On Friday May 22nd, Toffee TV along with other fan sites (Followtonians, Bluekipper, SOS1878, NSNO, WSAG and Toffeeweb) were invited to Finch Farm to Interview Blues boss Roberto Martinez.
As usual Roberto was his charming and engaging self as he fielded questions from all sites about a number of different topics ranging from pre-season to the Europa League to his plans in the transfer market this summer.
The full interview is available here but a few of the things he said stuck in my mind.
On Pre-Season :
When questioned on last season’s Pre-Season he admitted that the program they had in place for the players wasn’t ideal due to players returning from the World Cup at different times. This arrangement certainly wasn’t conducive to us hitting the ground running on day one at Leicester and he acknowledged that it hampered us but he feels as though this year we will be much better prepared physically for when we begin on August 8th.
On Ross Barkley :
Roberto Martinez admitted that losing Ross on the eve of the season was a hammer blow as Ross had returned to training and was absolutely flying when he picked up the injury 48 hours before the opening game. The manager stated that he felt Ross only really begun to look like himself during the 3 nil home win over Manchester United in April but he believes that Barkley will be back to his best next season.
He said that Ross will have learned a lot this season that will benefit him in the long run and he also confirmed that he thinks Ross could be a number 8 rather than a number 10.
On the Transfer Market :
Probably the area that most people would have been interested in hearing about but Roberto threw a dampner on it by confirming that the club does not have another £28m to throw at a player like we did last summer. The manager did say that he is looking for roughly 4 players who can come in and strengthen the side and named a left sided player, a number 10, a central defender and maybe a right winger as the players he would be chasing during the break.
As disappointing as that is and even RM saying that we need a smaller squad this season has not changed my belief that more than 4 will be added to the squad. When you consider that Distin, Alcaraz, Atsu and Lennon have all left the club and Luke Garbutt still not yet committed to a new deal, adding 4 would only put the squad where it was at the end of the season. I personally still expect 5/6 to come in.
On Youth Development :
I asked Roberto how important he felt developing our own players was and if the aim was to bring through a group of players who could play in the first team together. The manager agreed that that had to be the strategy although he did question the difficulty in achieving such a feat. He was very positive about the young players we have at the club and spoke glowingly about players such as Tyias Browning, Brendan Galloway and Chris Long. The manager also said that he felt in Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Romelu Lukaku he has the BEST set of young players in the Premier League.
Now obviously, I have only touched on a couple of pointers there from the interview and if you have not done so already then give it a listen, it is well worth it.
For me, I came away from Finch Farm thinking that RM deserves more time to try and address some of the issues that have occurred this campaign. Yes he has made mistakes and must shoulder a proportion of the blame but injuries played a big part for us with every member of the squad being injured at one time or another. Also players playing well below their level didn’t help as well as having some big characters frozen out and certain high profile players ‘bitching’ behind people’s backs before being moved on.
The manager during the interview listened to our concerns and answered probably as honest as you would get from a Premier League manager, that is if they agreed to do the interview in the first place !
One thing that is evident is that this fella wants to get it right, he wants Everton Football Club to be successful again and is working hard to ensure that he gives himself the best chance to achieve that. As you spend time in his company it is clear to see that he is an intelligent man and is a deep thinker about the game but the real hope for me is that he can learn from this season and progress. That being said I did have a couple of issues with a few of the things Roberto said.
Firstly, I do not believe we are as flexible as he would like to believe we are. Watching us last season was painful at times and in reality the only time that flexibility came into play was after Stoke City away when we started mixing it up and not messing about with the ball at the back, in other words ‘going back to basics’ it worked and we looked like a good side again.
Roberto spoke about how he doesn’t want us just lobbing balls into the box as a plan b, then spoke about the Crystal Palace home game. He said that we were winning and in total control of the game but one ball into the box and it was 1-1 ! They also threw another two into the box and ended up 3-1 up from it so for me he kind of contradicted himself. For me I like the possession game if it is sharp and we move the ball quickly but too often we are pedestrian like and the opposition just nullify us and that is something he needs to crack.
Another issue I had was the fact that RM dismissed that we need another striker this summer, instead saying that Arouna Kone would be better next season. Now that may well be true, he can’t really have a worse season to be honest, but for me we need another striker to help us become more ruthless. I personally do not believe that Romelu Lukaku is good enough to play as a lone striker. Far too many games pass the big man by because he finds himself isolated and does not possess a good enough first touch to hold the ball up well enough. When Rom had Kone with him against Newcastle he was a real handful and looked a lot happier having someone to share the workload. This is where I think we would see a £28m striker if he had someone to give him more space so that he could run at people with the ball.
I asked the manager about a system with two strikers but he sounded concerned about what the opposition might do to us if we had two on the pitch. Personally, I believe he needs to find a way of getting two strikers into the side and if that means a 352 then so be it but I want Rom looking hungry all the time and I want us to do our best to utilise his strengths and create chances for him.
Finally, the Goalkeeping situation was something I found bizarre. In January, we chased David Marshall and Orjan Nyland and would have bought one or the other had injury and Molde messing about over the price tag. When questioned about the GK position the manager was crystal clear in stating that Tim Howard is his number 1 despite the American shot stopper having a poor season and Joel Robles is the number 2. In fact, when questioned about the situation RM indicated that the reason he was looking at a keeper was not because of the form of Tim Howard but more to do with the fact that Joel was not performing as he should have been ! That for me is a bit of a strange situation and one I hope that will change over the summer and I hope that the Nyland deal can be completed before he moves to someone else and we are left to think of what might have been.
There were a few more but I won’t go on. I just wanted to get down a few of my thoughts on how Roberto answered the questions that were put to him. No doubt myself and Ped will discuss the Interview on an episode of Toffee TV, but I think I was happier hearing him say things like Gareth Barry was not supposed to play the amount of games that he did etc because that makes me think that he can recognise the things we can see as fans. I personally, hope that RM adopts his Sin Miedo attitude from last season and has us playing a quicker tempo in the games and taking teams by surprise rather than laboring because Tony Pulis turns up with the bus etc.
Anyway I will end this by saying ‘Thank You’ to Roberto Martinez for doing the interview in the first place as there are plenty of managers who simply would not entertain sitting down with fan sites and giving up 90 minutes of their time.
Come on Roberto let’s be boss again !