Up to around 50% of all comment on ToffeeWeb is about Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s low scoring (and the low scoring of his replacements).  Unfortunately, it's just the latest chapter in a tragic tale of non-scoring strikers throughout our Premier League history.  Good sides have strikers capable of scoring more than 20 goals in a season.  Since we aren’t a good side, we don’t. 

Despite being ever-present in the Premier League for the 30+ seasons since 1992, we have had a forward who scored more than 20 goals on just one occasion – and we’ve only had a forward hit 15 or more goals on 6 other occasions:

2020-21: Calvert-Lewin (16)
2016-17: Lukaku (25)
2015-16: Lukaku (18)
2013-13: Lukaku (15)
2007-08: Yakubu (15)
1995-96: Kanchelskis (16)
1993-94: Cottee (16)

This consistently atrocious record is despite (generally unwisely) spending decent sums on the likes of Ferguson, Amokachi, Radzinski, Bakayoko, Beattie and Johnson and having decently talented strikers like Rooney, Campbell, Jelavic, Jeffers and Saha at our disposal. 

Why is this?

Well, part of the issue is quality. Only Lukaku, Kanchelskis, a teenage Rooney and (maybe) a non-injured Saha had genuine Champions League standard ability (and Kanchelskis wasn’t even a striker).  That is an appalling indictment on the last 30+ years.

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We have also been taking a very short-term view when it comes to strikers, often trying to buy someone we can afford who is in form (or just someone we can afford irrespective of form).  And since we can only afford very mediocre ready-made players, we end up with a very mediocre striker as a result.  That very mediocre striker then gets stuck in a crap side and the goals peter out.

But I think there are two other issues:

  • Fear of the often very real threat of relegation (which I think we fear more than any other club); and
  • Use of extremely conservative, safety-first football to fend off relegation.

Together, this really takes its toll on the team mentally.  It also means that chances (sometimes numerous, sometimes not) are being ground out through perspiration rather than inspiration.   When the moment comes to pull the trigger, players are anxious or mentally exhausted.  

Not for us the likes of Michu, Ravanelli, Okocha, Mahrez, DiCanio, Payet, Krancjar, Carbone etc of clubs that have dared to try but ended up relegated.  We get the likes of Phil Neville, and stay up through attrition.  It’s always attrition and it’s exhausting. Even when we’ve had decent sides, we’ve still been uber-conservative. 

I remember a very defensive 4-5-1 formation at home to Reading under David Moyes and the opposition of Doyle, Sidwell and Hunt passed a decent Everton team off the park.  It is one of many, many examples of horrible football from a string of managers over many years – Royle, Smith, Moyes, Ancelotti, Allardyce, Benitez, Lampard and Dyche.

What have been the exceptions?  And what did we do right on those occasions?

Looking at the statistics and judging by eye, the exception is the Martinez era.  This is the one sustained period of our Premier League history where we attempted to big a big club and play front foot football.  Martinez accepted that players like Barkley and Deulofeu had defensive weakness, but he prized their attacking ability over defensive solidity. 

He also made sure that we had front-foot footballers right throughout the side, including Stones at cenre-back, adventurous full-backs, and an attacking trio up front (sometimes an attacking quartet).  We were set up to score (alas forgetting how to defend in the process).

Otherwise, our strikers have hit decent form on two of the occasions when the squad was quite expensively assembled (Calvert-Lewin and Kanchelskis) or a patiently developed squad spent money on a good striker as the icing on the cake (Yakubu).  In all of these situations, it wasn’t a one-man team – it was a genuinely talented squad with options as an attacking outfit. 

And if you can afford to spend big money on a striker then that helps too.  The £11M spent on Yakubu and £28M spent on Lukaku probably represents something like the £60M+ it would take to buy a comparable player like Ivan Toney now. Inflation has run very high indeed in transfer fees and wages.

How does this compare to now?

Firstly, we have no money for a new striker of any note (or perhaps at all).  But that’s not necessarily the big problem.  Although he is an extremely unpopular player with a large proportion of fans, Calvert-Lewin is capable of scoring around 15 goals a season in a well assembled side – one with creativity in midfield, good full-back play and decent, fast wingers like Sigurdsson, Baines, Coleman (in his prime), Richarlison and Kanchelskis.

Unfortunately, whilst Doucouré is effective, he is a talentless athlete.  On the left flank, McNeil has good delivery but is very slow, and Mykolenko is excellent defensively but quite poor going forward.  The right flank is absolutely abysmal, offering almost nothing from an attacking point of view.  

Hence you can see why Calvert-Lewin is currently tasked with being a battering ram to force set-pieces or create space for Doucouré.  He’s good at this (as highlighted by Doucoure’s goal return) but, when he operates this way, he stops scoring.  The xG shows this, and you can see in matches that he (and Beto) are snatching at hard-fought (and fairly numerous) chances, high on anxiety and low on confidence.

How do we resolve this?

The only players we have who might possibly make a difference are Danjuma and Patterson.  Both are the sorts of players Martinez would have used, given their attacking ability, accepting that they leave you weaker in defence.  Clearly both are very hit-and-miss when they play, but perhaps they are playing in a team set up incorrectly for them.  However, I’m not convinced we have the personnel to set up the team correctly for them.  So I do understand why Dyche is so uber-conservative and defensive.

Ultimately, there isn’t an easy fix with the current squad.  Somehow, Dyche and Thelwell will only resolve this is if they can “do a Martinez” in the transfer market this summer and acquire front-foot players with speed and ability on the flanks (including right-back), and in the position currently occupied by Doucouré.

This will need a bit of the old Sin Miedo spirit, the proceeds from selling Onana, and careful thought as to how to construct a side capable of creating goals, and not just forcing opportunities.

Back in the day, Martinez brought through Barkley and Stones, and brought in Lukaku (loan), Barry (free), McCarthy (£13M) and Deulofeu (loan).  I don’t believe we currently have any youth prospects capable of emulating even Tom Davies, let alone Barkley and Stones.

But you could imagine us bringing in, say, Micah Hamilton of Man City and Ilman Ndiaye of Marseille to create a fast and talented front three with Calvert-Lewin.  Controversial, I know, but I expect we might even look at Mason Greenwood too, perhaps on loan. Add a player like James McAtee also of Man City to the midfield to add a bit of quality on the ball. 

Then a right-back like, say Rensch of Ajax, and you suddenly have a side with the pace and quality on the ball to play front-foot football.  It would of course also be an inexperienced side that might be quite hit-and-miss in terms of results (and critically, one that is hit-and-miss in terms of goals conceded) – but one that might develop into a quality attacking outfit.

That is almost certainly too much to hope for in one summer. But certainly it shouldn’t be too much to expect us to improve the abysmal right flank at the very least – and add a bit of pace and quality from somewhere.  If we do that, we might suddenly find that the football is a bit better, the xG improves, and Calvert-Lewin (or Beto or whoever) is converting chances previously being missed.  

Reader Comments (90)

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Jeff Spiers
1 Posted 04/03/2024 at 22:29:49
Robert, brilliant post.

But I wonder that, through the last decade or two, how many quality players have turned us down? Not just strikers. That is what frightens me.

Andy Crooks
2 Posted 04/03/2024 at 22:39:01
Good article, Robert. We have, as you said, traded flair for safety and Moyes made that seem like success. There were opportunities. Moyes was extremely well paid and I never thought he was the best we could get for our money.

We now have reached the stage of neither flair nor safety. We have the choice of keeping it tight and nicking a goal or being Sheffield United. We indeed are a graveyard for strikers, Maupay is proving that.

