Premier League Weekend Review: Martinez progress makes it even worse for Rodgers

Leon Osman - typifies Everton's strength of spirit
Leon Osman - typifies Everton's strength of spirit

Liverpool's defeat at Crystal Palace left Brendan Rodgers admitting his job could be in danger.  Ralph Ellis says he won't be helped by the way things are picking up at Everton...

"Curious, then, that while a Liverpool side still thrashing around working out how to handle life after Luis Suarez are still odds-on at 1.834/5 to finish in the top six, Everton with three points more and a better goal difference too after a dozen games are 2.47/5."


It's not all bad news on Merseyside. The red side of Stanley Park might be suffering a bit at the moment, but just have a look in the blue corner.

Brendan Rodgers is admitting his job could be in danger - he is 8.27/1 third favourite to be the next manager to leave his position - after watching his Liverpool side stutter to their fourth defeat in a row. But at Everton things are starting to move in the opposite direction.

The Toffees also had a sticky start to the season. I posed the question at the start of October, after they had lost at Manchester United, how long it might take for a drama to turn into a crisis. In the event that was as bad as it got. They have quietly pulled things together without anybody really noticing and it's 11 points from five games now following Saturday's win over West Ham.

Curious, then, that while a Liverpool side still thrashing around working out how to handle life after Luis Suarez are still odds-on at 1.834/5 to finish in the top six, Everton with three points more and a better goal difference too after a dozen games are 2.47/5.

Watching them on Saturday they are still far from back to the standards of last March and April, when they reeled off six wins in a row to briefly challenge for the top four. But you could see the basics coming together and there are qualities that Liverpool are sadly lacking at the moment.

Most important, there is a structure. Roberto Martinez doesn't vary from his 4-2-3-1 system and the players within it know the job for each role in the team. It meant, for instance, that Tony Hibbert could fill in for the injured Leighton Baines at left back without getting too badly exposed because he had protection from those around him.

Leon Osman is a more attacking midfield man by instinct, but had the discipline to take over Gareth Barry's normal holding role - yet still sprint the length of the field to score the winner. Romelu Lukaku is not yet back to full fitness since the World Cup but was a willing worker to hold the ball up front and let others come into play.

Then they defend properly. While Martin Skrtel is giving away cheap free kicks left, right and centre, and Dejan Lovren is shying away from challenges, Everton have strong leadership in the heart of their back four with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin. Both of them make tackles, make blocks, win headers.

The accepted wisdom is that Everton's squad won't be strong enough to deal with the extra games of a Europa League campaign. Winning at Wolfsburg on Thursday will guarantee them top spot in Group H. But they have senior pros who know how to handle the demands of a long season and adjust the balance of rest and training to suit their own individual needs.

There's a lot of value in Everton. They are 3.953/1 to beat Wolfsburg, a side they destroyed 4-1 at Goodison earlier in the campaign. They are 3.185/40 to then win at Tottenham on Sunday, and Mauricio Pochettino really is having problems even if they have been disguised by twice beating 10 men in recent away games.

Martinez made little change to his squad in the summer. His big spending was done merely to convert Lukaku's loan into a permanent deal. But the solid result is again in sharp contrast to the collection of new boys struggling to find their feet at Anfield.

Not all bad news on Merseyside, then. Although you do suspect that the more things continue to pick up at Everton, the worse it will feel for Liverpool.


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