The Honeymoon Is Over – But No Need to Panic

Steve Ferns 02/01/2018 40comments  |  Jump to last

The honeymoon is over.

Before I start, I am well known as being very opposed to the appointment of Sam Allardyce and have not nor will not change my mind on the man. I am not going to slag him off in this article. He is what he is. Instead, I wish to discuss where we are at, and address those who once again have a gloomy outlook of the future.

To do so, we need to go back to before Allardyce came in. Some of us thought we had to appoint him as we were going down. We were never going to get relegated. Even at the height of all the panicking that followed the thrashings against Atalanta and Southampton, the bookies had us 10th in the list for the relegation fight. Did they know something we didn't?

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Not really, they had one look at the upcoming fixtures and knew we'd pick up a load of points. The run of comfortable fixtures is over now, and we're in the middle of a difficult run of games. To top this off, our form is nose diving. Sam Allardyce has come in and built on the West Ham win, added some defensive solidity, but now the fixtures have got tougher, the results have dropped off as our performances have not got any better.

A word of warning for my fellow blues: do not be expecting many transfers this month. Rumour (or should it be conjecture) at the ground last night was that Moshiri is fixed on the stadium deal and bringing in players will now be more difficult as he diverts his funds towards that. We only have to look at Arsenal and Spurs so as to see big London clubs whose transfer activity took a downturn on the back of stadium moves.

I am sure that in the job interview, Sam Allardyce has told Farhad Moshiri that he can get the expensive £250m squad playing well again and return us to 7th by the end of next season, and not far off it this season. Of the £250m spent on buying the squad (that does not include youth products like Barkley), very little pre-dates the Moshiri era, and those that do, Jagielka, Baines, McCarthy, total less than £30m. Moshiri is a businessman, he will see what he spent as an investment. He will want someone to work with that investment, as he will not comprehend why large chunks of that investment should be written off and further investment should be made. He would not have made the money he did if he thought this was acceptable.

There's no way Moshiri would have given the job to someone on the basis of needing to spend a load of money when we already have a big expensive squad. There’s a clue coming from Allardyce too. He frequently mentions the size of the squad. I believe that he is doing this to tell us, the fans, that he cannot have a further splurge on transfers this window, as he has told Moshiri that he could turn the club around with just two signings – a striker and a left back.

I fail to comprehend the thinking of some fans on here who want to sell the likes of Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson and then think we can get £60m for them to then use that to buy another player or two. If Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson are as crap as you say they are, why would anyone pay more than £30m for the pair?

It's that time of year again to remind you all that transfers do not work the way you think they do. If we sell Lukaku for £75m plus add-ons (£90m was quoted) we do not have £75m sat in our bank account. Think of when you buy a car, on finance, you end up paying a lot more than the advertised price once it's all paid off. This total price is the one both clubs use. Man Utd have to, due to financial rules and it's there in their accounts. We use it because it appeases fans to tell us what United spent, rather than how much cold hard cash will be going into our bank accounts. Those car finance companies charge arrangement fees (see agent fees), then there's interest and a load more hidden costs. This is similar in football. You can chop a sizeable chunk off that supposedly £90m fee for what we actually did get, and we're a year from seeing the accounts.

The reason this is all relevant is that, say we do get £30m for Sigurdsson and Schneiderlin, we have to chop a load off for the cost of doing the transfers, and then we can't spend all of what's left because we need to add it on to the new transfer. Getting £30m in for those two can easily turn into £20m to actually spend on a player. So, is it really worth having a fire-sale, getting rid of "flops" on the cheap and bringing in new players to suit the new manager, when we are replacing players we spent £45m on, with players who will cost around £20m. That makes no sense, why not persevere with these flops and try to get the best out of them?

One example to consider before advocating we sell off the squad on the cheap is Ashley Williams. He was dreadful under Koeman, no better under Unsworth, and yet has been at very good under Allardyce. There's two reasons why: he's had legs alongside him in the form of Holgate (when played in the middle) which will ease his nerves about stepping out to win the ball or to head it away, as he will know Holgate can cover in behind. Secondly, he is playing much, much deeper, effectively defending the edge of his box and so there's no chance of people getting in behind, and Williams is a top-notch edge-of-the-box defender, and has been for years.

As Allardyce said, it's not rocket science, it's about getting the players to play to their strengths. Say we sold Williams, we’d get no more than a few million for him due to his age, and the cost of replacing him will far exceed that. So, it made sense to get him playing well and to utilise him for the next 18 months, and instead look to rely on Keane and continuing to bring through Holgate. Jagielka is the one who needs replacing, in the summer, but remember Morgan Feeney looks a player and perhaps he can move up to be the fourth choice at centre-half for next season, and if so, why not get him out on loan now?

What I am getting to, is that like Williams was, there's loads of players performing badly, or below par, and that is because they are not getting played in their proper positions, and due to a lack of cohesion in the side. I believe that there is an XI in this expensive squad, and an XI that is better than everyone but the top 6. Most disagree, I know.

Consider what Allardyce did get right so far, which was to stop us conceding goals. He simply dropped the defensive line and the midfield line and had us deeper on the pitch and so teams like Liverpool and Chelsea had fewer opportunities to get through on goal. This was similar last night, only Man United scored two good goals. If it wasn't for that, then we would have left with a 0-0 draw.