I don't know enough tactically to suggest an answer but it seems clear to me that Calvert-Lewin endlessly chasing long balls down the wing, looking for a full-back to offer support that never comes, really isn't the answer.

Until the players can somehow find confidence, we are going to find less risk-taking, more hesitation and snatching at chances. I didn't want Beto to take the penalty but at least he really wanted it. He loved that goal and I think and hope it will be a turning point for him. That's how desperate we are.

Finally, no, not ever Greenwood. That really would be desperate.

Paul Birmingham
3 Posted 04/03/2024 at 22:39:09
Superb article, Robert.

It's numbing but it's the reality.

But hopefully soon the fortunes of the current Everton forwards and the fortunes of the club will change.


Dave Lynch
4 Posted 04/03/2024 at 22:45:14
Moyes destroyed good strikers.

His obsession with having them run into wide channels used to frustrate the life out of me. Beattie and Johnson were prime examples of this.

Peter Moore
5 Posted 04/03/2024 at 23:01:49
The obsession with one up top certainly does not help.

Doucouré is so important as he is, in the words of Dyche, "Like having half an extra striker and half an extra midfield player".

When match fit, I believe Doucouré will make us a winning team again, knitting together the midfield and attack.

Ben King
6 Posted 04/03/2024 at 23:57:00
We need creativity from the centre but also from the flanks. We need our strikers to be ‘finishers' – not just a player to hold it up.

We lack arrogant players. Maybe Danjuma is one. Why do we need arrogant players? Because they believe in themselves.

Lukaku alienated himself from Everton fans because he always talked of going to a bigger club when he was on international duty. Sure it was irritating … but it showed his self-belief.

Same with Mirallas. He was an arrogant sod (even stealing a penalty (from Baines? — and missing!) but he believed in himself.

Same with Delefeau. Same with Gareth Barry. Same with Lescott (who went on to win the Premier League & FA cup). Stones too.

At Everton we don't seem to like players that back themselves but we also like them to want the ball and to beat a man and score.

Barkley got pelters for holding onto the ball for too long but he could make us play & we could do with his calmness now.

Truth is, we're a tough crowd: we love Marcus Bent's and Calvert-Lewin's and Stracqualursi's endeavour but not their finishing record.

We don't revere or even talk fondly of Yakubu or Lukaku but would love their goals right now.

So who is the archetypal forward (realistically) that could please the crowd at Goodison? No one really.

Andrew James
7 Posted 05/03/2024 at 01:02:09
Robert, I mostly agree with your analysis but it gets overlooked that we were incredibly unlucky with Johnson and Yakabu who both had their Everton careers curtailed.

What worries me is that we've signed players like Beattie who was a goal machine at Saints and massively disappointing for us but also we've brought in some dreadful forwards like Rondon and Maupay when it was clear they wouldn't work out. Who the heck sanctioned the signing of Rondon, for crying out loud?!

We have under-invested in strikers of late – remember that ridiculous time we failed to replace Lukaku? And instead bought lots of No 10s? – and that for me is the big problem.

What we would give for a Jermaine Beckford now!

Kieran Kinsella
8 Posted 05/03/2024 at 03:47:09

You make a lot of well-informed posts that sometimes get lost in the mix so it's nice to see you submitting a few well-thought articles including this one.

That being said — and I'm not disagreeing with you here, just feeling exasperated — if we have no young players as “good” as the weak, slow, can't dribble, can't pass, can't shoot, can't tackle Tom Davies, then maybe all hope is lost.

Surely there's someone, someone in the Under-21s or below, who has at least one of the attributes you expect from a professional footballer – in which case he would be ahead of Davies.

Ernie Baywood
9 Posted 05/03/2024 at 05:53:48
Brilliant and enjoyable read.

It can't be players being cursed.

We've had strikers who could score goals. We just haven't typically made that their main job.

I've seen Calvert-Lewin operate between the width of the penalty area. He was good! I now watch a guy who is simply our first defender. He's running his socks off, throwing himself into everything, winning an incredible amount of ball for little reward... and we expect him to score goals too?

That's not what Lukaku did. He was about using his energy and pace when it mattered. When it mattered to him was when he had a chance to have an attempt at goal. He got slated for his lack of contribution... apart from all the goals he scored of course.

I don't want to turn this into another Dyche thread but, at some point, we will have to be braver than we have been for some time. I can't remember many brave managers and Bobby will always have a special place for me for exactly that reason. He believed we could be great. It felt good while it felt good.

Ernie Baywood
10 Posted 05/03/2024 at 06:52:06
Kieran, it's interesting when you think of Tom Davies.

He was good enough to stand out locally, good enough to stand out in the academy, good enough to stand out competitively, good enough to make every England under age team, good enough to stand out and be made U17 captain for England, and good enough to be invited to train with the senior national team.

He stood out at every level he kicked a ball at until our senior coaches got hold of him for a couple of years.

He's not the only one as well.

Ian Jones
11 Posted 05/03/2024 at 07:07:29
The only time I remember us having 3 to 4 strikers of any note who scored regularly was when we had Gray, Sharp and Heath, with Lineker joining us. In true Everton style, we allowed Gray to leave when Lineker arrived.

Have just looked at the list of players leaving Everton since 2000, so many other strikers that arrived with some sort of fanfare or came up through the ranks. All failed or were moved on by the club or decided to leave for various reasons without leaving any long-standing memories. Samuel Eto'o and Sandro Ramirez spring to mind.

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 05/03/2024 at 07:20:25
The obsession with one lone striker has killed us for years.

It only ever worked in a team with the likes of Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Mikel Arteta, and Marouane Fellaini, players who could all consistently create some havoc or chip in with 6 or 7 goals a season.

It's not going to work in a team with Onana, Garner, Gana and a Doucoure that's now missing more time through injury than playing.

I always refer to Walter Smith's first season at Everton in 98-99.

We couldn't score for toffee then, all of a sudden, a partnership of Kevin Campbell and Francis Jeffers comes about, we couldn't stop scoring, the change was almost astronomical in a side that previously for 7 months couldn't score a goal at all.

It seems managing football teams in this era really is rocket science.

Lee Courtliff
13 Posted 05/03/2024 at 07:25:55
Only yesterday, I was saying to myself that we need to spend whatever (little) money we have in the summer on a really fast right-winger. It would obviously have to be someone young and relatively unknown but that would make a massive difference to our team. Especially a right-footed right-winger as we're obviously sticking with McNeil on the left. We need someone to provide crosses from that side, not someone who always wants to check back inside.

Good article, Robert. And yes, we obviously can't fix everything in one window as it is impossible, but fixing the right side is our first priority.

And btw, I can't understand why Patterson isn't playing. He's done no worse than Young or Godfrey with much scope to improve. Unlike the other 3 options there (Coleman).

Robert Tressell
14 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:18:07
Jim, take a look at the top-scoring strikers across major leagues. They are all playing a lone striker role. If you play two traditional strikers, you cannot get the ball to them because your midfield is overrun.

Guardiola has completely reorganised his side to accommodate Haaland as a lone striker and 5 / 6 midfield players. He hasn't gone for a 4-4-1-1 / 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 – he's got ride of conventional full backs to add another body into the midfield.

A few lone strikers are supported by a second (deeper) striker like Alvarez at City or Muller at Bayern. This player has to be a very intelligent, adaptable player who can adjust positions and find space / supplement the midfield.

But many sides now organise so that goals are scored by wing forwards (not traditional wingers) like Salah, Bowen and Son.

The striker, to the extent there even is one, is the creator of chances or space for these players. Like Benzema at Real doing the unselfish stuff while Ronaldo got all the goals.

