Nothing but the best? Martinez hails 'perfect' Everton

Laurence Griffiths

Roberto Martinez is never one to hold back when heaping praise on his players, but never has it been more justified than after Sunday's magnificent performance.

Speaking to reporters after the game an understandably delighted Martinez had this to say:

The performance from the first minute to the last was very strong in every department.

It had to be perfect, and in every area, the players were phenomenal in their tactical awareness, work-rate and discipline. In group sport, this was as good as you could hope for.

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to assessing Everton's performance. It was an afternoon where everything came together and all that is good about Everton was on show.

It began before the game, with the Everton fans rising to the occasion and producing an atmosphere only a old stadium like Goodison can create. It is days like these I will miss the most if (or when) we move away from the Grand Old Lady.

The players responded to that atmosphere and began the game at their snarling best, flying into tackles and harrying the Arsenal players at every opportunity.

The players were accused of being too meek in their 4-1 FA Cup defeat last month, further evidence that they lack the guile and ruthless streak required to win the big games.

Not on Sunday.

Everton made themselves as throughly unpleasant as possible, none more so than towards Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard remained a popular figure long after his move to Arsenal as the supporters understood his reasons for leaving and the service he gave to the club. But he tossed that all away and fell foul of the Toffees faithful in the cup game at the Emirates due to his on-field behaviour.

He feigned injury while Everton were in possession, with Leighton Baines duly putting the ball out of play so his old friend could get treatment he didn't really need.

He then kissed the Arsenal badge after scoring the penalty before telling his team-mates to slow down when walking off the pitch to waste time.

I don't blame Arteta for this, he was just giving his all for his current side and doing everything possible to win - just like he did when playing for Everton.

But that behaviour meant the gloves were off when he stepped out at Goodison, with every touch booed and men in Blue shadowing his every move.

We fought fire with fire.

The change in attitude was perhaps symbolised by Baines, who a month after kicking the ball out for Arteta, angrily confronted him in the closing stages after a clash with Ross Barkley.

But this wasn't just about aggression, Arsenal were bullied yes but they were also blown away by some magnifcent football.

Once again we saw Gareth Barry and James McCarthy shield the defence, John Stones fearlessly stride forward with the ball, Seamus Coleman humiliate Santi Cazorla, Kevin Mirallas show a timely return to form while Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku scored the goals that put Everton in control.

All of this was down to Martinez. The players have taken to his methods with relish and clearly trust his tactics - shown by Lukaku's celebration for the first goal.

Lukaku scored after being pushed into a wide right position in order to attack Nacho Monreal while also limiting the full-back's forays into Everton's half.

Arsene Wenger was beaten at his own game and out foxed by a manager who is quickly establishing himself as one of the rising stars of the game. Wenger meanwhile, who spent much of this game slouched in his chair, was made to look outdated and out-of-touch.

But as good as performance as this was, you still get the feeling the players can improve still further. That's the Martinez way, he is relentless in his ambition and once again laid out his plans after the game:

I always like to manage teams who have a dream to follow. At Swansea, it was to reach the Premier League, and at Wigan, the aim was Europe. 

With all the history attached to this club, we should be trying for the Champions League.

Martinez said the same on the day he first entered Goodison Park as manager, though at the time the media and - lets face it - much of the support, looked upon those quotes with suspicion, the hyperbole of a manager looking to make an early impresssion.

But Martinez doesn't seem one to make empty promises he backs up his ambitions with hard work and that work is starting to pay off.

All of a sudden the Champions League is a real prospect and even if we just miss out this season, there appears no reason why we can't qualify next season.

Journalist and Everton fan Elliot Bretland wrote an excellent article for the Daily Mail last week charting Martinez's rise. In it he correctly stated that while David Moyes gave us hope, Martinez has given us the belief.

Belief that after decades of false dawns and under-achievement we are actually on the verge of something special.

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