Long-Term Hope Versus Short-Term Panic

Michael Denson 24/09/2019 20comments  |  Jump to last

It’s been a crap start to the season… we all agree on that. The best seasons are nearly always based on riding the momentum of a good start to the season and fixture lists at the start of campaigns don’t come much kinder than the one we were faced with. So even just six games in it undoubtedly feels like a great chance wasted already.

But my question is, do we have the right to expect better? It’s an argument I have heard a lot lately… “We are Everton”, “we’re not Wolves or Leicester”, “with the money we’ve spent there’s no excuses”, etc etc. All understandable, all from rightly passionate fans who have the right to be ambitious for our club but (puts tin hat on) is this starting to run the risk of being counter-productive? Is the very argument that we should not be putting a ceiling on our ambitions actually unwittingly restricting us?

I’m a Marc Silva fan; always have been. I accept one day he will be sacked, though, and people will throw this argument back in my face. But lately to me his rhetoric seems to have been deliberately construed to attempt to pacify or at least engage with the portion of our fan base who like to quote the motto on our badge. Now, I have never been one to bother much about a manager’s words and ultimately everything comes back to performances and results on the pitch, of course, but the Silva I wanted and admire is the one who relishes working with the players on the training ground, who does not concern himself too much with outside expectations, who places the team above everything.


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On the pitch right now we are struggling to see any sign of a patented Silva style; possibly naively, I don’t think this is a representation of a lack of work on training ground but more a lack of confidence in players, key injuries (my kingdom for a fit and firing André), and, arguably, a lack of cohesion around the place that is caused by confused or unrealistic expectations.

Farhad Moshiri, Marcel Brands, these fellas seem the real deal and compared with where we were in the last days of the Bill-only era have brought a much-welcomed reinvigorated sense of hope for the club. I firmly believe we will get the ground built, Moshiri will continue to fund us very well and won’t rest until we are realistic trophy contenders. And Brands seems to be a man with a long-term plan having already done a great job shifting so much dead wood out and lowering the age of the squad.

But my key point is, how do we get from where we stand right now to be in that trophy challenging position? If you try to make that leap too quickly before you are ready you run the risk of not reaching and falling into a hole and putting yourself back years, which is arguably what we did when we entrusted Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman with THAT spending spree. Now, as a mere fan, I suspect Moshiri has rightly felt the burn from that and whilst continuing to fund the club well and back his managers, the focus was put on Brands to sort those outgoings to facilitate the incomings and another massive spree will have to wait to be built on much firmer foundations. Now this may seem hugely unambitious to some, but I think 3-4 seasons of 7th-10th finishes would be a decent enough foundation. Yes, we would all like to see continuous improvement and an upward curve only but that is, to me, wishful thinking. The hated “top 6” clubs aren’t going to run out of money any time soon so as unsexy as it is, sometimes you do need to spend a decent amount of money to stand still which is just about where we are.

“We need a winner’s mentality. Can’t accept losing to Sheff Utd at home and Bournemouth away”. Well, yes, again, in an ideal world but in the real world today what do these words mean? Do you get a winner’s mentality just by deciding you need one? By getting extra angry because you lost at home to a newly-promoted team not an established one? By signing Fabian Delph who is more vocal on pitch than most and has won a few things for another team lately? No, it needs developing over time on and off the pitch.

We need to be looking at ourselves. With the possible exception of top two, everyone in the league is at risk of losing games at home if they don’t perform well and often do. The lower you go down the table the more the season is naturally full of peaks and troughs. And though we have got a decent home record last few seasons and have taken steps to make it a harder place again for teams to come, our squad is far from one that I expect a consistent level of high performance from YET.

We have two young strikers who are taking turns at leading the line for a top-10 Premier League club with very high expectation levels and relatively poor service. No easy task but it’s fair to say that in two to three years it’s not unrealistic to expect one of them to be hitting 15 Premier League goals a season. We would all like goals now but going out spending big bucks on an experienced striker who leads the line for an international team (say Turkey!) isn’t going to guarantee an all-round performance leading line with goals to boot either and isn’t going to fit into Brands’s remit of lowering age and increasing resale value.

Richarlison, Jordan Pickford, André Gomes… all very good players now, all very likely to be much better in 2-3 years. Now, sadly, we may lose one or two of them along way to their own ambition to go to Champions League clubs but if and when we do we are going to charge top dollar and no doubt reinvest the money, hopefully wisely.

