4e was like a renaisance for the martial source. Where, before, the fighter stood virtualy alone in modeling martial archetypes, it finally had help, and could specialize on it's *ahem* 'core competencies.' Where before casters dominated, martial characters were now broadly competative (though casters still had much greater breadth and variety in their abilities, at least in general power and resources there was finaly a rough parity).
I should hasten to point out that I don't think the 4E fighter isn't a good class...it's not what I or my group envisioned the fighter to be, after four previous editions of the game (including BD&D for us). He's good at what he does, but he couldn't do what he used to...and that happened to be what we wanted him to do.
One of my players found it continually disappointing that the fighter no longer could dish it out, he could only take it. That's not a mechanical problem, its a perception one. A lot of discussion here is focusing on the defensive nature of the fighter, but he is equally iconic at dealing damage...and the 4E fighter lags behind (our at least that's been our perception) in this capacity. His damage capacity becomes much more situational, where the monsters/enemies have to basically give him extra attacks.
When essentials came out, we switched the fighter to a knight...and found it better...but now the player has no dailies, which is unsatisfying in different ways (and again, just as in the discovery of the lack of plate, we sat around the table going "...that can't be right, check the book."
None of which is a problem with the classes, but with out interpretation of them. I want the 5E fighter to be something between the fighters of previous editions: a guy who's focus is mastery of combat and it's forms. I like the sound of themes, because it sounds like it can take the fighter and make him encompass multiple builds/concepts without too much jiggery-pokery.
I realize that in D&D, the fighter has always protected the fragile mage, as needs the necessity of game balance (the powerful ranged wizard was made weak to prevent him from overrunning the game). But when you think of famous warriors, it's fairly rare that you think of them as meatshields. Consider the following: Fafhrd, King Arthur, Perseus, Boromir, Benkei, Achilles. When you think of them, you think of guys who dish it out far more than take it. (Yes, Achilles was invulnerable in later works...but in the Illiad, he is not and gets wounded...but the core of his tale is how he is a death-dealing monstrosity who learns to be more human).
My point being is that being a meatshield is a function of the warrior, not his raison d'etre. He takes the hits because he's tough, not because he's trained his entire life with that in mind. To me, the fighter is a guy who engages in battle, not a guy who gets hit so other people can do the heavy lifting.