The Creativity Gap

Everton are much improved in recent weeks but away from home, some of the hesitancy and one-dimensional tactics that dogged them earlier in the season persist.

Lyndon Lloyd 17/02/2017 74comments  |  Jump to last

If there was an overriding gripe about Everton as they lurched their way through a run of two wins in 12 games towards the end of last year, culminating in the dismal derby defeat just before Christmas, it was that they were almost completely devoid of flair at times.

It was galling to watch how a collection of players, the bulk of whom had on occasion passed their fans to distraction under Roberto Martinez, could barely string two passes together and it was a predictable indication of the way results went under Ronald Koeman's stewardship until late December.

Since then, of course, results have picked up impressively — the Blues are unbeaten in the Premier League since Sadio Mané plundered that sickening stoppage-time winner at Goodison Park on 19th December, with the meek cup defeat to Leicester the one aberration in a nine-match sequence stretching back to Boxing Day.

The highlights in the interim have, of course, been some mostly brilliant home displays against Southampton, Manchester City and Bournemouth where Evertonians have revelled in the attacking talent of a side growing in confidence. Bolstered by the emergence of Tom Davies, the arrival of Ademola Lookman and Morgan Schneiderlin, with the ever-improving form of Joel Robles in goal, Everton have looked more like the top-six contenders most believed they would be before the season started.

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Romelu Lukaku has thrived in those home games where Koeman's men seem to adopt a swagger that hints at what might lie ahead as he continues to build and mould his team and there have been suggestions as well that the likes of Kevin Mirallas could be settling back down after an extended spell of under-achievement.

If that strength and confidence at home has been encouraging, it hasn't translated to the Blues' away performances, even if they are unbeaten on the road since that awful display at Watford, having won two of their last five. Successive away draws at Stoke and Middlesbrough in matches that you feel they could have won with a bit more drive and guile feel like huge opportunities missed — even the victory at Crystal Palace came courtesy of a late Seamus Coleman goal in a match that could easily have ended goalless as well — and they are displays that underscore why Everton are unlikely to close the gap on the top six unless one of the sides above them truly melts down. Hello, Arsenal?

It speaks to the need for the players to try and capture that attitude they have been exhibiting at home and release it when playing away from Goodison Park because there was a hesitancy and a lack of imagination in their play at bet365 Stadium and The Riverside when faced with two stubborn and entrenched defences.

On the positive side, Koeman's side dominated and dictated both games but, deprived of the space they have enjoyed recently at Goodison, they lapsed back into a frustrating tendency to knock the ball long, often aimlessly, from the back with few of the attempted passes giving Lukaku a hope of reaching them.

Despite having a left back who has led the Premier League in chances created from his position, Everton under Koeman have overwhelmingly favoured attacking down the right flank. Not since Steven Pienaar's involvement in the side diminished, has Leighton Baines had a partner with whom to link up but the same argument could be made for Seamus Coleman, although the Irishman's superior ability to take a man on and get crosses in from the byline has probably influenced the manager's thinking in that regard.

That limiting reliance on trying to move the ball down the right is least effective with the four-man defence that Koeman deployed at Stoke (in the second half) and Middlesbrough. Ironically, seemingly by design, the ball kept being fed to Ashley Williams, a player for whom, by his own admission, the term “ball-playing centre-back” was not made. His distribution leaves a lot to be desired at the best of times which is why it was perplexing to see the two centre-halves regularly split towards the fullback positions in both games and to see the ball continually worked to the right side of defence.

With Coleman marked by the touchline and the nearest midfielders corralled into the centre by the close attentions of their markers, it would then either go back to Robles — at 50%, his passing/distribution accuracy against Boro was the lowest in the team — or Williams would send an angled ball forward that invariably ended in possession being lost.

The heatmaps from Everton's last four away games illustrate the team's bias towards attacking down the right as well as how, bizarrely, in the Stoke and Boro games the ball was consistently fed to Ashley Williams, arguably the least proficient passer in the team

Everton weren't entirely devoid of good football — in patches, they played some decent stuff in all three of the games at Palace, Stoke and Boro and could have easily won either of the latter two games — but the overall feeling was a team still struggling to find its attacking rhythm which was at odds with some of the irresistible stuff they have been producing at home.

Conditions in the latter two matches certainly played their part — both stadiums were cold and either windy or rain-swept — as did the disadvantage of being away from home but it's that lingering lack of consistent craft, creativity and a link between Lukaku and the midfield in the final third that remains a key aspect of the team that Koeman and Steve Walsh will hopefully look to address in the summer.

There is still plenty to build on in the interim, however. In Davies, the team now has a player capable of playing box-to-box, both in terms of stamina and versatility even if the opposition's setup, Boro in particular, closed off many of his forward avenues. Given more freedom, he can provide that vital link between midfield and attack while also offering the forward drive that prevents the Blues dropping off too much as they are prone to do when Gareth Barry is in the side.

In Schneiderlin, Koeman has acquired a midfield figurehead with experience and vision, with the ability to keep the ball moving. He, too, offers versatility, able to drop between the two centre-halves in a four-man back line while also providing attacking support as he did in the Bournemouth match. Like Davies, he wasn't able to influence the match at The Riverside in the way that could have turned the game Everton's way but the signs are that he has been an astute signing.

Then there are the more dynamic, less predictable elements of Ross Barkley (poor against Stoke but influential, almost decisively so, at Boro) and Lookman, two players who could eventually help even out that bias towards the right flank as the latter gains more experience. The 19-year-old has shown glimpses of brilliance and a valuable eye for goal that hint at a dual role as a foil for Lukaku and a link-man for Baines to start getting forward more in the way that he used to during his partnership with Pienaar.

Next weekend's home game against a porous Sunderland could be the stage on which Koeman's charges can flex their attacking muscles but it's the trip to White Hart Lane to face title-chasing Tottenham that will be the real test of how much Everton have improved in recent weeks.

If they are to sneak into the top six, it's games against those teams that will make the difference. Pick up an unexpected win or two at the likes of Spurs, Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool and combine that with a home win over Chelsea and the prospect of European football returning to Goodison Park next season becomes that bit more attainable.

It's going to require the Blues looking the part a bit more than they have away from Goodison recently, however — a touch more puffing out of the chest, the self-belief that swept them to that handsome win over Man City last month and the kind of “joined-up” passing football that has been more evident at home in recent weeks. The talent is there based on recent showings but the imagination and reliable creativity hasn't always been. Plenty still to work on as the Koeman evolution continues.

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Reader Comments (74)

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Phil Walling
1 Posted 17/02/2017 at 09:55:10
So many ToffeeWebbers have expressed satisfaction about recent performances that to preach caution is to invite disparagement in barrow loads. The fact that Koeman replaced Everton's worst manager in decades is easily forgotten as virtually any of the 'names in the frame' would have been expected to improve on the Catalan and his warped ideas of what constituted success.

Whilst a climb from an 11th to 7th finish would have to be seen as progress, the 'big boys' are so far ahead as to make yet another season a write-off. In spite of the club's apparent new wealth, the Manager and the DoF have hardly inspired us or their team with the quality of their signings and it is significant that Academy players Davies and Holgate will go down as the best 'newcomers of the season' rather than the millionairos signed in the two transfer markets.

