One of the notable things about our more successful sides over the past 20 years (and indeed with successful sides generally) is the presence of partnerships all across the pitch.  Baines and Pienaar on the left flank; Lescott or Distin and Jagielka in defence; Arteta and Cahill in midfield, etc. The last time we saw real partnerships emerge was, I think, Silva’s last season where Digne and Bernard did a decent Bainaar impression and Zouma and Keane seemed to hit it off with Gueye ahead of them.

A team without these sorts of partnerships is always going to be less than the sum of its parts; a bunch of decent enough players but no chemistry.  That’s how we’ve been for a good while now.

The interesting thing about the team developing before us is the emerging presence of a few partnerships – and the fact that these partnerships don’t appear to be emerging just by chance.  I think we’re looking in particular at:

-          Tarkowski and Coady

-          Mykolenko and Gordon

-          Patterson and McNeil

-          Onana and Gueye

The defensive pairing is the most pronounced at the moment.  These two players have hit it off as soon as we switched to a back 4.  Both gritty, both talkers, and both on the same wavelength.  They are the best centre-back pairing we’ve had since Jagielka and Distin. 

One of the reasons these two have hit it off successfully is the work being done ahead of them by another emerging partnership between Onana and Gueye.  These two are going to be very good together – and maybe Iwobi makes it a trio – since he’s a large part of this too.

The full-backs and wide players are probably more of a work in progress, but the shape and style is good.  I’m hopeful we’ll see the same sorts of neat one-twos and balls into the box that Bainaar used to give us.  I have a sneaking suspicion that McNeil will really hit it off with Patterson, with a lot of the supply for DCL coming from the right wing.

The glaring issue is probably any sort of chemistry with the centre-forward position.  That’s nothing new.  I never really got the impression that Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison were on the same wavelength, despite both being very good players.  We might need to go back as far as Lukaku and Deulofeu (or maybe Bolasie if I’m being very generous) as to some kind of partnership up front – and that was only fleeting.

But what these partnerships provide us with is solidity and stability.  It is starting to become predictable what the teamsheet and shape looks like from week to week.  That’s a massive improvement, in and of itself. 

And the big thing about this is it’s not down to good luck.  The new management team have created this from a standing start and a complete mess of a squad.  This is a very strategically astute bit of squad-building – helped in no small part by our manager showing some humility and ditching the 3-4-3 formation that wasn’t working at all.  So maybe (and this is a plot twist right up there with Sixth Sense) the really crucial partnership is Lampard and Thelwell.

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Reader Comments (19)

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John Crook
1 Posted 07/10/2022 at 22:02:13
The 'Stripchat Sustainability Stadium'???

What The Fuck??

Only Everton...

Dale Self
2 Posted 07/10/2022 at 22:34:53
Easy John, it could have been the TubeStake Stadium if the Youtube capital group had held their nerve.
Derek Thomas
3 Posted 07/10/2022 at 22:38:43
"The really crucial partnership is Lampard and Thelwell."

True enough but sadly, they still have to drag the double millstone of Moshiri and Kenwright around.

Dale Self
4 Posted 07/10/2022 at 23:11:41
Yes, the chemistry seems to be growing with every performance and driving who is Captain Coady. We are the Lost Planet Airmen no more with a new commander.

The willingness to go all out for each other will be the most rewarding thing on view this season and it absolutely gets my blue blood flowing. All we need is a little bit of crafty togetherness in the final third and several forwards should get some good looks and a nice little run to the corner flag.

Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 09/10/2022 at 11:20:46

I think the main one in the Thelwell and Lampard partnership is Thelwell.

I have the feeling that Lampard will not be long term at Everton, nothing to do with his ability but the fact his wife has her own career to look after and I don't see her settling down in Liverpool.

Just the way I see it, I hope I'm wrong.

Rick Tarleton
6 Posted 09/10/2022 at 11:59:53
All successful teams are built around partnerships, it's not a uniquely Everton thing. In my youth Everton thrived with the strike partnership of Hickson and Parker, then the sublime Young and Vernon pairing. Go on and you have the Holy Trinity, Ball, Kendall and Harvey and on in to the eighties with Sharp and Gray and Watson and Ratcliffe.

The current team is finding its way and there are few players so established that they are automatic choices. Tarkowski and Coady, though newly put together are experienced and sensible enough, are showing signs of becoming a reliable defensive pairing. Of the rest I'm not convinced that too many players are that established that I could name our first choice in most positions.

However, Lampard and Thelwell are in their early days and hopefully they have an idea as to which players will become the nucleus over the next three or four years and who they want to add to the squad and who they want to move on.

One problem is that the age of some of our recruits means that they are probably short-term options (Gueye, Tarkowski and Coady), but this season has been considerably better than the previous one and my fingers are crossed and I'm more optimistic than I have been over recent years.

Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 09/10/2022 at 12:20:40
That they were able to manoeuvre in the transfer market the way they did in their first window under the obvious restrictions speaks volumes for how much planning they put into what was needed to transform the squad and shape it the way they want it.

And with a bit of coaching thrown into it to improve players and their confidence. As well as very deliberate and discreet changes behind the scenes at Finch Farm.

Putting their own system in place without interference from non-footballing people. A DoF being allowed to be a DoF and not getting sucked into Boardroom politics. A footballing staff being left alone to make footballing decisions. That's how it feels.

Suddenly, the defence is transformed from 12 months ago. The midfield looks different even if some of the players are the same. If we're all honest, once we eventually came from that Wednesday night, I don't think many of us would have seen that coming in July.

