So the season is only a game old, and normal service has resumed. Manchester City look too good, Arsenal look like Arsenal, and every smug Red you know thinks they’ve already won the Premier League. And Everton have a clear and coherent transfer strategy, are scoring goals away from home, and Richarlison… wait, that can't be right? Based on the last few years, we should have been buying Andros Townsend for £30 million on deadline day, maybe bringing back James McFadden on a free, convincing everyone that yes, Ashley Williams can play as a false Number 9.
It may be far too premature and easy to make big and bold predictions... but, with the flurry of late activity on transfer deadline day, cautious optimism has turned to “We might actually do something this season.” Gone are the days of bringing in cast-offs from Man Utd and the promises that “having Alec Cleland back will be like a new signing”. No, now we have some Brazillians, some boys from Barça, and – most importantly – a plan.
Because, as revealed in the fantastic interview with Marcel Brands on BBC Radio Merseyside (and covered by Andy Hunter in The Guardian), this was not some mad trolley dash. We had a strategy. Brands’s refreshingly frank take on the summer’s dealings gave us a peek behind the curtain – and we should bear in mind he is basically doing his own PR here – but what he said sounded markedly different to what has come before. I have written about Brands and the role of Director of Football on his joining the club, and here it was in action: tough negotiating stances, joined-up thinking, communication, and forward planning.
The pursuit of Yerry Mina is a great example of this. Brands talks candidly about watching the giant defender score against England (in the company of Moshiri, Silva and Kenwright – no less!), knowing that he would now be tougher to land. He then claims that he stuck to his original price with Barcelona, saying:
“Then it is a little bit of a gamble. I could maybe have had Mina earlier but then would have to pay £5m more and I didn't want to spend any more money, so that is always a little bit of a gamble and that makes it a little bit tricky and a little bit difficult.”
This is not the negotiating stance of Walsh and Koeman, who were constantly out-thought and out-manoeuvred in the market. Bolasie, Keane and Sigurdsson were acquired but for a premium: players like Mina and Digne were brought in for good prices and with strong resale value. Yes, this stance could have backfired: if Barça had attracted other bidders and if the late loan swoop for Kurt Zouma had missed the cut-off then our situation at centre-back would have looked dire. Imagine watching the Wolves game back knowing that we only had Holgate and Pennington in reserve. Luckily, his stubbornness paid off (albeit not in time for last Saturday).
Brands also spoke candidly about Richarlison, and that the price was inflated due to the bad blood between ourselves and Watford. The value of players is already a murky one, and although the price for Richarlison may seem high, there are some key differences to the big money moves of last year. His age, the profile of player and his importance to the system of the manager going forward make him a great target on paper. Brands says of himself and Silva: “We were both convinced about him… we think he can be very special.” This is not a marquee signing shoehorned into the side. This is a player with the seal of approval of the key decision-makers at the club; based on the early impressions, it looks like they have good taste.
It should not be forgotten that there was a game of football on Saturday. We might not have had the chance to see any of the deadline-day arrivals, but there were still some positives to take away. Despite being away from home and down to 10 men for much of the game, our football was far more expansive and positive than last season. We pressed high, played with a higher tempo and created chances. Mistakes were made, but Mina and Zouma are welcome additions to the backline and we hope that Andre Gomes and Bernard will inject some extra flair and control to midfield.
What was more telling on the pitch from the Brands/Silva partnership was the players who were not on show. After assessment by the manager in pre-season, the bad apples, underachievers and fringe players have been – on the whole – moved along before the game with Wolves. The Rooney situation was handled quickly and efficiently; big earners like Klaassen, Williams and Mirallas were moved along; and it seems likely that Besic and Bolasie will follow Vlasic out of the exit door. Brands said “Financially, we also reduced the wages – not fully to the target I had in mind but I think we can do that in the near future.” There is room for improvement, but again signs of a long-term plan.
