Kevin Kilbane: Pep's defensive woes remind me of Martinez's struggles at Everton

It's not always a lack of work ethic that leaves defenders without cover

Ronald Koeman, Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, Everton, Premier League

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline at Everton. Picture by Nick Potts EMPICS Sport

As a footballer, you often get asked: "Do you keep in touch with ex-team-mates?".

I'd have to say the truthful answer to that would be no, not really, but there are some players for one reason or another that you would keep in touch with. It's usually the odd text here and there, and that's probably the extent of it.

There were really only one or two players along the way who I would have played alongside that I kept in regular contact with, like Leon Osman, for example, my former Everton team-mate who joined us on Off The Ball this week.

On the show, Leon talked about his time in the Roberto Martinez team at Everton, and what his system there was like.

"With regards to Roberto Martinez, I felt that first season that he came in, we were defensively sound. We'd worked under David Moyes so the back four was very settled having worked under David for three or four seasons.

"That first season, we were chasing forward and Martinez asked us to just keep going - to run that extra five yards forward - and we found Seamus Coleman scoring more goals than ever, because Roberto Martinez just said 'keep going and get in the box because someone will cover you'," Osman explained.

"And that worked fantastically, because everyone knew they needed to get back still because we were all well drilled under David Moyes. And then as that second season came in, we just started to get away from that. People were only going forward, and there wasn't as much drive to get back.

"I felt that just slipped in to the squad and once that happens, you need to start working on it and demanding that it comes back. In my opinion, we didn't do enough of that."

Leon also pointed out the difficulty in how you go about getting that spirit back, as it's not as simple as saying that there needs to be more effort.

"If I'm telling Kevin Mirallas 'you need to get back' and he's saying to me 'well, the manager's told me to keep running forward', there's only one winner there," Osman added.

It was quite interesting listening to him saying that, because watching the side over the last few years, you got the impression that it wasn't that there was no real thought for defending, but the onus and methods that Martinez brought to the side were about going out and trying to attack as much as possible.

They played that way and sometimes it was good to watch, but other times it wasn't.

The potential was there within that side, but you could see with his methods and philosophy; the onus was always on out-scoring sides and that didn't always work.

Everybody knows that players are under instruction and when you're watching games sometimes, you can clearly see what the manager is saying to the players off the pitch; how they're addressing the team, how they're working on the team shape leading towards that particular game.

You can actually see it when the game is starting to progress, and that's the thing that can be little bit frustrating more than anything else.

Most, if not all managers, will be go into a team with their own ideas, their own methods that they will be trying to mould onto the side.

Sometimes there will be dialogue with a captain, a senior player or one or two others within the side who would go in to chat with the manager, and ask questions from a personal point of view.

From my experience, the manager would discuss teamwork, or how he's going to address different games and weeks in the season, but he wouldn't necessarily fully take on board what the players are suggesting.

As we've seen, managers can adapt to certain players in the squad, but in general it would be about their ideas first, and then once he's had his discussion with the team collectively as a group, that's when he'll try and get his methods across to the squad. 

Throughout the season then, most managers would have a chat with certain players within the squad, but it wouldn't necessarily be about how to take on their ideas and implement them in the team. 

You can see that process unfolding in two different ways in one of the biggest games this weekend, as Manchester City and Tottenham go head to head at the Etihad.

The two full backs for Spurs, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, are key to how Mauricio Pochettino wants to play, as they go high and wide. Rose and Walker are excellent getting forward, and you kind of feel sorry for Kieran Trippier, who's been having a decent season when he's been called upon.

On the other hand, City manager Pep Guardiola is starting to realise that he doesn't have the personnel to implement his style, and the full backs are certainly a weakness.

In fact, I would say the two full backs that he has at his disposal are the weakest of all six sides that are going for the title at the moment.

He doesn't have the personnel within that side that can really carry out what he wants to the level that's needed, so the challenge will now be for him to adapt to the players in his squad, to make his ideas work for the squad at his disposal, rather than putting an onus on the players to solve the team's problems out on the pitch.