Playing this way is risky, in that some weeks you get a point at Anfield, a draw with Chelsea, and other weeks you get beat by United and struggle to beat one of the bottom 3 away. But all in all, our defence is as good if not better than any other defence outside of the top 6. The only collective defences I would consider perhaps better is Leicester or Burnley. Leicester’s back four is Fuchs, Morgan, Maguire, Simpson (these are the players who played the most). Burnley’s is Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, and Ward. Burnley have been playing Phil Bardsley recently.

So is are defence really not better than these? And yet, under Koeman and perhaps more so under Unsworth, the defence was the worst in the league; the numbers of goals we were shipping shows that. So if the defence can be fixed to become good enough to shut out Chelsea, prevent Liverpool winning, and also much earlier in the season, stopped city winning, then surely the midfield can be fixed too?

For me, this season has been all about the midfield. We had gaping holes in it, early in the season, as we tried to accommodate playing a Number 10 or two, and that lead to no cover for the defence and a succession of goals conceded. That is why the defence looked so terrible. Now, the midfield is so concerned with covering for the defence, that there is no creativity. As Allardyce readily admits, it's about finding the balance. I have no qualms about going heavily in favour of the defence, to stop us conceding and then work from there.

Last season we were 7th comfortably. Defensively we were at least the 7th best side, again comfortably. Our best spell was January to April, roughly going off the top of my head. And in that time we lost Coleman and Funes Mori. So we did what we did with personnel who are all still at the club, but have been improved by additions of Pickford and Keane, and the continued emergence of Holgate. The midfield was pretty settled as a trio of Davies, Gueye and Schneiderlin. Again these are all still there, and again there were cameos from McCarthy and now he is starting to reappear.

What's the solution for fixing the current midfield issues? Well Steven Nzonzi is not it. He's an Allardyce type player, but he's not what we need. Sure he could come in and do well, but he is not head and shoulders better than what we have, and that money can be directed to where we really need it. I think we have the players we need.

Schneiderlin is much maligned, but I saw signs of life from in the last few games, and even in last night's game, where he was poor admittedly, he showed a few glimpses, a few passes, some eagerness to move about a bit more, to get himself and the ball forward more, and it showed me that last season’s form could be visible on the pitch soon.

Gueye is fantastic as a player to run everywhere, to close down, to intercept, to put tackles in, to disrupt the opposition, quite simply as a destroyer. However, he is very limited at everything else, passing, shooting, and attacking play in general.

McCarthy is somewhere between these two. His passing is below Schniderlin's on their best days, but much above Gueye's. He's not quite as effective as Gueye in doing what Gueye does best, but his all round game is much better, and much more suited to a top half side.

Davies, for me is in a similar mould. He is having a difficult second season. But the positive you can take from him is that he is a winner. How many of our players this season go missing? Especially the vastly more experienced Morgan Schneiderlin. When we're having a bad game, and certain players are having a bad game, they simply go invisible on the pitch. Not Davies. When he was stinking the place out, he seems to run harder, to chase more, to try and put in more tackles. The determination and will to win, and to attack is there for all to see. Once he comes out the other side of this run of form, we will see what a fantastic player he will be.

Some seem confused as to what he is. He has always played as a defensive midfielder. He often played deep with Liam Walsh in a pairing. Walsh is similarly small and lightweight, but similarly tenacious. Walsh had the better range of passing, Davies was more dynamic, driving forwards from deep and making things happen. As he gets older, and fills out more, he will be able to assume this role of driving deep from midfield for the first team.

These four players are all good enough to play for us in a top 6 side. They offer different qualities, and can be changed to suit the opposition and the occasion. But it is important that they work in a midfield three, flanking a central creative player. Currently, this is Wayne Rooney. They need to line up in a system where one is fixed, or holding. This player can sweep up behind the others, and help recycle the possession and keep things ticking over. Schneiderlin is best there. Gueye cannot play there, he loses everything he is good at there, and needs to be free to run further up the pitch to do his thing. Davies will be able to play this position, but he's a bit too young for it right now, and McCarthy needs to be a little further forward. And this is why we keep turning back to Schneiderlin.

So if the first midfielder holds, the second midfielder needs to play more of a freer role. Licence to go box to box. If it's Gueye, this is the position he can get selected in, and not the others. McCarthy and Davies also vie for this position, and those two offer much more going forward as noted above.

The last midfielder of the trio, is Rooney. Whilst, one covers behind him, the other does his dirty work, Rooney's job, as we all know, is to be the creative hub of the team. What I didn't like last night is that, when he went off, McCarthy came on. For me, this position needs to be rotated between Rooney and Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson was an unused sub last night, so it was not that he was needed on the left, he should have come on for Rooney, if Rooney did need to come off (to preserve him for Friday?).

This player for me should not be a Number 10. Rooney has, largely, not been playing there. He has been much deeper, And this is where I want to see him continue to play. Instead of the ball winner finding a couple of passes to get Rooney on the ball, he needs to be the immediate pass, so we can get on the front foot straight away and get up the pitch. Not a hoof up the pitch, but a clever incisive pass to a quality player who can immediately exploit an opposition in disarray, having lost the ball and not yet got back into shape to defend. This is the critical time, and this is when we need someone who can pass on the ball.

