soft touch by the players, and has fallen out with some key figures in the dressing room. The Spaniard needs to toughen up when it comes to dealing with his squad, because if he continues in this fashion he won’t have a squad to deal with. There are definitely a few players in the side that have dropped off from last season. I don’t see any point in naming names, because we all know who they are. Vital figures are under-performing for one reason or another, and they will continue to struggle if the way we play doesn’t change.
5. What impact do the Premier League woes have on the next game against Dynamo Kiev?
Our abysmal form in the Premier League hasn’t had a huge effect on our Europa League campaign so far. In the 8 games in Europe, we’ve won 5 games, in 28 Premier League games, we’ve won 6.
As it’s a cup competition, more often than not teams attack each other which stretches games and creates space for teams to exploit. Dynamo Kiev will look to keep it tight at Goodison but they still have the attacking talent to hurt the Blues, but as the European teams haven’t found us out yet, we should be able to express ourselves and play in a manner that resembles last season’s exploits.
6. What other issues would you like to address?
There is a banquet of issues that make me worry about Everton right now, but one of the most pressing concerns is the contract situation of Luke Garbutt.
His current deal runs out in a matter of months, and there isn’t a tell-tale sign that he will put pen to paper. Hopefully the full-back from Leeds signs long-term, as his possible departure will almost definitely come back to haunt us.
The five things Roberto Martinez can do to salvage Everton FC's season
7 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Mind games, pressing... and a bit less passing please - IAN DOYLE discusses what the Blues need to
A Wednesday night at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium would make few people happy.
But Roberto Martinez had particular reason to feel glum as he traipsed down the tunnel after another sorry 90 minutes for Everton. A third defeat in four Premier League games, using three points for a win only once before have the Blues taken fewer points after 28 games of a season.
The Goodison outfit stand only six points adrift of the drop zone with questions being asked for the first time of Martinez’s tenure. So what can the Blues boss do to ensure his side aren’t sucked into an unnecessary relegation scrap? Rely on your experience... and consider playing three at the back
Lest we forget, a relegation scrap is not something new for Martinez.
In three of his four years in charge at Wigan Athletic, he found himself fighting against the drop during the final quarter of the season. Ultimately, it proved futile in 2013. But for the previous two campaigns, the Catalan managed to pull off the great escape.
In 2011, the Latics lost only two of their final nine games to avoid the drop by winning at Stoke City, while the following year they beat Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal to win seven from nine – having won only four of their previous 29 – to stay up with a game to spare.
Key to that revival was a switch to a three-man central defence that allowed Martinez to make the most of his attacking talent while strengthening a porous back line.
Why not replicate that?
Martinez has the players. John Stones and Phil Jagielka could be joined by Antolin Alcaraz at the back, with wing-back roles suiting any of Leighton Baines, Bryan Oviedo, Luke Garbutt and Seamus Coleman. It would address the problem of playing non-wingers out wide, with Martinez then able to select two from Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Mo Besic in defensive midfield and then have a glut of options for the two central attacking roles, the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley all able to feature in their preferred position.
Of course, it would again ask much of Romelu Lukaku. But he would not be as isolated as he has been at present. And that must surely be of benefit to the Belgian.
Raise the pressure
Do you remember when the prospect of a trip to Goodison sent fear running through any visiting team? Of course you do. It was only last season the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United departed with their tails between their legs having failed even to score.
This term, though, has seen the Blues win only three of their 13 home games. Never before have won fewer league matches on their own patch at this stage of the season, although three is a figure they have matched on several other occasions.
So what’s gone wrong?
Goodison can be a real bear pit for opponents when the home supporters find their voice.
But they have been given very little to cheer about this season from their own players, with seemingly only officiating injustices uniting the Gwladys Street and prompting anything like a volatile atmosphere.
There were glimmers of it in the 1-1 draw against Manchester City back in January, but that’s not enough.
The crowd feeds off the players, and the lack of tempo and pressing from Martinez’s side – usually the very least you can expect from Everton at Goodison – has subdued the crowd.
The Blues need to get back into the faces of opponents on their own patch. Too much respect is equalling too few points.
Take the direct line
This follows on from the previous point, and is arguably the one aspect of the campaign that has driven Evertonians to distraction.
The tendency to pass, pass and pass some more.
There’s nothing wrong with good possession. But this season has seen Everton fall into the trap of keeping the ball and doing precious little with it.
That’s partly down to opponents being more than happy to let the Blues keep the ball up to 30-35 yards away from goal, and then lock down the penalty area.
Everton have struggled to show the creativity required to unlock such defences, failing to score in nine of their last 14 Premier League games. And when there have been opportunities, the Blues have either been too laboured or too safe in their distribution.