That's how we're operating with Calvert-Lewin and Doucoure (a crap version of Drogba and Lampard) with Calvert-Lewin making space / opportunities for the latter. Until his injury, Doucoure was the top-scoring midfielder of his type in all of Europe's major 5 leagues (apart from Bellingham, who almost plays as a false No 9 for Real).

The trouble is our wide players are extremely limited and Doucoure is terrible on the ball. To make the crap version of Drogba and Lampard work we need our version of Robben and Duff – or at least one of them.

So I agree with Lee's comments about a fast right winger – and indeed pace (and ability) on the flanks generally. This is why I think the solution might be players like Hamilton, Ndiaye or (and this doesn't sit well at all) Mason Greenwood.

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:21:09
One up top is a feature of most teams in the modern game. What is important is to have runners off the striker and good width.

I think someone said a few weeks back, Calvert-Lewin if often chasing his own flick-ons. I don't see the point in playing two strikers if you can't supply them and it then takes a player out of our already exposed midfield.

Doucoure is coming back from injury. Hopefully McNeil will get his form back. Onana needs to find consistency and stop drifting. Our defence is like Rorke's Drift. The thin blue line.

Jim Bennings
16 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:33:14
But we don't have the midfield personnel Robert to play with one striker either.

Our midfielders are all safe players.

Doucoure is the only one that breaks the mould and one is not enough.

McNeil has never been a goal-scoring type player, yes he hit a purple patch last April but he's not really known previous for being a player that scores goals and too often he just doesn't get enough efforts on goal.

Harrison doesn't look like going on a scoring run either, I may be wrong but he doesn't look like being the answer.

Onana, Garner and Gana don't score.

Dobbin has scored about 3 career goals to date (including his Derby County loan spell) so hardly one we can hang our hat on either.

We need to make life easier for ourselves. I tell you now, if we persist the rest of this season with one striker, I think we'll do well to score more than 7 goals from what's left on offer, that won't mean many wins.

Robert Tressell
17 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:43:03
Unfortunately, Jim, we don't have the personnel to play 2 strikers either.

Seriously, there isn't a manager out there who would partner Beto and Calvert-Lewin except for maybe the last 10 minutes of a game. And if we attempt that, Doucoure's impact is completely negated and we risk conceding many more goals.

Boring though it is, our lack of conceding is what continually keeps us in the Premier League (and we'd be very comfortable in mid-table based on the points we've actually won).

Teams this weak that "go for it" get relegated. That's kind of the implied point of the article too.

Adam Carey
18 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:46:16
Robert @14 has hit a nail on the head here.

For 15 seasons, we have bought strikers and then made them play to the way of the manager instead of playing to their strengths. Martinez indulged Lukaku and, while it could frustrate, he always looked odds on to score. Ancelotti played to Calvert-Lewin's strengths and he scored 15 (ish) goals.

I'm losing count of the number of games I've watched this season where Calvert-Lewin is either pressing in our half or fighting 2 defenders for a high long ball, and then we sit back and defend again when the opposition have the ball.

Covid showed that he can finish when not under extreme pressure. We've all played football at some level and even I as a defender enjoyed taking penalties (which I wasn't very good at), yet Beto looked so nervous against West Ham.

I think for us as a team to move forwards, with the players we have (seeing as we have no money to replace them) we need to start setting up teams to work for the goalscorers and not to nullify the other team and hope for the best.

Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:53:00
There is nothing wrong with playing a single striker. It's normal now. Just get them in the box. Dominic was way more effective in the box when he was supported.

Jelavic was great for half a season, playing in the box before we had him chasing corner flags, as we have done with other strikers. Let the wide players do that.

Get Dominic back in the box and support him with runners.

Ian Jones
20 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:05:13
Or perhaps play with no strikers.

Perhaps slightly off topic but with reason – I remember reading an article about the development of John Stones. Think it was from one of the Barnsley Academy coaches.

It was on the lines that, wherever Stones has played with any success, it's been at clubs or at least with managers who were more about possession-based football (including Martinez).

At Barnsley, when Stones was in the Academy, because there were no recognised strikers, they played without a centre-forward and played 4-6-0. The players were told to keep the ball and build with it which stopped the ball going long as there was nobody there so little point, so the team played through the thirds...

When you get to the attacking third, you've got 4 or 5 players up there because of the possession play. You go and attack. When the ball is lost, you win it back due to the number of players around the ball. Players were encouraged to pass without fear of losing the ball. Of course, Barnsley didn't have 30,000 odd people groaning if the ball was misplaced.

Seems like Barnsley's original coaching philosophy was similar to that of Guardiola (or more likely based on it). Apparently, Barnsley's youth team recorded some notable wins.

It didn't translate to the first team as the upper management and supporters preferred tough tackling, resilience and hard work – sound familiar? :)

Until Man City got Haaland, they would sometimes appear to play without a genuine striker – of course, being able to call on a myriad of other superstars is helpful. :)

It really doesn't matter how many chances a team creates, if there is no person in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the net.

Matt Traynor
21 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:19:35
Danny, notable about Jelavic was his one-touch finishing. I was delighted when we signed him as putting him and Naismith back together promised goals — didn't work out sadly.

Also notable during Calvert-Lewin's purple Ancelloti patch was his one-touch finishes. How many of our goals this season have been like that? We're too ponderous when building an attack. Too easy to defend against as teams get back in numbers.

Dave Abrahams
22 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:23:00
A very good perceptive look at the past strikers we have had over the last 15 years or so, you won't get many disagreeing with you, Robert and it offers a good defence of Calvert-Lewin, no matter what a lot of fans think about him.

It also makes me look at the present players Dyche has been left with… not a good view and – despite Dyche's formations and tactics – I think he has done well to keep us where we are, especially without the points deductions.

John Pickles
23 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:49:35
Well, this is one thing the Dark Side get right. They always seem to have a striker who you can (unfortunately) rely on to hit the net.

Even in Moyes's latter years, when we had a much better team, they still scored freely, because they had a proven goal scorer (Torres, I think). Going all the way back to when we had our last world class striker, Lineker, they still had Rush. Goals win matches.

There are gems from the lower leagues: Vardy, Toney, etc, but you need a decent scouting system to unearth them, so that's us out.

As has been touched on before, you also need goal support from the rest of the team. In 1984-85, we had five players in double figures, when was the last time we had two?

John Gall
24 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:49:51
Great article this, it really gets to the heart of the Everton malaise.

I'm not a superstitious person, normally, but when it comes to Everton, I am. I've long thought the club has had a curse on it since the completion of the Main Stand for the start of season 1970-71. The demolition of that old stand unleashed demons and curses and a spell has been put on the club that only Kendall managed to break through his own voodoo or exorcism in 1984.

When you see that breakdown of our inadequacies, the mystery of why good players haven't thrived at Goodison (with some notable exceptions), then you have to say this is strange and irrational.

And my ultimate fear is that the demolition of Goodison brings with it complete and utter oblivion. When you look at the brew of potential miseries hanging over the club at the moment and the sense that it will all culminate with the first game in the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, I tell you — the Everton Apocalypse is coming!

Danny O’Neill
25 Posted 05/03/2024 at 10:23:09
As we're on the subject and waiting for Old Trafford, the ones that stick out for me:

Bob Latchford

Graham Sharp & Andy Gray once he found his Mojo and especially when he headed that one in off the mud with his head at Notts County.

Adrian Heath was different but talented. A shame that injury took him out for so long.

Just because he stopped them becoming undefeated all season, I have to give Wayne Clarke a mention.

And then let's not forget Cottee. Didn't live up to the high expectations, but that 4-4 against them.