Which then brings us on to the front 3. Why the hell Niasse started last night, I do not know. Calvert-Lewin is the only striker we have who can lead the line. The amount of times Niasse won a header from a long ball can be counted on one hand. We launched it forwards and it came straight back. Calvert-Lewin is much more adept at holding it up, bringing others into play and being the focal point for the ball forwards.

We also need width and speed, and so it was great to see Bolasie. Lennon provides this, but with more defensive cover, and less ability to create once he has the ball. Vlasic showed exactly where he is at last night. A few glimpses of his sublime technique and talent as he went past players, but for the most part he was anonymous.

We need two players wide with a target man central so we can immediately shift the ball and then get forwards from midfield and fullback to support the attack, This is why, I think we do not need a Number 10. The number 10 is more important to a team dominating possession and struggling to cut through the opposition, despite having lots of the ball, the Number 10 can then try to thread a pass through the opposition lines for a runner. Instead, playing as more of a counter attacking side, we do not need such a player and instead we have pace and power from someone like Bolasie.

The Number 10 style creativity comes from someone like Rooney deep. Or the other alternative, which worked great at the end of last season, is to have it wide in a player like Barkley who could receive the ball wide on the right and drive inside drawing players to him, and ready to slip the striker through. Sigurdsson has been deployed similarly from the left, but he lacks Barkley's speed, dribbling, and ability to bring players to him and create space for others. That is why I would prefer to see him contest for the deeper position with Rooney.

My preference is to rehabilitate Barkley and reintroduce what for me is the thing we have lacked the most from last season. Of all Koeman's damage, what he did with Barkley is the worst. If Barkley cannot be rehabilitated back into the side then we need to find someone with similar qualities. Finding someone who is fast, can dribble, is big and strong, and can pass as well as Barkley is impossible. Those players cost massive money, more than we paid for Sigurdsson, and do not want to come here.

Instead we have to look for players who can most of what Barkley could, but perhaps more consistently, and so we look for players similar to Bolasie. Mahrez would be ideal, but he's never going to come here, he would view it as a sideways step and he wants to go up a level. Perhaps with Southampton struggling, Tadic might be available, but he's almost 30, would cost a lot, and so would not be value for money. It's that kind of player that we lack. If we had that, then I think our team could be transformed.

So perhaps the best thing to do, is to say to Spurs or Chelsea, stick your £10m (certainly no more than £15m) up your arse – we'll keep Barkley until the end of the season, and if he goes for free, then so be it. Barkley will want to leave on good terms and will want to go to Russia, and so his commitment will not be lacking in the short term.

Up front, I am assuming Calvert-Lewin can be covered by the inevitable signing of Tosun. I have read a lot about him, seen him on YouTube, and he sounds more like Sandro than someone who can play in the Number 9 role. I cannot envisage that he will not be a centre-forward, as we are crying out for someone who can do everything, or most of, what Calvert-Lewin does, and go past that by also putting the ball in the back of the net more often.

I do think our squad is good enough. We need Tosun or another central striker; we need to get Barkley back or replace him; we need to get Bolasie fit and keep him fit; we need a left back; and we need to play 3 central midfielders deep and forget about playing a number 10, focusing on counter attacking with incisive passes, rather than hoofs up the pitch.

We do not need to sell everyone off cheap and write off a load of money, because we will not get that money back to reinvest in the squad, because – love it or hate it – the stadium is coming, and we have to pay for that at the expense of mega deals in the future. Attracting funding for the stadium will also hinge on success on the pitch, so perhaps Moshiri will have to bite the bullet and invest anyway.

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Mike Allison
1 Posted 02/01/2018 at 15:46:35
The general principle is right, and simply splurging more money on new players who would need time to gel is not what I see as the solution. We have a huge squad of good players who've been playing badly all season. I agree that a no.9 and a left back should be signed and should be enough to get us finishing 7-10th.

Where I see as our main problem now is attitude. We seem to have settled on a defensive mindset which is doing more harm than good, not least because it is so dispiriting for fans. We need to put the creative talent on the pitch with the expectation that they will continue to work hard. My midfield three would be Gueye, Rooney and Sigurdsson. All three of these work hard and two of them can produce killer balls out of nothing. Sigurdsson hasn't been used properly since he joined the club and I think he would relish this role. Having this midfield would give a new lease of life to the runners up front. However, I can't see Allardyce doing this against Liverpool and Tottenham even though I think the cup game gives him licence to take a risk.

Just a final note, he played Niasse instead of Calvert-Lewin purely to look after Calvert-Lewin. It was a rotation, not a selection decision, and though it may be painful to watch, it needed to be done. Calvert-Lewin needs to be the lad rotated in when our main no.9 needs a rest. Hopefully this can happen in January.

Ajay Gopal
2 Posted 02/01/2018 at 16:56:07
Wow, Steve, that is very well thought out. If Barkley were to leave (I am fervently praying that he does not), do you see Dowell playing that role next season?

