Where are we going? The hungry or the wise?

Conor McCourt 07/01/2020 18comments  |  Jump to last

I wish to focus on what I see as the paradigm shift since Pep Guardiola walked into the Etihad Stadium and my beloved Everton getting further away in the pursuit of success.

It is clear we can't compete with City or the RS at present but there are two clubs that I look at with jealous eyes and the frustrating thing is that we may have been the inspiration to the former.

Roberto Martinez had just produced a remarkable season playing superstar football with a dynamic young team consisting of inherited raw gems like Coleman, Barkley and Stones and exciting young additions like Delboy, McCarthy and Lukaku. Unfortunately for us, largely the same squad struggled replicating the form and contending with Europe and later when the manager was rightfully given the boot, the baby, the bath water and indeed our soul was flushed down the Mersey.


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A few months after this season where we were the talk of the Premier League, Spurs replicated our policy and appointed a young footballing coach that had just led Southampton to their highest points total largely through giving academy players their head. Daniel Levy began signing young diamonds like Alli, Dier and Vertonghen to supplement his rising homegrown youngsters, leaving behind a period of 10 managers in 12 years and a policy of signing over-the-hill La Liga players and domestic Champions League teams’ cast-offs. Sound familiar?

Pochettino built them from being a Europa League to regular Champions League team and eclipsing 70 points annually, culminating in an appearance in last year’s showpiece.

The other really interesting case in point is Leicester, a team struggling to finish 9th since the greatest Premier League achievement. Their young owner wants to replicate his father but on a consistent basis. These Thai moguls were so strategically goal-driven that they were putting in the foundations by signing Maddison, Perreira, Soyuncu and Tielemans (loan) long before they had the identified the right man to coach them into a top outfit.

The PL has for the last 2 decades had world class players and teams but since Guardiola came to City I feel the bar has raised and we now have the best coaches which has resulted in a better PL and subsequent European domination.

Look at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho who would get outplayed by the footballing teams like Arsenal, Fulham and Pompey but could rely on a Drogba or Lampard goal and they would meekly fold. When they played the Boltons and West Broms they were just better in every way and steamrollered them.

From Chelsea through to Spurs Mourinho's tactics have not evolved, he is special no more. The footballing teams are more difficult to get at, the stubborn teams seem to carry a threat but the biggest difference is a new complete team has emerged whom appear to be footballing teams in the RS, Wolves and Leicester but defence is their forte. The aggression he made his name on is totally usurped by the intensity of Guardiola and Klopp. Even his protegé Lampard has disregarded the stale philosophy of his master.

When I look at the clubs who are either overachieving/successful in the PL they:

  1. are unified clubs with a clear direction from top to bottom
  2. have a coherent strategy of developing talent and integration with the senior teams
  3. have a coherent strategy of purchasing talent focusing on a) the uncut diamond, i.e. Pereira, Maddison, Robertson and b) the hungry superstar who is reaching their peak and yet to get their big break, i.e. Van Dijck, De Bruyne and Mané.
  4. have young, driven coaches who set the standards through their intensity and leadership — first Guardiola, then Klopp, Pochettino, Nuno and Rodgers, and now Lampard and Arteta looking at the next batch.

So where does this leave Everton?

  1. We are a dysfunctional club with conflicting interests and voices and an owner willing to play around with ideologies and managers on a whim.
  2. We haven't a coherent strategy of development and integration. Although doing well at youth level few have progressed and both Silva and Ancelotti first casualties from their initial squads were youth players and aren't renowned for the integration of youngsters.
  3. We seem to have a conflicting transfer strategy of identifying players who are injured and on the way down or bigger teams cast offs. If the links to Rodriguez are accurate this worries me both in terms of going forward and harmony with Brands vision if that's still applicable?
  4. Our new manager is competing against innovative hungry coaches who have taken the PL to its zenith. Returning heroes Mourinho, Ranieri and Pelligrini have struggled to compete with the emergents and proved unwilling or unable to re-invent. Can Carlo buck the trend? Does the man who speaks of the "easy life" 5 minutes before a derby fill me with confidence? Will we work hard, intense and sharp as well as "smart"?

