There is one small bit of praise I can offer to Roberto Martinez amongst the vast amounts of criticism he is rightly coming under. The way the team started the game on Wednesday night was exactly what was needed. The 2nd leg from an Everton perspective needed a reassuring first goal to reaffirm our lead on the tie. That's exactly what we got, with a fine piece of individual brilliance from Ross Barkley to set us on our way. However, yet again the ignorance for the importance of defense saw us concede an equalizer not long after we scored. The second half only got worse, a goal from Kevin De Bruyne and another from Aguero sealed a 3-1 win for City.
The players can't be blamed for this one
Although we can possibly highlight a few individual errors over the past month, Wednesday night was not a result that can be put down to the performance of the players. Ross Barkley had one of the best first halves of football I've seen him have this season. Barkley's second half was a quiet one as the Man.City defenders realised they needed to mark him out of the game to prevent further goals, that's exactly what they did.
Ramiro Funes Mori, Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman, Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku all had solid games. I felt yet again for John Stones as he was left out on the right hand side of the defence which is a tough task for even a natural right back against City. Leighton Baines had a quiet game and since his return to the side his deliveries into the box haven't been what we recognise from our trusty left back.
Even though one or two players maybe underperformed or were played out of position it wasn't enough reason for the players to come under any fire from critics. They played to a game plan to score the first goal and ultimately win the game and they arguably perfected it, until the second half when exactly the opposite tactic was employed by the manager.
A small open letter to Roberto Martinez
During your tenure we have had highs but experienced a vast amount of lows. These lows are through errors that are now consistently all to apparent. Your unbelievable and frankly baffling stubbornness to move away from this brand of football you play is crippling. Your stubbornness is also concerning on the selection of players front as well, we too often witness certain players selected over others regardless of ability, form or any common sense that should have otherwise prevailed. For example, Arouna Kone isn't a left winger and therefore should not be selected or brought on as a sub over our natural wingers in the squad in Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas. Arouna Kone also shouldn't have been given game time over Steven Naismith, who many fans believe you have wrongly sold.
Naismith might not have been technically outstanding, but he provided this team with drive, 100% effort when on the field and I believe an strong commitment to the badge he once wore. I'm now beginning to believe that Naismith was sold not on an ability front but more because he didn't fit into your way of playing football, in which case you should probably sell the whole team as it's clear neither do any of the other squad members. But then again, which players could?
Whilst you were at Wigan your defensive disregard was exactly the reason you had them fighting for survival year after year after year. By chance and the spirit of that club and it's players you managed to win the FA cup, but even that didn't come without a downside as you couldn't prevent them from your effect and they were subsequently relegated that year.
The least I would ask from any manager is honesty. I genuinely don't believe you have been honest with the fans or the team this season during your opportunities in front of the press, this has created the 'us and you' feeling most fans now display. You masterfully skirt around questions like a well trained politician. Your continuous use of the words 'phenomenal' and 'character' are not fitting the way in which you currently have our club playing football.
Roberto, in football the great managers have to change a little to gain a bit back in return. Sir Alex Ferguson began at Manchester United with a team that needed to learn how to score goals, he had to change how they went about attacking in order to accomplish what the team needed to be better at. When a team isn't doing well during a season, it's difficult to find the right time to make the change in the way the team plays football. But, like Ferguson, you must start somewhere. There is no better time than now before it's to late for you and to late for OUR club. Make a change or be changed.
Refereeing decisions don't mask bad tactics
As I mentioned at the start of this article, the first half tactic to go and win the game was absolutely spot on. So, when we went in at half time in exactly the same position as we were going into the game, why did Martinez clearly instruct the team to defend their lead in the second half? It's bemusing to think that after all the bad football we have played recently that we actually had an opportunity to win the tie after our fair first half performance. It's just as bemusing that our manager was the sole reason for the defeat.
Every team in the Premier league and across all the leagues in Europe and beyond have spells of bad luck on the field with referees. Yes, the ball was out for Raheem Sterling's goal and yes Sergio Aguero may have been a fraction offside for Manchester City's 3rd goal and yes the referee and linesman should have made the correct call on both, but that's in an ideal world. In the Premier league you have to make your own luck. Take the game away from a situation whereby the referee or his officials could potentially have a deciding say with a decision.
I'm not for one minute saying I agree with any of the decisions the ref made on the night, but we played into his and Manchester City's hands by being so defensive. You allow any opposition at home to get the edge and get their fans behind them and you'll be lucky to leave having won.