Roberto Martinez Must Rediscover the Formula to Everton's Recent Success

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Roberto Martinez Must Rediscover the Formula to Everton's Recent Success
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Everton have started their second season under Roberto Martinez in clumsy fashion.

In isolation, a point at Leicester and another at home to Arsenal can be viewed as reasonable results, but it was the manner of these performances that will worry Evertonians.

Leading both games with just a few minutes remaining, the Toffees have appeared uncharacteristically nervy and unsure of themselves, traits that rarely resembled their form last season.

Both leads have been surrendered through late goals in the 83rd, 86th and 90th minutes, throwing four points away so early in the schedule.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Such fallibility was simply not a factor under Martinez last season and was one of the most noticeable changes between the Catalan and his predecessor, David Moyes.

While Moyes would look to preserve a slender lead with a backs-to-the-wall approach, Martinez would be more eager to enhance it by leaving attackers upfield. Both methods can work, but under Martinez, the final 10 minutes became Everton's time to strike.

The statistics very much reflect this.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

During Moyes' final season, Everton dropped 21 points from winning positions; in Martinez's first, his side lost just 12.

Delving a little deeper into these numbers, Moyes' final season saw Everton score seven of their 55 goals in the 81st-90th minutes (13 per cent) while conceding nine of 40 goals (23 per cent). This translated to a slightly disappointing five points won in the final 10 minutes and nine points lost.

Last season, however, Everton were far more prolific late on under Martinez. They scored 16 of their 61 Premier League goals (26 per cent) in the 81st-90th minute while conceding just four of 39 goals (10 per cent). That led to a hefty haul of 15 points captured in the closing 10 minutes; more impressive still is the fact that just one point was lost.

Considering the Toffees have started this season conceding three of their four goals and losing four critical points in this time—a rise of 400 per cent on last seasonis a big concern. It suggests that a mental fragility more commonly seen during Moyes' time has somehow reappeared.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

So how has this side come away from what made them so successful last year?

A lot will be attributed to a poor and strangely curtailed pre-season, where Everton looked alarmingly disjointed in their play. They only played five games, secured their worst set of results since 1979 and lacked any fluency or rhythm on the pitch. 

There were countless individual errors in defence and so few moments of clever interplay in the final third. Both of these characteristics have defined their opening two games, with the Toffees seemingly suffering a pre-season hangover.

At the back, an edgy, nervy feel has somehow continued on from those friendlies, where the Toffees conceded 10 goals in five games. Scoring four goals from just five shots on target has also masked some difficulties at the other end of the field.

Against Leicester and Arsenal, despite two goals scored the Toffees created just six chances in both games, a tally that would rank among the worst creative displays in each of the past two seasons (joint-36th and joint 38th of 39, respectively).

While the goals have been predominantly conceded in the final 10 minutes, it's the performance levels after the break that are the biggest concern. Everton have started each game well, butas the statistics showhave appeared a completely different side after half-time:

Everton first half vs. second half this season
First Half Second Half
Goals 4 0
Goals Conceded 1 3
Shots 17 4
Shots Conceded 9 15
Possession 57% 50%
Acc. Passes 506 340
Pass Success 87% 78%
Fouls 7 13
Opposition Succ. Dribbles 4 10

stats via WhoScored.com and FourFourTwo App

Of course, this is a small sample size, and one would expect the numbers to differ with Everton's opponents chasing a game. Nevertheless, there are some results that reflect these struggles and suggest a genuine lack of conditioning.

Excusing the shot count as just the Toffees sitting on their lead, Martinez's side have been unable to gain as much control. They have kept less possession and, most tellingly, they have made more passing errors, more fouls and been dribbled past far more in the second period—surely signs of a side with tired legs.

Everton started slowly in August last year and still went on to record their best-ever Premier League season, yet initial struggles were expected following such a radical shift of style. 

This season, the Toffees have already secured their new signings and have a squad familiar with their manager's methods; there should be far more belief and cohesion on display.

What is the biggest reason for Everton's slow start?

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Six points dropped to Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff ultimately proved costly, with the Toffees finishing seven points off a Champions League place. 

There's no way of telling if these four points will prove crucial, but Everton must act quickly to rediscover their identity and recapture last season's mentality.

Chelsea travel to Goodison Park on Saturday, just as they did for the Toffees' second home game of last season. Martinez will hope a similarly galvanising win can soothe some of these missed opportunities.

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com.

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