In summary the one step forward approach and two back since Mr Moshiri came to the club seems likely to continue in this Irish Blue's eyes. After Sunday some want a player revolution; I'm afraid it's much deeper than that.

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Reader Comments (18)

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Simon Dalzell
1 Posted 07/01/2020 at 18:20:58
You've nailed it Conor. Very eloquent, well constructed, and factually spot on. A distance from my very limited mumblings.
Alan McMillan
2 Posted 07/01/2020 at 19:27:36
Everton appear to offer the best of both worlds to professional footballers; the guarantee of top wages with no expectation of effort or achievement.

We can't even do heroic failure any more.

Nil Satis Nisi Mediocritate.

Stan Schofield
3 Posted 07/01/2020 at 20:02:31
Spurs don't win anything, they are consistently a 'nearly team'. The elite, dominating, clubs have been Utd, City and Chelsea, with loads of money. Leicester were fortunate in that when they got 81 points to win the league, those elite clubs had a bad season. For comparison, in the decade prior to that, Utd had AVERAGED 81 points. That's a measure of the difference between the truly elite level and the likes of Spurs and Leicester (and Liverpool; even if they win the PL this season they'd need to do it repeatedly in order to be regarded as on a par with the likes of City).

If we were a 'nearly team' like Spurs, people would only be complaining that we bottle things at the final hurdle, and they'd be as frustrated as Spurs supporters have been, and Liverpool supporters for a long time. Leicester supporters are just happy to be in the Premier League, the title win being something they'll dine out on for a long time.

Of course, we'd be better off than we are now by being a 'nearly team' or one-time league winner, but we're supposed to be aiming for consistently competing for trophies like in the 60s and 80s, and for that purpose the better models are those of Utd, City and Chelsea, the big money teams like we were under Moores in the 60s. It is possible that a manager like Ancelotti combined with sufficiently large funds could achieve this. Without the big money it's all pie in the sky.

John P McFarlane
4 Posted 07/01/2020 at 20:06:25
I assume that Moshiri is getting the blame for pulling the trigger on Martinez - when many if not most wanted to see the back of him and his cavalier style. The difference between Pep and Roberto is that one had world class players to implement his style of play and the other didn't.

It could be argued that Leicester City's title win was the worst thing that could have happened as far as Everton FC were concerned because it led to many clubs increasing the fees they were asking for their squad players in case they allowed a diamond to leave on the cheap. Plus, suddenly it became a signpost for many supporters of many clubs to believe that it was possible to win the league, when in truth it wasn't, it was a blip in normal proceedings. I'm not saying that Leicester aren't a good side, they are, but they are not as impressive as many seem to believe them to be.

I can't agree that the standard of the Premier League has improved over the last few years either, in fact City, Liverpool and Leicester apart the standard has fallen dramatically. There might be little to choose between 4th place and relegation threatened teams because most of the league is bang average, with bang average players. Where are the edge of seat players which many of the clubs had a decade or more ago? How many classic matches have been seen in the last five years or so?

As for stability, yeah that served every team didn't it? Only Ferguson and Wenger managed to stay at their clubs for more than a few years and regularly win stuff, because they were able to purchase the best players available and with a lot less competition in the market.

I think producing a consistent winning team is as much about luck as it is judgement, plus you need a very good manager, top level players and a shed load of cash. Everton have had some of those elements in the recent past, but not all of them at the same time, who knows, one day they might.

There is no magic formula and I'm sure Liverpool fans can't believe that the moment they started to become a real threat to become champions, the other clubs, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and to a lesser extent Man City suddenly and inexplicably fell off their respected perches and left them to rule the roost. That is the most galling thing about Everton's failure in the recent past, but we have previous for this type of thing, think early 1970s - I just hope this decade doesn't pan out like that one did.

Christy Ring
5 Posted 07/01/2020 at 20:32:21
A very thorough, and honest article.
Brian Harrison
6 Posted 07/01/2020 at 21:03:35

A well thought out and written piece and a lot of what you say is very true, but when you talk of young hungry coaches you really cant put Guardiola or Klopp or Rodgers in that category these are very experienced managers. The younger ones you mention well I am sure Nuno would be delighted to be described as a young hungry coach. So lets deal with the young coaches you mention Lamphard, Arteta and I will be generous and call Pochettino a young coach. So far these young coaches have won nothing, so I would be careful in suggesting that having a young coach is the way forward.