The centre of defence undoubtedly needs adding to and improving with some pace, but the Silva and Brands track record of signings allows confidence that we spend we will spend wisely. The wings and full-back positions are relatively well-stocked presuming that Jonjoe Kenny or Djibril Sidibé can prove to be the replacement for Seamus Coleman. The Gylfi Sigurdsson conundrum will come to a head sooner or later though, and at some point either a younger quicker No 10 will be needed or we will switch to Silva’s presumed preferred 4-3-3 formation.

This is assuming that Silva stays, of course, but to me to get season on season consistency the best chance has to be to keep him and to allow him to try to complete the jigsaw, something that very few managers get the chance to do. Of course, there has to be a base level of results to allow this and of course a new manager MAY improve results but in percentage chances a long term plan surely has a better chance of succeeding?

So what is success? Winning a cup this year? Finishing top 4 next year? Not to me no; they are bonuses which, of course, could happen — please God — but to progress the club, they are not what you base a successful strategy on. Realistic, tangible success is to carry on finishing top 10 each year; with a fair wind and a good start to the season to allow momentum we could, of course, sneak into Europe one season or get on a cup run which would speed everything up. We need to establish ourselves as a name that means something, not to the people who already follow the club but to the wider world, commercially and to players from a higher levels.

Let’s not get carried away now and expect the very top players to come to us “cos we are Everton” and we have more money than we used to. We have to continue to strive for improvement, but let’s not set ourselves up for failure. A run of 3/4 defeats on bounce isn’t going to stop us from getting our name into the mix for trophies in 5 years; finishing 9th one season instead of 7th isn’t going to either, nor is signing the odd dud. Sadly, to me, neither is sacking Silva.

I know Man City ruthlessly dispensed with a fair few managers on their rise to the top but no matter who the manager is, we will be the fans, we will be Everton. Let’s not set our managers up to fail, let’s not become parodies like Newcastle fans whose unrealistic expectations make a horrible atmosphere for their own players to play in and a great away for everyone else (never change Geordies).

I am not asking anyone to accept defeats, but let’s not help other teams by showing them our weakness and letting Goodison become one of those grounds that if you get through the first 20, the fans will turn. There are going to be struggles, there are going to be times when the players seem lost and there seems no direction, there are going to be defeats — that is football for the majority. But let’s not underestimate the power of positivity. The managers of the top two know all about the importance of getting the crowd on side and haven’t been shy to criticise their own fans when necessary. It doesn’t just happen that a positive atmosphere happens at teams that are winning every week though. At much lower levels clubs like Stoke have shown the power of getting fans on side when they were successful in peak Tony Pulis era and then what happens when you lose that connection between fans and the side.

I know people talk about the team playing a style of football that gets the fans onside and I’m not suggesting the atmosphere at Goodison is awful by any means, but more than I have ever known the atmosphere through the week is of mini-crisis after mini-crisis and the next game is always “must-win”. Is that attitude going to help us progress as a club and get us to challenging the top 4? Or is it just setting us up for short term failure which will lead to short term remedies and keep pushing the long term success further back?

What as fans can we control? We can control the atmosphere around the club. Yes, in this modern world there’ll always be the Twitter idiots ready to pounce who perversely get off on spreading negativity. Make them the minority. Look for the good things to get behind. Compared to a lot of the last 20 years there’s plenty trust me. Don’t accept that “fans of all teams are like this”. When we lose a game, don’t lose all heart. Keep reminding Moshiri how great this club can be then he might just sanction that next big spending spree quicker that could get us all closer to where we want to be.

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Reader Comments (20)

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Chris Gordon
1 Posted 24/09/2019 at 18:58:14
Good article, eloquently put. However the problem that most fans have, is that we are not seeing any improvement from last season. It's still early doors granted, however, the same frailties and falabilities are still evident from last season. Silva has 2 proven international strikers in the squad and from where I sit, he just isn't implementing a system that plays to their strengths. Goals where are issue last season and they are becoming our issue this season. Our midfield on paper is as skillful and talented ( schidlin apart) as any outside the top 2.

However they seem to lack the character of lesser teams midfields who are more than a sum of their parts. Our defence on paper is solid and we have England's No1 in goal. All good player's, but how many natural leaders? Delph is the only one I see. Our play in the final third is atrocious, little movement and so many misplaced passes.