Both here and at Southampton, the Dutchman's teams seem liable to long runs of success and failure (or the other way round) – so beware, the season has a way to run yet before we can lay claim to the Moyeslike 7th spot. So before anybody gets further carried away by recent results, just bear in mind that, since the Scottish bore departed, we have made no improvement at all. And Kenwright is still negotiating transfers!

Tony Hill
2 Posted 17/02/2017 at 10:10:57
There remains a lack of pace in our side, real pace. Lookman may produce it but he does not seem to be searingly quick, Lukaku is strong and fast when he gets going and Deulofeu could burn off defenders but was much too erratic. Kev has his moments.

We are too often slowed up especially when trying to create from wide areas against packed defences. Pace can also be created, of course, by quick passing and we have managed that on two conspicuous occasions this season that I can think of: Mirallas's goal against WBA and Lukaku's opener against Bournemouth.

However we manage it, we need speed.

Trevor Lynes
3 Posted 17/02/2017 at 11:41:19
Enjoyed the article and really agree with the comments. Lukaku really needs support and some midfield guile to bring even more out of him.It is becoming patently obvious that teams are coming to thwart Lukaku as he is seen as our only goal threat.

Barkley and Mirallas are not close enough to support him and they do not score enough goals to enable the big man to get space. In fact young Lookman seems more likely to score than them.

The Baines/Pienaar combo was well covered by Distin and that trio forged our best attacking outlet down the left. I hope that Baines and Lookman can eventually produce another attacking outlet but someone needs to cover Baines forays. Despite the recent improvement in the form of Barkley and Mirallas it is too far away from the final third.

Lukaku's early goal against Bournemouth caused our opponents to open the game up therefor leaving space at the back which we exploited. Lukaku's goal made everything easier for Barkley and others and big Rom cashed in brilliantly.

Against Man City there was always going to be space as they attacked us from the beginning. Where we struggle is against sides who defend and we lack the guile to open tight defences.

Coleman has scored four league goals and he rescued the game against Stoke. Lukaku was effectively shackled and Barkley/Mirallas were never going to score. IMO we are two players away from making the required step to challenging the top six. We need a tall commanding centre back and a second striker who can score a dozen goals a season.

If that means benching Barkley and/or Mirallas then so be it.

If we can get those two players in the summer and Bolasie gets back to full fitness then we will be a formidable team.

Of course a lot hinges on Lukaku remaining with us!!!

Alun Jones
4 Posted 17/02/2017 at 11:58:32
I think Koeman has a clear philosophy to win games. I think his pragmatism on this will take precedence on being overtly entertaining.
John Raftery
5 Posted 17/02/2017 at 14:01:44
I agree the team lacks creativity when faced with a packed defence. The home game against West Brom will also be a test of our progress. Tony Pulis has a habit of getting results at Goodison with his circle of wagons around the penalty area and players who can sneak a goal from a set piece.

Part of the solution lies in starting games at a fast pace which we have failed to do on so many occasions this season. Lukaku's missed opportunity at Middlesbrough came in the 30th minute and was our first effort on goal.

Quick, early, forward passing is also essential if we want to put teams under pressure. Too often we drift into safe backwards and sideways passing. One reason Ashley William gets so much possession is because he is unmarked. It suits the opposition to leave him unmarked because they know his distribution is dreadful. Hence a pass played to him plays into their hands.

The same applies further forward when we play the ball across the edge of the penalty area to an unmarked Idrissa Gueye. His shooting is the weakest part of his game as evidenced by his poor goal scoring record. Hence opposing defences leave him with the freedom to receive a safe pass knowing he will do not do them any damage.

There is nothing defenders like less than opposing attackers turning and running at them with pace. When we do that we look a decent team. We must learn to do it consistently against opposition who will set their stall out to defend in depth.

Sam Hoare
6 Posted 17/02/2017 at 14:10:14
Yup. We could also use some more creative options from the bench. The lack of genuine game-changers there making Deulofeu's loan all the more baffling, the young Spaniard is far from consistent but he always possesed the potential for that one magic cross or moment to unlock a tight defence.

The lack of creativity puts a huge burden on Barkley and is one reason that many of us hope someone like Sigurdsson might be on the shopping list this Summer.

Jay Harris
7 Posted 17/02/2017 at 15:32:12
The point you make about the home form is interesting, Lyndon, with 13 goals against decent opposition in the last 3 games. Contrast that with results against packed defences and you have nailed the problem.

I don't see it as a lack of creativity I see it as a lack of movement.

If Barkley and Lukaku are tightly marked they show no movement at all and that for me identifies the problem.

I think Koeman has identified this and is addressing it and that combined with Koemans teams tendency to have a strong finish to the season gives me more optimism for the future.

Darren Hind
9 Posted 17/02/2017 at 19:13:26

If I was in prison in some obscure part of the world and I was afforded just one Everton read a week. it would always be your latest piece. I'm a great admirer of your stuff... but I think you've overdone the positive slant a touch here

You've done the spade work clearly – I wouldn't expect anything less – but I cant help feel you are avoiding criticism unless it's the mildest kind.

I'm with Phil Walling on this: everyone expected significant improvement when Martinez was moved on. "ANYONE would do a better job." Those expectations grew when we hired a manager who was world famous and who came with a solid reputation. Those expectations grew still further when we realised he was going to be bankrolled in the manner in which he has been. For me, it simply hasn't happened.

I cant understand why you refer to Ashley Williams's play as angled passes. He hoofs it... so does Funes Mori and Robles. Their reluctance to show is starting to force our two full backs to go against the grain too.

I can't get as enthusiastic about the Southampton game, much of it was drab... and the Bournemouth game? Every Blue should have embraced the game against Bournemouth it was one of those games that stay with you. We also got to see the beast at his terrifying best...

But we can't kid ourselves here. Lukaku aside, this wasn't a brilliant performance. We came across a manager who has his back to the wall because his defenders are injured and he has decided his only way out is to shoot his way out... against everyone.

Darren Hind
10 Posted 17/02/2017 at 19:30:57
Don't forget, we started that game with three defensive midfield players.

I can go along with the theory that we edged both the Stoke and the Middlesbrough games, but dominated and dictated? I cant have it; we could very easily have lost both.

I think Koeman is an out-and-out pragmatist, I can't see how he will ever bring you the creativity you hanker for. I suspect he will always trade flair for industry.

Lukaku had better be fit for Sunderland, because if he isn't, Koeman will still be expected to demonstrate this improvement against the basement team and clueless Davey.

I'm guessing the overwhelming majority of Evertonians will wait for confirmation that the big fella will be starting and they'll be giving the bookies a very wide berth if he's not.

Paul Burns
11 Posted 17/02/2017 at 20:27:57
Those "pictures" look like bacterial growth on a petri dish.

I wonder how much notice is paid to this kind of data at Everton? Apparently "top" clubs do analyse this kind of stuff.

