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Everton need to solve their penalty confusion

Martinez needs to get a grip before a penalty miss really costs us

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Such has been the bizarre, head scratching nature of this season; Everton can’t even win a game without some sort of controversy these days.

Kevin Mirallas’ first goal was enough for the Toffees to see off a spirited but technically limited Burnley side, a result that sees them breach the ‘magical’ 40-point barrier and finally begin to look up the table rather than down.

But the game will also be remembered by more farcical scenes involving penalty kicks.

It was the unfortunate Ross Barkley who was in the firing line this time, the young midfielder seeing his 10th minute spot-kick saved by Burnley ‘keeper Tom Heaton.

On the face of it there should be no real cause for concern, footballers miss penalties from time-to-time. And the significance of Barkley’s miss was mitigated by the fact Everton went on to win the game.

However, Barkley is now the third player to miss a penalty this season, with some confusion over whose responsibility it is to take them.

Leighton Baines has been the regular spot-kick taker for years, with just one miss to his name in 16 attempts, against Man Utd at Old Trafford in October.

But that didn’t stop Kevin Mirallas from snatching the ball off Baines against West Brom in January, only to embarrassingly hit the ball wide.

Romelu Lukaku then decided he wanted to take penalties, scoring three out of three thus far. But with Lukaku on the bench on Saturday, duties were passed on to Barkley, despite Baines being on the field

Again, from the outset this appears to be a minor issue. Plenty of football teams rotate penalty takers and indeed it is a strength to have a number of players capable – and willing – to take a spot kick.

But Roberto Martinez’s comments after the game suggests there is no method behind the madness.

"Romelu is the penalty taker. After that there are three or four players who can take the penalties.

"There is no such thing as a best penalty taker. I don't agree with penalty takers being designated apart from Romelu being on the pitch.

"Once you win the game and you can look back at that incident, I’m happier that he missed it because as an experience it doesn’t get any better than wanting to take the responsibility,"

Martinez’s constant twisting of events to turn them into positives has jarred with many Evertonians this season. But his fudged comments regarding penalty takers should raise more eyebrows.

The miss didn’t cost Everton on Saturday, but it cost them against West Brom in January and may do so in the future. Winning Premier League matches is hard enough without having such fundamentals in place.

It makes you wonder what else isn’t nailed down in the team’s match preparations. Corners? free-kicks? Defensive markers?

Martinez affords his players freedom on the pitch, particularly going forward, often to great affect. But basics such as who takes penalties is not something he should allow to spiral out of control.

The hope is the issues can be quickly and easily addressed, allowing Martinez to focus on fixing Everton’s other deficiencies from this most puzzling of campaigns.