For the younger generation, I'll give you Duncan Ferguson even though he frustrated me at times.

Tim Cahill, not necessarily a striker but always there to pop up with a goal.

After a decent start, we ruined Johnson. Likewise Beattie. It points back to the system they are asked to play in, in my opinion.

Yakubu, who was great but then suffered a nasty Achilles injury that he never really came back from.

Peter Beardsley from the other side, but he was class. More of a Number 10 as we would say in the modern game.

Strikers are centre-forwards. Not corner flag chasers.

Brian Harrison
26 Posted 05/03/2024 at 10:24:21
Most teams now play very similar systems and that usually means playing with a main striker, but the difference between the sides is also as much about the quality he has around him as much as it's about the quality of the main striker.

Nunez isn't pulling up any trees at Liverpool but he has Salah and Jota who score a high percentage of goals, and their midfield and defenders also score on a regular basis.

But we don't have many goalscoring options out wide and are goal return from midfield is poor. Now is that down to the manager's tactics or just poor quality players? I think it's a bit of both.

I would also suggest that, with us having a 3-week break after the Man Utd game, it might be worth considering bringing in a sports psychologist to work collectively and individually with the team.

I know Liverpool used Dr Steve Peters some years back and he also works with Ronnie O'Sullivan, the snooker player. It won't make them better players but it will help with their mindset when they have another goal-scoring opportunity.

Surely it's got to be something worth considering, as there is something that needs changing to help the team collectively and individually.

Laurie Hartley
27 Posted 05/03/2024 at 10:48:28
Robert – you are dead right about Martinez. His first year was a joy to behold.

Ben # 6 – we have a lad who believes in himself but he can't get a start – young Patterson. I would play him instead of Harrison.

On Beto – he scored therefore he must start against Man Utd. I like the way he finds space – and I reckon he has plenty of self-belief.

Penalty taker – must be your best striker of the ball. Quite often, they are left-footed. McNeil it is then – a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

Team to play Man Utd:-

Godfrey, Tarkowski, Branthwaite, Mykolenko,
Patterson, Garner, Onana, McNeil,

Barry Rathbone
28 Posted 05/03/2024 at 11:02:38
You can't isolate the striker's performance without considering the rest of the team and team building has been mostly abysmal since we sold Ball, hence forwards are up against it from the get-go which is why they turn to mush.

Calvert-Lewin is a case in point: weak technically but would almost certainly score more if he could get a game at Arsenal or Chelsea.

Bobby's approach is where it's at but you need a good team year on year to play "sin miedo". Loans and bargain basement journeymen cannot be the foundation but we're back to that all these years after Bobby was binned. Any manager here will go safety-first once the new manager shine wears off and strikers will continue to struggle.

The miracle we need is for one summer someone to create a virtually new effective team for £2 relieving the pressure on strikers and the team as a whole. But that's asking for a reincarnation of Howie's early 80s exploits – and second time around, even he couldn't do that.

Sam Hoare
29 Posted 05/03/2024 at 11:05:02
Great article Robert. Though there is one piece, a crucial piece, that is not quite accurate:

"Hence you can see why Calvert-Lewin is currently tasked with being a battering ram to force set-pieces or create space for Doucouré. He's good at this (as highlighted by Doucouré's goal return), but when he operates this way he stops scoring. The xG shows this, and you can see in matches that he (and Beto) are snatching at hard fought (and fairly numerous) chances, high on anxiety and low on confidence."

I know people are bored of seeing me bang on about xG but this season Calvert-Lewin has an xG of 9.5 from 23 matches. In the season he scored 16, he had an xG of around 16 from 36 matches. His xG per 90 minutes over this season and that are almost the same (0.53 and 0.57).

So despite the drop-off in creativity around him, he is effectively getting as many chances as he did that season. But he is just not scoring them! I wonder why you think this is?

I have thought it could be perhaps because under Dyche we seem to get lots of missable half-chances whereas perhaps before Calvert-Lewin was getting fewer but more scorable chances and a striker with average finishing may struggle with the harder opportunities?

Or is your insinuation that he is so tired from having to play more directly that it's affecting his finishing?

Obviously at this point, confidence and form play a larger part but how did we get to this place? Why are we missing significantly more chances than anyone else in the league? Calvert-Lewin and indeed Beto have proved in the past that they can score much closer to their xG so why is the whole Everton team underperforming (so crucially) in that regard?

I know the Dyche haters refuse to accept that luck might have anything to do with it and over a longer run of games you would expect luck to even out, but it doesn't seem to be at the moment. Dyche would be tearing his hair out if he had any.

On a separate note, I totally agree that the right side needs investment and that we are sorely missing Danjuma (not that Dyche would necessarily play him) who is more of a goal threat than Harrison and McNeil.

Adam Carey
30 Posted 05/03/2024 at 11:41:23
Dyche plays percentage football when attacking. Can't knock the work he has done to sort out the defence, but going forward, we just seem to be hopeful.

It reminds me of playing Fifa when you haven't worked out the controls yet so just run the wing and hit a hopeful crosses. The AI defence clear most but you get the odd goal. That is us week after week. Even the lauded 30-pass goal against Newcastle relied on Beto running a third of the pitch alone and then finishing with a little luck.

I remember taking the piss out of my Gooner mate, "They have to pass it in the net" type stuff. I would love us to score a goal like that now.

Andrew Bentley
31 Posted 05/03/2024 at 11:44:25
It's easy to blame the strikers but the issue as others have rightly pointed out are our tactics and style of football.

Most teams in the prem play a 4-3-3 or some variant involving a 3 pronged strike force (eg, 4-2-3-1).

We don't. We play 4-5-1 at best and have done for as long as I can remember. Defence first.

To play 3 attackers successfully, we need pacy players and I can't for the life of me remember anyone we signed in that mould for years – let alone played 2 of them on the pitch at the same time alongside a focal-point centre-forward.

David West
32 Posted 05/03/2024 at 12:45:18
Good article mate. It kind of proves another article.

As a club, we are not able to keep a top striker (or even player). If we get a top player, like Lukaku, we are lucky if we get 2 seasons before they are off! Lukaku was looking to leave as soon as he scored 15 goals.

Rooney snapped up before he was able to really have an impact over a few years. Stones we got good money for, but what would he have been worth a couple of years later?

Gordon and Richarlison were picked off by clubs we should be competing with for players.

If we went and paid £50M for a striker in the summer and he scored 25 goals, one of the Sly 6 would just cherry-pick him!

That's why we still have Calvert-Lewin, he isn't at the Lukaku, Rooney, Stones level. If he was that good, we wouldn't be able to keep him.

Gordon — gone
Richarlison — gone
Calvert-Lewin — no takers.

I like the lad, but he's never going to get to the 20 - 25 goals a season consistently.

Until we have a stable base to build throughout the club, a DoF allowed to implement a long-term plan, a manager allowed to build a team, and squad over a period of years adding players year on year, selling to build a team not balance the books, and an academy that's producing a few players fit for the first team, then any decent players will be sold.

Jim Wilson
33 Posted 05/03/2024 at 12:45:49
Very interesting article, Robert.

It does follow that, if the team is struggling, you score less goals. We have created chances in recent games but clearly we need to create more.

If a forward gets 4 good chances and puts one in, he will start to gain confidence from that one goal. If he only gets one chance, snatches at it and misses, his confidence will remain low.

Calvert-Lewin has missed some good chances but he has also been unlucky. If his goal against Spurs away had been allowed, as it should have been, it would have come at the right time to give him the boost his confidence needed. And Harrison getting the credit in the home game against Spurs was unlucky too.