Brings to mind the film Moneyball about the part stats and data played in the relative success of a baseball team in America, the Oakland As who went on to win a record number of consecutive games based on a team constructed mainly of low-profile semi-rejects assembled with the help of a data and statistics expert and giving the players a value or rating based on their performance in particular situations.

Of course, Baseball more easily lends itself to this kind of analysis than football, the nature of that game being chiefly a series of set plays.

However, it would be an interesting experiment to see if and how it could be used in football and makes you wonder whether Brian Clough and Peter Taylor used these methods in assembling what appeared to be a team of unknowns and has-beens into double European champions.

Steavey Buckley
12 Posted 17/02/2017 at 21:43:32
Everton are far more effective and compact when McCarthy plays alongside Gueye. If and when Besic returns, Everton could have 3 scrappers in the midfield who could squeeze the life out of the opposition. Yet, too many times this season Gueye has found himself isolated when Barry played, who took a more holding position and dropped even further back.
Mike Gaynes
13 Posted 17/02/2017 at 22:00:23
Those graphics look like my weather radar as the next storm moves in off the Pacific.
Fintan Spode
14 Posted 17/02/2017 at 23:11:15
Spot on, Lyndon! Something that has puzzled me for a while is our obsession with defensive midfielders, we could nearly field a team of them: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Barry, Gueye, Besic, Davies but no thought about going forward. TBH we could get rid of 3 of these and have sufficient cover in that position.

Don Alexander
15 Posted 17/02/2017 at 23:28:44
This article is, again, an articulate analysis of what is needed for our team to progress. The shortcomings are not necessarily the fault of any single player but the fact is that Koeman has repeatedly emphasised the need for more effort from the players and I think he's right.

Right now the players in our defence are not the problem. That's not to say they're perfect but for the first time in near on three seasons they are now getting the commitment, at times, of their fellow players in front of them, and certainly so when we dig out a victory. That's what Chelsea defenders enjoy, just like every other winning team in history (excepting the Brazil 1970 World Cup winning team). That commitment, echoing what Lukaku said about needing to analyse where improvements could be made after a 6-3 win against Bournemouth, is the key to further success.

Like others I've no idea what goes on in the minds of our players but in Martinez's first season (and I deride the tosser) I wondered if squandering the chance of a top four finish might have been down to many of our players fearing for their futures if we'd actually qualified for the money-laden riches in that competition.

This season, we've got rid of some dross players and signed a few top operators, thereby increasing the pressure in training and team selection. Bloody good.

Lyndon rightly talks of the importance of "belief" and nowhere is that more important than in the players as individuals. That's the biggest issue for Koeman as far as I'm concerned because, in a squad where so few have ever won any trophy, I just wonder how deep their belief might be.

That said, I would regard 7th as an acceptable progression post Bobby Bullshit but like any fan I'd prefer better, and next season I'll demand better on the basis of Mr Moshiri's stated ambition.

David Barks
16 Posted 18/02/2017 at 00:44:42
We've been crying out for a real creative midfielder for at least five years now. It's inexcusable that it hasn't arrived while we've stockpiled defensive midfielders six deep. Maybe Schneiderlin is expected to be an improvement in that area, but he is not the answer. Barkley is also clearly not that player.

But as was pointed out, it can't just be that missing player. The team routinely resorts to passing it backward and among the defenders. It's pointless passing that inevitably results in a hoof up field and it's maddening.

From what I've seen lately, the main cause of this is very slow build up play. Instead of playing quick passes and one twos, we play slow passes and the receiving player takes a touch, looks up field, and takes his time in deciding whether to pass it backward or sideways. It has to be quicker. And sadly Baines is one of the primary offenders. Instead of already being aware of where the defense and his players are when the ball is being played to him, he far too often receives the ball and then looks up to see what he wants to do with it.

I'm still not giving up moving up the table, there is plenty of time to go. We need to win matches and stop settling for some of these draws, but the teams above us will drop points. We just need to have the mentality that 7th is not good enough.

Clive Mitchell
17 Posted 18/02/2017 at 01:00:52
The Premier League is tough. This manager likes to start from the basis that if we don't concede we won't get beat. It's amazing when you think how poor we've been so often this season, and that we conceded five at Chelsea and three at home to Bournemouth, that we have the fourth meanest defence in the Division. So be it.

If you go down that road you're going to be struggling to score hatfuls of goals unless you're winning the league.

In that context you're unbelievably lucky to have a player with the craft of Barkley and a striker with the potency of Lukaku. Barkley's talent is not a matter of opinion. The stats on chances created tell the story. Ross is very special.

Steve Ferns
18 Posted 18/02/2017 at 09:01:25
Phil (#1), our worst manager in decades? Behave, the guy got the 4th most points we ever got. You forget Smith, Kendall Mark III and Mike Walker, and that's stopping at Kendall Mark I and not considering the dreadful 70s and relegation in the 50s.
Rob Dolby
19 Posted 18/02/2017 at 09:12:09
The game has moved on so much over the years. The Premier League is the self-styled "best in the world" though still tactically miles behind Spain and Germany.

In the Premier League, Arsenal play good attractive football and in Sanchez and Ozil have 2 fantastic footballers who would grace any team yet they can't win the Premier League and get pasted in the Champions League every year.

I would love to see Koeman introduce a style into our game that we could try and believe in. At present, our style is about sitting tight and hoping either a full back or striker will come good.

As fans, we just have to hope that we keep progressing under Koeman. Challenge for the top 6, top 4, league title. Even though I am very sceptical about the new regime at the club, we are making positive progress and hopefully laying foundations for greater stability.

Paul Tran
21 Posted 18/02/2017 at 11:06:45
Thanks Lyndon. The usual interesting, even-handed read. More like a chasm than a gap for me.

There has been improvement, most of it off the pitch, with the debts being wiped off and the sense of business direction in the club itself.

When Koeman was mooted as the next manager, I got excited. Then I thought about it, looked at the squad and backed off.

That said, I'm still underwhelmed by what we're watching. Yes, we're more solid, we're harder to beat, he's playing some younger players and there is a some real promise. I like the sense of toughness that Koeman is bringing to the team. I like the idea of pressing in lines, squeezing the opposition and letting the flair players flow.

It's just that I'm looking for the flair players that turn draws into wins. Where are they? Where's the excitement, the out of the ordinary?

We are where we were under Moyes; the best half decent team in the league. There's definite improvement, but like under Moyes, the next stage of development is the one that will excite us. It's the hardest step and requires an influx of genuine creativity and surprise.

Didn't happen under him, will it happen under Koeman? I'm hoping rather than expecting.

Matthew Williams
22 Posted 18/02/2017 at 11:26:11
Top article, kinda nails the Blues' away form. Our general passing is still so poor, we never EVER take pot shots from range (only Ossie seemed too).

Baines doesn't get forward enough down the left as well, all our attacks seem to stem down the right with Seamus or down the middle to Rom who often just gets crowded out.

We seem to show the opposition way too much respect & only start to really press & attack them when we trail in games. We just seem to have an inferiority complex, happy with a point away... plucky little Everton.

Still looking forward to the Spurs game away, it could be a cracker... but in all honesty I just can't see us winning it... 2-2 methinks at best!