I agree with Mike, my midfield 3 would include both Rooney and Siggy. I would put in a bid for Luke Shaw, he has the quality to replace Baines and I believe he would shine at Everton.

Assuming we buy Tosun and Shaw (or someone similar), this would be my 1st choice starting XI:

Pickford
Kenny Holgate Keane Shaw
McCarthy Rooney Siggy
Barkley Tosun Bolasie

Backups:

Robles
Coleman, Martina, Baines, Williams, Feeney, Jags
Gueye, Schneiderlin, Klaassen, Davies
Lennon, Vlasic, Niasse, DCL

That means selling Mirallas, Besic, and sending Lookman, Beni, Klaassen and Sandro on loan.

Ray Said
3 Posted 02/01/2018 at 17:20:45
Well thought through and insightful piece Steve. I agree with much of your analysis of the attacking problems we have had and, in particular, the need to drop the idea of playing with a number ten. I would add that with the players we have in the squad we can not afford a player the freedom that a number ten needs to flourish so would be better with Sigurdson and Bolasie/Barklay playing as inside forwards behind and to the left and right of a single forward, running forward, playing passes into the box and having shots.
John Raftery
4 Posted 02/01/2018 at 17:35:17
Schneiderlin was dreadful at Bournemouth and not much better last night. Sigurdsson is so one paced it is remarkable anyone deemed him worth £45m, Keane is slow of foot and brain and Klaassen has disappeared without trace. I agree however we cannot afford to offload all these players whose fees add up to nearly £125m. Even in the current inflated market I doubt we would recoup half of that sum. We simply must make the best of a bad situation and hope somewhere along the way we can unearth a top striker who will mask the obvious deficiencies.

The young players have not let us down. It will take them a few years to mature in the way Lingard, now aged 25, has come of age this season. They need time and space to develop which means nursing them in and out of the team for at least a couple of seasons. That is not rocket science. Howard Kendall did it with very successfully with Gary Stevens, Neville Southall and others.

Jerome Shields
5 Posted 02/01/2018 at 17:37:26
I agree with the above and can only see us requiring the players in the left back and forward role described. My problem is Big Sams ability to get out of defensive mode tactically and switch to a offensive mode. I think you might be better at it by what you are suggesting.

Big Sam is too predictable with his long ball, which does nothing but give the opposition possession, which means we lose time chasing the game. The forwards we have are isolated by this. In the first half against Man U we had the makings of a offensive system, destroyed by long balls. In the second half Big Sam told and organised the team into defensive mode, which allowed Man U to get more players up in support. Big Sam is not thinking like you and shows tactical weaknesses and a shortfall in ability.

You are right the problem is not with the players, but with their management, Big Sam told Moshiri that he could avoid relegation with the players they had as you suggested, I think Unsworth could have done the same, but would have been tactically able to develop a offensive system. Unsworth found Rooney position and Rooney bought into it, Big Sam got Williams to play, partnering Holgate, but changes this in this past two games and we lose. Which one was lucky to get the job? A panic decision which we will have to watch the results off.
Michael Lynch
6 Posted 02/01/2018 at 17:57:29
Well, if we don't actually have 㿷m from the sale of Lukaku, then we won't actually have to pay 㿅m for Tosun will we? Cuts both ways surely? So Sam goes to Moshiri and says "I've had a word with Steve Ferns, and he tells me transfers don't work the way everyone thinks they do. Tosun will actually only cost us ٣m up front, so can I have ٣m to buy Vardy, ٣m for Mahrez, and ٣m for Coutinho please?"

I do agree that we should tell Barkley's agent to do one this window. We need him playing for us between now and the end of the season, and if he goes for a free then so be it. Anyway, according to the Ferns Formula, we'll only get ٧.99 for him now, because that's the way transfers work.

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 02/01/2018 at 18:19:36
Most of the crowd groaned when McCarthy, replaced Rooney, Steve. They groaned even louder when McCarthy's first two passes went backwards and square, but suddenly we had put together a good few passes for the first time in the second half, and we actually got on-top of United for a bit.

I've heard a few people saying Snides, is starting to do a bit more, but he was actually playing against his old club yesterday, and still couldn't raise a gallop. He doesn't look like he wants to be here, and it's horrible watching him pretending to represent Everton, at the minute.

John G Davies
8 Posted 02/01/2018 at 18:37:45
McCarthy first on the sheet on Friday for me. Him and Gana if fit are full of energy and the hard running we will need. No Rooney for me in this game.

Holgate at centre back with Williams is a must, JJ will play hopefully. I would start with Lennon and Bolasie wide, Sigurdsson central and Calvert-Lewin up front. Nerves gone already.

