My Jury's Out – with a bit of optimism

Paul Tran 28/12/2018 32comments  |  Jump to last

I’ve long thought that once we get to Christmas, we have a clear picture of where we are in as a team, despite our hopes, fears and cynicism. And here we are; won 7, drew 6, lost 6, the picture of mediocrity. Or is it?

I wanted Fonseca, so I was non-commital about Silva. I liked what he did at Hull, despite his ultimate relegation and he was reasonably good at Watford. The most important signing of the summer was Brands. The shenanigans at Old Trafford shows how important it is to have someone with authority and football knowledge high up in the club. I can see why Moshiri wanted him in the first place. Brands will help managers and make it easier for Moshiri to reward them or sack them, without de-stabilising the club.

The first shock was that we actually bought players that are footballers. Digne, Bernard, Richarlison, Mina, Gomes and Zouma. All improvements on what came before. The only pity was that too many came after the start of the season and/or needed to recover from injury and get match fitness. However, in that respect, I liked these signings, because it showed we were thinking about the future for a change.


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The football for me has been better, with plenty of room for improvement. We’ve shown a clear intent to win games, create more, shoot more, score more. We’ve played well in fits and starts. Friends who are fans of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool all telling me it’s the best Everton team they’ve seen for a long time. Nice, but a double-edged sword. We only got one point from those four games. Not good enough, yet.

Some results have been perplexing. Home draws to Huddersfield, Newcastle and Watford. Losing to West Ham Utd, a team who, like us, seem capable of every type of performance possible. Not to mention that result and the Spurs hammering. We were started to look like a solid, half-decent side before that defeat at Anfield. And then the wheels came off.

We looked mentally and physically shattered and in need of some luck and a lift from anywhere. Thankfully we got it, and took it, against a dreadful Burnley team, who proved the rules of randomness by following a season where everything seemed to go their way with one in which their percentage football by numbers has been found out.

Back to us. We’re 8th for a reason. There are three leagues; top five, bottom five, middle ten. We can’t beat the top five and can win, lose or draw against all the rest. What do we need to be top of the second league and look to the one above? First, someone to grab hold of Pickford and tell him to command his box, stay calm, make saves when he needs to and stay un-noticed. Second, sign up Gomes and get him a partner who is physically strong and a good passer. That’s not Gana, good as he’s been. It isn’t Schneiderlin or Davies, either.

We desperately need a goalscorer. I’d love Dominic Calvert-Lewin to do a Sharpie and turn his promise into goals. At the very least he needs a proper run in his proper position to show what he can do. I think he’s got till next summer. Beyond that, a new right-back will be needed soon, with the proviso that Seamus Coleman stays on the staff.

I like Silva. I like his earnestness, his absence of flash, his desire to win games. To me, he has an eye for a player. He, and Brands, are thinking ahead, rather than just focusing on this week’s results. That’s why we got them in place of the last manager. My main questions are whether he can instil some mental toughness into the players he has and whether he can find the two players we need to start making a significant difference.

That’s why my jury’s out... with a bit of optimism.

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Reader Comments (32)

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 28/12/2018 at 17:45:12
Half term report for me would be exactly what I had in mind from back in July.

We look like a 7th or 8th place team in terms of the flaws in our game, the mistakes we make that cost us games that we should get results in but then when we do play really well and click then we look the best of the rest (though Leicester might have something to say about that).

The League Cup loss to Southampton was a low point for me because I thought Silva would want a real crack at that.

The Merseyside derby defeat will take a long time to heal, probably until the next time we beat them.

The games against the top six in general were all hugely disappointing with the exception of a decent draw at Chelsea but I guess it just shows us what we need to do to compete at the top end of the league table.

The win at Burnley was easily my most satisfying result because it came three days after our biggest home humiliation for years in my opinion.

My wish list for 2019 would be 7tj place finish (realistic)

Winning the FA Cup (probably not so realistic right this moment)

Winning the Merseyside derby.

And somewhere down the line improving the first team with a new right back (Wan Bissaka) and a quality striker that WILL make a difference in the games against the top sides.

Darren Hind
2 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:01:56
I agree with your assessment of our midfield Paul. we need a powerhouse to partner Gomes. Where to find a club who will be very considerate and let us have one ?
I don't see a striker coming in. Much will rest on the shoulders of Calvert-Lewin's, if he delivers we can improve . .but only if Pickford stops dropping clangers at crucial periods of the game.