This long-term plan is crucial – not only to maintain our success on the pitch – but also our commercial viability. As Paul The Esk spelled out in his article, this was a self-financed transfer window. We have brought down the average age of the squad, reduced the wage bill, and put ourselves in a stronger position moving further forward. This was done with a World Cup to factor in, with a shortened transfer window, with the hangover of Walsh’s expensive mistakes, and without the lure of European football. After the last few years of raised promises and dashed hopes, patience under Silva has been the watchword for many of us. But the incomings and outgoings over the summer have laid a solid foundation moving forward.
The Brands era may be in its infancy but the early signs are full of promise and purpose. While reading the interview with the Dutchman, it was telling to stumble upon this piece about Chelsea’s hunt for a new technical director. It follows hot on the heels of Manchester United considering the appointment of a Director of Football of their own. When recruitment of managers and players is not joined-up – and it will be telling to see how West Ham fare this season – we know the ill-effects all too well. And as Manchester City’s success with Txiki Begiristain (and a lot of money) has shown, this continental model can lead to success on these shores.
The work of Marcel Brands over the summer has certainly justified the Blues blazing this trail: he may be one of the most important signings in the club’s history.
Reader Comments (22)
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1 Posted 16/08/2018 at 18:08:06
Moshiri said he was always the target but was unavailable 2 years ago.
I wonder how Koeman would have panned out if Brands had been in place last year?
2 Posted 16/08/2018 at 18:38:44
Ashley Williams and Bolasie were both head scratchers... and others followed .
3 Posted 16/08/2018 at 20:08:17
4 Posted 16/08/2018 at 20:20:11
TW was very giddy when he signed on, if I remember correctly, and first impressions are that the faith has not been misplaced.
You can't beat a man with a plan.
5 Posted 16/08/2018 at 20:36:36
Brands has been here 5 minutes and we already know more about the intricacies of the Mina deal and the plan going forward,lower average age,reduced wage bill to give us a bit of scope next window etc, than Walsh ever divulged in the time he was here.
6 Posted 16/08/2018 at 20:37:58
7 Posted 16/08/2018 at 22:05:14
There's a fresh feeling of optimism around Goodison Park and let's build on it daily.
Early, days but it's a good start.
8 Posted 16/08/2018 at 22:33:15
I only ask, as we may underestimate Moshiri's knowledge of the real mover's and shaker's around the European football scene.
I must admit, prior to the appointment of Brands, I'd never heard of him. Moshiri is clearly not an owner who wants to hog the media limelight (Jim White's best mate apart), but we'll forgive him for that.
I feel cautious optimism that the club has finally appointed astute people from a strong business and commercial background who can move the club forward on and off the pitch.
Onwards and upwards.
9 Posted 17/08/2018 at 09:00:27
On the point of having a Director of Football, I noticed in the press that Man Utd are now pursuing the idea of employing one for the first time. Which I assume is partly down to what they see as a disastrous transfer window, the impending meltdown of Moaner-inho, and perhaps a glance over at Goodison Park to see how a professional does it.
10 Posted 17/08/2018 at 13:21:48
11 Posted 17/08/2018 at 13:48:55
So let's wait for the late signings to kick a ball for us before we start doing the handstands, not fall into the trap of last year when Walsh was seen as a genius before we saw his donkeys play!
12 Posted 17/08/2018 at 14:05:12
13 Posted 17/08/2018 at 15:00:28
In my view, Brands has been a breath of fresh air. Under his watch, the positions that supporters were screaming to be addressed have been filled with players who have some pedigree and/or great promise. We'll see how they do, but he got them in.
You overlooked his outbound activity which again matches what fans were asking for. A lot of deadwood has gone and probably one or two more to follow. Once the window closed, Brands has given lengthy interviews to the media, not just sound bites, explaining the strategy and giving rarely seen insight into the negotiating process.
I think we're seeing Denise's better communications pledge coming to fruition – I very much doubt Brands decided off his own bat to explain the intricacies of the transfer market.
14 Posted 17/08/2018 at 20:18:13
I doubt very much he needs help from Dr Barrett-Baxendale to put words into his mouth; I think he more than knows the score.
15 Posted 17/08/2018 at 20:49:21
Given the bloated underperforming squad - some of them on equally bloated wages - and the situation he inherited I think it is impressive how transformed and refreshed the squad now looks in such a short time.