Peter Warren
9 Posted 02/01/2018 at 18:58:35
Have never seen Schneiderlin have a good game. I just fail to see what he brings.
Ash Moore
10 Posted 02/01/2018 at 19:47:16
It's all conjecture Steve. You're telling me Moshiri won't throw good money after bad...but he also has seen what happened to Sunderland, Newcastle and Aston Villa when the owner followed a similar strategy. And we are onto manager number three of his reign , and everyone here says he's a stopgap til #4. Bill had three the entire time he was solo.
I think if he thinks we need something he'll buy it. Because the only way to make his "investment" back is to turn the club into winners. Conjecture, but at least I'm admitting it.
Didn't Allardyce surprise drop Barkley from his only England squad? I'm not hoping for much from there to be honest. Ditto Bolasie who understandably looks rusty.
I think we will bring some people in the window that Sam feels would give him options about the way we play. Probably not Giroud but a big unit like him I guess.
You're kidding yourself if you don't think that team that got slaughtered against the Saints was not relegation material. I don't know why they weren't playing for Unsy, or if he - DU - actually doesn't know what he's doing. But I defy you to watch it again and tell me Moshiri was crazy for pulling the trigger.
Also, finally, and I don't like mentioning it, but Wayne Rooney has been tremendous, an absolute force, and had his best season for a long time. I thought he was finished, I didn't want him back, but in that "easier" group of fixtures his class really did tell. Not picking him against Southampton was folly on Unsworths part, I knew after the Europa League tonking he had a point to prove. Definitely our best player by some margin this season.

But the point is he cost very little. We don't need to spend eighty million a pop to make this squad better, it ain't that good to begin with, and the real talent is almost entirely home grown anyway.Ironically, including Rooney.

Roberto Birquet
11 Posted 02/01/2018 at 19:59:51
Allardyce is right on this. The size of the squad is too big. And we'll get money (Which ever way you cook it £5 m down payment, some later - we get it) for selling more players than we buy. and we should.

Barkley does not want to be there - sell now, Mirallas, Scheiderlin and Besic have had their chances, two back up goalies can go by the summer, Martina ffs, probably a couple of CBs including Funes Mori when he's fit, and I imagine Niasse will eventually be gone. I also expect the manager out in the summer.

The sales will give us most of the money to bring in a young left back, centre back, back up goalie and a striker to add to the incoming Onyekuru. And a coach who is willing to use Lookman, Vlasic, would be starter. Ten out, 4-5 in. Should help with wages, too. And we will have more balance. A footballing manager, and we will improve drastically. We bloody need to.

What did we get for Lukaku? I really hate it when you get this nonsense about how payments are made. You can forget the abacus crap. We got Siggurdsson (£40m + 5m), Vlasic (£10 m) and Keane (£25 m + 5m) for him, and I guess Wayne, too. The fees add up to the same. That is how it is done. Man U paid for those players' signings. Everton never spend £140 m. That is sensationalist newspaper talk. And we won't again. We got a biiger wage bill, but cutting the squad down will help with that.

Peter Fearon
12 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:10:07
I agree with the majority of this post except that we clearly cannot continue with Ashley Williams whose best is none too good. He is, however, an archetypal Allardyce player: a big, not to bright yard dog always ready to do the up an under while crossing himself in the hope that the ball doesn't land at the feet of an opponent with a sweet right foot. Too often his prayers are not answered. Give me Jags over Williams every day of the week.

I agree there is a sold starting XI buried in this unbalanced poorly led squad somewhere and it must include Ross Barkley. Vlasic didn't play well against United but he is also a talent we need to nurture as is Lookman. Klassen may be salvageable but Schneiderlin on the other hand is hopeless and it seems to me that he is playing for a move. Sandro seems to be on his way out too or he would have played against Utd.

If Walsh is responsible for assembling this squad he should go too. The biggest problem in my mind is still Allardyce himself. I don't know what you call what he is offering us but it isn't anything resembling football.

John Keating
13 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:16:05
Steve
as you can read the future (we were never going to get relegated) Any chance of 6 numbers for Saturday ?
Michael Lynch
14 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:22:45
Just watching City v Watford here and two things strike me:

1. City are brilliant
2. Watford are three down and STILL have banks of five and four camped on the edge of their own penalty box

That Silva eh, what a manager.
Just saying like.

Tony Hill
15 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:29:39
Yes, well spotted there, Michael (#14). But it's Fonseca we need really, on reflection. Or someone else.
John Keating
16 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:42:21
Michael/Tony
It's not about the result, only the performance.
Apparently.
Ray Robinson
17 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:51:04
No need to panic? Well I don't think we'll go down either but as of tonight, we're only seven points off the relegation zone. I'm not entirely relaxed. Perhaps we should change our manager again to get a new temporary boost?
Michael Lynch
18 Posted 02/01/2018 at 21:53:25
I'm assuming Silva's ten behind the ball tactics are "plucky" and "intelligent", compared with our Sam's "cowardly" and "predictable" tactics?
Paul Smith
19 Posted 02/01/2018 at 22:10:30
We can still go down. Shots on target are a big concern, make no mistake if we lose against Totenham relegation will become a topic again.
Jon Withey
20 Posted 02/01/2018 at 22:38:13
A very flattering view of our squad - but somebody has to be glass half full.

In all honesty I'd prefer Moshiri put money in the stadium - which is why the Siggy fee made no sense.

We played our best recent football without Schneiderlin on the pitch - it's really difficult to understand why, why, why we play him.

Our defence certainly improved with Siggy covering the left and Lennon covering the right - but that means we go nowhere on the flanks and DCL just heads it to no one .

