I won't say much about the loss to Manchester City. It was an odd game, a bit sloppy, but ultimately one that Everton did not play well enough to win, despite briefly taking a 2-goal aggregate lead.
The focus now turns back to the Premier League, where Everton currently sit in 12th place. I have no idea if Roberto Martinez's job is in danger in the mind of the board, but certainly the feeling around the supporters it that if things don't improve, the manager should be given a good hard look.
How are we to judge Martinez? Ostensibly, he was hired to deliver consistent European football to Goodison Park. Indeed some do feel that this team is good enough to compete for the top 4. Others would say that with their spending, anything in the top 10 should be considered a success. In hindsight, it seems Paul Riley had it about right in August: past numbers and attacking talent put them in the Europa League conversation, but defensive issues mean they are still just an upper-mid table side. As it stands, Michael Caley's model has Everton at around 12th, with a 1% chance still at the top 4, and a 7% chance at a 5-6 finish.
Let's say Everton have no marked improvement or decline from here on out and finish out the season as they are now. It would mark just the 4th time in 15 years that the Toffees have ended up in the bottom half of the table, and the first time in that span that they did it in consecutive seasons. There's a case to be made that that alone should cost Martinez his job.
Remarkably, Everton are on pace this year to score 66 goals, which would be the most in one season under Martinez or Moyes. The problem, as we've heard over and over again, is the defense. Only the miserable 17th place team of 03-04 conceded more goals than Martinez's men are on pace for this campaign. As I've also noted before, this team just gives up an unbelievable amount of shots: 6th most this year, and on pace for the most since pre-Moyes. If you really want to get depressing, if this season were to continue like this Everton would finish having conceded more shots than Wigan ever did while under Martinez. I know that I sound like a broken record around these parts, but I really think it's worth repeating and worth hammering home just how far from a good defensive team Everton are.
Now, it's been suggested that the defense has actually shown signs of improvement as of late, and that instead the bad luck bug has come around. There's an argument to be made there--over their last 7 league matches, Everton have conceded 13 goals despite having conceded just 7.5 expected goals according to Caley. Indeed, only Chelsea and Newcastle during that stretch managed to compile more expected goals in matches against Everton than their own league average. I think it's fair to say that only against Chelsea did the team turn in a truly bad defensive performance:
|Date||Team||Avg xG||xG v EFC||+/-|
A decent stretch for sure, but to get too hopeful would I think be naive. If we look at the larger basic trend of Everton under Martinez vs. under Moyes, we see this:
(GA=goals against; SA=shots against; *averaged to end of season)
What's concerning (and why I keep repeating myself) is how much this season is starting to look like last season, and therefore how much the 2013-14 season is starting to look like like a bit of fluke. Note that even during that season the goals against were masking some ugly shots numbers. Furthermore, the total shots ratio and the goal ratio that Martinez's side has posted during this season and last season are both lower than anything Moyes put up during his final 5 Everton seasons. In other words, he hasn't improved the offense enough to cover for how much the defense has deteriorated.
In short, Everton are posting bad numbers, they look disorganized on the pitch, and their good fortune from earlier in the season is starting to come back around. I don't think we should be calling for any heads at the moment, but if Everton don't show us something else during the next 4 months, it would be hard to justify retaining Martinez's services. We knew Moyes was a good manager, but surely the idea was that Martinez would maintain and hopefully even improve matters. If the team is regressing, then it becomes unclear what the point of keeping him around is.