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Martinez running out of logical explanations to defend Tim Howard

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has maintained his staunch defence of Tim Howard despite recent criticism of his form and increasing pressure to pick Joel Robles ahead of him.

Robles' performance against Norwich on Tuesday led to calls for the Spaniard to keep his place for this weekend's game against Sunderland.

Howard appeared to be at fault for two goals against Arsenal last Saturday, with some supporters suggesting his skills are on the wane.

Martinez, though, has never wavered in his support of the American and insisted after Tuesday's penalty shootout win that he would be recalled "without doubt".

That has not stopped the debate rumbling on ever since though, and the Everton boss was against asked about the goalkeeping situation at his press conference ahead of Sunday's meeting with the Black Cats.

Speaking about Robles and Howard, Martinez said:

"Football is about competition for places and that’s why its so great to see someone like Joel Robles enjoying his football performing in the manner his did on Tuesday, having an incredible influence.

"That’s what you want all over the park, you want that competition for places and that’s very, very important.

"I'm delighted with the level of form of Joel and delighted to have the experience of Howard that when it is most needed.

"Especially when you have young and experienced players in front of the goalkeeper and the back four, it’s important we have that experience and know-how from Tim."

I can understand where Martinez is coming from, experience on the field is vital in order to lead the team and guide young players.

But experience is supposed to bring a steadying, calming influence on the game - I'm not sure Howard is doing that at present. His reluctance to command his area puts pressure on the defenders, who will become uncertain about what to do when a high ball is played into the area.

Martinez's comments also suggest that Howard's individual display is secondary to his experience, which is worrying. That is basically saying Howard is undroppable regardless of whether he has a bad game just because he is a senior player.

Dropping him doesn't mean he will never play again, but what it can do is give Howard extra motivation to improve his game and win his place back. It appears Martinez favours the carrot rather than stick approach.

I have said many times that I find the manager's faith in his players admirable and shows he is not prepared to bow to fan pressure, which I know very well to be knee-jerk and reactionary at times.

He is clearly hoping that by backing Howard so publicly it will give him the confidence boost to improve his performances and reward his manager's faith in him.

Martinez is certainly taking a gamble though and with each passing poor performance the calls for change are only going to get louder and more justified.