I was happy enough to have Sam for now but he has just reverted to Koemans playing Schneiderlin every game, Holgate instead of Kenny and Keane in place of Holgate at CB - maddening !

We really do need a left back - maybe even more than a striker .

Sell Niasse if we aren't going to play him, sell Besic if we aren't going to play him, sell Klaasen if we aren't going to play him, sell Mirallas if we aren't going to play him and sell Barkley if he doesn't want to sign - huge wastes of wages.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

21 Posted 02/01/2018 at 23:03:57
I'll tell you what Steve, nobody can ever accuse you of not being thorough or detailed.

There is a lot to agree with you. I was firmly in the camp that genuinely believed we were not going to get relegated and fully anticipated an upswing in fortunes once we hit the easier fixtures we did.

For that reason I also believed appointing Sam was unnecessary. That said, I was never vehemently opposed as some (including yourself) were against the man and was (and am) prepared to give him time. And he has done well, far better than Koeman or Unsworth achieved on their watches this season.

Your thoughts on Moshiri, the transfer budget and protecting funds for the proposed stadium build are all highly speculative. Your opinion on offloading presumed excess baggage at knock-down prices that will fail to inflate our transfer budget to the necessary level in search of better replacements is more interesting.

The summer's incoming and outgoings and big turnover of players did not benefit us. Why repeat the same mistake now in the notoriously tricky January window of inflated prices and panic buys?

Again I can agree with you that the squad is not totally bereft of decent players as some would claim, but there are plenty performing badly, or below par. There is a decent XI and back up in the squad, but few have done themselves justice this season.

Interesting to read you now acknowledge just how badly the defence performed under first Koeman then (in your own words) perhaps even more so under Unsworth, the defence was the worst in the league. Previously, you have argued the team was already on the up under Unsworth.

Now of course, Unsworth only oversaw 5 PL games, but the data shows Everton was conceding at exactly 2 goals a game – the worst return by any Everton manager in the PL era. By contrast, Sam currently has the lowest average goals conceded by an Everton manager in the same era – just 0.75 in 8 games.

The midfield has been a conundrum, not helped by a confused transfer policy dating back to January last year and the recruitment of Schneiderlin.

Schneiderlin is obviously a big favourite of yours, as evidenced by your (for me) bizarre piece a couple of months ago when you stressed the importance of Morgan to the team and that the cause of his poor form this season was, basically, the fault of Ashley Williams. Couldn't follow your reasoning on that one at all.

I rather see Morgan as very much part of the problem. Until his arrival Barry or increasingly Gueye played the position Schneiderlin now occupies. Gueye was one of the players of the seasons in that role before going off to the African Cup of Nations. To accommodate Morgan, Koeman played Gueye in a slightly more advanced role. For me, this cost us effectiveness in 2 positions as a result. Schneiderlin doesn't protect the back 4 as well as Gueye is capable of and Gueye's passing and effectiveness is more limited in a more advanced role.

Now Schneiderlin has improved marginally in recent games. It was difficult to get much worse. However, just look at his role in the 4 goals we have conceded in the last 2 goals. He is just not alert to rapidly developing situations by the opposition around our box, losing runners or gently jogging back and leaving the task of repelling attacks to others, rather than helping with the fire-fighting.

Add to that, as you mention, Koeman in particular trying to accommodate too many of the same type of player in midfield and it was a recipe for disaster which we were teetering on before Allardyce arrived.

Again, I can agree with you that the junior players should not be so readily condemned as some are inclined to. For me, it is the senior players who have failed more to show consistency, leadership and sheer cussedness to make things better.

Wayne is another conundrum, as is Sigurdsson who, for the £45m laid out for him, has to contribute more than he has done to date.

Rooney is without doubt the stardust in the side. But, as Dave Abrahams frequently mentions, whilst he is contributing on the one hand with goals and some inspired play, he is also increasingly careless in possession and passing. His Golden Years are clearly behind him. We have been extremely fortunate not to have conceded more goals from poor plays by Rooney since his return.

As for your specifics on the United game, all the qualities you list about DCL I concur with. For me he is possibly our standout player of the season. But cummon Steve. Did you not notice how goosed DCL has looked at WBA and Bournemouth? The poor lad was running on fumes. He should have been given a break from starting at Bournemouth. It highlights how impoverished we are in that position that we have come to rely on him so much that he plays virtually every minute of every game.

I have been encouraged, as well as reassured, at how well Bolasie has played since his return. But again, he is nowhere near ready to play a full 90 minutes yet and we don't have a like-for-like replacement for him in the squad.

It's going to be interesting to see how the squad looks come the end of January, perhaps more for who leaves than who arrives.

Steavey Buckley
22 Posted 02/01/2018 at 23:04:23
Even when Everton defend well there is not width to take on the defence and cross the ball for any waiting forward. Everton spend most time in the opposition's half hoping something may happen as they knock the ball from side. This was the stark reality before the season started even more stark not to buy a forward of proven quality. If you watch match of the day on match days most good goals come from crosses or when the winger cuts inside and makes opening.
Brian Williams
23 Posted 02/01/2018 at 23:29:57
For me conjecture at the ground, in other words a few Evertonians talking and voicing their opinion, carries no weight whatsoever. Depending on which group of Evertonians you talk/listen to their views could be totally opposite and still both wrong.

