Rumour has it Roberto Martinez is in Miami, talking to Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group about the managerial vacancy at Anfield.
This is the latest rumour surrounding the current Wigan Athletic boss after he rejected Aston Villa’s advances last season which hasn’t deterred them sufficiently to stop them chasing him again this year. Bookmakers are also taking bets on him getting the top job at Chelsea.
Martinez has done OK at Wigan but no better than that. Thoughtsport wonders: have we missed something? It’s not often we find ourselves in agreement with (Big) Sam Allardyce but is it largely because Martinez has a “foreign sounding name” — better yet (gasp) he actually is foreign?
Let’s look at the facts:
We’ve said before, statistics only tell half a story. But those stats don’t look, to us, like those of a manager set for a job at a top four club.
Yes, he has managed well on the comparatively meagre budget at Wigan, a club “punching above their weight” to even be in the Premier League, leave alone remaining it.
But compare them to one of Martinez’s predecessors at Wigan, Paul Jewell (44% win percentage) even the much maligned Steve Bruce managed a better ratio (34% win percentage) in his meaningful spell there (it was 37% in his eight-game whistle-stop tour in 2001).
So what is it about Martinez? Surely the wise heads at FSG, Stamford Bridge and Villa Park haven’t just had their heads turned by Wigan’s blockbuster end to the season? Seven wins in nine matches is decent by any standards, even top four clubs. But those few months alone account for 5% of Martinez’s meagre return at the DW Stadium.
Lest we forget that Martinez wasn’t some ‘parachute saviour’ flown in to rescue Wigan’s floundering season. He got them into the mess from which they escaped. He presided over the nine-game losing streak in September/October which saw them lose to (amongst others) Wolves, Bolton (at home) and Crystal Palace.
Could it be his transfer policy? Maybe he’s unearthed brilliant players, bought on a budget but playing like superstars.
This year he signed: Ali Al-Habsi, David Jones, Nouha Dicko, Albert Crusat, Shaun Maloney and Jean Beausejour. With all due respect to them would any of them get into a top four side? Would they even make the squad?
To give him his due he did sign the highly rated Victor Moses (for £2.5m), himself now courted by some ‘bigger’ teams. But he also spent £2m on Jason Scotland (just 14 league appearances and 1 goal) before he was shipped on to Ipswich a year later for (allegedly) less than half that amount.
Somewhere like Anfield ‘wasting’ £1m on a player is small potatoes. At Wigan (record transfer fee: paid £6m) it’s a little more serious.
Basically it’s unlikely to be his acumen in the transfer market that has tipped things his way.
Perhaps it’s the football his sides play then? Swansea City’s free-flowing, ‘total football’ style is said to have stemmed from Martinez’s time in charge there. A little unfair on Brendan Rodgers’ stewardship perhaps but let’s give Martinez the benefit of the doubt.
Much was also made of his inventive switch to a 3-4-3 formation (5-4-1 in another guise if you ask Thoughtsport) and it’s effect on Wigan’s late season revival. Again, bear in mind that this was more than likely borne out of desperation. Wigan were, in many people’s eyes, already relegated. They had nothing to lose. Yes, Martinez’s gamble paid off (and in some style) but does a good two month spell make him a top manager?
Martinez had the same players he used in his 3-4-3 (and the 7-wins-in-9) spell as he did in their 4-4-2 (9-defeats-in-9).
We may get this wrong (we often do!). A big club will take a punt on Martinez and it may come off. Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is sticking to his guns (and we’ve a lot of respect at Thoughtsport for Whelan). He doesn’t think Villa are a ‘bigger’ team than Wigan — on current form and Martinez’s rejection of them last year, you’d say he has a point.
But we’d argue that before he merits a job at a top four club or even a side (like Liverpool) with aspirations to be a top four club — he has a little bit more to prove yet.