Most leagues are won with experienced coaches, and the same goes for the Champions league. I know its easy to say the older coaches have had their day, but for me to have someone of the quality of Ancelotti managing the club, he given time will raise the stature of this club. His experience is invaluable and we must be patient and allow him to begin to restructure this club. And put forward a structure and a coherent plan that will stand the test of time. To often have we gone for the quick fix which isn't the way to build a stable and successful football club.

Your right when you talk of decisions being taken by the owner on a whim, I think the introduction of a DOF has been a complete disaster. Hopefully now we have a manager who has won everything our purchase of players will be left to him. I read a piece were someone described the DOF role as having a head chef but letting the waitress buy the ingredients. Many have said that Ancelotti is not a good fit and only here to top up his pension pot. Well if it was money he was interested in then China are paying managers who have won far less than him £30 million a year. I also think he has more integrity than that, without doubt the biggest job he has taken on in years, but maybe thats what motivated him to take the job.

Steve Ferns
7 Posted 07/01/2020 at 21:08:33
Brian, 17 of the 20 PL clubs have a DoF. The last club to win the league without one was Ferguson’s Man Utd.
Paul Birmingham
8 Posted 07/01/2020 at 22:15:13
Conor well written report, and I also wrote a report on the same lines as yours.

The club it seems lacks professionalism which is magnified severely in most of the big games we’ve played the last 30 years.

Mentally consistently fatigued and weak. To the point, hand on heart, most us no longer expect to win, or play consistently with style.

Our records the last three decades prove this.

Onwards and upwards and hope eternal.

John Zapa
9 Posted 07/01/2020 at 22:58:17
It all starts with leadership at the highest level. Unfortunately the leaders here have consistently failed the club with a constant stream of poor decisions on and off the field.

When you look at the news about LFC, nearly every day seems to be one of sunshine with positive announcements such as stadium expansion, new sponsorships, new training ground, fringe squad players getting sold for unbelievable amounts, signing top players for minimal fees to supplement the superstar purchases,Club stores being opened world wide and so much more. I wont even mention their on field successes.

Meanwhile over here, the leaders stumble from one mess to the next. Poor management choices, poor scouting and signing players that don't seem to fit any clear pattern to improve the club, practically no movement on sponsorship or the comercial side ( unless you count Moshiri/Usmanov attempts to bypass FFP with their own sponsorship). A stadium saga that's dragged on since kings dock and before, top players getting sold and not sufficiently replaced. The next major announcement will be about the huge losses the club has made in the last financial year, all as a result of such poor decisions.

Tom Bowers
10 Posted 07/01/2020 at 23:18:52
The top clubs in the Prem. in recent history all have managers who have had success at the high level and that is why they are employed where they are now except arguably Brendan Rodgers.

However, Everton now have Ancellotti and one would hope his specific expertise will rub off in the not too distant future.

Okay, the Anfield game was a shock to the system and despite the final score and the poor second half Everton should have scored early and paid the penalty big time.

We have to move on to the rest of the season and get the house in order and I am sure the gaffer as seen all he needs to see to discard some of the dross and get some new blood soon.

Forgetting the last performance it has to be said that the team was beginning to play better since Silva went and whilst they weren't setting the world on fire there was a big improvement in spirit. A few more decent results against average opponents will ensure a safe league position which is the most important target at the moment.

We all have had our say about the cup game and we have all stated our opinions about many of the players some justified and some arguably unjustified.

It would be hard to believe that they could produce that kind of performance in the next game.

Derek Knox
11 Posted 08/01/2020 at 03:21:22
Conor, well written and researched article which pretty much 'hits the nail on the head' also well supported by a good post from Brian Harrison.

It is almost unbelievable the incompetence that has been displayed since Moshiri and his ' Holy Grail Fortune' came to the Club, one has to ask where does it emanate from?

One also has to look at who has been with the Club for the last thirty years, and has also been 'advising' Mr Moshiri. Talk about the 'blind leading the blind' an analogy which I mean with no disrespect whatsoever to the visually impaired.