Aidy Dews
23 Posted 18/02/2017 at 11:31:07
Trevor #3, that's a really good reply and I agree with a lot of it. To have a good team and to function properly it's all about balance and partnerships across the pitch. Don't think we'll see a partnership like Baines & Pienaar again, that was just unreal. But it's about finding new ones that work and function for the team.

We currently have 2 really good FB's imo. At CB were still weak, Williams is decent but when he has either Mori or Jags by the side of him I don't think we're that strong, even though we did keep a clean sheet last week but we have looked stronger with a back 3 but I don't think Koeman will go with that full time, he'll use it out of necessity.

In the centre of midfield I think Gueye & Schneiderlin have the makings of a really good partnership. Their styles blend well and that looks promising. It's who plays in the three with them 2 for me? Now I'd like to see an attacking midfielder in there that bombs on between the lines, goes in the hole to make things happen and even beyond that to get goals. Now a lot will say it should be Barkley but I'm not convinced he's that kind of midfielder?! He can do it, we've seen it, but I'm talking about week in, week out. Some games he does and some he doesn't, and imo we need a player that is going to get up close to Rom, work with him and off of him and even go beyond him, get on his flick or just break into the box and get goals and I just don't think Barkley does it enough, he wants to stay deep and get on the ball more than he wants to go forward and score, create, imo btw.

Now Davies when plays in the 3 he does get forward and into the box but again I don't see him as that kind of creative, goal scoring midfielder. I don't even think he got many goals coming up through the ranks?! Now I see both Barkley & Davies has more of a central midfielder that does a bit of everything but wants to be involved on the ball in the middle of the park and help make the team tick. So we need that central player that will create and chip in with goals.

But Koeman being a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 man were gonna need a right sided player also has were devoid of any quality out there! Even Barkley a lately has been played out there but where he wants to come deep and be on the ball he vacates wide right and also isolates Lukaku so we need a right winger or wide forward to balance the team out. Tbf it could be either Lookman or Bolasie when fit but I think both are better suited down the left where they can drift inside and link with Lukaku and create and score. Mirallas can play there but I don't think he's effective enough and Lennon isn't good enough so I feel we need a right sided player.

And obviously we need a striker. I've seen on other Everton pages, online and on social media saying we don't need another midfielder, we don't need another striker cos they won't play with Lukaku being the main man. Well sorry but I think their talking rubbish! Course we need another striker. Back in the day Man Utd won league after league with 3-4 top strikers in their squads! I know teams don't generally play with 2 anymore but still, you need that competition and cover or sometimes to have someone to come in and partner Rom. Having another decent striker in the squad will bring out the best in Lukaku. It'll keep him on his toes, it'll push him on and we'll have another option to call upon when needed. And for me we do need another CM. What we have in there currently is a much of a muchness, defensive mids and ball players of sorts and we need a more advanced, creative player that gets a decent amount of goals.

Find those players and our team/squad starts to look really strong!

Frank Crewe
24 Posted 18/02/2017 at 12:58:42
Under Martinez, we had Barry and McCarthy in the middle of the park. They barely made it over the halfway line and almost never scored. Under Koeman, we have upgraded to Schneiderlin and Gana. Better players but they still barely get over the halfway line and almost never score.

We are basically playing with 6 defenders or 7 defenders when we play with 3 centre-backs. This kind of set-up may keep the goals conceded down but it doesn't really leave much room for creativity. Now until we can play with only one defensive midfielder, this situation will continue.

I think Koeman feels the same way. I have a sneaking suspicion that Schneiderlin wasn't brought in as a replacement for Barry but as a replacement for Gana and, for the rest of this season and next season, we will see Davies, who has more creativity than both our current defensive midfielders, will be getting a more prominent role as I just can't see Koeman settling on Schneiderlin and Gana clogging up our midfield.

David Ellis
25 Posted 18/02/2017 at 13:10:22
Paul Burns (#11) – Moneyball... yes Moyes was one of the first to apply similar methods to football and hire staff specifically to track stats of potential targets. Premier League clubs all routinely use these techniques nowadays in assessing the players they want.
Paul Conway
26 Posted 18/02/2017 at 15:55:57
Let's not forget that Koeman has been in the job for a matter of months and its way premature to draw any comparisons with Martinez or Moyes.

The wheels are turning and the gears have been knocked into forward. He has transformed Barkley, Robles, McCarthy and Baines have come on loads.

He has introduced some fresh faces who have oodles of quality... Positives, positives, positives!

Joe Edwards
27 Posted 19/02/2017 at 11:40:04
I will invite criticism here, but if we are talking about improvement under Koeman, I am afraid I just don't see it. Martinez had taken the club to depths of despair only experienced under Mike Walker and Walter Smith, so even Mr Bean coming in would be viewed as an improvement.

I still don't see any firm gameplan from Koeman, I don't see any consistency, I don't see any signings that make me say "Oh, I can't wait to see him play against the shite".

I certainly don't see anything from Koeman's dire press conferences to suggest he is passionate about the club or its future. I have been sceptical for years and have seen false dawn after false dawn at our beloved club.

I agree totally with the article statement that there has been no improvement since Moyes left, it's been one step forward two back for so many years under Kenwright that, until he is gone completely, I can't muster any kind of enthusiasm for our ability to break into the top six.

Brian Harrison
28 Posted 19/02/2017 at 12:17:17
Well, hasn't this been a fun read? Obviously Darren and Phil, our very own chuckle brothers, can always be relied upon to express a negative point of view regarding Koeman.

Yes, we all want to see free flowing football in the Barca style, with goals galore and the meanest defence in the league. I mean how long does Koeman want? – He has been here 6 months now...

As for not improving the team, well I would suggest that signing Gueye, Schneiderlin and Lookman have improved the team. He has also introduced Davies and Holgate which has greatly reduced the average age of the side.

Finally, the two highest profile managers in World football were sitting 5th and 6th in the league the other week, despite spending huge amounts of money. So let's at least wait till the end of the season before sharpening the knives.

Aidy Dews
29 Posted 19/02/2017 at 12:31:10
Well said, Brian! Next season is the big one for Koeman. He's got a big summer ahead to get more players in of his preference and to mould the team into his liking and slowly but surely he is getting there.

He's brought in some decent players, one or two really good players, and he's got rid of a lot of shite and now the next few windows are about fine tuning the team/squad in a way that Koeman wants and likes; IF we have a good summer, we could be on to another progressive season!

I actually prefer the football were playing under Koeman. A lately it's been more possession based but at least Koeman isn't afraid to go from back to front to get the ball forward and get us high up the pitch and in the oppositions half. And in time, the pressing from the whole team will improve, we're more fitter and harder working and, with more quality the team, will improve no end; the early signs under Koeman are good imo.

We've a lot to look forward to and – IF we have a really good summer – we could have a very exciting season next season!

Mike Green
30 Posted 19/02/2017 at 13:19:01
Green shoots of recovery abound.

Robles has been outstanding in recent weeks.

Clean sheets are becoming a habit.

We have real competition for places and quality in midfield.

Rom looks a bit happier, a bit hungrier and has found his scoring boots. Ross looks like he's getting back into the groove too.

