Roberto Martinez's tenure at Everton wasn't supposed to be like this. The popular theory when he was appointed to succeed David Moyes was that he would get Everton playing much more attractive football, but their defence would suddenly start springing leaks where leaks were not before.
The theory had plenty of basis in history. Martinez's Wigan side undoubtedly passed the ball very nicely during his time at the DW Stadium, but equally they shipped goals in troubling numbers. They conceded over 60 in each of his four seasons there, and had the joint-worst defence in the Premier League last season, when they were finally relegated.
However, things haven't quite turned out that way at Goodison Park. After 11 games last season, David Moyes' side had let in 14 goals, this season it's 10. Of course, Martinez has better defenders to work with now and the likes of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin are not going to forget how to defend over a summer, but it does dismiss the theory that Martinez is simply a flimsy type who cannot produce a side of any substance.
Indeed, Martinez's Everton have an almost identical record to Moyes' version—at this stage last season they had 20 points, gained from five wins, five draws and one defeat, exactly as they have now. The only difference is they have both scored and conceded fewer this time, something that few people saw coming.
Given the upheaval at the club over the summer, this is a pretty impressive feat. Not only did Everton lose their manager of 11 years, but basically their entire coaching staff, as well as their club captain and arguably best player, who all followed Moyes to Manchester United.
Rather than changing everything about the club to fit his own style, Martinez has rather sensibly tried to keep as much the same as possible, simply adding to that and building on it, by gradually introducing his own way of playing.
This weekend is the Merseyside derby, and a chance to further improve on Moyes' record. Martinez's predecessor didn't have the best of times against Liverpool, winning only four of the 25 derbies he took charge of, famously none of those wins coming at Anfield, and winning none of the last six.
It could have been so different, too. Martinez was at the very least on Liverpool's shortlist to succeed Kenny Dalglish in 2012, when Brendan Rodgers was given the job, if not the Liverpool owners' first choice. But he decided to stay at Wigan. He doesn't regret it either, quoted in an interview with James McCath in The Daily Telegraph as saying:
"'You never regrets, not in football. I always believe that, in football, the same as in life, things happen for a reason. Everything has to be natural to be successful.'"
He also said, in the same interview "'I have had no time to look back. I’m proud and honoured to be the manager of Everton and really excited to be in charge of my first derby.'"
And excited he should be, because under Martinez, Everton's future looks bright.
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