Hopefully (a word that is used so often with Everton Football Club) now we have one of the best and most respected Managers in Football, things may change.

This kid in a sweet shop attitude has to be replaced with a considered and financially equated approach to not only buying players, but to the everyday running at Finch Farm, culminating in a well drilled team to tackle any team in the Prem home or away.

Tom Dodds
12 Posted 08/01/2020 at 04:07:15
Just to add to the mix
Having a useful (Southampton) feeder club with a pool of great players that their owners bend over backwards to sell to you can also give you an edge.!
Bob Parrington
13 Posted 08/01/2020 at 04:12:04
Stan@3. An excellent repost to Conor's excellent article IMO. Yours too John@4! Left me wondering how to expand on the thread. Ah well, some more thinking time needed!
Conor McCourt
14 Posted 08/01/2020 at 10:27:07
Simon 1-thanks I really appreciated that first comment as I haven't written an article before.

Stan 3- these aren't my thoughts to make us a great club or what we should be and are more just really observations as to why teams like Leicester and Wolves can overachieve where the likes of Utd, Ars and us have recently underperformed.

John 4-My argument was the problem was not sacking Roberto but that Moshiri should have been looking at a Rodgers,Poch type alternative who would carry on with the positives and be better with the negatives i.e. organisation, aggression and game management. Mind you there is an argument had he gave the war chest to Martinez we would be in a much healthier position.
John I also wasn't comparing eras and teams. Would Milner and Henderson get on Utd's great team? No way. Since Guardiolas introduction English teams not qualifying for last 16 in the CL would be a catastrophe and EL teams field 2nd strings and still get to the business end. My argument is that the PL is now well ahead of its main competitors due to the raising of coaching.

Brian 6- Sorry didn't mean to come across as ageist, more about innovation and hunger was my point. As you can see I didn't speak of Solsjaer as I feel he's trying to copy Fergie when the game has moved to a new level.You speak about other leagues but my argument is that we are in the PL and the standard of coaching here is at the highest. Look at Silvas success in Portugal but couldn't replicate it here as the bar is so high. Mourinho is still a great tactician but it's not enough anymore.

Andrew Ellams
15 Posted 08/01/2020 at 10:37:44
Connor, with regards to Moshiri bringing in a Rodgers or a Pochettino to replace Martinez, I believe in his head he was with Koeman. Unfortunately he made two monumental errors at the same time with Koeman and Walsh which will and affect the club's business model for a few more years to come yet.
Conor McCourt
16 Posted 08/01/2020 at 11:04:17
Andrew I don't agree. Koeman did well with a youngish squad at Southampton but it was an experienced one inherited from Pochettino. Their fans appreciated the success they had under Koeman but he never brought through players from the academy like his predecessor, it was a bug bearer of theirs.

In terms of style Koeman also was not a natural replacement from an ideological perspective. His Southampton side were a lot more functional than Pochettinos dynamic team. I think it may have been Darren Hind who joked Moshiri behaved like a paranoid schizophrenic and its spot on.

Steve Ferns
17 Posted 08/01/2020 at 11:17:45
Conor, when you said "when the manager was rightfully given the boot, the baby, the bath water and indeed our soul was flushed down the Mersey" you summed up everything wrong with Everton since Moshiri came in. Veering from one extreme to the other. It cannot be that the manager was slightly wrong, and we need the same type of manager, with the same type of tactics, who might be happy with the players and can get just a little bit more from them that could make us just a little bit better, and that little bit is enough to get us back to 7th and set things rolling for an ascent to the top. No, instead it's wholesale changes, clearouts, complete changes of philosophy and tactics, and players, and coaches. It's insane and it's cost us a fortune.

As regards Koeman at Southampton, they sold practically his entire side before he came in, then did it again the following summer. I remember he had a funny moment when he posted a picture of an empty Southampton training pitch with a few of those freekick mannequins and said it was time to meet his new players.

Conor McCourt
18 Posted 08/01/2020 at 11:34:06
very good Steve, it's a pity he didn't a take a few of them to Everton. They would probably still put our midfield three from Sunday to shame lol.

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