Mahesh M.

LFC manager search: Roberto Martinez in profile

We continue our look at the frontrunners for the LFC manager’s job. Here we profile current Wigan boss Roberto Martinez.

To read our profile of Andre Villas-Boas, click here.

Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez is reportedly one of the front runners to assume the role of the next Liverpool boss. While at first I was initially a little uncomfortable with the idea of Martinez being our next boss, I find myself warming to the idea. Though he may not be of the same class of say, Klopp or Benitez at present, he undeniably possesses the potential ability. The purpose of this article is neither to promote or demote the idea of Martinez becoming our next manager, rather I aim to lay down the facts in as abject and unbiased manner as possible, letting you readers be the judge.

Roberto Martinez: Till Now

Roberto Martinez arrived at Swansea initially as a player-manager in February 2007 with no prior managerial experience. However, since this transfer happened after the transfer window had slammed shut, he could not register himself to play for the team. Although initially he wanted to prolong his playing career, he felt that he wouldn’t be able to fully commit himself to both duties and hence retired from football and became a full time manager. And thus started his foray into the managerial side of football.

With Martinez in charge, Swansea lost just once in 11 games that year, giving them a chance of clinching a play-off place on the final day of the 2006–07 season, but missed out following a 6–3 defeat at home against Blackpool. 2007-08 was his first full season in charge of the Swans. He was crowned the “Manager of the Season” after leading the Welsh side to the top of the League One, gaining promotion into the Championship. Though his debut in the Championship began with a loss, the Swans soon found their feet, finishing the 2008-09 season with just 10 losses. Nathan Dyer and defender Ashley Williams were his most notable signings.

In the summer of 2009, he moved on to the Wigan job, vacated by Steve Bruce, taking 4 of his assistants with him from Swansea. In his first season in charge of the Latics despite wins against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea at the DW, they finished the season with the worst goals conceded record in the league. This was a result of heavy defeats against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, and to Chelsea. Wigan finished that season 16th with 36 points.

The next season, 10/11, saw Wigan finish 16th again after winning on the last day of the season although this time they conceded lesser goals than the previous season. The end of the season saw Aston Villa sniffing after Martinez to replace Gerard Houllier; however Martinez felt that his loyalty lay with Wigan and turned down the offer.

Most recently, the 11/12 season, after a decent start to the campaign, Wigan endured an eight game losing streak which left them at the bottom of the league at the end of October. After an indifferent season till February, at which point of time they were languishing in the relegation zone, Wigan’s fortunes suddenly turned and they finished the season strongly, winning 7, drawing 1 and losing just 2 of their last 10 games to secure another season in the top flight.

Managerial Philosophy

Roberto Martinez is well known to be tactically astute. He is largely appreciated for his success in keeping Wigan in the top flight despite working on a shoe string budget. He has been commended for continuing to play with positive attitude and formations in spite of continually being relegation candidates. The Spaniard is the only manager in the Premier League to consistently play the 3-4-3 formation. The 3-4-3 under Martinez first made its appearance in a 8-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea 09-10 season. While it was temporarily binned, Wigan’s stay in the Premier League this season is largely attributed to their shift to the 3-4-3 formation.

The 3-4-3 is a very interesting formation in how robust and malleable the formation is. It can also be used in a number of ways, say like the counterattacking way in which Napoli use it or the high pressing way in which Wigan used it this season. 3-4-3 requires a very athletic midfield which presses deep in the opposition half along with the forwards to limit the opposition and win the ball early in the opposition half. Without a mobile and athletic midfield which has a high work rate playing 3-4-3 is suicidal, as was seen with Inter Milan and their experiments earlier in the season. The 3-4-3 is often criticized for its defensive susceptibility, while in reality it isn’t. True, it has narrower defence but its success is determined by the cleverness of the player movements. Say a team breaks from the wings on the right side, the right sided defender goes in to cover the attacking winger while the central defender goes on to occupy the spot left by the right defender, the left sided defender covers the the winger coming from the left while the DM drops into the space created by the left defender forming the conventional back 4, the 2 wingbacks meanwhile being naturally faster drop in centrally in the place of say 2 holding midfielders or wherever they are required.

Offensively, it gives the opportunity to play the ball out of defence as a conventional offence has only 2 forwards against 3 defenders. The formation provides the extra man in all parts of the pitch and hence theoretically the opposition can’t press you better than your ability to retain the ball. The 3-4-3 is such a good foil for teams trying to play a pass and move brand of football simply because the man on the ball has more options for passing and the ability to retain possession is higher. The 3-4-3 generally is played with a central striker who is good in the air and 2 secondary strikers who look to combine with the midfield in attack. The real width is provided by the wing backs who aim to overlap and provide crosses. The 3-4-3 can be morphed into a 5-3-2 when facing pressure. Another plus point of this 3-4-3 is that it is unusual and the opposing team faces difficulties in countering it as it is different to what they are used to and calls for a total tactical alteration. Their inability to adapt to this new challenge was the prime reason why Newcastle lost 4-0 to Wigan.

The best part of the 3-4-3 formation is how well it can potentially suit Liverpool. We have Enrique and Johnson as wingbacks and both of them are astonishingly good going forward. We also have Andy Carroll who can lead the line so well. As seen at the end of last season, he can terrorise defences with his sheer physical presence. Lucas has such a good reading of the game and at times inhuman positional sense that he would fit the 3-4-3 very well and then we have Suarez who thrives on passing football. The 3-4-3 seems almost a ready fit for Liverpool. Martinez and his 3-4-3 would be an interesting experiment indeed.

There were doubts being cast on Martinez’s ability to attract players. If we look at the supposed new structuring of the club, the player recruitment seems out of the manager’s purview with the new DoF set to be in charge of scouting, and the manager only having a say in the final stages. So with a well-known footballing figure as DoF, we can still expect to attract talent.

Another point being raised about Martinez was his lack of experience at handling “big” clubs. I think here we need to be realistic. We are a team very much in transition and cannot attract the very elite of coaches at this point of time. It would hence be prudent to obtain the services of a coach who is promising and has a clear vision in mind. I would also be difficult to find an experienced coach who would be willing to work with just the training part of things and have little say in recruitment.

AVB is preferred over Martinez by some people on grounds that he has led the team to titles before and has experience coaching Chelsea. It would be prudent to remember that Porto won the title again this season, now without AVB, and were knocked out of Europa League by Man City.

Martinez has been credited with inspiring his players fight and retain their position in the top flight while AVB failed to build trust with his players. Just because Martinez is inexperienced at handling bigger players does not mean that he will fail at it. Every manager starts small before making it big. Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger all were relatively obscure when they took up their respective jobs. While I am not siding with either AVB or Martinez I find the reasons with which Martinez is being rejected baseless. The appointment should take place based solely on what they have to offer and how good they are at it, not their past achievements.

With that I sign off on my report on Martinez. So what do you readers think? Can Martinez be the man for the job?

I am diehard Liverpool supporter and love when we play beautiful attacking football. The technical and tactical aspects of the game attract me the most. I hope we get back to the top of the footballing world where we rightfully belong at the soonest.
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