Will Bernard, Walcott and Lookman find their shooting boots ? can Mina settle ? Is it time for JJK or somebody else, to replace Seamus ?

If's, but's and maybe's. There are some very good reasons why your jury is still out

Adam McCulloch
3 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:08:22
Well reasoned analysis of the story so far Paul and a good read. I agree that there is plenty to be optimistic about, albeit tinged with a few head-scratching results/some weaknesses that aren't easily remedied.

On the plus side, the mood around the club has drastically improved from this time last year. We always look capable of scoring, and in some games a little bit more ruthlessness would have seen us take all three points. Our signings have all (to varying degrees) been a success so far, to the point where the only negative around any of them is that André Gomes isn't officially ours.

Impressively, and unlike his most recent predecessors, Silva seems to have actually coached some players. Keane has improved dramatically, Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks better with every game and Sigurdsson looks far more like the talisman we thought we were signing.

Yes, there are caveats. The heartbreak of the derby seemed to leave us with a hangover that had shades of last year's mental fragility. We have still conceded silly goals. I think Coleman can get back some of what he lost but whether his buccaneering style can be accommodated with our new way of playing is another matter. We crave more goals but the lack of alternatives on the market mean that I think we should persist with what we have at the top end of the pitch. And there is still some deadwood to be moved on (although Brands seems to be on top of things in that department).

All in all, this is the season I expected. One of transition, of bumps in the road with - hopefully - some happy memories to savour. A run in the cup and some more consistency wouldn't go amiss but I think Silva and Brands will be judged far more next season.

COYB and a Happy New Year to Evertonians near and far!

Paul Tran
4 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:09:58
Darren, most of our squad have been with 18 months at most. I'd say there's a good case for letting them settle & gel in a stable environment, unless that striker emerges.

Talking of stable, say a few prayers for the mighty Getaway Trump (I own 0.06% of him!), running in the Challow Hurdle tomorrow. Won his last two, stepping up in grade, very exciting!

David Greenwood
5 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:15:45
Some times I read your posts Jim and I think what a negative, miserable, knitting ripping, greeting faced sod you must be.

Then I read posts like the one above and I think the complete opposite.

I'd agree with almost everything you said above except the bit about 'the games against the top six'. Spurs aside, if you said results against the top six you'd be right. Our performances and attitude have been way better against them than in previous seasons.

We've missed chances (didn't create them previously), had some terrible decisions, bad luck and our own poor decisions to blame for the low points return.

Plenty of reasons to be optimistic, let's hope we're partying at Wembley in May :)

Darren Hind
6 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:19:55
In deed I will Paul.

Good luck

Paul Birmingham
7 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:22:54
It’s a been a half season of general improvement based on the past 4 years but we need to be killers on the pitch, ruthless and professional from 1-97 minutes.

I hope the team gets more belief and steel and elliminates the kamikaze, and suicide passes and slumberland support and cover defensive duties we’ve seen against a City and Spurs.

On recall in other games when we were lucky as Huddersfield, Watford, The Barcodes and Soton could easily have been home reverses.

I’m happy in that the philosophy has changed but it’s something haunting, the mental collapse we saw v Spurs.

I hope and hope we turn over a top 6 so called team, next time around and go for the kill from the first minute and don’t stop. The first big win, could unhinge further belief and potential and would be BAU for this squad.

To do that consistently we need a very good squad and I still see at least 4 and possibly 6 new players needed across attack, midfield and defence.

Let’s see how we trade next summer, hopefully we’ll have won the FA Cup, are in Europe, and have some pulling power for top players.

That would be something.

Dave Williams
8 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:24:06
Very well reasoned and put Paul- I agree with all you say. I anticipate Gana being replaced sooner rather than later and DCL given a chance til the end of the season to develop into the top striker I think he will become.
The right back issue has to be addressed and we will then be fit for purpose.
Paul Tran
9 Posted 28/12/2018 at 18:28:33
Cheers Darren, I'll be pleased if he runs well, chuffed if he gets in the first three and you'll hear me from up here if he wins!
Mike Gaynes
11 Posted 28/12/2018 at 19:29:20
Good article, PT! Like your style. And may your 0.06% cross the line first!

Dave #8, I'd bet anything that Gana isn't going to be "replaced" at all. He's been our player of the season in my view (with Digne a close second), and his absence against Spurs was a major contributor to that disaster.

This side doesn't keep the ball very well, and without someone to get it back when we lose it, we're extremely vulnerable to counters. And Gana is the ball-winner supreme – until missing the last two games, he led not only the Premier League but all of Europe's top leagues in both tackles and forced turnovers.

