Dear Roberto Martinez,
Here we are again.
As you may recall, I wrote to you in December about the issues plaguing your struggling squad, ultimately claiming that the blame for the team's defensive frailties and mental weakness fell on you. The upshot of that letter was that, despite the fact that your tactics were far from perfect, they were generally good enough for the team to succeed, if you could inspire a stronger mentality in the players.
Since that date (December 13), your team has won three Premier League matches. One was against Aston Villa, one of the worst Premier League teams in recent memory. Another was against Newcastle United, a team also likely destined for relegation.
That's one league win in four months against teams that will be in the Premier League next season. I shudder at the thought, but the reality is those are the results of a team that could be in a relegation battle in a world not so different from our own.
Sorry Roberto, but with a team as talented as yours, your tactics have to come into question once again, particularly after the last few weeks.
Let's start with the Arsenal match, a 2-0 loss with a scoreline that was flattering to the Toffees. Your team went into half down 2-0 after being thoroughly thrashed by a mostly second-string Arsenal side, so you came out in the second half with tactical changes in place. Something needed to change, there's no doubt about that, but you simply pulled the wrong strings.
You brought on John Stones for Muhamed Besic, went to three at the back, and utilized Aaron Lennon as a second striker behind Romelu Lukaku. What exactly you expected Lennon to do in the middle of the pitch, where there's no space for him to utilize his speed, is beyond me. The result was predictable: Arsenal went into a defensive shell and was content to repel unintimidating waves of disorganized Everton attacks.
Against Manchester United, you finally included Aaron Lennon and Gerard Deulofeu in the same lineup, something Evertonians have been calling for all season. Of course, you found a way to spoil that as well, putting Lennon once again in the second striker's role, Deulofeu on the right, Tom Cleverley on the left, and Ross Barkley in alongside James McCarthy in a holding midfield role.
The result was, once again, a disorganized, unbalanced attack from the Toffees, and Manchester United rightfully won the match 1-0.
Over the weekend, it seemed you finally got the hint and deployed Deulofeu on the right, Lennon on the left, and Barkley as the No. 10. Against a struggling Watford side, surely things would turn around, right?
Well, perhaps they would have, had your attacking strategy not been to force every attack down the right wing to Deulofeu, whose crossing was simply off throughout the match. Watford adjusted to your tactics, you failed to adjust back, and your team looked mediocre at best. A lucky James McCarthy goal gave you a brief lead, but your team's continued inability to defend leads (and set pieces) saw you give the lead back within minutes.
Somehow, you managed to top all of that with your tactics this week. With pressure on you at an all-time high, with a nearly completely healthy roster at your disposal, and against one of the only Premier League teams who has had a worse 2016 than your team, you elected to play Arouna Kone at left wing.
Bryan Oviedo, Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu, and Steven Pienaar all started this weekend's match on the bench so that Arouna Kone could start out of position.
Why Roberto? Was I unclear when I last wrote you about what Arouna Kone does to this team when played at left wing?
Kone, either due to your direction or simply the fact that he has no business playing as a wide player, appears to wander the pitch with no real intent or purpose. All he really accomplishes when he plays at that position is getting in the way. Here Roberto, take a look at his heatmap from the match (courtesy of EvertonFC.com).
What exactly is he supposed to be doing? Because if this was actually your plan for him, you are somehow even more delusional that it first appeared.
And before you can say it, yes, I know he scored a hat trick against Sunderland playing from that position. Sunderland played a 5-man backline with absolutely no idea how to actually use it effectively that day. That defense corps included Sebastian Coates, Billy Jones, and DeAndre Yedlin. So yes, if he plays that position against second-tier caliber defenders, he can score there.
Fitting I suppose, since the last team you managed him on is in the Championship now, no?
The reality is that you're looking a lot like the Wizard of Oz right now Roberto. When everyone first came to see you, there was a lot of flash and power to what you and the team were doing. You said all the right things, inspired fear in opponents, and nearly brought this team to its main goal, Champions League football.
But we've returned to see you once again, and now the league has pulled back the curtain to see what you really are. Right now, you're a man desperately pulling levers and pressing buttons to try to make yourself what you once were. Aaron Lennon the striker? Arouna Kone the left winger? Tom Cleverley the left winger? Ross Barkley the holding midfielder? Anything in hopes that the magic returns again.
And when you publicly put words in the mouth of Leighton Baines, a tremendous servant to this club, and claim that we should be relatively pleased with a point against a struggling Crystal Palace side, all I hear is this:
Problem is, Roberto, now we've all seen what's behind that curtain. Fans have, ownership has, and clearly the rest of the league has given how well they've played against you this season.
Unless you have one final trick up your sleeve, your time is up.