With a top four finish out of the question, it is time for Roberto Martinez’s first season review at Everton. A fifth place finish at Everton will be classified as a success, but despite the hype and enthusiasm surrounding the Spaniard’s performance, was it really any better than his predecessor?
Clearly David Moyes’ legacy has been tarnished by his short lived and ill-fated move to Manchester United. His subsequent pursuit of Fellaini and Baines only fanned the flames of hate at Everton; all too apparent when he visited Goodison for the last time as United manager.
And Martinez’s popularity amongst fans is only boosted further by this anger at his predecessor. But while fifth place may be positive for Martinez, it does not top Moyes’ record. In ten full seasons at Goodison, he matched this finish on two occasions and went one further in the 2004-05 season.
So Moyes had already brought Everton to the promised land of Champions League football, short lived admittedly, but equally Martinez has brought something new to Everton. The dogged, very British nature of Moyes’s football has been replaced with the Spaniard’s sophisticated passing philosophy.
Visually, they are chalk and cheese. With the transformation of European football over the last decade following Barcelona’s example, Everton under Martinez certainly appear to be more prepared for the future. However, any fair comparison between Moyes and Martinez should cede credit to the Scot for the current crop of stars.
Whether Everton fans like to admit it or not, Moyes is directly responsible for the likes of Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and John Stones. Potentially these players could be mainstays at Everton for a decade. While Moyes was criticised at Everton and also at United for not gambling on youth quick enough (with Rooney being the obvious exception) it is undeniable that he left Everton with a far better playing squad and academy system than he inherited from Walter Smith in 2002.
Another factor deserving of consideration is Romelu Lukaku. Moyes never enjoyed the services of a striker with the Belgian’s qualities. Instead Cahill and then Fellaini were pushed further forward to compensate. This could reflect Moyes’ conservatism as much as the limited resources at his disposal. But nonetheless Lukaku was essential to Everton this season and he is unlikely to be around for the next.
This summer, Chelsea are expected to make a long-term decision regarding Lukaku’s future. And it looks unlikely that Everton will have the finances for a permanent move. So next season Martinez will encounter the same problem as his predecessor. He may have turned Everton into an attractive footballing side, but unless Martinez can find a suitable replacement, he will hit the same glass ceiling as Moyes.
This isn’t to dismiss Martinez’s calibre as a coach. He won the FA Cup with Wigan against all odds, something Moyes failed to do at Everton, but equally Wigan were relegated in the same season. Perhaps this is a cheap comparison but it is also revealing. Moyes inherited Everton at a difficult time and put structures in place to cement their status amongst the top-tier of English football. However, like any building project, the initial rough work must eventually make way for more finesse and creativity.
Enter Martinez. Eventually Everton fans will appreciate Moyes’ legacy once more, which Martinez himself has already rightly acknowledged. And why wouldn’t they? Moyes nurtured the club in his time at Everton and when the golden opportunity came, he was the sole casualty from the entire scenario. Even Fellaini’s transfer now looks like Moyes’s final departing gift. Not many managers can claim to have left their clubs in such good shape. Martinez included.
Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.