In Lookman, Davies and Holgate we have some potential future stars who if nothing else have injected some verve and vitality into the side.

We are starting to look, and play, like a team with confidence, as opposed to a group of anxious individuals.

We have offloaded players deemed surplus to requirements.

There will be money to spend in the summer – if we can keep hold of Rom and add in two or three players of the quality of Morgan and Gueye, I'll be happy.

We have proven we can "do it", we just need to "do it" consistently.

I sense this isn't a revolution – more constant, grinding, determined evolution and at the moment. I am more than happy.

John G Davies
31 Posted 19/02/2017 at 13:20:01
Brian (#28) and Aidy (#29):

Spot-on. Two good posts

John G Davies
32 Posted 19/02/2017 at 13:24:37
Mike (#30),

You too. Another good post. Perfect summation of progress since Koeman took charge.

Tony Hill
33 Posted 19/02/2017 at 13:51:22
I wonder how Robles will react to the rumours about us going after Pickford/Schmeichel? Is he the right keeper for us, would we be happy if we didn't go after someone else in the summer? I confess that I can't make up my mind.

I think Pickford has the look of a very fine goalkeeper indeed and I also think Schmeichel is excellent but Joel has been great and I can think of areas where our need is greater. His attitude throughout his time with us has also been very impressive.

I do think, though, that a truly top rank keeper can turn a top 7-8 side into a top 4 side and I have a hunch that Pickford is in that category. Apparently, Man City will be in for him so the question may not arise anyway, so far as he is concerned.

John Quilliam
35 Posted 19/02/2017 at 14:08:57
Off subject somewhat but it's no wonder we're a bit negative at times!

Today's Observer; Huddersfield V Man City report.

" Huddersfield have joined a select band of clubs who have prevented Manchester City from scoring this season:"

Who's missing from the list! No prizes for guessing! Their biggest league thumping of the season and we're not mentioned!

As I said no wonder we're a bit negative at times. Inferiority/ persecution complexes notwithstanding. Ah well!

Alexander Murphy
36 Posted 19/02/2017 at 14:27:04
Heaven above! So many great points and observations throughout this whole section. Even stuff that I don't necessarily fully agree with is well reasoned and holds some merit.

My own view is that much of what precedes is possibly "intellectual" by the standards of our modern day playing staff. I'm not saying that they are all knuckleheads, but I bet there aren't many who would match or outscore most of the posters on TW in a "Countdown" style head-to-head.

Tony Hill in post number two highlights pace and not only the "nought to 10 yards" or the "60-yard dash" but how fizzing the ball around can bedazzle an "Easter Island back four".

Our own Ross Barkley has changed significantly from this time last season. Lumbering about, delivering no final product, not even offering so much as a "hassle" let alone a tackle to the opposition when out of possession. What do see now?

A leaner, meaner and keener young footballer who CAN force the "Easter Island" back fours into making errors. How? He runs at them and they make errors.

We've never doubted his touch. We have doubted his wit and guile. Left to think, he ponders. Koeman has "flipped" the cards over and has Barkley dictating the terms. Ross looks all the happier for it. As Tony illustrates, pace is a very key issue.

Ross can shift, is a physical presence and has touch. Would you want that heading straight at you with the ball?

John Daley
37 Posted 19/02/2017 at 15:18:32
"If I was in prison in some obscure part of the world..."

Love it Dazza. At last we know how you've managed to sit through some of the stuff Koeman's side have produced this season

"Oui, oui, masked misère. You will watch ze highlights from ze Stoke game followed by zerr 2015/2016 season rrrrrreview. Again! (whilst we shout 'Who are yer? Who are yer? Who are yer?'...or something. Maybe.)":


Honestly though, I agree with a lot you are saying. The handy heatmaps Lyndon inserted have been compared to "bacterial growth" and images from a "weather radar". I thought they were screenshots from Predator at first. Which would have been quite apt, as Arnie's famous quip of "You are one... ugly... motherfucker" sums up quite nicely what I thought of our 'style' of play for large parts of the first half of the season. A lot of hoofing, huffing and puffing, with very little creativity or guile.

As Lyndon points out though, there has been noticeable improvement of late and an upswing in results certainly makes the more unrefined moments much more palatable. I'm hoping the (understandable, I suppose) 'back to basics' stuff is merely a first baby step on the road to where Koeman is ultimately looking to cart us.

Ultimately, he's going to have to step his game up and show us more than he has thus far, but I don't see any real barrier to him doing so.

I've not been overly impressed by his manoeuvring in the transfer market to this point (Schneiderlin and Lookman both seem like they will be decent acquisitions, but it comes across as more a case of them being readily available, rather than them being crucial parts of any cunning Koeman 'plan'), but he's been promised enough financial backing to enable him to take a few punts, plug a few gaps and hopefully, after a full season to assess what he's got within the squad, he and Walsh will now look to add more creativity and firepower to the more stable mix.

Nick Armitage
39 Posted 19/02/2017 at 16:37:34
Rome wasn't built in a day, we're a lot better now than when Koeman arrived. I also think there's a long way to go to break the top 6 and no single player or position will miraculously transform us. We still need 5 or 6 players of the quality of what has anyway come in. Ship out a few more like Mirallas, Funes Mori, Jags, McCarthy and we can moving upwards.
Dave Hutchinson
40 Posted 19/02/2017 at 16:54:22
2 Sunderland tickets wanted. 07775704112 if you can help.
Andrew Clare
41 Posted 19/02/2017 at 17:00:40
The modern game is all about fitness, intensity and pressing. It's taken for granted that the players will also be talented and skillful at this level. What separates the very top teams in Europe is the levels of all the above mentioned attributes and Koeman knows this.

Our biggest weakness is the centre of our defence. Williams and Funes Mor,i I'm sad to say, are just not good enough. Their distribution is terrible and Williams is awful at dealing with crosses. It's essential to have skillful players who are comfortable under pressure.

We are getting there and the summer will be the time to complete the jigsaw. Even if Lukaku goes, I'm confident that we will find the right replacements.

Ed Fitzgerald
42 Posted 19/02/2017 at 17:21:56
Since Christmas, we have been better to watch at home (cup game aside); the inclusion of Davies appears to have given us much needed energy and positivity. It's good to see Barkley playing creatively and playing with some arrogance too. I'm not really sure about the signings with the exception of Gueye although it's early days for all of them.

I'm far from convinced that Koeman will be here next season if he can market a 6th or 7th place finish to a suitable big club (Barca, Arsenal?) – then he will be off. I suppose some would call his so-called candour refreshing although when things have gone wrong he adopts a 'Trump style' strategy of blaming everyone and everything else, apart from admitting his tactics and decisions might be culpable.

I do think Moshiri is doing a good job off the pitch with club and a stadium announcement before the end of the season (April?) indicating we have the Bramley-Moore Dock site would be the biggest sign we are are moving forward as a club.

I hope the club's leadership have a vision that ensures we are scouting out potential managerial successors should Koeman go at the end of this season or the next as he never seems to stick around anywhere too long.

