Everton’s inferiority complex cured by the sheer ambition of Martinez
Not long after being appointed at Manchester United, David Moyes talked feverishly about the fear factor of playing at Old Trafford and how in the past he’d gone there hoping “just to get out alive”.
Ignoring how foolish those words look after three home defeats this term, in one turn of phrase he unwittingly explained why in 11 years at Everton he had failed to deliver a single away win at Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or United.
That comment exposed the helplessness with which he’d previously stared weary-eyed at the glass ceiling above him.
Listening to Moyes’ weekly Everton press conferences the theme of money – and his lack of it – provided a perennially gloomy narrative for the journalists sat in front of him.
The Scot’s defeatism grew considerably in his final two seasons on Merseyside and became as great a hindrance to the team’s progress as the meagre transfer pot which so hollowed his soul.
What message did it send to a squad of internationals – cannily assembled by the Scot – when the manager’s ambition had dwindled to a possible backdoor sojourn into the Europa League?
After concluding finance rendered an assault on the existing equilibrium futile, Moyes relied more and more on the underdog psychology of little Everton giving the big boys a black eye.
That was precisely the notion his successor shattered last week and how Evertonians rejoiced as the shards cascaded from above.
Roberto Martinez has restored the positivity, boundless ambition and style to a club that used to win titles.
It’s not to diminish the work of Moyes, who dragged the club up from its knees and laid the foundations for a brighter future, but in the effervescence and invention of Martinez, the true nature and extent of the emotional malaise engendered by his jaded predecessor has been laid bare.
Everton were told so often they should be thankful to scrape into the top eight it became conventional wisdom – something Martinez is not a fan of.
After ending a 21-year wait for victory at Old Trafford and heaping misery on Moyes, the Blues’ performance in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal was more impressive still.
The league leaders barely had a kick for half an hour as Martinez’s artful side met them as their equals. The Spaniard’s skill in the transfer market manifested in the midfield mesh of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry and pulverising forward play of Romelu Lukaku, while his faith in youth and steadfast belief in skill and technique was embodied by Ross Barkley and his statement performance.
Moyes knew Barkley had the talent to be a star – he included him in senior squads at 16 – but he was scared to give him the run of games he required to flourish in the same way he had done for Wayne Rooney eight years earlier.
Everton have lost the fewest games in the Premier League this season – just one – and six of their next seven fixtures are against teams in the bottom half.
But there is little point in hypothesising about top six or top four as you can be sure Martinez isn’t inclined to place a limit on what they may or may not achieve.