Friday 18 January 2019

Martinez: 'Everton woes down to back problems'

Everton manager Roberto Martinez admits an element of fear may be the root cause of their defensive problems this season.

The Spaniard has also not ruled out the possibility his players became complacent about the traditional strength they have at the back but he is determined to correct matters by the time they take on West Brom at The Hawthorns today.

Everton had the league's third-best defence last season but in three matches they have already conceded 10 goals - relinquishing leads three times in their first two games.

Martinez believes they have been unlucky in that virtually every mistake has led to a goal but he also thinks the players may have hit a mental hurdle.

"It is easy to see we have been a little bit slack in our defensive duties and we have been punished too easily and conceded too many easy goals," he said.

"It has been one of those situations where everything that could have gone wrong in our box has gone wrong.

"There may have been a lack of defensive intensity and that is something we need to correct but I do see a team that has improved from last season, even though the results are not as good as they should have been.

"We conceded in the 85th minute against Leicester (in the opening match) when we had got ourselves ahead twice.

"The late goals we conceded against Arsenal (to concede a two-goal lead) is more of a feeling (of) maybe wanting to see the game out and developing a bit of fear of something to lose at that moment of the game had a big say.

"We are quite aware of what we have to improve but the margins are very small. There is no need for drastic revolution, it is more about having a real focus and increasing that defensive intensity in specific moments.

"We had 15 clean sheets last season. Maybe we got a bit relaxed knowing we were so good in that area and we got punished and that is something we need to put extra emphasis on."

Everton's centre-back pairing of Phil Jagielka, 32, and Sylvain Distin, who will be 37 in December, has come in for some criticism but Martinez insisted individuals were not to blame for their defensive worries.

And he dismissed any concerns over the age of the pair having anything to do with recent problems.

"It has been a surprise because we haven't lost any personnel from that back five (including the goalkeeper) and there are more than 1,100 Premier League appearances between them," added the Toffees boss.

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