But just to show that you can do well when your centre-forward isn't scoring, Graeme Sharp is a good example. When we won the league in 1984-85, he scored 21 goals in 36 league games. In 1986-87, he scored 5 in 27 league games. Quite a difference.

John Raftery
34 Posted 05/03/2024 at 13:33:13
Interesting article, Robert. Over the decades, our most successful teams had attackers who worked in pairs. They were players who were greedy for goals.

The first attacking partnership I saw was Vernon and Young, both truly great players whose goals took us to the title in 1962-63. Subsequently, we had Royle and Husband or Whittle in 1969-70 and in 1984-85 it was Sharp and Gray or Heath.

One of Kendall's great achievements was winning the title in 1987 despite losing many players to injuries including Sharp in the run-in when the manager brought in a proven striker in Wayne Clarke. Goals were spread around the team with the likes of Steven and Sheedy chipping in with a full quota as attacking midfielders.

Of course the game has moved on in the last four decades with the top clubs now possessing all-purpose attackers who can score goals across the front line and from deeper positions.

Currently, our players undoubtedly lack talent but they also give the impression at times of lacking the hunger, perhaps greed, to put themselves on the score sheet. As Dyche has said it is every player's responsibility to put the ball in the net.

Going forward, the recruitment strategy needs, among many other aspects, to focus on a player's record in putting the ball in the net. That applies to defenders as well as attackers.

Ben King
35 Posted 05/03/2024 at 15:55:33
We clearly need as many players on the pitch capable of scoring a goal. On that basis, I'd try 4-3-3 with Beto up top and McNeil and Calvert-Lewin as the other forward options.

Sack off Harrison. Play Doucouré top of the 3 and play Garner and Onana.

Get Patterson on the right-back and Mykolenko left-back and tell them to get the crosses in, and tell Onana and Garner to fill in if they're rampaging

We can't score goals so let's get goal scorers on the pitch. If McNeil is having a mare, then sub him for Harrison.

Robert Tressell
36 Posted 05/03/2024 at 16:37:28
This season, the choices are scant. I agree that the main option is to play Patterson at right-back. The other option is to rotate Calvert-Lewin and Beto just to keep them fresh. Giving Danjuma minutes will also help.

However, we should expect to see mostly turgid defensive football where we eke out points. That is not tactical but adequacy. It is because it probably is the best way to accrue points over the remainder of the season.

ps: Sam, you are right about the point of detail re xG. I didn't express this right.

Christopher Timmins
37 Posted 05/03/2024 at 17:19:17

Unless Coleman is not match-fit, he has to start ahead of Patterson. The primary function of a full-back is to be able to defend. Patterson has shown little in that department.

The quality of the football will not change over the next 11 games. Given our run-in, I am hoping for 14 points or so from those games, that would bring our total for the season to 45, take away 6, first breach, and maybe 4 more, second breach, mitigated due to the particular circumstances surrounding same, that would leave us on 35.

Luton would need to accumulate 16 points from their final 12 games; I very much doubt that they would achieve that total.

Without hope, we have nothing.

Jay Harris
38 Posted 05/03/2024 at 17:47:03
I am afraid the game has changed and we have not changed with it.

Very few teams have what we would call a Champions League Number 9.

Jim Bennings hit it on the head when he said goals need to come from other players in the team.

I have banged on for years that we do not buy goalscoring players either on the wings or in midfield.

We have Gana, Garner and Onana who struggle to get 10 goals a season between them. McNeil on form is okay but only average.

The full backs rarely get over the halfway line, let alone score, and considering the majority of our goals have come from set-pieces, our centre-backs' scoring rate is pathetic.

Most successful teams play in groups with lots of interplay; we only play mainly with a hoofed ball from Pickford who likes to think he is Pirlo with Calvert-Lewin expected to win and hold the ball up while taking a buffeting.

So for me, rather than pick on Calvert-Lewin or any Number 9, we need to get some goalscoring types in other positions and change our style of play.

BTW, there is a fantastic prospect in the youth setup called George Morgan who may well answer all our prayers in a year or two.

Laurie Hartley
39 Posted 05/03/2024 at 21:24:00
David # 32,

I think the last paragraph of your post is very important and relevant. Our club needs a foundation on which to build for the future.

I keep thinking about Marcelo Bielsa's remarkable offer to take on the job of managing our youth for a season before taking over as manager. Now that is what I call thinking outside the box.

Perhaps that is the answer to our long-term woes. Bielsa is now the manager of Argentina so that bird has flown but perhaps there is a coach of his calibre in South America with the football genius to coach and build us a team from the academy.

Or maybe if it was possible, even get Bielsa to coach our academy coaches. This is known in corporate speak as “train the trainer”. Just a thought.

Jamie Crowley
40 Posted 05/03/2024 at 21:58:41
This post will be long...

This article is so good. It also is a joy (for some... myself being one) to harken back to the Sin Miedo days.

As Robert points out, and as many, many, many posters did as well back during Martinez's reign, the issue was defending. Martinez just didn't do that.

Here's the hope with this particular squad: Tarkowski and Branthwaite.

That centre-back pairing ain't Alcaraz & Stones! Stones was brilliant on the ball, but wasn't a great defender and in fact never has been. Branthwaite, in my opinion, is a better player than John Stones was at that time. The kid is really good on a ball, just not quite as "flashy" as Stones was. And the major difference is defending. Branthwaite is excellent defending. Just fantastic for such a young player. You couple him and Tarkowski and you can actually defend!

Mykolenko I'd not trade out for anyone, even if going forward is what you ultimately desire. Right-back? I have zero clue. But...

The issue is midfield. Compare the two eras. Barry was Mr Reliable. Great defending, got on a ball, and played simple footy, getting rid of it in a flash. McCarthy was fantastic. The ball winning midfielder every single team on earth needs.
And then there's the diamond named Ross Barkley. Roberto told him to simply attack. There was no defending at the No 10 under Roberto. And Ross, bless him – not an overly deep thinker or blessed with a big brain – just bombed forward mindlessly and it was beautiful.

We have none of that at present.

I love Onana, but he's not your steady central defensive midfielder. Gana is the only ball-winner we have, and he has no front-foot player to give it to because Doucouré is a steady player but not the most blessed footballer. He does not possess the attacking prowess of a 25-year-old (ish) Ross Barkley.

The wide players don't really matter in my opinion. It's the spine that matters. The Nos 6, 8 and 10. One super steady reliable No 6 (like Barry or Carsley), one No 8 ball winner or playmaker, pick your poison like (McCarthy or Arteta) and one 10 (Barkley). We currently have Onana, Gana or Garner and Doucouré.

One's a Rolls-Royce, one's a basic working-man's Ford.

All of the above aside the stark fact remains:

Calvert-Lewin absolutely must start finishing his chances. There's very little excuses for many of the opportunities he's had not to convert. It's bordering criminal, no matter what system he's playing in. A striker does one thing, and one thing only: score goals. Calvert-Lewin ain't doin' it and if he doesn't start to pretty damn soon, find someone who can in this system.

Great article Robert.

Andy Crooks
41 Posted 05/03/2024 at 22:12:18
Jay @38, be careful. Some might call for George Morgan to start against Man Utd!!

For fuck's sake, Dyche, give him a chance!

Jamie Crowley
42 Posted 05/03/2024 at 22:16:54
I'd also add this, which is a bit off-topic with apologies.

If you pinpoint one thing that sent us from perennial Top 5 or 6 to relegation-threatened team, I have a theory. It's a coupling of choices made by the club that created a domino or avalanche effect in a shit direction. And we've never recovered.

1. Firing Roberto and replacing him with Koeman. Yes, Roberto didn't defend. But, no matter what the naysayers claim, Everton would never, ever, not in a million years go down under Roberto.

