Roberto Martinez could not see his own failings as his Everton reign ended
Asked if Everton's performance in being swept aside 3-0 at Sunderland on Wednesday night had been disappointing, Roberto Martinez did not break the pattern of his managerial lifetime. He made the latest -- and last -- summation that appeared utterly contrary to the evidence of the 90 minutes of football that everybody else had just watched.
"I wouldn't say the performance was disappointing," he told reporters. "The result was very tough for us to take because I thought we started the game really well. The effort and intent were there but goals play a very big part."
Though he did later admit that his team's horrible defending had handed Sunderland their win (and Premier League survival), that attempt to accentuate the positives was delusional at best, a misdirection at worst.
Martinez, an intelligent, educated man, would surely have recognised that his team's latest surrender was not nearly good enough, yet continued to play a card of inarguable positivity. Everton's co-owners Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri, previously reported to have been split over the Spaniard's future at the club, have now agreed that that Martinez had lost his way.
"First thing he said to me was I'll get you to the Champions League," club chairman Kenwright said on Martinez's unveiling as manager in May 2013. Had Everton's trajectory under Martinez been allowed to continue, then a place in the Championship was far more realistic.
The tiny smattering of blue-shirted fans otherwise surrounded by red-coloured empty seats at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night was visual evidence of a regime in its dying embers.
Martinez lost the club's fans months ago, such that the club's FA Cup semifinal loss to Manchester United last month was widely accepted as a good thing. Winning the trophy or even reaching the final might have protected Martinez's position when the Goodison crowd had long abandoned its faith. That he will not have to face the wrath of his many dissenters before, during and after Sunday's final-day match at home to Norwich can be considered an act of mercy from the board.
Martinez's fate derives from his own refusal to adapt in order to survive; a capability that all the great managers possess.
The Spaniard may have had plenty of ambition, but he did not appear to realise that defending is part of the game. This from a manager whose Wigan Athletic team were relegated at the end of the 2012-13 season because it could not stop the opposition scoring.
By the second season of his Everton regime, a talented squad was showing the same traits. They enter the final weekend of the Premier League season only six points ahead of 17th placed Sunderland, an outfit who have been fighting against relegation since the very first month of the season.
There was a time when Martinez's team could defend and that was during his first season at the club. The backline unit that David Moyes had left the club in the summer of 2013 -- Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman -- were well-drilled, the midfielders front of them, James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Leon Osman included, used to aiding the defensive effort.
Coupled with Martinez's qualities as an attacking coach, Everton charged to fifth in the table and were competing for Champions League qualification until the last weeks of the 2013-14 season.
After that, Martinez's laissez-faire attitude to defending eventually took corrosive hold. Everton lapsed to 12th last season, where they currently languish. A manager previously hailed by fans for his enjoyable style of football (in direct contrast to Moyes' conservatism) became loathed for his inability to convert talent and possession into results.
At Sunderland, Everton began by weaving pretty patterns before succumbing to a powerful, more motivated opponent for their 13th defeat from 37 games.
Full-backs Baines and Coleman have become overworked, unprotected figures, while Martinez appeared to do little to iron out the deficiencies of John Stones as a central defender -- encouraging flights of fancy that opposing managers became wise to. Stones, who Chelsea were prepared to pay £40 million for last summer, now looks a diminished asset.
Further forward, meanwhile, midfielder Ross Barkley, subbed at half-time at Sunderland, appears a player with plenty of potential but similarly lacking a guiding hand. All the while, Martinez repeatedly reduced his own credibility by making statements defying what was obvious to all everybody else.
"The draws were more victories without goals," he told ESPN FC during an interview back in September 2013.
That peculiar ability to confound and infuriate never left him, right up until the end of his Everton tenure.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.