Football

Has Roberto Martinez been an improvement on Moyes?

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Everton have failed to win in their last 20 Premier League visits to Old Trafford. In that time they have drawn four and lost 16. If that record becomes one in 21 after tonight's game. Then it really will be a case of Roberto Martinez 1-0 David Moyes.

Whilst many Manchester United fans believe that their hero, Sir Alex Ferguson, has been succeeded by an insufficient replacement, the replacement's replacement is settling in pretty well a few miles down the road at Goodison Park.

There were some doubts surrounding Martinez as a manager at the start of his tenure at Everton. He may have won the FA Cup with Wigan, but he also took them down.

Under the Spaniard, the Latics played some excellent stuff at times, but under his charge they only just survived relegation by the skins of their teeth almost every year, before eventually falling through the trapdoor last season. 

The doubts amongst Everton fans continued throughout the early games of this season. A scrappy 2-2 draw away to Norwich on the opening day was followed up by two goalless draws at home to West Brom, then away at Cardiff.

Unbeaten yes, but by no means convincingly so. All of those games were eminently winnable. But then everything changed the very next game. A superb 1-0 victory at home Chelsea proved that Roberto Martinez had both the style and substance at his disposal to manage a club of Everton's stature.

So far, their only league defeat of the season has come at the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City are quite frankly unbeatable, and in taking the lead there they pushed them closer than most other teams probably will this season.

Heading to Old Trafford tonight, they sit in fifth, seven points behind leaders Arsenal, but only outside of the coveted Champions League spots by the virtue of goal difference. 

More tellingly, though, they currently sit two points and three places above Manchester United. I can't imagine that there would have been too many that would have envisaged that scenario by December at the start of the season.

Is there a possibility then, that in Martinez, Everton have actually been blessed with an upgrade on David Moyes?

There is no doubting what the Scot did for the club, but towards the end of his tenure there was a feeling that he had taken them as far as he could, and that the Toffees fans had become frustrated with the relatively direct and conservative nature of their style.

Martinez's style is portrayed as the antithesis of this. The type of game he likes to play is more attractive and his style is meant to be more free-flowing.

It should be noted, then, that in the first 13 games of last season, Moyes' Everton had scored 23 goals, two more than so far this campaign.

At this stage they'd also conceded 17 goals under Moyes to 13 this campaign and had just 21 points to Martinez's 24.

So, despite his reputation, Martinez's supposedly more attractive side is actually better defensively, whilst his more conservative predecessor's team was actually more free-scoring.

Two more goals may not be a lot, but it is more impressive when you consider that last season Everton had the misfiring Nikica Jelavic upfront, whereas this year they have Romelu Lukaku.

You may argue that thirteen games is too small a sample size to draw these kinds of conclusions from but, as we are living in an era where managers are regularly sacked with even fewer games than this under their belt, it is undoubtedly still relevant. 

Maybe any Martinez's improvements, then, lie in the actual style of the way the side has accrued points and goals. The most obvious change in the summer, despite Lukaku, was the departure of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United and the arrival of his replacement James McCarthy. 

Whereas the big-haired Belgian would inspire a certain type of direct football due to his strength and ability to hold the ball high the pitch, the Irishman is far more a cultured central midfielder. He prefers to stay deeper and pass the ball intelligently, and patiently, from side to side. 

In Everton's dominant 4-0 win over Stoke City at the weekend, Martinez's side completed 351 passes, of which 119 were in the attacking third. In David Moyes' biggest win of last season, the 3-0 away victory over Swansea in September of last year, they completed 351 passes, of which 149 were in the attacking third. 

So in a dominant win Martinez win, Everton completed 29% of their passes in the attacking third. In a conclusive Moyes win, it was 42%. 

The stats here, then, do suggest what the general consensus is. Where Moyes was more direct, Martinez is more patient.

This could, though, have as much to do with the impact of Fellaini then the impact of either manager. The midfielder was extremely influential in that game against Swansea, assisting the first and scoring the third.

Last season, Wigan out-passed Everton in the 2-2 draw at the DW Stadium and in the return fixture Everton out-passed Wigan in the return game at Goodison. The Toffees won 2-1, and Fellaini did not play. 

"A big game tonight," said Fellaini in a short and sweet statement on his official Facebook page today. "I will always have respect for Everton, their players, staff and fans. It should be a good game." 

It will be interesting to see if he starts tonight. And if so how he is used and what impact he either may or may not have. 

Because for all the talk of the differences between the Roberto Martinez and David Moyes eras, it appears that Fellaini, whether it be through his presence or absence, has had as big an influence on the differing styles at Goodison Park than any other factor.


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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Everton
Marouane Fellaini

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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