As for our midfield being good enough! Where do I start? Creativity is almost non existent and I asked both blokes either side of me how it is that Man Utd's midfield, and that almost every other team we play, has time on the ball and moves it forward with purpose to the edge of our box quickly while our own midfield struggle to pass anywhere other than sideways or backwards most of the time. We simply DON'T have players who are good enough, often enough, IMO.

The gulf in class between any of our attacking midfielders and Man Utd's was huge. Journeymen versus skilled artisans. A world apart.


James Flynn
24 Posted 02/01/2018 at 00:54:10
Perhaps we let go of expecting anything "Southampton" from Schneiderlin.

That player left the pitch 3-4 years ago. He's past, and will not return to, the all-action midfielder got him noticed.

So we're stuck with the guy to replace Gareth Barry. Stuck with his contract for another 2-3 seasons.


Charlie Lloyd
25 Posted 03/01/2018 at 01:00:13
Jay @ 21

I agree with your comments on Schneiderlin. Not what we need in that position.

Several observations on our squad:

Williams and Holgate are more solid as the centre-backs. Keane is not mobile enough and doesn't have the added experience of Williams. Jags, bless him, is okay but use sparingly.

We desperately need a left-back. Martina has given it a go but he is not good enough.

The midfield has little creation.

The wide players are either still learning their trade or returning to fitness after a long absence.

The main striker is decent but young and runs himself into the ground while having no one within 20 yards of him, or beyond him, when he wins it.

I actually don't think the squad is in great shape. There is the hope of the youngsters emerging Davies, Kenny, Baningime etc but how far can they go is still an open question.

As for the R word being muttered a month ago. We were that bad and the drastic change had to happen. I'm sort of okay with Allardyce but give him kudos for galvanising a solid unit from the pieces he inherited.

Ed Prytherch
26 Posted 03/01/2018 at 01:03:56
Maybe Victor Wanyama made Schneiderlin look good at Southampton. Morinho saw that he was not up to it and offloaded him to us. He will never be the player that Gareth Barry was.
Peter Gorman
27 Posted 03/01/2018 at 04:38:18
No need to panic? What are people panicking about?

Personally I am only panicking over Allardyce being at the club after the season ends and more money being wasted on duff players.

Other than that I am comparatively zen.

Stephen Brown
28 Posted 03/01/2018 at 06:38:57
Pickford
Williams Keane Mori
Vlasic Sneiderlin McCarthy Klassen Bolasie
Sigurdsson
Niasse

By my reconning that team cost about £245 million and is closer to a relegation team than a champions league chasing team!

Happy to use the rest of the season to regroup and get better out of some of these players ( Bolasie, McCarthy) but also hopefully get some money back from sales ( Sneiderlin, Klassen )

David Chait
29 Posted 03/01/2018 at 07:53:51
Snides - what I saw from him last season after he joined us was sheer genius. His passing range, reading of the game, tackling everything was so much better than any of the other DFMs we have in the squad, except maybe Besic.

For that period alone I would want to keep him and with better players in front of him who make themselves available we might see the Player of last season. Surely what he showed last season can't just be a flash in the pan. It's still the same player..

Tony Abrahams
30 Posted 03/01/2018 at 09:53:58
Jay@21, your point regarding Gueye, is one of the best I've read for a long time, because he was looking very good again since Allardyce came through the door, but he just doesn't seem as disciplined when he's not playing in that main central role?

Agree that DCL, should have been rested for the Bournemouth game. He was shattered, he's obviously going to be needed at Anfield, so I thought he should have had a complete rest, and especially so, playing with the midfield that we went with that day?

Brian@23, good point about our midfield players, but I thought we improved massively once McCarthy, got us playing on the front foot? Snides front foot, is always behind his other heel, and we definitely play even more backwards/sideways, when he his in the team.

Look at the Swansea game the other week, because once “our Morgan” went off, we started getting the ball through the midfield, which just wasn't really happening whilst he was on the pitch?

Sam Hoare
31 Posted 03/01/2018 at 11:46:21
Jay@21, very good post. I agree with your assesment of Gueye who is a top-class ball winner but a very mediocre ball player. Asking him to play in a more advanced role or box-to box role is asking to turnover posession more frequently. He should be protecting the back four where his anticipation, pace and ability to get a foot in are crucial.

I have rarely hated watching a player as much as Schneiderlin this season. Its true he has improved in recent weeks but the bar was very low. He's too slow to catch up with people who are breaking past him. He goes to ground too often/easily. He slows the ball. He never beats a man, never seems to make space for others. His short passing is fairly mediocre and only his long ball distribution equips him well for the role. But if thats what he is in the team for then why not play Siggurddsson instead as he can pass the ball better and cover ground/make tackles just as effectively.

Our midfield balance has been wrong all season but if we are to persist with a midfield trio then I think Rooney or Siggurdsson as the deep creative, Gueye as the holding player and McCarthy as the box to box runner must be the best combination. Despite our surplus of central midfielders I don't think many of them are really up the mark. Replace Rooney with Seri (from Nice) and McCarthy with Nzonzi and then we might be in business.

