Everton now feel at home at the Premier League’s top table
Everton boss Roberto Martinez spoke of the need to remove a ‘mental block’ among his squad that hampered them whenever they travelled to play the Premier league’s top sides.
December 12th, 2013
After 11 years of trying – and failing – to take three points from Old Trafford, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge or Anfield, Martinez hinted that David Moyes’ sides lacked the belief that they could beat the division’s leading lights.
Luckily for the Toffees, Martinez is the perfect manager to inject the requisite self-confidence into the squad. The Spaniard is relentlessly positive, with an infectious enthusiasm for the game you can’t help but be inspired by.
Full-back Seamus Coleman revealed last week that Martinez had been working hard on the psychological side of the game, weeding out the inferiority complex that seemingly paralysed the squad whenever they travelled to the top sides.
That hard work has dealt instant results.
Despite facing a daunting fixture list that took in Manchester United and Arsenal away in the space of five days, Everton fans heading to Manchester were more confident of a victory than they had been in decades – the ‘Martinez effect’ stretched beyond the club’s training ground.
United’s woes under Moyes (stop laughing at the back) undoubtedly helped, but I can’t remember an Everton team take to the Old Trafford pitch with such swagger – they played like they belonged on the biggest stage and weren’t just a support act in the shadows of the United behemoth.
Indeed a whole generation of Everton fans won’t remember the last time the team won at the ground, with Bryan Oviedo’s winner coming 21 years after Mo Johnston, Peter Beardsley and Robert Warzycha scored in a 3-0 win in August 1992.
That confidence was taken into the next tough assignment at the Emirates, where the players out passed Arsenal. I’ll say that again, out passed Arsenal.
Everton’s record at the Gunners is nearly as bad as at United, with no win there since 1996, but they played liked they belonged on such a stage where previously they have meekly arrived to cling on for a draw.
There would be no repeat of their Old Trafford heroics, but a deserved draw presents a hugely satisfying week and leaves the club just two points off second place, with a relatively kind fixture list from now until February.
These two performances have blown away a stubborn glass ceiling that had previously stunted the club’s ambitions.
Under Martinez, the players and fans now feel anything is possible.