Bill Griffiths
43 Posted 19/02/2017 at 17:24:49
Can't believe there's still people saying get rid of McCarthy. He's coming back to his best and Koeman obviously has faith in him.
Patrick Murphy
44 Posted 19/02/2017 at 17:51:46
Ed #42

If Ronald does move to Arsenal, then the Everton project is dead in the water and we might as well get used to a limit of 7th place and the odd cup run now again, for the rest of our days, whether we are currently 10 years of age or 90.

I realise you qualified your mention of Arsenal with a question mark; however, I have seen this concern elsewhere, on this site and others – if Wenger leaves Arsenal, Evertonians should be worried as the Gunners will nick Koeman.

It's not so much what Koeman has bought to Everton FC thus far, or that he couldn't be replaced; moreover, it's the message that it would send out to our players and potential Everton players if he did move to somewhere other than Barcelona.

Ed Fitzgerald
45 Posted 19/02/2017 at 18:42:07
Patrick I wouldn't be fretting too much over Koeman leaving as his record isn't all that at Everton or anywhere else really. He did win some titles in Holland with Feyenoord which is a bit like winning the SPL with Celtic or Rangers (now they are back) and, let's face it, Steve McClareN won the Dutch title with Twente and that hilarious Dutch accent! So let's not get too worried about him fucking off; he is an employee, that's all.

The Everton project will be carrying on and the key development is a new stadium. BTW – I would love it if for Koeman to stay, and win things for us – something he has failed to do outside of his native country. What Moshiri and others should have is a plan to recruit a manager for the longer term as Ronnie's replacement as he tends to flit around a bit dependent on the money on offer... ask Southampton fans!

Tony Abrahams
47 Posted 19/02/2017 at 21:13:41
What is creativity exactly? I say because, when Lukaku scored his fantastic first goal against Bournemouth, I thought both McCarthy and Schneiderlin made the chance with strong positive forward-thinking play.

Hoddle was creative, more-so than either Reid or Bracewell, but I'm not sure he would have fitted into Everton's team of the eighties?

Some people might call McCarthy a crab, but slowly Martinez is getting taken out of his system and I think Everton have now got a lot of midfield players who can do a little bit of everything.

I couldn't quite grasp Koeman early-on... but maybe he's grasped us much better, than we even know ourselves? Because I'm sure most of Everton's successful teams, have always been aggressive and difficult to play against. We still have a long way still to go on this score, but it's something all winning teams, have to get right, before they earn the right to go and get trophies! Who knows?

Ed Fitzgerald
48 Posted 19/02/2017 at 22:31:22
Tony, you have omitted to mention two of the most sublime midfielders ever to wear the Blue of Everton: Steven and Sheedy. They could create and score goals for fun.

David Barks
49 Posted 19/02/2017 at 22:47:43
Hell, if Koeman left for whatever reason, I would be ecstatic if the board made a big play for Wenger. I could see him having a great impact on our club and would be a big signal for the future.
Don Alexander
50 Posted 20/02/2017 at 00:16:33
We all know that a great player doesn't necessarily make a great manager but Koeman now has 20 years experience in manager-world. In addition, he's moved himself and his family all over the place since hanging up his boots. That to me indicates he has determination and focus in wanting to elevate himself to the same level he obviously achieved as a player, learning from experience along the way.

No "proof" to substantiate my hope, admittedly, but after six months I'm heartened by what he's achieved for us thus far. Next season is his biggest test though, as it very much is for Moshiri too given his stated ambition, and the season after that should raise the bar still further because of their/our stated "project".

James Flynn
51 Posted 19/02/2017 at 00:59:35
Can't see Koeman leaving soon. He's 53 years old and we're his 7-8th team managing. He has to make his mark somewhere out of Holland. Or cement a place as a "He's available? He's pretty good and will do for now" manager.

I'll say Moshiri convinced him that "somewhere" is Everton. He'll certainly not be offered a better salary than what he's getting now.

I'd imagine Koeman would leave any England club to manage Barcelona. If so, the clock's ticking and he knows it. He'll have win at Everton to do so.

And why does anyone think Arsenal will come for Koeman if they don't retain Wenger? The buyout would dwarf what OFM heisted at his exit. From a Gunners' view, where's the sense in that?

I would imagine a hard run at Simeone, no? Only a year left on his contract, makes little over half of what Ronald's getting right now. What Club wouldn't leap at the opportunity to sign him... hey, wait.

Tony Abrahams
52 Posted 20/02/2017 at 08:50:45
Both great players, Ed, but the basis was made from the engine room. Reid could fetch and carry all day, and Bracewell also had a few strings to his brow, which is exactly the point I'm trying to make. All great teams have midfield players that find a way for the team to win and it's usually through that little bit of extra energy and desire that they provide that gives the magicians that little bit more time and space they need in which to operate.

Not everyone can do this job though; as great and creative as both Sheedy and Steven both were, I don't think either had a better football brain than my "Everton idol", Peter Reid.

Dave Abrahams
53 Posted 20/02/2017 at 09:15:44
Right on the ball there Tony (52) with Peter Reid, and to think Kendall never played him for months after signing him.

I think Reid coming on against Notts County, the night the leaflets were given out asking for Howard to be sacked, was the game that really turned Everton's season round. That was a League Cup game, and Everton were going out, and maybe Kendall with them; we won 2-1 and, if my memory serves me right, Colin Harvey was made team coach the next day.

That game with Reid taking over the game was the one that got Everton – going not the much acclaimed Oxford game.

Tony Abrahams
54 Posted 20/02/2017 at 09:43:19
I loved Peter Reid, Dave, and think I learned more about football by watching him give no less than 8 out of 10 every week, than I did watching any other player. Not as easy on the eye as Hoddle, not as graceful as Sheedy, or nowhere near as effortless as Trevor Steven, but he got the team to play, and football should always be about "the team"

I was referring to creativity earlier, because players like Davies, Schneiderlin and to a lesser extent Gueye and McCarthy, can all play football, and what the last two lack in terms of real creativity they definitely make up through effort.

Ed Fitzgerald
55 Posted 20/02/2017 at 10:04:49
Tony, I'm not dissing Peter Reid, I loved him too but the article is taking about creativity? In the title winning seasons of 85 and 87, Steven played over 100 games in all competitions and scored thirty goals. In comparison Reid played only 17 games in 87 and Sheedy played 33 times and quite a few in central midfield. Sheedy waded in with over 25 goals over those two seasons. I think that makes them exceptional in my opinion.
Paul Burns
56 Posted 20/02/2017 at 10:10:19
Get in a time machine and go back to the 1970's, apparently every team was full of creative geniuses such as Alan Hudson, Tony Currie etc. They never won a single medal and England never qualified for a World Cup during this glorious decade.

Time machines are on offer in Aldi this week by the way.

[Sorry about this post. I'm hung over to death and stuck in nonsense overdrive.]

Tony Abrahams
57 Posted 20/02/2017 at 10:22:06
That's what it's all about, Ed, mate. I saw Sheedy play a few games from the centre of the park and his performances were absolutely unbelievable. I spoke to a Leicester player once, who had played against the two of them, and he told me he would have sooner played against Reid every week. He told me he couldn't get near Sheedy and he started laughing when I told him I was at the game, when Sheedy made him look even slower than he actually was!

