TV pundit Graeme Souness has questioned Everton’s defensive record this season – and feels manager Roberto Martinez must take a large portion of the blame.
Despite earning plenty of plaudits for their style of play this season, the Toffees lie 12th in the Premier League table following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park to struggling Swansea.
To the suggestion that Everton have been “patchy”, Souness visibly grimaces. “You are being kind there,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“They are struggling – I think they have got one of the worst defensive records in the league. Everyone today wants to play like Barcelona, whether pressing high up the field or playing too much football on your 18-yard line. I think that’s Everton’s problem. Too near their own goal. If you lose it there, it is a shot on goal. But that’s not new for Roberto Martinez’s sides, is it? It’s every year.”
The statistics do largely support that thesis. After finishing fifth and conceding 39 goals in 2013-14, they let in 52 last year and have already conceded 34 this year. Wigan Athletic also conceded 73, 61, 61 and 79 goals in four league seasons under Martinez.
Souness clearly also finds the debates about supposedly revolutionary coaching methods irritating and suggests that people watch a video of Ian Rush or Ray Kennedy and Phil Neal if they think it is somehow new to play with a more advanced striker or attacking full-backs.
Managers giving complicated touchline hand-signals are another bugbear. “Several managers do that,” he says. “Do you think a player is looking at a manager giving it the signs? Ever seen Fergie, Wenger or Mourinho do that? It has no interest to the players on the pitch.”