2. Koeman's hiring resulted in Everton basically switching Ross Barkley for Gilfy Sigurdsson, and it actually cost us money. This was awful business. Koeman loved Gylfi, and we got a set-piece specialist and gave away a talented kid who just wanted to play to score. I know which player I prefer to watch. And that one move (related series of two moves to be specific) changed the complexion of Everton from then until now, and not in a good way.

You fire Roberto and bring in Koeman who in turn shoots Ross out the door and replaces him with Gylfi. Anyone with eyes can see the massive "culture shift" with these two events.

Of course then you go on to spend way too much money trying to right the ship. It almost worked with Carlo, but his mistress promised to please him, and off he fucked.

But that Roberto out, Koeman in, Barkley out, Gylfi in string is, for me, the seismic shift in Everton's fortunes.

C'est la vie.

Ed Prytherch
43 Posted 05/03/2024 at 22:30:50
Ellis Simms scored a hat-trick today for Coventry and Nathan Broadhead has knocked in 11 so far for Ipswich. That would be good if we had loaned them but we needed the money from the sales.
Danny O’Neill
44 Posted 05/03/2024 at 23:03:26
John @34,

Good call on the 1986-87 team. It was a great achievement given the injury crisis we had.

And we were very unlucky the season before. I think like many, although Bobby Mimms stepped in, I, like many still feel Southall's injury cost us the League in 1985-86. It was a big loss and could have made the difference. We'll never really know as football is unpredictable.

David West
45 Posted 06/03/2024 at 08:44:57
Laurie 39.

Bielsa didn't want the job because he thought he couldn't keep the team in the leauge. No manager would touch us after Lampard, Benitez and Fat Sam had decimated the confidence of the team.

I'm still pretty certain Dyche can steady the club and put us on the right foundation. I don't believe he will ever win enough support to stay long term but, if he could keep us up again with the points deduction, make some chages in the summer after the inevitable selling of some of the sellable assets in the team, then next season could be a bit of a turning point.

Thelwell has managed the sqaud through our toughest ever financial period. With some spare cash after sales, I'm hoping he has some targets ready to go.

It's going to be a critical point, Branthwaite, Onana, Calvert-Lewin, Pickford & Garner are imo the only players who would generate a good fee capable of reinvesting. I'd like to keep them but I'm a realist.

The most important thing is that any money left to reinvest is spent wisely on players that can improve over time, with a larger sell-on fee. Thelwell has generally followed this theme, which is why I'm cautiously optimistic if we can stay up.

Laurie Hartley
46 Posted 06/03/2024 at 10:48:48
David # 45,

Yes, maybe Bielsa didn't think he could keep us in the league but I think he identified what was needed and sadly missing at Everton.

After all, this is the man who Guardiola called the “greatest coach in the world”. So the point I am trying to make is that, in the long run, we have to start producing some of our own players.

I have just watched Man City v Man Utd. Foden was the best player on the pitch. Born in Stockport, never played for any other club than City.

Joe McMahon
47 Posted 06/03/2024 at 11:11:12
A superb post.

Dave @4 is also correct. Moyes ruined James Beattie, he scored over 20 Premier League goals with Southampton, Johnson had at Palace but a lot were penalties. That said, we can't even score them. The isolated striker running to the corner flag for the ball. Moyes years in a nutshell.

To think Leicester picked up Vardy for £1 million, and he's scored something like 150 Premier League goals.

Geoff Lambert
48 Posted 06/03/2024 at 13:23:26
Palace find the likes of Olise and Eze, what I would give to have one of them in our starting XI — never mind both of them.
Geoff Lambert
49 Posted 06/03/2024 at 13:29:43
Ed #43,

Simms has bagged two hat-tricks in 8 days.

David West
50 Posted 06/03/2024 at 14:01:35

Why wasn't Bielsa at Barcelona or Real Madrid then?
Why was he struggling in the leauge?
Why was he managing Leeds in the Championship?
I rate him. Just not that high.

Stability is the key for us. To put us on a good foundation now to build from.

Keep Dyche until we are able to spend some decent money and appoint a young progressive coach. I don't think Eddie Howe will last long at Newcastle, I think he'd be a good fit.

Craig Walker
51 Posted 06/03/2024 at 14:11:31
Great article and some good contributions.

Too often our players look to just hit the target. There's no craft. If you watch the better forwards, they pick their spot, lift it over the keeper, feign and make the keeper move. If you see Salah on a 1 v 1, you just know he'll score. How many forwards have we had in the Premier League era where you would put your house on them finishing when 1 v 1?

The only forwards I would rate would be Beardsley, Lukaku, Kanchelskis, Richarlison and Yakubu. Possibly Saha. I was fond of Johnson at first but the referees ruined him when Wenger accused him of diving for penalties. He was never the same after that.

I blame our various scouting teams down the years. Too often we look for players with Premier League experience like Walcott, Maupay, Kone or unproven foreign players that look good on YouTube (Tosun, Sandro, Beto). I'm not having it that there aren't better forwards in the lower leagues who wouldn't do better.

Danny O’Neill
52 Posted 06/03/2024 at 14:44:29
Foden is indeed a fine player. Probably the best English produced one at present.

Simms gave me and thousands of others a great moment when he got that late equaliser at Stamford Bridge.

But could he score hat-tricks in the Premier League? Not so sure.

I wish him well. A shame it's not in a Royal Blue shirt.

Robert Tressell
53 Posted 06/03/2024 at 20:09:28
My conclusion from all of this is that this season there will be no change. That is because of personnel and predicament; and not because Dyche is a dinosaur or because Calvert-Lewin is crap. Neither of those two things are true.

Getting to a position where we play good, front-foot football where we score goals will necessarily take time. If we had money, it could take a couple of summer windows. Without money, it takes longer.

We may have already begun trying to sort it out. The two new recruits for the U21s, Boakye and Benjamin, are both fast wing forwards by the looks of things (and Benjamin scored the winner against Spurs in a good game a few days ago). These are the sorts of players that, if successful, turn an dour 4-5-1 with an isolated forward, into a potent 4-3-3 with an attacking trio.

Certainly Dyche has already done a lot of good things – and indeed I reckon with the likes of Richarlison and Gordon on the flanks we'd be giving teams a real good go and scoring goals from open play. These players have pace and talent.

Much as I like McNeil (and I do) he's not in the same league. And Harrison looked okay in a kamikaze Leeds set-up but is really not very good. So Dyche is already building the foundations too.

Bielsa is an odd shout because he did the opposite of Dyche – he tried to play front-foot football in the Premier League with shit players. Far from being brave, this is stupid. We really don't need someone like that to come in – for the time being, we just need to stick with Dyche and improve the quality on the flanks and in the attacking midfield position.

Although we are skint, the players are out there. Next time I have insomnia, I will do a daft article about all the wonderful players we can buy to sort it out.

Danny O’Neill
54 Posted 06/03/2024 at 20:21:04
Robert, it's interesting you mention Bielsa.

I've mentioned this here, but it's like Kompany at Burnley. He's trying to play like his Manchester City team with Burnley players.

Without the unfair points deduction, Dyche is doing a decent job with the limitations he has available.

No excuses and not pretty for the purists like me, but I can't slate him too much apart from not changing the tactics when it's obvious and the very late substitutions.

Laurie Hartley
55 Posted 06/03/2024 at 21:21:54
David #50,

I would hazard a guess and say his personality didn't fit.

I would like to set something straight – at no point have I said I wanted Dyche sacked. In fact, I did post a few days ago that sacking the manager at this stage would be pointless.