Sure, he doesn't contribute much in attack, but he performs a task nobody else in the side can accomplish, and he does it better than anybody in the world at this moment.

Paul Tran
12 Posted 28/12/2018 at 20:00:42
Thanks, Mike. I actually agree with you completely on Gana. If only he was half as big again and could pass...
Brian Murray
13 Posted 28/12/2018 at 20:23:45
Well, Mike, I will admit at this stage of our renaissance (whisper that friggin quietly) we need him more than I realised. Having said that, I'm one of the old school over 50 so unfairly compare him to a guy who did exactly the same job but also defense-splitting 40-yard or little slide-rule passes. Peter Reid — the nearest to Bally we have had...

Anyway, as we are now, he is vital, as I'm sure Marcel will testify and he will get players in – despite him saying otherwise in recent echo interview.

Coyb and the Chas n Dave crew, lol 😂

John Pierce
14 Posted 28/12/2018 at 20:45:10
Paul, as per very reasoned and not without a smart observation or two. I'm hoping to see Silva address the limitations of his tactics on parts of the team that are not quite up to executing them.

The balance has been there, fleetingly with combinations starting to look like they might blossom.

The left side and the centre-backs look settled and the midfield too. Although I believe Gana is a placeholder until someone with his skill set and more comes along.

I think perseverance with Calvert-Lewin will bear fruit and we can leave a new centre-forward for the summer.

Maybe another central midfielder might be the better signing, or another right-back? That's the genuine area of concern, too little production from that side and teams looking to go at that flank as they perceive it weak.

The next 3/4 weeks will tell us a lot. Springboard for a decent shot at the top six or just another mediocre season to forget.

The imports have been a success, all first-team players and whilst not firing on all cylinders have shown why they were bought and definitely better than what we had. Progress.

Paul Tran
15 Posted 28/12/2018 at 20:55:00
Thanks John. I'd be curious to see what he does tactically tomorrow. Three meaty centre backs & counter-attacking pace worked well against one-dimensional Burnley. Would it work against Brighton? Would we need it if Gana was fit to mop up in midfield?

I just want us to find that scorer and the imposing tackler/passer in midfield.

Darryl Ritchie
16 Posted 28/12/2018 at 21:13:50
Paul re #10, I like the original much better.
Dave Williams
17 Posted 28/12/2018 at 21:15:03
I'm not saying Gana doesn't do a good job, Mike, he does and is essential with this squad. What I was trying to say is that, in my opinion, to progress, we need to replace him with someone who can win the ball but also who has the ability to pass constructively and physically dominate. Gana for me is too one-dimensional — great work rate in winning balls but gives it away a lot and is too small to be dominant.
Derek Taylor
18 Posted 28/12/2018 at 21:54:10
Gana? Get him sold – like we do with all our best players.
Derek Knox
19 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:13:09
A fairly realistic mid-point synopsis, Paul, glad you explained the shenanigans bit, thought I was seeing double for a moment. Like you say, Marco Silva wasn't my first choice either; like you, I thought of Fonseca, or Eddie Howe if we couldn't get him.

While I have nevertheless supported him, he certainly has given us a diversity of displays, team selections and of course results. It is only early days though and, as frustrating as some of the performances have been, he should be given time to learn from his mistakes.

Let's just hope the result and improved play at Burnley may just kick-start our season, and put those unacceptable results aside as a thing of the past.

Don Alexander
20 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:21:02
Paul, your penultimate sentence; "My main questions are whether he can instil some mental toughness into the players he has and whether he can find the two players we need to start making a significant difference" precisely echoes what I have previously posted.

I really don't know of any talented player in any of the alleged top six teams that exudes the sheer cussedness that was welcome in the likes of Peter Reid and Roy Keane (and Alan Ball going back to my youth). Are there any such talented die-hards these days in what to me is disturbingly becoming a virtual non-contact sport?

Peter Mills
21 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:27:09
Regarding Gana Gueye; I watched him during the derby at closer to the pitch than my normal match viewpoint, and was staggered by his work rate, tackling and breaking up of play. I was taken aback when I read so much criticism of his performance on here.

I will be very happy if we can keep him, and can’t imagine that we could currently sign a player who could combine all his qualities yet add faultless passing skills.

Paul Tran
22 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:31:20
Don, I've long stopped thinking about another Reid or Keane. We won't see players like that again.