Speedy scored a sublime chip that day and this is what his opponent was going on about. "Horses for Courses," I said to him, because he was built and played like Reid, whereas Sheedy was just floating round that day, making Everton tick, and once they did Leicester were light years behind us, and this fella couldn't get near Kevin Sheedy.

Both these players were of great value to Everton, but who got them playing the most, the maestro or the man who made sure everyone else was doing their job properly? Opinions, Ed, it makes for great debate!

Tony Abrahams
58 Posted 20/02/2017 at 10:49:52
How much are they, Paul? I can't wait to go back to that game against Bayern Munich, when the last thing on offer that night was any real creativity. Well not until Sheedy played it down the line to Grey, and he slipped it inside to Trevor Steven!

I think I will leave that the way it is, and I might just go to Berlin, to see the wall come down instead!

Steavey Buckley
59 Posted 20/02/2017 at 10:54:54
Football in the Premier league is played differently than it used to be in the past, when players had more time to hold on to the ball and pick a pass. Now, football is played at a faster pace and players are expected to press the opposition and win the ball before threading a ball forward as quick as possible.
John G Davies
60 Posted 20/02/2017 at 11:05:17

Some great points mate. A perfect balance in that midfield but you're right. Reid and Bracewell gave Sheedy and Steven the platform to play on. Their will to win and tenacity to win their individual battles let the twinkle toes play and boy could they play. Reidy had one of the best football brains I have seen, always saw two passes ahead.

One other thing fans forget is how often we went long, full backs and centre halves knocking long balls (it's called hoofing now) into Sharpie and Andy.

Derek Thomas
61 Posted 20/02/2017 at 11:19:42
Paul @56; Hudson got injured just before the FA Cup final and would've played. He does have a ECWC medal though... along with other flair players like Osgood, Cooke, Hutchinson. It's about balance too... Chopper Harris, Webb. McCreadie, Hollins.

Currie; It's a bit harsh to blame Currie on his own for England failing to qualify by not beating Poland... there were 11 others involved, I mean they had Emlyn Hughes on their side for a start.

Currie, Bell and Peters in mid field, Channon, Chivers and Clarke (sub: Hector) up front. England had 36 shots, Hector missed the sitter of all sitters... It's about Balance... maybe theirs wasn't right.

Oh and that 'Clown' of a Goalie had a blinder.

Other than that, you may have a point of sorts, creativity is good, but only so much, we need a bit more, but when you just add it for it's own sake... nah – Balance.

Martinez's philosophy and his downfall was 'Possession' – if it didn't work his only cure was to add more possession... because it's all about possession, so more must be better, right?

Dave Abrahams
62 Posted 20/02/2017 at 12:20:59
Tony (#57) you were talking to Ian Wilson, a good little player who was maybe just past his best when he came to us, he played in the losing cup final against Liverpool.
Tony Abrahams
63 Posted 20/02/2017 at 12:33:03
I might have spoke to him, Dave, I can't remember if I'm being honest, but the fella who I was talking to was a man called Andy Feeley. I've just googled the game, to check if my memory was okay, and it looks like he was a fullback who could also play in midfield.

Back to creativity, and I think if you can get 3 players in the same team whose main job is to be creative, then I think the manager is doing well. Because it's no good a player being creative if the team ends up suffering? How's that for a contradiction?

Tony Abrahams
64 Posted 20/02/2017 at 12:47:08
Steavey (#59), I remember a quote before Everton played Rapid Vienna, in Rotterdam, which was 32 years ago. Different people were being asked what the score would be, and one European delegate whose name I can't remember said Everton would win 5-0.

He got the score wrong but not because of his reasoning, which was that Everton just steam-rolled teams. They call it pressing now-a-days but it was called hunting in a pack during the eighties and I honestly don't think many people got much time to play against Howard Kendall's great team.

Drew O'Neall
65 Posted 20/02/2017 at 14:31:14
Is there a way to be more creative with the current squad of players? That is to say, do we need to add a number 10 or a second striker, or are there different ways to skin this cat?

It seems to me that we are okay when we play against teams who set out to attack us, presumably because they have faith that they can win the game, eg, Manchester City, but we need a solution to unlock defences of teams like Stoke and West Brom who are likely to put 10 men behind the ball, particularly at Goodison Park.

That statement of the obvious made, to my original point. When the other team retreats to its own 18-yard line we obviously have more time and space to use the ball in our back line only. In this scenario isn't it appropriate therefore for us to move our more creative players into less advanced positions to get them on the ball?

If Koeman's fundamental philosophy is to 'press' and to fill the team with a playing staff with the physical attributes to play that way first and foremost, is it possible to use those attributes and press a defensive team as well as attacking one, even if their agenda is not necessarily to retain position?

What if in games where it becomes evident that the opposition are going to "park the Bus", we "inverted the triangle"?

By moving Barkley to the base of the midfield in the 'setup' phase and putting McCarthy and Gueye (for example) to the fore, Barkley could use his vision and range of passing from a position where there is space to do so. My idea is that the ball goes long into the opposition area and becomes a 50-50 contest between Lukaku (or other) and the centre-half but ,with the likes of McCarthy and Gueye harrying around for the scraps, we are more likely to retain, or regain, possession in and around the opposition area than with our traditional set up.

Players like Mirallas, Bolasie and Lookman who carry a goal scoring threat would retreat to the edge of the box in the setup phase anticipating the tackle won by the midfielders or the occasional won header. The full backs would take up the most advanced wide positions, available for a pass slid in to a either side of the 18-yard box and keeping the opposition back line spread.

It's a slight variation on what naturally happens anyway but relies on the commitment (and license) of the defensive midfielders to attack beyond their normal comfort zone.

The other thing we would need to be prepared for is the, very un-Everton, professional foul by Barkley or a Centre Half on the halfway line when the opposition inevitably, occasionally broke.

Just my thoughts. Perhaps I'm overstating the obvious and describing exactly what people mean by pressing and hunting in packs but I'm a fan of crash, bang, wallop football as a product of the 80s and believe in the long ball as well as the School of Science.

Paul Roderick
66 Posted 21/02/2017 at 01:10:25
"The heatmaps from Everton's last four away games illustrate the team's bias towards attacking down the right as well as how, bizarrely, in the Stoke and Boro games the ball was consistently fed to Ashley Williams, arguably the least proficient passer in the team"

No it doesn't.

Peter Lee
67 Posted 21/02/2017 at 09:15:10
At the beginning of the year, Koeman changed to a back five, with the full-backs pushed on and two DM's. It worked. Against Stoke he kept the back the same and played with Schneiderlin as the only DM with Berkeley and Davies pushed further forward.

Stoke were poor but turned us every time with balls into the corners and angles of the box. He changed to a back four against Bournemouth, and then a five with Schneiderlin still as the sole sitting DM. He was on his own at Boro.

Our problem in the two away games was quick ball forward, not 50 m but 20, 20, 10. Oddly, with Davies and Berkeley (who looks uncomfortable on the right) a little further forward this didn't work.

