Martinez approach key to ending Chelsea hoodoo

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Smarting from the morale-sapping defeat at Tottenham, which comprised of eye-catching but ultimately toothless football, the last-minute postponement against Crystal Palace and the resumption of the FA Cup merely prolonged Everton's league agony.

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Closing on two weeks without a league fixture, the Blues will be desperate to try to right the wrongs evident in the White Hart Lane defeat. Unfortunately, Anfield aside, a trip to Stamford Bridge is perhaps the least appealing fixture on the calendar.

Whether it is Richard Wright falling over a sign in the warm-up, subsequently ruling him out of the match, or Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard grabbing their apparently obligatory goal, facing Chelsea on their patch is usually a recipe for despair.

Rewind to the last time Everton departed the Bridge with three points. George Foreman had recently created boxing history, winning the heavyweight title at 45; Baby D topped the music charts; newly appointed first-team coach Duncan Ferguson led the attack alongside match-winner Paul Rideout, and it was November 1994.

What has followed makes for grim reading: only sporadic points offered any respite, with Everton mustering ten draws and twelve defeats in 22 visits since then. The Rideout inspired victory in ‘94 is the sole success in the last 28 outings in SW6.

Closing on two decades without three points at this treacherous venue, there is, possibly, one redeeming feature this time around: the positive approach of Roberto Martinez -- though he himself has lost on his four previous visits to Chelsea.

Nevertheless, Martinez does have experience when it comes to ending longstanding hoodoos, having masterminded a first victory at Old Trafford in 21 years earlier in this season.

There was also the impressive display at the Emirates. Only a point materialised, but the impressive performance was easily the most complete passing display of a promising project in its infancy.

Removing any remnants of caution, Martinez is looking to build a side that sticks to its passing and attacking principles, although this does create the occasional aberration -- see the recent Merseyside derby. Whether home or away, the approach remains the same.

After all, defensive tactics do little more than stave off inevitable defeat. Everton's best bet for success is the kind of fearless approach evident in other high-profile matches this season, such as the 1-0 triumph in the reverse fixture in September.

Fighting fire with fire against the best in the league carries a degree of risk; that much is clear. In this instance, though, the risk is worth the reward. Everton need three points against Chelsea, with a draw or defeat likely to be the final nail in the Champions League coffin.

In addition, especially for this current crop of players, attack -- as the cliche goes -- is the best form of defence. Though second only to their hosts on goals conceded, a return of one clean sheet in eleven matches is symbolic of a defence prone to individual errors and concentration lapses of late.

Aided by the recent return from injury of exciting midfield talents such as Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley, the visitors require a return to the cohesive attacking displays witnessed earlier in the campaign.

Tailing off after a strong start on the road, this is a team winless in four away days and without a goal in the last two, albeit at notoriously difficult stomping grounds against Liverpool and Tottenham. Everton must return to the pleasing, productive football served up prior to the New Year.

Another added incentive for Martinez and his squad, and it is the dangling carrot for all those pitting their wits against Jose Mourinho on home turf, is the chance to end that imperious unbeaten home league record, which currently stands at 73 matches.


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