Jon Withey
32 Posted 03/01/2018 at 12:17:59
Just wondering how many games we have to forfeit to help Schneiderlin and Keane regain their form which is increasingly mythical. Stop giving them an easy ride because they were expensive.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

33 Posted 03/01/2018 at 12:20:09
Sam, I understand your frustration with Schneiderlin.

Personally, unlike some who claim he was the Bees Knees when he first joined us 12 months ago, I don't readily recall many outstanding moments, let alone games, from Morgan last season.

I'm not sure if it was you or Tony Abrahams who has said in the recent past he looks like a player who doesn't want to be at Everton. I often have the same sentiment about him.

The issue may not be Everton, per se. But for much of this season he does look like someone who simply is not enjoying his football and is not prepared to put the hard yards in to get his game back on track.

As an aside, but linked to where Everton currently is, this article on the Beeb is a good read:

Link

It presents various data based on Premier League statistics in the calendar year of 2017. Some Everton related snippets are:

* We comfortably lie 7th in the overall 2017 league table, 13 points adrift of Liverpool in 6th and 10 points clear of Burnley in 8th, with a positive goal difference of +9

* In February and March we were the Premier League's top scoring team and had the top scoring player also in those months – Lukaku (of course!) with 5 and 4 goals respectively.

* Of the 6 clubs to change their managers this season, we are comfortably the team who has benefited most in switching. We've gained 1.7 points per game since Koeman was sacked as against 1.11 over all Koeman's games in 2017 – actually 0.88 in Ronnie's 9 games this season alone. Next best is Leicester who under Shakespeare (opps!) were averaging 1 point a game. Since Puel took over they are averaging 1.5 points a game.

* There is also data showing how many minutes English players are averaging in the PL with particular reference to young players. Unfortunately, there is no individual break down, but I'd hazard a guess that Everton's youngsters and the club as a whole are near the top of the pile in that regard.

Worth checking out...

Ian Hollingworth
34 Posted 03/01/2018 at 12:30:35
Brian (23) spot on about our midfield. It is a big problem and obviously lacking in the required quality.

I would not be against totally replacing it as 3 managers and lots of different combinations have so far not found a way to make it work.

So with no strikers and a poor midfield it is no wonder we have been struggling.

James Stewart
35 Posted 03/01/2018 at 12:50:32
I think it has been fairly common knowledge to most on here Steve that the majority of transfers are paid in instalments over the length of the contract. That works both ways though so we won't be paying £30m up front for Tosun so I don't quite see your point there.

I would also disagree Williams has looked any different recently. He is still a car crash defender. The header against the bar vs Chelsea could have easily gone in. The penalties he gives away are racking up.

Nzonzi is also exactly what we need! Better than all of our midfielders. Him and Banega took the absolute piss out of us in pre-season. We have not replaced Barry, and he would. Nzonzi is a deep lying playmaker not a snowflake like Schneiderlin or an Allardyce player. Whatever that is. Schneiderlin is a disgrace to the shirt and quite frankly I'd rather have Hibbert playing defensive mid than him.

Tony Everan
36 Posted 03/01/2018 at 17:58:14
No matter what we need a striker and left back at the bare minimum. To function as a positive football team.

The defence is under constant pressure because we have no control or possession in the opposition's half.

It sounds odd but we need to sort the attack out and everything else will improve.

Steve is correct; anything other than those bare necessities we will be selling before we buy.

If we do some trading: Nzonzi for Barkley, and Walcott or Welbeck for Mirallas, Lennon, Besic may be achievable.

Graham Blakeman
37 Posted 03/01/2018 at 18:06:56
Schneiderlin and Gueye are both completely useless, One stands still for 90 mins passing the ball absolutely nowhere. He will never cause any danger to the opposition. The other runs around, mis- timing tackles and repeatedly giving the ball away with awful passes. His shooting is also pathetic. As for the term defensive midfielders, they are both pretty useless at that side of the game too.

Let's have a look at Walsh, here we have a man who almost has a 100% fuck up rate at everything he has attempted. I'm convinced Pickford was a fluke on his part, the remaining transfers have been a disaster, I wouldn't trust him to fly a kite, never mind tasking him with more transfers. Terminate his employment with immediate effect.
Steve Ferns
38 Posted 04/01/2018 at 14:35:36
Cheers for the positive comments. Interesting debate followed, good to see so many well made points. I think it shows the difference between the guys on here and the guys on forums on other clubs.
Dale Rose
39 Posted 09/01/2018 at 13:45:55
Good article. As usual loads of differing views on here.

Fair criticism, I'm all for it, but let's get behind the team, it's what we have. I have no doubt things will change dramatically over the next few years, and the sleeping giant will awaken.

Reg Gates
40 Posted 14/01/2018 at 09:59:43
If you saw life in Schneiderlin, I'll sleep well tonight, Jesus, what are you watching? If that team put as much effort on the park as you put into that article we would not have a problem.

I think Allardyce was at Newcastle about a month, we have had him since November and after the Spurs game he said he should or stayed boring. God help Everton Football Club.

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