With no manager in place to consult with, in a World Cup year and a much fore-shortened transfer window, we now have just 2 first team players over 30, four of the five outfield players recruited are full internationals, and together their median age comes in at 23 years old.
I don't need to list the ageing or fringe players that have been moved on when many feared it would be impossible to find any interested parties for them. There is a couple of weeks yet to see a couple of more out of the Goodison door.
Yes, we need to see evidence if the new recruits can cut it at Everton, but already it looks like being a lot more fun than what we've endured in the last two years.
On another thread Brands was called out for 'bigging himself' up following his media interviews this week.
Given these same day interviews for several media outlets is the one and only time he has uttered anything for public consumption since his and Marco's joint 'Welcome to Everton' gig, I thought such charges were both unfair and unfounded, based on what he did say.
I would have thought his words were both intriguing and informative for the bulk of Evertonians for their insight into how our transfer business was conducted this year. Equally, his earthy 'shit' and 'double shit' comments in the presence of owner Farhad Moshiri whilst watching Mina score against England probably resonate with many a Scouser as well.
This is just the start. And in my eyes it has been a very good one.
16 Posted 19/08/2018 at 07:12:08
Maybe you are onto something there, Adam. Perhaps that's where we went wrong?
17 Posted 19/08/2018 at 15:05:36
The season is only two games old but so far, I would say the work he has done, the manner he has conducted himself with, and the general feelgood factor around Goodison should be encouraged. Not that a healthy dose of cynicism is ever far from my thoughts either.
And Andy (#16), Williams was often a false 5 for us in all honesty!
18 Posted 20/08/2018 at 03:27:13
Well, he managed 18 months as a false number five, so why not?
19 Posted 25/08/2018 at 02:24:37
It might take a couple of more windows but, at that point, I don't see why we couldn't be in the top 6 and overtaking Arsenal.
We are now starting to act like a big club. Something changed this summer and I think Brands has been a huge part of the newfound optimism. He got rid of all the deadwood, albeit a few of them being loans, but he's certainly got us going in the right direction. His moves buying and selling in only his first window with us, look amazing, although it is still early days.
20 Posted 26/08/2018 at 13:41:17
The Martinez and Koeman eras started with 6-game unbeaten runs, but they and Walsh turned sour in the end.
A lot of assumptions that Koeman and Walsh had no plan. That they were outmanoeuvred etc, but a year ago nobody thought that. Their plan, and they surely had one, even if it now seems they didn't to some, didn't work. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I'm optimistic, but only Richarlison has played so far of the newcomers, and we've seen sublime and ridiculous so far from him. Next year we might just be wondering why there was so little cover for Tosun, especially if Niasse goes to Turkey this week as an example that you can always make a case for signing more players.
Time will tell.
21 Posted 27/08/2018 at 17:40:42
My own (cautious) optimism about Brands' work so far is based on more than the players bought in. Walsh and Koeman may have had a long term strategy: yet the former very rarely gave any public statements to back this up, and Koeman certainly didn't strike any of us as a forward thinker.
The players they bought in were, on the whole, older, “proven,” Premier League players like Bolasie, Rooney, Williams, with little success. They also failed to forge any kind of identity, failed to move on high earners who had consistently flattered to deceive (Mirallas an obvious example) and so we were lumbered with an expensive squad of mistakes, misfits and players on contracts which did not match their ability or contribution. Our disjointed performances on the pitch may well have been down to managerial upheaval and poor appointments, but it's not a massive stretch to say that the lack of a cohesive plan resulted in the stagnant football witnessed last year.
Brands has – so far – managed to move on a good number of the deadwood. Okay, we've loaned out some players we would rather be shot of completely, and made big losses on others. But this ruthlessness, coupled with some investments that on paper look sensible, suggest that we can at least build this year.
22 Posted 28/08/2018 at 19:09:24
My Nan could have done better than the Koeman & Walsh recruitment fiasco, but Brands has definitely gone a good few steps better than even she could.
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