When news broke that David Moyes was leaving Everton, it was Roberto Martinez who bookmakers favored as the most likely candidate to replace him. While the odds have softened somewhat, he is still a strong possibility to be manning the sidelines at Goodison next season. Here’s what you need to know about him.
Martinez’s first job was Swansea in 2007 in League 1, where after getting the job in February he led the team to the promotion playoffs while losing only once in 11 games. Although Swans lost in the playoffs, he led them to the League 1 championship the following year, earning promotion. After guiding Swansea to an 8th place finish the following season he moved to Wigan, where he has been for the last four years. Under his stewardship Wigan has finished 15, 16 and 16 in the last three years, and are currently struggling once again to avoid relegation.
Broadly speaking, Martinez has two major factors working in his favor. The first is his style of football. First at Swansea, and then at Wigan, Martinez has always emphasized a pleasing possession based brand of play. His focus on ball retention, possession and building attacks from the back is a style that will be sure to please many Everton fans. Also, Martinez has implemented a three man defense at Wigan over the past two seasons, a stylistic choice that seems well suited to Everton’s attack minded wingbacks (although it bears mentioning that without Moyes, Leighton Baines' future at Everton must be somewhat in doubt).
The second argument in favor of Martinez is that his time at cash strapped Wigan will prepare him well for the realities of life at Everton. Wigan’s financial status is infinitely more dire than Everton’s. In effect they make no money and exist only due to the Premier League payouts they receive. They made the least amount of money out of any Premier League team last year. And while, their wage bill was technically 16th at 38 million pounds, it’s worth noting that the teams below Wigan were either relegated (Wolverhampton also on 38 million, who have since been relegated a second time) or newly promoted (Martinez’s old club Swansea on 35 million, and Norwich City on 37 million). Wigan also made less money than any of those teams and responded to the brush with relegation by selling its best player, Victor Moses, to Chelsea. All of that data is thanks to a fun little Guardian article you can find here. Clearly, this is a manager with experience getting results on a shoe string budget.
In a nutshell the argument for Martinez is that he plays positive attacking football, built one successful long term project at Swansea, and maintained another team under extraordinarily difficult financial circumstances at Wigan.
Oh, and he also turned down Liverpool last year. So, points in his favor for that.
The case against Martinez, interestingly enough, is similar to the one some Manchester United fans have made against David Moyes. Does consistently meeting or exceeding expectations at a club with lower expectations qualify a manager to lead a bigger team? Martinez’s resume is undoubtedly thin, and hiring him would essentially be gambling on the idea that his talent was heavily constrained by economic realities at Wigan. Is that a good gamble? It’s hard to say, but it’s essentially the same one that Manchester United took on Moyes (albeit Moyes had a longer history of relative success at Everton than Martinez has had at Wigan).
Even if Everton does settle on Martinez, it’s not a foregone conclusion that he will take the job. While Wigan owner Dave Whelan seems resigned to losing his coach at some point, he did cast doubt on whether Martinez would be interested in the Everton job in particular. That’s understandable, especially given that, as I mentioned above, Martinez has already turned down Liverpool. If Martinez prizes the chance to compete for a Champions League spot it seems possible he could look back to his native Spain for his next job, where conceivably the 4th Champion’s League spot seems more attainable than it is in England. It’s also a possibility that he somehow avoids relegation again with Wigan and decide to stay there another year.
There’s a strong possibility that Roberto Martinez will be Everton’s coach next year.