Robert – I have never heard anyone suggest Bielsa is stupid. If his players were that poor, wouldn't that suggest that he is capable of getting the most out of a player?

Guardiola in one of his interviews stated that any player he had spoken to who had been coached by Bielsa said that he had improved them as players.

Wouldn't it be better scouting and improving our own players than paying for players that have been coached and improved by another club?

Allen Rodgers
56 Posted 06/03/2024 at 22:04:03
Simms has scored hat-tricks against non-league Maidstone and already relegated Rotherham.

Let's not get carried away. Prior to that, he had scored 2 in 25.

Robert Tressell
57 Posted 07/03/2024 at 08:19:19
Kieran, I certainly wouldn't call Bielsa stupid. But persisting with a failing strategy to score your way out of free fall with low quality players is stupid.

This is why we always, always go super defensive and safety first. And don't score goals.

I think the case of Kompany at Burnley is a bit different. Unlike us, they do not fear relegation. Indeed I think they probably accepted it as very likely - possibly a necessary part of their transition into a northern Brighton.

They are not, as we are, absolutely desperate to stay up. They have a strategy to build a club that develops players for sale who play in the style of Champions League clubs. Long term this may well serve them well. As Brighton have done, Burnley could overtake us in a few years if they get this right.

We simply can't do this because relegation could finish us as a football club plus the embarrassment and shame would finish the fans (at least temporarily).

Another reason why we always go super defensive when the chips are down.

Geoff Lambert
58 Posted 07/03/2024 at 08:22:30
"Let's not get carried away. Prior to that, he had scored 2 in 25" Wow imagine the flack he would get if he only managed that in the prem.
John Keating
59 Posted 07/03/2024 at 08:55:48
I mentioned on another thread my thoughts on strikers.
Personally I'd sooner have a striker who's sole job was to stick it in the net rather than one who ran about headlessly and was a great team player.

We also have a bit of a fixation in thinking if we need a striker we have to pay big money - I give you Beto.

Unfortunately these days we need to shop in the lower leagues and hope we can pick up a gem, a Cahill, Branthwaite bit of business.

We also need someone who can come in on day one and make a difference like Campbell or Jelavic.

We paid 5 million for Jelavic and got a not bad return at the beginning, certainly worth what we paid. Similarly Naismith, both may I add from Rangers.

Looking up at Scotland for 5 million we could probably get Shankland from Hearts. A player who knows exactly where the net is and puts a decent shift in. His contract is coming up and for a short term cheap buy who, in my opinion, would score more than Beto or DCL, would be worth a punt.
Kyogo at Celtic reminds me of Adrian Heath. Knows where the net is, is all action and gets up and down the pitch. I was really surprised he never went down to Spurs when Postecoglou got the job. Unfortunately if Celtic thought of letting him go it would take a chunk of cash to get him.

It looks as if next season will be one for selling and not buying and I don't envy the management trying to replace and add to the squad with little if any money.

Andy Crooks
60 Posted 07/03/2024 at 09:16:26
Unfortunately, John, the days of a goal hanger like Miller or Greaves are gone. They were such special players that they were a luxury their team could afford.
Luxury players are required to be workhorses too, which is kind of an oxymoron with only the true greats as exceptions.
James is the last one we had. We do have Gomes I suppose, who thinks like a luxury player.
I remember Fred at the world cup when Germany thrashed Brazil. He was meant to be a goal hanger but was actually a centre circle hanger.
I support Dyche but I doubt he would be impressed right now with creativity at the expense of work rate. We don't have the players for it but it would be interesting to see what Dyche could do with a more gifted squad

Brian Harrison
61 Posted 07/03/2024 at 09:58:19
I think its really sad that our goal as a club is avoid relegation, and even if we do survive I don't believe much will change for next year either. Lampard wasnt good enough and neither is Dyche, although I will admit Dyche has got the team a bit fitter and the heads don't drop as much as they did under Lampard when they went a goal behind. I well remember that many posters on here were saying Franks doing a good job and it would be madness to sack him, but not sacking him before the break for the World Cup nearly cost us staying in the Premier league. At this stage of the season there is no point in sacking Dyche as the upheaval this late in the season may have a worse impact than sacking him. Yes I realize that the points deduction is nothing to do with Dyche but even without any deduction we would be below Bournemouth. Now does anybody really believe that our squad is worst than Bournemouth's, who only appointed there manager at the beginning of the season. Gary ONeill took over Wolves the day before the season started and they sit quite comfortably in the top half, and again how many players would we want from Wolves.
Roberto Di Zherbi has Brighton playing really entertaining football and pushing for a place in the Europa league, yet when this unknown took over from Potter many predicted that Brighton would struggle. Also they have sold Cucerrella, Caciedo and Maccallister, and hasnt had the major impact many suggested.
So maybe we need to recruit better both in managers and players like these clubs have done, rather than always take the supposedly easy option.
Kevin O'Regan
62 Posted 07/03/2024 at 10:07:11
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Well, lads, the comparisons with teams of the past as well as other teams are great but the reality is that we have to do with the current bunch.

Ben mentioned the arrogance needed (as well as us disliking it) - and the self-belief.. which is definitely necessary for any success.

But if we do look at many of the successful teams (eg, Man City) their team is capable of controlling, passing, and shooting – and that makes them so bloody flexible and successful. A couple of years ago, Lewandowski was out for a few Bayern games and Bayern scored just as many or even more goals while he was out...

So yes, have a goal-getter - but have a team who is willing to adapt, take chances and have an insatiable appetite for goals of all kinds from all directions and from all players. Tim Cahill fits that bill but was possibly one of a kind?

The German and Spanish national teams also played very successfully for a while without an out-and-out striker, because of the quality of the midfield and the setup, movement and hunger to take on the responsibility of scoring and getting into that position.

The question on many players' minds is: Is it my job? And that's where many start to fail.

Sam Hoare
63 Posted 07/03/2024 at 10:14:52
Brian@61, I think our squad is probably quite similar to Bournemouth's. They certainly have a bit more pace and guile to them and crucically they have an in-form striker who is scoring half chances and has 14 goals and 3 assists. Put Solanke in our team this season and I think we'd be in the top ten.

I actually feel strangely optimistic about Dyche and next season, if we manage to stay up.

The reality is that we have been battling relegation for a long while now. We're unlikely to jump straight into being a top ten side. We will have to claw our way back gradually and as such I think 12th/13th would be a very decent achievement this season and that is exactly where we would be without the points deduction.

Lots of people seem to be clamouring for a change of style without realising that our squad is currently not set up for possession football and the last time we tried anything like that under Lampard it was a disaster.

Assuming we survive (and I still think we just about will, though my optimism is wavering) I would keep Dyche for another season and hope that we finish our last season at Goodison with a solid mid table finish. It's not the dream and of course The Grand Old Lady deserves more but I'm not convinced this summer, after 4 years of nerves, is the time to roll the dice. We need a solid base to build from and I think Dyche can provide that. If we were to achieve 10th-13th next season then perhaps the summer of 2025 will be the time to try a more aspirational manager to christen Bramley Moore and build upon stable foundations.

Robert Tressell
64 Posted 07/03/2024 at 10:29:31
I also think that if you swap Harrison and McNeil for Tavernier, Kluivert, Semenyo and Ouattara – then you might find Calvert-Lewin is able to score 10 to 15 goals.

Sadly, Brian, Bournemouth absolutely have at least as good a squad as us – and definitely much more strength in attacking positions.

Dave Lynch
65 Posted 07/03/2024 at 10:55:08
So Robert,

It's other players' fault that Calvert-Lewin misses sitters?