Interesting that we have suffered in Gana's absence and that City have struggled without Fernandinho. The nearest we got was when we missed out on Sissoko, who has impressed recently at Spurs. I could see why Koeman wanted him.

What I loved about the Chelsea performance was the cussedness, the commitment. Some of that every game would do for me. The bitter reactions of some Chelsea fans on Twitter was wonderful. That was the day when I thought this side had something.

John Pierce
23 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:32:05
Paul I’m prepared for the copious amount of egg to land on my face but Brighton are far better with the ball than Burnley. So a change is required.

If Gana is fit, I’d expect to see a return to 4-2-3-1. The Burnley threat was one dimensional. Brighton offer good width and a much better central midfield.

A bonus is Ryan the keeper is off to the Asia cup and we’ll have a newbie to shoot at.

If Everton can play at tempo, with good ball pace, we will win.

Paul Tran
24 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:36:46
I think you're right, John. If Gana's fit, he plays and we go as you suggested. At least we have an alternative when he's injured/suspended.
Tom Bowers
25 Posted 28/12/2018 at 22:49:39
There are obvious weaknesses that need to be addressed and one is hard pressed to see it done properly without additions.

The midfield just doesn't measure up to the better teams and sometimes struggles against similar teams who seem to show more aggressiveness and intensity if nothing else.

Gomes is a plus but the others including Gana are weak.

If Macca can return and do his best work that will improve things no end but the overall solidity that is needed is rarely seen.

Despite the five at Turf Moor, the goals situation is not good. If Richarlison gets crocked, they are in real trouble because Calvert-Lewin, Walcott and Tosun have not shown much so far.

It may well be that the second half of the season will be similar to the first half unless the team is strengthened now.

Mike Gaynes
26 Posted 29/12/2018 at 00:15:10
Brian #13, no argument, but you're comparing him to one of the best ever.

Dave #17, as Peter says there's simply no such player, at least not remotely in our price range. The player you're describing is Kante or Busquets, maybe Casemiro, Khedira, one or two others in Serie A. Nobody we could aspire to.

And none of these, brilliant as they are, can defensively match the player Tom Bowers #25 derides as "weak". Ah, well, it's always nice to see a post from another planet.

James Flynn
27 Posted 28/12/2018 at 00:48:53
Always a laughing delight to read ToffeeWebbers denigrating the Club's best player, Idrissa Gueye.

How's this as a yardstick for our other 10 players: "Are they as good at their job as Gueye is at his?"

Mine: Sigurdsson in the #10 role; Digne at left-back.... Not to mention, those two benefiting from having Gana in the side.

Who else in our team measures up to his standard?

Idrissa is one of the best players around. We have him. I'm glad.

Rob Hooton
28 Posted 29/12/2018 at 09:11:20
Agreed James, he is so bad that PSG, one of the worlds richest clubs, want to sign him and he is only the best tackler in Europe at the minute!
He does what he needs to, the other players need him to as well as he covers for half of the team!
Agree with Paul’s assessment, cautiously optimistic
Darren Hind
29 Posted 29/12/2018 at 12:17:52
Aiming High Paul

some VERY smart opposition there. If you can win this one you need to think about getting measured for that suit mate.

Rooting for you

Paul Tran
30 Posted 29/12/2018 at 13:40:37
Cheers Darren. 5 of the field are in my horse tracker, which tells you everything. Lots of winners will come out of this race. Can't wait!
Dave Abrahams
31 Posted 29/12/2018 at 14:00:46
Paul (30)planned to back your horse last night, just been to the betting shop,forgot all about it, never mind, I hope it does the business for you and Darren, best of
Paul Tran
32 Posted 29/12/2018 at 14:24:10
Cheers Dave!
Neil Carter
33 Posted 31/12/2018 at 05:13:08
Signing Gomes, Zouma, and a couple of new strikers are top of my January list.

Clear out Ramirez, Mirallas, Niasse, Schneiderlin.

I would try Gomes as a roaming No 10 supported by Bernard more central with Gueye as the defensive-Bernard replaced by McCarthy if we need more metal or swop Bernard with Gomes going deeper if needed.

Build around Gomes not Sigurdsson – Gomes has 2 feet and can pass forward better; too many poor final balls from Sigurdsson. Play him as Gomes's cover or maybe on the right in place of Walcott.

We need more metal in the middle and better ball players. Gomes is our best bet and best midfielder since Gravesen... sign him now and break the bank, Mr Moshiri!!!

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