The U23s last night played 4-4-2. They moved the ball rapidly through and across MF with the occasional, very well hit, long ball. They turned defence into attack rapidly and they moved up and down the pitch as a unit. Hmmm....

Koeman favours Schneiderlin, he is a good player, but this shape is going nowhere. Saturday I'd advocate Gueye alongside Schneiderlin and persist with that into the spring.

Drew O'Neall
68 Posted 21/02/2017 at 09:45:29
Peter 67

I think we have to play 3 centre-backs because of the vulnerabilities of each of them in a pair and the attacking bias of our full backs.

Then two mids, as you advocate, means 5-2-3-1, 5-3-2 or 5-4-1.

Barkley fits in the first one, kinda in the second but not, as you say without playing wide, in the third.

I guess the lesson learned from your evidence is you need to be able to play in a number of ways if you are getting 'worked out' and perhaps Koeman's working out the three or so shapes which his players CAN effectively adopt.

Alexander Murphy
69 Posted 21/02/2017 at 00:31:35
Tony, in post 47, you mention Hoddle and Reid. (All that follows isn't directed at you, Tony. Just flows from if you get my drift.)

Certainly Hoddle could switch it on and had a keen eye for a pass, yet Reidy in his very own words WAS the master of the 3-yard pass.

Hoddle would also go entirely missing if Spurs or England were having an off day and he'd offer absolutely nothing. Reidy by comparison would redouble his efforts when times were hard. Admittedly we aren't comparing like with like.

I recall Reid playing at Goodison for Bolton and every time he got the ball I got the shivers. We walloped them, but Reid was the standout MotM.

My point is that some players can swing a game in a creative moment (Hoddle, Le Tissier), but if you are (even by misfortune) in the brown 'n' stinky they aren't worth a 'bloon. Reid would most likely ensure that you didn't get brown 'n' stinky to begin with.

That vintage midfield ALL had attitude. (How many times did Sheeds get booked for getting a bit tasty?) Our latest version does have the capacity to mirror them. Gana is the nearest I've seen to Reid, is vital in our engine room. The upgraded v.2.0 Barkley has Tricky Trevs creativity, but is rapidly acquiring his ball gathering skills. (Trevor Steven played a game or two as right-back and was absolutely immaculate). Young Tom Davies looks more to me like he's Alan Balls son than Alan Whittles nephew.

Won't overstretch the comparisons, but my gist is that we can only be creative if we have the ball. Creative players are luxuries if (like Hoddle) they feel that getting the ball is "tradesman's work", unless they put serious efforts into getting it back. Sadly, RM's philosophy made absolutely zero allowance for the opposition having any motive or tactics whatever. Koeman does appear to see the opposition as having some semblance of intelligence.

Alexander Murphy
70 Posted 22/02/2017 at 01:08:57
Drew your post 65 is some piece of science mate. Might take me a while to get completely online with all of that. (But that's my coherence – not your eloquence.)

However, your: "hunting in packs but I'm a fan of crash, bang, wallop football as a product of the '80s and believe in the long ball as well as the School of Science."

Hunting in packs really was our demonic strength. So it's been relabeled as "counter press" (really, just).

Threes, I always saw threes. Often in the "wide twenty" we'd see our winger, fullback and a midfielder shutting down their options with intent. And the intent is the key, it's not shutting out, it's intimidation with purpose and punishment. Smash and grab.

Our "School of Science" taught "Out-think, Out-play and Out-score".

A long ball is an intelligent pass when it's played with intent, accuracy and timing. It's a hoof when it's played in blind desperation. These two are not blood relatives.

Derek Thomas
71 Posted 22/02/2017 at 01:29:07
Drew & Alexander + others;

We all more or less agree that we know a decent midfield when we see one. The one we have just now is better than the one we had in August, which was (marginally) better than the one we had last May.

I'm sure Koeman knows a decent midfield when he sees one as well? If so, and we can say the same thing this time next season and the season after, then we will be on the right track.

It may happen that some of today's midfielders will have kicked on and some may've been replaced and are on the bench. This has to happen.

'Twas ever thus – 'The game is won and lost in the midfield.'

David Ellis
72 Posted 22/02/2017 at 02:00:00
Football is a team game, and the aspect called creativity is no exception – goals are created mostly by teams rather than an individual piece of skill. Move the ball quickly into players attacking the space and chances will be "created". This requires teamwork, understanding, skill from teammates and effort. Not even Messi can do a slide rule pass to himself.

On the other hand move it slowly or pass it to players running towards their own goal and chances will be rare.

Bracewell and Reid were the two key players for me in the '85 side. As long as they were in the side we would dominate midfield and usually in. I think they managed one goal between them in their entire Everton careers.

Don Alexander
73 Posted 22/02/2017 at 02:29:38
I totally agree with Alexander at (#69); the mid-80s team had total know-how of "the dark arts" when necessary, exemplified by even the likes of Paul Power, Alan Harper and Kevin Richardson when they occasionally got a game. That was the basis from which their various skills, the ones they'd be proud to show their grandkids that is, shone to great acclaim, and we won.

In the current squad, there's still way too much "niceness" to be able to expect success.

Nobody would ever have accused Ronald Koeman of displaying any "niceness" at all en route to becoming one of the best footballers ever in his position and I really do hope he educates our lot on the need to sacrifice it in pursuit of winning.

Tony Abrahams
74 Posted 22/02/2017 at 18:49:38
We live in hope, Don, but I can see a bit clearer now, the position Koeman was in when he took over. I think his brashness probably threw some of the players when he was probably asking them to go and prove to him, that they were better players than he thought they were?

That's why I asked what creativity was? Because it's no good having the skill if we have got a team without character – something I now think the manager has been hell-bent on changing since he arrived at Goodison Park?

Darren Hind
76 Posted 22/02/2017 at 20:45:45
Alex @70

"A long ball is an intelligent pass when its played with intent accuracy and timing. Its a hoof when its played in blind desperation. These two are not blood relatives"

Amen to that. It shouldn't need explaining but in some cases, it clearly does

Tony Abrahams
77 Posted 22/02/2017 at 21:23:40
Probably because the hoof can sometimes cause more problems than the long-ball ,Darren? It amazes me how often you watch a game, and the team playing all the football are un-done by a big hoof, once defenders allow it to bounce.

You don't have to be creative, to cause defenders problems and most people don't care as long as there team wins. This is what was worrying me most before Christmas, the complete lack,of style and players not really looking like they understood what they were doing, but hopefully this is beginning to change slowly?

John G Davies
78 Posted 23/02/2017 at 06:40:53
A big part of Leicester winning the league was the intelligently played hoofed long ball, Tony.
Tony Abrahams
79 Posted 25/02/2017 at 22:12:56
Some people say they would sooner be lucky than good, John, but I prefer both myself, and is probably the reason why I loved Everton's first goal so much today mate!
Ernie Baywood
80 Posted 25/02/2017 at 22:25:20
See, I would argue Leicester hardly ever played hoofball. They let teams get at them and then waited for their moment to counter quickly and directly. I certainly didn't see them pumping long balls up to a marked Vardy.

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