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Martinez's Everton need to make Goodison Park a ground visitors fear

Recent form has seen five wins in six matches across all competitions, but ahead of a tough run beginning with West Ham on Saturday, Everton must start to repair some of the damage inflicted at home, especially with an FA Cup quarterfinal against Chelsea and a league visit from title-chasing Arsenal to follow.

The visitors will be confident on the back of a midweek win against Tottenham and away wins against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City earlier in the campaign, but the Hammers are statistically Everton's favourite opponent in the Premier League era. With 22 wins and a 15-match unbeaten run, history certainly favours the hosts, even with their wretched home form.

To keep this run going, Everton should look to exploit a visiting defence hampered by injuries in central defence and the right-back position. With Romelu Lukaku scoring in his last two matches, the 22-goal forward seeks to build on an impressive sequence, having scored in all seven of his Everton appearances against West Ham in all competitions.

A famous old stadium able to intimidate visiting players into submission, time has altered the perception of Goodison Park, with much of the past two seasons creating an atmosphere affecting Everton players more than visitors. Four wins in the past 16 home league games paints a bleak picture and underlines why, in an alarmingly open season, midweek results elsewhere returned this talented squad to their recently familiar bottom-half position. Tuesday's beaten opponents Aston Villa are the only team in the league with a worse home record this season.

This is not a sudden slide, either; it has been ongoing since Crystal Palace snuffed out a Champions League push at the end of manager Roberto Martinez's first season in charge. Everton won 12 of their first 16 home games under their new manager, as many as they have managed in the 36 home matches since. Those first 16 matches onward have seen Martinez's Goodison win ratio drop from 75 percent to 33 percent.

The manager recorded an impressive 13 wins, three draws and three defeats in his debut term at home, with two of those defeats only arriving in the final three matches. The Blues have lost six home games with five still to play this season.

Absence of results on the pitch has mixed with frustration on the terraces. Substitutions attract fierce attention and the recently spiky rapport between fans and much maligned goalkeeper Tim Howard points to a fan base tired of a team struggling on home turf.

Goodison Park
Goodison Park was once an intimidating ground, but that's changed under manager Roberto Martinez.

The latest home outing resulted in a defeat to West Brom, typifying the season. Matches at Goodison increasingly resemble scenes from "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest". There is plenty of scattered noise and numerous people running around but nobody seems any wiser to what is actually happening.

Everton look much more comfortable on the road, employing similar methods to those that visiting teams adopt so successfully at Goodison. Martinez has to find a reliable method for grinding these teams down.

This lack of direction is among the various criticisms evident within Goodison in recent times, a noticeable lack of alternative thinking is another. Death by passing is the default state. If at first you do not succeed, pass, pass and pass again; but it is more the execution than the style of play that is the issue.

Lack of tempo and purpose merely provides the opposition with an easier task. It is also difficult for the crowd to throw vocal support behind the sight of a football moving sideways and backward, seemingly stuck in a loop.

What is most frustrating is the uplift when Everton do play with tempo and aggression. Defending from the front is a foreign concept to this team, despite having the personnel for it. Win the ball back higher up the pitch and build from there. The very best teams press relentlessly on the rare occasions they are without possession, so there is certainly no excuse for Everton.

You need only look at Leicester to see a team not afraid to mix endeavour with quality. But while Claudio Ranieri's team leave everything on the field, such a trait rarely looks likely within this stadium. That is perhaps why Martinez's mannered approach and pleasing style of play often lead to accusations his team is too nice.

Evertonians have always appreciated effort and passion. Supporters require the finer aspects but there remains a place for the so-called grittier qualities; the adoration reserved for Muhamed Besic and Ramiro Funes Mori is testament to that. It sums up the atmosphere and general passiveness on the pitch that a Besic slide tackle is so often a source of inspiration for the entire stadium, while Funes Mori celebrates a goal like a player who understands just how much all this means to fans.

As noted earlier, West Ham's potential defensive crisis should be all the incentive Everton need for a fast start. Visitors expect a hollow passing game, when they should be facing a possession style matched with commitment and determination. Martinez's men need to restore Goodison as a place away sides fear.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.

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