I too hope you're wrong, Dave Abrahams. I was on the fence with Lampard but I've really warmed to him as much as he seems to have done with Everton.

Brian Murray
8 Posted 09/10/2022 at 13:31:10
Hope to hear from the biased media how good Onana was and he can't possibly stay at a club like Everton after a dominating display with an Everton win.
Robert Tressell
9 Posted 09/10/2022 at 13:35:56
Dave @ 5, in some respects I hope you're right. Clubs with good organisational management seem, by coincidence, to stumble on good football managers.

But I would be sad to see Lampard go. I think we've got another 18 months or so with him. Wouldn't surprise me if he left for the England job at that point.

In the meantime, he and Thelwell can put in place some really good foundations for our BMD era.

Tony Everan
10 Posted 09/10/2022 at 14:32:20
Good article, Robert.

Some promising partnerships blossoming. It's the forward line partnership that will be the one that takes us to the next level. With Calvert-Lewin back, all eyes will be on the forwards and how they play together.

Any of Gordon, Gray, Maupay or McNeil could hit it off big time with Calvert-Lewin. It's going to be very competitive get into the side when he is fully fit as all those four players have, at the moment, a legitimate claim for a starting berth.

If we can find that magic formula up front, this side is going places.

Mike Gaynes
11 Posted 09/10/2022 at 15:24:33
Robert, spot on re the Lampard & Thelwell partnership. I still think they are our two best signings of the year.
Tony Abrahams
12 Posted 09/10/2022 at 15:42:49
Lampard isn’t going anywhere until he’s danced around the corner flag, parading the cup at Wembley, and unless England come calling, I expect him to remain our manager for quite a while, unless things go very badly out on the pitch.
Joe McMahon
13 Posted 09/10/2022 at 16:10:27
Robert, a good article but, with these successful partnerships, we still won bugger all. Often the case (Quinn and Philips for example).

Tim Cahill and Lescott belonged in trophy-winning teams though. A Man City fan at work always stated he was gutted when Distin left.

Robert Tressell
14 Posted 11/10/2022 at 09:05:18
Joe # 13, at the moment, we need these partnerships to get us back into the Top 10 and Europa League contention.

To actually win things with a defensive pairing like Coady and Tarkowski is difficult. As we saw against Man Utd, they are a bit susceptible to the counter-attack – and they are nothing like as good on the ball as, say, Lisandro Martinez.

Big clubs who win things tend to play on the front foot – accepting Martinez's defensive weakness (he's short) because of what he brings to the table offensively.

That is why Pickford is a Champions League goalkeeper.

As said on another thread we're a work in progress. These partnerships definitely represent part of the progress.

To win things we need to transform the club, as Roberto Martinez tried, into a front-foot club that focuses on beating teams with attacking talent.

That's our next step from here.

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 11/10/2022 at 09:16:51
League Cup Tony. Just give me the League Cup. Before our 10th League Title.

Interesting comment on Pickford, Robert. He is a great keeper and arguably Champions League standard if that is the benchmark.

For me, he is a great shot-stopper, but doesn't command his defence or his penalty area and is reluctant to come out of the 6-yard box.

Unless he addresses that, he won't realise the obvious potential. Sadly, it's why he is still with this current Everton squad.

Robert Tressell
16 Posted 11/10/2022 at 09:41:51
Danny, that point about commanding the box etc is a bit like the point that often gets made about full-backs – their priority is to defend and stop crosses.

I think these are not opinions shared by clubs that win things. They were true of our successful sides in the 1980s but the game has moved on in 30 years, because of tactics, fitness levels and the backpass rule.

Pickford will be valued highly by Ten Hag and other Champions League coaches because of his ball control (with his feet) and distribution.

Jim Wilson
17 Posted 11/10/2022 at 16:26:46
I always look at the 84-85 team for comparisons.

At the start of 83-84, there wasn't a settled team and, as a result, no partnerships were being developed.

By 84-85, the team picked itself and the team was littered with partnerships: Heath and Sharp, and then Gray and Sharp when Heath was injured; Steven and Stevens; Reid and Bracewell; Mountfield and Ratcliffe.

The 84-85 team clearly had a system and, when the so-called lesser players came into the side, like Richardson, Harper, Atkin and Wilkinson, it didn't affect the performances too much.

That is hopefully where we are heading now, the team almost picking itself, with thankfully a back 4, a developing system where players are developing partnerships and where players on the bench will fit into the system, no problem.

Just to highlight Robert's point of suspecting Patterson and McNeil could develop a good partnership. It is so important for the full-back and winger to develop a good understanding so the winger can help the full-back when we are defending (something we didn't see against Man Utd) as well as the fullback supporting the winger going forward. Pienaar and Baines, Steven and Stevens perfected this.

We are hopefully now heading in the right direction but the Man Utd game was a big disappointment and the team now needs big performances in the next two games.

Paul Kossoff
18 Posted 16/10/2022 at 00:17:51
Adult website Stripchat make $200 million bid to buy naming rights for Everton's new stadium seriously!!

I for one, as a completely straight 100% male do not find it compulsive viewing watching some plastic-faced trout-mouthed bint flashing something that looks like it's just crawled out of Ripley's pants!

What's the betting Bill will want the mural of just that on the goal stand. Please no!

Will Mabon
19 Posted 16/10/2022 at 00:30:31
Steady on, Paul - just bit into a mince pie.

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