More pace, more direct balls and, yes, more forward passes are required.
The difference Darron Gibson made in the recent draw against Leicester City simply by playing towards the opposing goal was telling. Everton have the talent and pace to hurt defences. By stretching the game as quickly as possible – thanks to taking a more direct route to goal – they will force opponents on to the backfoot.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion
‘Stubborn Rob’ is a tag that could start to stick on Martinez if he continues to stand by his methods.
It is broke at Everton, so it needs fixing. Loathe as Blues fans are to look across Stanley Park, Brendan Rodgers was in a similar position to Martinez shortly before Christmas.
Liverpool were going nowhere. So Rodgers changed both formation and personnel.
And while Everton were on the same points as Liverpool on December 15, the Reds have subsequently taken more points in 12 games than their neighbours have all season.
It shows it pays to be flexible. The same could be said about the goalkeeping situation at Goodison. Martinez inadvertently made a rod for his own back when declaring earlier this year, not unreasonably, Tim Howard was his number one goalkeeper and would return to the starting line-up after injury. Joel Robles had kept three consecutive Premier League clean sheets in Howard’s absence, but since the American returned between the sticks the Blues have leaked in every game.
On form, Robles deserves a recall. A change can do you good.
Start playing mind games
Psychology in football has come a long way since Sir Alex Ferguson took great delight in winding up Kevin Keegan and anybody else who dared try to beat Manchester United.
Certain clubs make no qualms over their employment of a dedicated sports psychologists to help their players gain that extra edge.
It might be a bit late in this season’s tale for Everton to follow suit.
But Martinez would be wise to bring somebody in – if only on a temporary basis – to get inside the minds of his suffering players.
In the meantime, there are some simple tricks the Catalan can exploit to drag his men out of their collective stupor. Sitting through video nasties of previous indiscretions is nothing new for footballers. Martinez, though, could be well served by some screenings of Everton’s finest triumphs last season in an attempt to jolt his players back into life by reminding them how good they can be.
Steven Naismith revealed the recent warm weather training camp in Doha saw the Blues boss urge his players to look back at past achievements. A visual history lesson would also do the trick.
Everton FC manager Roberto Martinez: 'We need to make Goodison our safe place'
7 March 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Blues boss wants home comforts
Everton FC manager Roberto Martinez has declared that his side need to make Goodison Park their ‘safe place’ as they look for a late upturn in what to date has been a dismal Premier League campaign.
The Blues have taken just 28 points from as many matches so far but six out of their 10 remaining games are on home turf. With a mere three Premier League victories all season at Goodison – against West Ham, Aston Villa and QPR – Everton’s form is a far cry from the previous campaign when they won 13 of their 19 home matches.
Martinez said: “We know we can go to Goodison for the last six games of the season, knowing that the fans understand that we need to be together, that we need the support from the beginning.
“We started the season with real expectations of achieving something special in the league. As it stands we never got any momentum. “We need our fans. We need everyone to help the players. We need to use Goodison as our safe place.” The Catalan, who took Wigan Athletic down in 2013 just before joining Everton also admitted that the Blues precarious position means that they’re having to face up to a battle against relegation. Martinez said: “Any team that hasn’t got 40 points in the final third of the season is in a relegation fight. The big advantage I have is that I’ve been through that (before).” Despite criticism that his team have become too predictable and have somehow been ‘found out’ by domestic opponents, Martinez dismisses suggestions that they over-pass the ball. He said: ““Never! I don’t think you can. You can never over-pass.
“Passing for the sake of it is not going to take you anywhere. There’s a reason behind every pass.
“We are a very dynamic side as well. We can adapt to different opposition or different situations.
“We’ve got in winning positions, but we haven’t mastered how to keep those leads. We are the team with the biggest number of points lost from winning positions, 17 points which changes completely where you are in the table [8th rather than 14th].
“Our philosophy is that we want to be a team that always goes out for a win, to find a way to control the game, be a dominant force, be dynamic, be flexible tactically.”
Martinez has also defended his decision to stay loyal to under-fire keeper Tim Howard who has made several errors since being recalled at the expense of understudy Joel Robles whose stint in the side ended with three consecutive clean sheets. He said: “At that time, Joel as a number two did a magnificent job and he kept the clean sheets, and especially against Crystal Palace and Liverpool were outstanding. He did his job. “His position at the club has been reinforced. Now he is competing stronger for that No1 shirt. Joel is 24, and Tim is 36. “Joel has shown he is ready to step into number one but Tim’s had a very strong season, he’s very experienced, and with a very important responsibility in the dressing-room. You give someone [Howard] a starting point, and the number two needs to fight to overcome that. The good thing is we have a number one and number two who are both reliable.”