You can have all the possession in the world, but if you've no guile in the final third then it's as useful as a chocolate teapot. I was a Silva fan, however my faith in him is diminishing by the week.
Steve Ferns
2 Posted 24/09/2019 at 00:03:14
Good article Michael. I expect you'll cop some flak though. I would expect to see signs of progress, season after season. I'm not too bothered about league position, unless league position results in Champions League qualification. Imagine we finished 6th, but Man Utd were 7th and won the FA Cup, and Leicester won the League Cup? We'd be out of Europe, so we get kudos for finishing above United, but it wouldn't really mean anything.

The aim of the game for me is to win the league. I want us to get back to the very top. I want a manager who tells me he can do that, and has a plan of how to do it. I think it's achievable, Moshiri is making money available and so it is possible. Unlikely but possible.

How I would go about it is the way we are going about it. Have a Director of Football just like Brands supposedly is. Long term, interested in the best youth players, developing our own, bringing in where we are lacking, and trying to identify world-class players before they are such. Therefore, we need a top coach to develop these players.

If you have a young side, then you have to expect dips in form, freak results, and to be bullied by certain sides. You would expect though to see the side grow.

A perfect example of this at work is Spurs. Pochettino has grown a side there, polishing good young players they have signed and they have developed. However, he's yet to make that final step, coming up short to Leicester in the league and Liverpool in the Champions League.

We're in a different position to Spurs as Pochettino inherited a side already in 6th. Tim Sherwood had already blooded youngsters and Spurs had a group of talented players in a largely disjointed squad.

That means we have to expect that we cannot just go up, up and up. Sometimes you end up going down the table in order to go up. For example, we do not have a top-class striker on our books. However, I sincerely believe that Moise Kean could be top class, world-class even.

I also believe Calvert-Lewin can be a very good Premier League standard striker. Both are young. Both need developing. Both need games. So perhaps we have to accept that this season they will not be as prolific as we would be had we spent big on someone like Sebastian Haller.

I understand he was an alternative to Kean. At present, he looks better than Kean and has scored 3 goals to Kean's 0. He may well remain better than Kean for the next 18 months or so.

However, I believe from what others have said and written, and what I have seen for myself of Kean, that Kean has a greater potential. So, play the two lads and see how they go. If we end the season with Kean scoring 10 goals, but say 5 in the last 10 games and suddenly looking like a top-class striker, then we might have dropped back a bit, but we are then in a position to progress the following season.

Because as I said before, breaking the top 6 means little. It's the top 4 and Champions League riches we need. We need to progress towards that and ultimately towards winning trophies.

Michael Denson
3 Posted 25/09/2019 at 10:14:15
Cheers Steve we are largely singing from the same hymn sheet and hopefully last night a good sign of the point on young strikers. He will have more good nights and some bad ones in short term but those experiences will stand in good stead and ultimately DCL could become a very good prem league striker, no coincidence that he has been selected for England all through the age groups. Pathways will always differ looking at what Chelsea done with Abraham but there is plenty of potential for growth and lets hope we play it right.
As for your point on top 4 being the end goal I absolutely agree. My point on top 6 is that over the next few seasons achieving that would be a decent and possible over-achievement regardless of where it takes us. Top 4 would be a massive over-achievement as if we were to apply an expected finishing position to squad id still say 7th or 8th but as always we live in hope!
Mark Murphy
4 Posted 25/09/2019 at 10:22:51
I’m looking forward to a run of games with Gomez, Delph and Iwobi in midfield
Bernard, Dom & Richarlison front three.
But Richy needs to up his game as well.
Stephen Davies
5 Posted 25/09/2019 at 11:05:25
Mark #4
You may like this pieve in The Athletic
Paul Tran
6 Posted 25/09/2019 at 11:18:27
Thats a passionately-put case youve made, Michael.

There are often unrealistic expectations on here, especially with the perceived ease in which we would/should get a striker. And that peoole often forget that to outsiders, were not as attractive as we think.

I do think there are grounds for concern, which I've mentioned often enough recently. I'm hoping Silva starts to get more out of the players and is more bold in selection, tactics and getting some purpose into the team.

I'm also hoping that the younger players get mentally stronger, quick enough that this happens before our better players leave.

Long way to go with this season. I think we could be looking at a lower points total to finish higher. When we hit form well go up that table. I'm hoping that Silva's good streaks outweigh his weaker ones.

I think things look good longer term and in the balance shorter term.

Mark Murphy
7 Posted 25/09/2019 at 14:22:37
Steve - your right - I do!
Not seen enough of gbamin to be fair but that 4-3-3 would look good on the pitch imho and we’ve not really had the chance to see Silvas first 11 yet have we?
I say give it time - let’s hope we gel by the Derby!!
Jamie Crowley
8 Posted 25/09/2019 at 14:31:57
Macro and Micro rarely merge.

