Narrative is a funny thing.
Going into the season, Everton was a club on the rise. Roberto Martinez had managed them to fifth place in his first season. And although the club had sagged to 11th place in his sophomore campaign, this was surely a blip. Because the Toffees had managed to retain their best young talent and even add to it.
And then there was Liverpool, across town, going nowhere and stuck with a manager whose ouster was probably overdue even going into the season. Brendan Rodgers had heavily influenced the creation of a squad that most resembled an island of misfit toys and he had seemingly no idea of how to replicate the miracle title challenge of 2013-14. Nobody was particularly surprised when the Northern Irish manager was fired in October.
So now the season is coming to an end, and Liverpool’s future is bright and Everton’s is questionable. Jurgen Klopp succeeded Rodgers, reignited and stoked high the fires on the red half of London. He restored one of the sport’s most famous and laureled clubs to the attractive and winning team it had historically been. Long before anybody could reasonably expect Klopp’s rebuilding project to bear fruit, the Reds are already in the semifinals of the Europa league.
Martinez, meanwhile, manages the only team in the top-16 of the Premier League not to have won double-digit games through 34 rounds of play. Everton, once again in 11th place, has disappointed on every score and there’s now talk that Martinez has lost the conviction of his players and, perhaps, even the confidence of his employers.
Those storylines were amplified on Wednesday, when the second Merseyside Derby of the season between the hateful rivals ended in a one-sided 4-0 victory for Liverpool.
As early as the sixth minute, Adam Lallana went one-on-one with Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles, who displaced the American incumbent Tim Howard earlier this season. The Spaniard denied him, but the trend was set. And when Mamadou Sakho interfered expertly on Romelu Lukaku’s look, which would prove to be Everton’s only real chance of the game, this was confirmed.
Before half-time, the damage was done. Within two minutes before the whistle, a pair of James Milner crosses enabled headed goals from Divock Origi and James Milner.
And then, when Ramiro Funes Mori stamped on Origi’s ankle and was sent off in the 50th minute, the game was over and Everton’s dignity was all that was left to play for. Liverpool ran riot. It was a duck shoot. Only the ducks had their wings clipped.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 20, 2016
On the hour, Lucas sent Daniel Sturridge through, who finished coolly. And in the 76th, Philippe Coutinho popped a shot into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box to make it four. With minutes to play, Liverpool was outshooting Everton 33 to 3.
There is no greater humiliation to Everton fans than to lose heavily against Liverpool, and soon enough, they streamed out of the stadium. The Liverpool fans, meanwhile, chanted the name of Everton’s manager.
It was a particularly vicious kind of cruelty, underscoring the sentiments of this contentious derby.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) April 21, 2016
At just two years and 294 days, Martinez is the fifth-longest tenured manager in the Premier League. And the reason for these short-lived managerial stints is a systemic overreaction to bad or particularly humiliating results just like this one – overreactions for unlucky seasons, even. But it would be hard to conjure and combine enough mitigating factors to make a convincing case that the Martinez administration isn’t failing. Because it’s also true that Premier League managers don’t last long because in the world’s most competitive soccer league – note that I didn’t say “best” – they get found out quickly if they aren’t up to snuff.
And so it would seem that the Toffees, for all their young talent, might soon be back to square one, wondering if they’ll ever figure out how to become a competitive Premier League team.
While at the other end of Anfield, Liverpool stood celebrating with their fans.