Sometimes it's a challenge coming up with five specific things to say about a game, this week not so much.
Roberto Martinez and the art of the substitution
Or lack of.
Some of Martinez's changes this season have been unfathomable and at times have led to backlash from the crowd. On Wednesday night one of my colleagues here called it at half time - "nah, he'll take Lennon off" during a discussion about Steven Naismith's unproductive first half. And he did. But that was well after removing Muhamed Besic from the firing line at the break. Withstanding injury you'd have to guess he was protecting a second yellow card and suspension, but then that didn't work out so well did it. To say it's become predictable is putting it mildly, week after week the Bosnian, or Ross Barkley, are pulled or left out for less deserving teammates. When all was going well last season our Spanish manager was getting his changes spot on, this year it's like he's set his changes before the game, like some real life Football Manager 2015. Not good enough Roberto.
Apparently the big centre forward is looking onwards and upward, looking forward to the chance to play for "a top club" again. Well hold on there fella, don't you need to start playing for Everton first? Talk of a big move is so fanciful as to think Lukaku has been hanging around in the same world as Mario Balotelli. So far many Evertonians would gladly take back the £28m, but would face a huge fight from Jose Mourinho who may never have made a better decision. Now there's a very good chance the quotes attributed to the Belgian have been taken out of context - yes that happens... - but it doesn't change the fact that he needs to work on many aspects of his game to become the player everyone hopes he will. To mitigate a little he hasn't been helped by the way Everton have played this season; not to his strengths. Still Romelu, walk before you can run and all that.
For someone that seemed like an arch man manager it's difficult to see how Martinez could have got it more wrong with the return of Tim Howard. In any position if you're the back-up and you get a chance, and you impress, you would rightfully expect to be able to continue in the team; "the man in form" if you like. And that's even more so as a goalkeeper as chances to usurp the No.1 are few and far between. So how does dropping Joel Robles after two consecutive clean sheets and better performances statistically than a horribly off form Howard in any way motivate the Spanish keeper? To back that up here are some stats: Games played: TH 19 JR 7 - Clean sheets: TH 3 JR 3 - Saves per goal: TH 1.44 JR 2.33
Forget motivation, why would you replace the most successful player?
The back four has been more settled over the last few weeks, players have returned to form - yes you Phil Jagielka - and John Stones is maturing faster than anyone could have imagined. There are still doubts over Seamus Coleman's form but there's time for him to improve again. What has been pleasing though is the desire of the team to stop leaking goals and to stop making to terrible individual errors that have led Whoscored.com to list "Avoiding individual errors" as VERY WEAK in their summary of the team. Bryan Oviedo has stepped in and covered for Baines in a more than competent fashion and the low goals against count in recent weeks leaves the team with a solid base to start building and finish the season strongly.
The solidity has come at a cost though. One goal in the last four games is poor, and it hasn't been down to luck. A general lack of inventiveness in the final third and a lack of pace has hugely hindered the team. Aaron Lennon is one potential solution to that but a fully fit, confident, and on form Ross Barkley could be the key to a huge final third of the season. That's a prospect that hasn't looked likely so far in 2015 but a key pass in the derby could be a turning point in his season; if we forget about the Chelsea game...