Michael, you ask rhetorically:
But my key point is, how do we get from where we stand right now to be in that trophy challenging position?

It's a macro question, but the answer is micro, in two-part form.

1. Start attacking through the middle of the pitch. It will create more goal scoring opportunities and make us not as predictable. Ergo, more goals.
2. Start attacking with real pace and intent moving forward. Stop stalling.

If Marco begins to drill the players to do those two things, wins will come flooding in. And winning will achieve your macro question, of how to get from point A to point B.

Martin Mason
9 Posted 25/09/2019 at 21:43:13
How much of a problem is it I wonder of having the superb Liverpool team in the same City? How much pressure does it put on the fans to cause them to put pressure on the club and players? I watched them tonight play MK Dons, 6 under 21's and ominously the Ox and Lallana back from injury.
Albert Perkins
11 Posted 28/09/2019 at 04:19:18
Jamie 8, I agree. I said on another thread last week the same things and was happy that our second goal came through the middle, keeping calm and passing to the man in the middle instead of lashing it at the goal. Iwobi comes from a team that works on short passes in the box and he looked up and there was DLC moving intelligently into space to stroke it home. More players in the box is one of my solutions to the goal scoring problem. If we then play the ball more often into the danger area there are more players around to pick up the pieces. Nice little chips towards the 6 yard area put pressure on defenders to clear and we can follow up the loose balls. Also having someone out wide opposite the corner taker is a must. With such a good free kick specialist we must engineer more fouls on the edge of the box by simply dribbling and making more creative moves in traffic. Moise can help here.

It's shame our midfield is short tomorrow or we might have held our own a bit more. But who knows? We might just start putting it in the back of the net.

Joey Brown
12 Posted 29/09/2019 at 16:43:11
Michael, I agree with your overall sentiment. The talk of top six this season seemed very premature. And with the upturn in product towards the end of last season it seemed that Silva had turned the corner, and proved me wrong, as I never wanted him.

But, the old problems returning is the issue. He’s going backwards. The team hasn’t just lost to teams you would expect they would be beating, they have been outplayed. Sheffield United is the only game this season where I think we maybe could have won with more rub of the green. The other results all feel fair. Admittedly we looked better against city, but a loss to Burnley probably makes it very hard to not sack him.

Sam Hoare
13 Posted 29/09/2019 at 17:20:38
I don't think talk of top 6 was premature at the beginning of the summer. But despite being a fan of Brands I don't think we had the best summer; we needed a fast centre-back, more creativity and more goals. Not convinced we got any of that.

Leicester we're behind us last year but look an excellent bet for top 6 currently. Their transfers over the last few years have been excellent: Tielemans, Pereira, Ndidi, Maddison, Soyuncu, Praet all look like top-class players and cost roughly the same as Sigurdsson, Keane, Bolasie, Klaassen, Schneiderlin and Williams.

Top 6 was/is up for grabs this year but dubious recruitment and a manager lacking Plan B have cost us a fantastic opportunity.

David Cooper
14 Posted 29/09/2019 at 17:38:34
I am not a lover of statistics. In fact I struggle when mathematics gets beyond the 12 times table! But eventually they do not lie. Professional sport is now driven by statistics and data collection. Unfortunately you ignore them at your peril.
Here are a few that make uncomfortable reading, given the fact that after 7 games may seem like a small sample, which is almost 1/5 of a season.
1. Three consecutive defeats
2. 12 goals conceded only 6 scored
3. Eight teams above us who we would expect to be above.
4. Minus 6 goal difference
5. We have only played 1 of the Sky big 6
6. We have spent upwards of 450 million in the last few years.
7. We have a defence that is a shambles. Not a stat but based on subjective viewing.
8. Silva has spent nearly all of his time in the Premier League managing teams that have been in the bottom half of the league.
9. He is stubborn. His coaching philosophy is not flexible. Evidence he only changes his approach when we are losing.
10. We only have 7 points after 7 games. Carry on like this even I can do the math. That makes 38 by the end of the season.
Stats like these do not lie! They are reality?
Jay Harris
15 Posted 30/09/2019 at 16:07:02
Good points there, David.

It is alright talking about long term but without an acceptable short term there is no long term as many Premier League manager have found out.

Gary Carter
17 Posted 03/10/2019 at 10:58:42
All the talk of top 6 this season should have stopped when the window closed and we hadn't signed a replacement for Zouma and Wilfrid Zaha (or any other statement signing).

