Questions over the new Everton manager Roberto Martinez and a short treatise on Mark Hughes

My first competitive footballing experience came at the tutelage of a short Italian man with simple ideas about the game. He used to say tell us that the coach was in charge with the defence, all else was up to us. He would have himself judged by how organized we were at the back rather than the flamboyance with which we attacked, and sure enough we did well under him – surprisingly well.

If we take this approach to judging Premier League managers, and statistically there’s no reason we should not, one has to wonder what exactly people see in Roberto Martinez. If I am honest, I did not watch a lot of Wigan’s football. Five, ten matches a season, often against elite opposition. When I did watch them, their offensive play impressed. Perhaps this is clouded by recent events, but they did seem to have flair beyond what you would expect of a team at the wrong end of the table.

In defence, they were disastrous. Every time I saw them, there seemed to be some sort of mishap of epic proportions, and to have outscored seven of the other teams in the bottom half of the table and still be relegated speaks volumes for the cost of each lapse in concentration. This was not a new phenomenon either: Wigan have conceded more than sixty goals in each of the past four seasons and had a staggering 79 Goals Against in the 2009/2010 campaign when they remarkably finished 6 points clear of the drop zone.

This begs the question, what has Roberto Martinez been doing? As a manager, he must know that goals conceded have a higher impact on table position than goals scored and he also must know that his has been among the league’s easiest defences. Why has he not done something about it?

Two reasons spring to mind: first, he could not find defensively solid, ball-playing defenders for the money he had available; second, he was not able to mould a reliable defence out of decent players. I would be inclined to give Martinez the benefit of the doubt. He was on a tight budget, he did want his team to play in a certain way, and when it worked it was special, but he could not balance attack and defence. Exactly what makes Bill Kenwright so sure that he will be able to do this at Everton is beyond me.

Under Moyes, Everton have conceded 45, 40 and 40 goals respectively in the past three campaigns, while their goal scoring form has been questionable. Bring a manager who cannot defend to a team that does not score and you’re taking a big gamble. Of course, it could work beautifully if they start firing at both ends, but if my Italian coach was right, it is more likely going to go south.

Mark Hughes

As I go to press rather seldom these days, I would like to pass judgement on Stoke’s new manager: ridiculous! How does this man keep getting jobs as a football manager? As a quick statistic, he won 41% of his 17 league games with Manchester City in the 2009/2010 season; Roberto Mancini won 52% of his 21, with the benefit of a few additions, it should be noted.

Going back to defensive incompetence, under him Manchester City conceded 27 out of the 45 goals they would ship that season – once again, he was there for 17 league games, that’s 1.6 goals per game, which would be 60 goals in a full season.

That is nothing compared to his time at QPR where he won 24% of his games, including none of the 13 games he was in charge for at the start of this season, again with a squad he spent 45 million pounds on. If I was a Stoke City fan I would be wondering why the team’s ailing mid-table status is trusted to a man who has not, in three jobs since leaving Blackburn Rovers, shown any signs of competence.

A twenty-something whose love affair with football has ruined more relationships than he’s been in. Florian is now trying to put things right by ranting about it and he can be found on Twitter doing just that

Tags: Everton, Mark Hughes, Roberto Martinez, Stoke City, Wigan, Wigan Athletic

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