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Roberto Martinez's Inflexibility and Poor Player Management Keeping Everton Near Relegation Places

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Another series of head-scratching decisions from the Spanish manager has seen Everton drop even more points at home.

The face Everton supporters made when they found out that both Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic were starting today.
The face Everton supporters made when they found out that both Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic were starting today.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

All credit to West Bromwich Albion and Tony Pulis, who came to Goodison Park with one thing in mind -- a 0-0 draw. They executed their plan to perfection, and made life difficult on Everton.

But, Roberto Martinez led the Toffees in such a way that there was always going to be a high chance of failure. Today, we saw from Martinez many of the same mistakes that he has made all season, predominately related to his inability to be flexible and correctly handle players.

From the moment the team sheets came out, Evertonians should have known there was trouble. By starting both Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic in the midfield behind Ross Barkley, Martinez made an early statement that he is not interested in trying anything different.

I said in the match preview that this was the perfect match to rest Barry and start Barkley alongside Besic. West Brom were always going to be playing with 10 men behind the ball, and starting Barkley deeper would put Everton's best playmaker in positions where he had space to break down the Baggies' defense.

I have, admittedly, been a Barry apologist for most of the season, and felt that Martinez's decisions to play Barry deep in the midfield instead of Barkley made sense. Against many teams in the Premier League, Barkley is not going to defend enough to justify a deep-lying starting position.

But, we saw very clearly today that West Brom, in particular a West Brom team on the road managed by Pulis, is not a team whose attack Everton needs to worry about.

The result of a deep-lying Barkley would have been Steven Naismith at his most comfortable position, behind the striker, and Bryan Oviedo on the left from the opening whistle. Oviedo is not a spectacular winger, but he can be a serviceable one. Against a team with 10 men behind the ball at all times, having width on both sides of the pitch would have been a huge boon.

Instead, Everton were forced to play narrow down the right, and had few playmaking options in the midfield for the first half.

All of this would have likely been forgiven and forgotten if Kevin Mirallas buries his first half penalty kick, or more sensibly hands it to Leighton Baines, who is 15 for 16 on penalties in the Premier League.

I am willing to absolve Martinez of blame on the penalty fiasco, as there's little the manager could have done from the touchline. Perhaps Baines or captain Phil Jagielka should have had a more aggressive discussion with the Belgian, but that does not fall on the manager.

Martinez's decision to remove Mirallas at the break, however, was rubbish.

Martinez said the halftime substitution was injury-related, but I don't buy that for a second.

Of course, Martinez has to say that, and I cannot blame him for saying so. Surely it is not in the best interest of the club for the manager to be making a spectacle of a player who may already be looking for the exit door.

But Mirallas played 55 minutes against West Ham on Tuesday, nearly a full week ago. With Everton's next game two weeks away, if Mirallas did not have at least 55 minutes in him tonight, he should not have been starting, and perhaps not even playing.

For as stupid a decision as Mirallas made, the fact of the matter is that he is far and away Everton's best wing player at the moment, and the team was always going to need all hands on deck to put one best West Brom. Everton needed Mirallas.

By taking the Belgian out of the game, Martinez condemned his team to play the second half with no true wingers.

For the sake of argument, if Mirallas truly was an injury concern coming into the match, he should not have been starting. Martinez had to know the way that West Brom was going to play, and that Mirallas' best chances would come off the bench, as they did against West Ham on Tuesday.

Whether it was injury or attitude, Martinez's decision to remove Mirallas was misguided.

Perhaps just as frustratingly, Martinez then watched the same 11 players struggle until the 80th minute, when he finally brought on Arouna Kone.

Bringing on Kone was the right move, given who was on the bench, but Martinez's utilization of the Ivorian was maddening. Rather than throw Kone up front, alongside Romelu Lukaku, he employed Kone in a role behind the striker.

Now, we have not seen much of Kone in an Everton shirt, but I feel confident that we've seen more than enough of him to know that wandering around the midfield is not his strong suit.

What did Martinez expect him to do? Kone is no Samuel Eto'o.

Eto'o, of course, is a player the Toffees sorely needed today. But instead, he is heading out the door, having been with the club only a few months.

Reportedly, Eto'o wanted out based on some combination of frustration about playing time and the manager's treatment of Sylvain Distin.

Martinez has been managing long enough to know that players with Eto'o's class are hard to find, and need to be kept in the club's good graces. Eto'o likely could have spent a little longer trying to work through the issues, but at the end of the day, both come back to Martinez, who could not fix the problems.

So, through some combination of mismanagement, ego and poor attitudes, Conor McAleny sat on the bench today, watching his team struggle, while Samuel Eto'o presumably sat around in Italy waiting for his deal to go through.

We've heard time and time again that there is too much talent on this team to be relegated. This is probably true.

But, if Martinez keeps making the same mistakes, Evertonians will almost certainly be spending the rest of the season nervously looking down the table.