Unfortunately delusion set in and the signings we had made excited everyone so much they got carried away. I didn't and neither does it seem, did Silva. He refuses to play Kean, he has not played him in games against lower league opposition where he has a chance to score and build his confidence. The lad clearly has bundles of ability and his age is irrelevant to me, he's a far better player than Calvert-Lewin.

I wasn't enamoured when we signed Iwobi, he's been one of our too 3 players this season yet gets dropped and picked by Silva like a yo-yo.

Our tactics on the pitch, I don't know what they are supposed to be and the players appear not to either, it's almost like watching a Sunday league team play. His constant changes of personnel screams that he doesn't know his favoured team players unless they are called Schneiderlin, Calvert-Lewin or Sigurdsson. His demeanour on the bench is insipid, sitting their eyes glazed over, chin in hands, he just looks like a man who doesn't know what to do and our results are reflecting this.

Sadly, he was a very dubious choice of manager in the first place given his dreadful record in the Premier League and since taking up the role with us he has done absolutely nothing to show he is capable.

Clive Rogers
18 Posted 03/10/2019 at 12:13:52
We have signed too many midfield players who rarely score goals. Schneiderlin, Gomes, Delph, Bernard, Gbamin and Iwobi rarely hit the back of the net. We will be lucky to get 5 goals this season from them in total.

This is made worse by the fact that Sigurdsson and Richarlison have gone off the boil. No league goals so far for Siggy and he doesn't look like scoring. He wasted three good chances against Man City with poor control, once when he was clean through.

Don Alexander
19 Posted 03/10/2019 at 12:53:15
The chief feeling I have focuses on Moshiri. Given where he lives he should by now be very cognisant with "Plus ça change plus c'est la même".

When he appointed Koeman he seemed to overlook the fact that the stonking signings made by Southampton season after season were actually made after the work of Les Reed, a Southampton back-room talent spotter. (Les Reed left in late 2018 and Southampton are now no better than us as a result).

When he appointed Walsh he seemed to overlook the fact that he, Walsh, had not scouted any of the Leicester players who all but instantly gelled to become champions. Walsh merely gave the nod to other, proper scouts who unearthed Mahrez, Kante, Vardy and the rest. (Leicester continue to make astute signings - plural - despite losing "svengali" Walsh to us).

Question, who was advising him given Moshiri's self-confessed lack of football know-how? And is that advisor/s paying a price for squandering one/two/three/four HUNDREDS of £millions (take your choice) of Moshiri's cash? I mean, those appointments and signings and all the squandered cash have massively derailed the much vaunted three year plan Moshiri spouted to the likes of Jim White and us Toffees, ooh, when was it?

Three years ago from memory.

There's issues on the pitch for sure but the notion that one mastermind manager can close all the self-inflicted decades-long wounds that engulfed our club is ludicrous to me. Getting the club rid of every single get who proclaims he "gets Everton" is the first step into a brave new world as far as I'm concerned, where nowt's guaranteed but everything's possible.

Leicester proved it.

Trevor Peers
20 Posted 03/10/2019 at 13:37:43
Don @19.

Leicester have regularly changed thier manager in pursuit of further success, they even sacked Ranieri the season after winning the premiership.

Since then they only give the manager enough time to prove he can improve the team before looking elsewhere. They've appointed no less than 4 managers since 2017, and if we are indeed to follow thier blueprint, Silva should be long gone.

Jay Harris
21 Posted 03/10/2019 at 14:39:09

I totally agree and have been making that point for a while.

When we lost Barkley instead of going for Madison we relied on Tom Davies coming through.

Instead of backing up our goalscoring ability we bring in Gomes, Iwobi and Delph none of whom will contribute much in the way of goals.

We spent £60m on Kean and Iwobi money we could have put towards a proven striker.

Don Alexander
22 Posted 04/10/2019 at 16:25:40
Trevor (#20),

My point was that regardless of who the Leicester managers have been the club seem to have kept a tight hold on a very impressive scouting squad.

For all I know our scouting squad maybe being constantly over-ruled by managers who wrongly think they know better but, whatever, we generally suck when it comes to signings and especially so under Moshiri's tenure.

By way of comparison, for what we've spent since Mr Moshiri took over some other club would still have plenty of change left over after signing Salah, Mane, Van Dyke, Fabinho, Firmino, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robertson and Allison.

I wonder how they're doing though? Probably crap.

Not that there's anything very badly wrong right through our club from top to bottom though. Perish the thought!

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