Which he has done on numerous occasions over the past couple of months.

Anthony Hawkins
66 Posted 07/03/2024 at 11:28:45
I notice Andrew Johnson isn't on the list. He was a high goal-scorer before joining Everton.

To be fair, he was also impacted by the then Arsenal manager wrongly calling out the number of penalties he was given and the referees stopped giving him any, even when regularly man-handled.

David West
67 Posted 07/03/2024 at 12:47:25
If we had a player like Rooney coming through now, he'd probably get snapped up by Man City, Chelsea or even Newcastle before he's even played a first-team game. This is where we are.

This is why I can't believe we haven't invested more in the academy, it's been one of the worst spells I can remember for actual regular first-teamers coming through.

We should be looking at Branthwaite, look at the small outlay on him. After a bit of time and nurturing, and the lad might make us £50-60-70M.

Yes they don't always turn out like Jarrad, but £30M spent on 15 bright young players may well yield a few top players; if not, then decent fees like Cannon and Simms. That's how we become sustainable.

We need to not be ashamed to sell players like Branthwaite, as much as I love him, the money he and others could generate can go into building a team, and new players who can develop and improve and eventually be sold to keep making incremental progress until you get to point where you can resist bids for top players.

Brian Harrison
68 Posted 07/03/2024 at 12:47:27

Let's not forget, it was Dyche who brought Harrison, Beto and Chermiti – all attacking options – to the club, as well as Young. Also, he did have quite a few months to assess what was needed before bringing those players in.

Now you may be right about Bournemouth having better forward options, but how much did they cost compared to what we spent in the summer? Also, the Bournemouth manager hadn't had the time that Dyche had, but he has organised his side to be more effective than we are at present.

Likewise Gary O'Neill had no pre-season and no chance to change his squad and they are doing well better than we are.

I also wonder why even those who think Dyche is the right man, they nearly all say the same as the rest of us, his team selection is puzzling to say the least at times and his use of substitutes is woeful.

The thing I find the most puzzling is Coleman, who is still our best right-back, has been on the bench for the last 2 games — how can Godfrey be a better option?

Sam Hoare
69 Posted 07/03/2024 at 13:41:23
David @67,

I'd say more players like Branthwaite would be great (and there's rumours today about Mason Melia, a talent from Ireland) but really cheap gems like him can be something of an anomaly.

Everton have actually done fairly well when spending decent money on players in the 18- to 23-year-old range recently.

Onana cost £30M but will go for around twice as much.
Garner cost £10M and is probably worth twice that.
McNeil for £15M who has been solid if unspectacular and we could probably sell for the same price.
Mykolenko cost £15M and is now looking a decent left-back.
Richarlison cost £30M and went for twice as much.
Even Moise Kean cost £23M but went for more than that (despite struggling with us).

The only blips have been Patterson (£14M), who still has time to turn it around, and Ben Godfrey (£25M) who was definitely over-priced but apparently has admirers and might still sell for £15M.

Players around this age is where we should be spending the majority of our money as they have the potential to grow with the team and either become mainstays or earn the club a healthy profit, which is crucial for PSR reasons and allows us to continue the cycle.

As you say, we will sell Branthwaite at some point (I think for £70M at the very least) and the key will be to recruit well with that money. Jacob Greaves has already been linked, who looks a good player, though I'm hoping it will be Onana who we sell this summer with Branthwaite to go the following summer.

David West
70 Posted 07/03/2024 at 14:14:41

I agree that, for the first team, that age range is what we are looking for to develop the first team, and the majority should be spent there.

I think Thelwell has a clear profile of player, young enough to develop and improve, with a profit or at least break-even when selling on.

He's doing good with no money, so a little budget may go a long way with Thelwell.

I'm not saying our main strategy should be buy really young but it should be a multi-level strategy. You will sometimes need to fill gaps in the squad and veer from your ideal, which I think Beto was, because we desperately needed help up front; I'm not sure he would have been our top target.

Levels of buys:

First-team players (Onana, McNeil, Garner, Mykolemko)

Young developing (Chermiti, Patterson)
Younger development (Calvert-Lewin, Branthwaite)

But if you look at Branthwaite and Calvert-Lewin, both bought young and early in their development. Calvert-Lewin was rumoured to be facing bids of £50M of couple of years ago.

Branthwaite is worth over £50M to £80M. That could be between £100M and £130M — for what, a few million outlay?

It will be hard to attract talent in the Onana bracket, the longer we stay battling relegation year on year. You only have to look at Palmer at Chelsea, okay, he's flying this season, but no-one really expected him to be so good so soon. £40M doest seem that expensive now for him, an academy player who wasn't exactly a regular.

Tony Abrahams
71 Posted 07/03/2024 at 14:18:44
These debates are good, but trying to be fair to Sean Dyche, his team was definitely improving, until they got that 10-point deduction.

It created both anger and anxiety, and yet still people go on about how other teams would still be ahead of us even if we hadn't lost any points.

This is fair enough because it's true but, if people don't think that the pressure of having 10 points deducted from a team that has been fighting relegation for the previous two seasons, hasn't affected the squad, then this is something that both bemuses and also amazes me.

Sam Hoare
72 Posted 07/03/2024 at 17:59:18

I think we will continue to be attractive to Onana-type players who want to make the step up to the Premier League but don't fancy a long stint on the bench, as the likes of Mudryk and Madueke have suffered at Chelsea.

Getting in younger players of the Branthwaite and Calvert-Lewin brand is crucial too and our academy is woefully short of talents ready to step up to the first team or even decent Championship level. It's been a while since we have had so few players involved in the England youth teams.

It looks like we are trying to bring in that young talent and we have already secured Braiden Graham from Linfield and are close to Omari Benjamin from Arsenal and Mason Melia from St Patrick's Athletic.

But history suggests that only 1 in 10 or even 20 of these types of players will go on to have a significant career in the Premier League. Hopefully they have been well scouted.

David West
73 Posted 07/03/2024 at 19:31:32

1 in 20 players sounds like short odds, but in value terms 20 players costing on average under £1.5M, is roughly the same cost as a decent first-team player; if even one sold for £30M, you are in profit. I know it's not as easy as that and there's many young talents who look good until making that final step to the first team.

My original point was £20M spent on this type of younger players may make us more sustainable, selling academy players who are not Premier League standard, but still pulling in a decent fee, keeping the production line turning.

Sounds harsh, but we should be more ruthless if players don't cut it, to keep the academy turning over players.

I'm optimistic with Thelwell, if Dyche can steady the ship over this season and next, I believe he could put us in a position where a good coach would be more open to managing Everton. This summer is going to be interesting.

Decisions for Thelwell in the summer:

Can we keep Branthwaite for 1 more year and potentially get a higher fee?

Should we cash in on Onana while his stock is high but his impact to the first team is replaceable?

Is this the time to sell Calvert-Lewin? Could we get an upgraded, younger striker for any potential fee, if a decent fee was offered?

Danjuma and Harrison will need to be replaced in the squad, or retain Harrison after their loans expire.

Coleman and Young are ageing and we need younger replacements.

Along with solving the creativity in midfield, lack of pace in the team, centre-back cover, and a need for more goals, it's going to be a summer where Thelwell will need to be busy!

Laurie Hartley
74 Posted 07/03/2024 at 21:00:40
Tony # 71 – yours is a very valid point. The points deduction must undoubtedly have weighed heavily on them.

David # 73 – our lack of pace is a real problem. I have been watching Gordon's performances for Newcastle. As soon as he gets the ball in space he has their fans off their seats.

Robert Tressell
75 Posted 08/03/2024 at 08:51:17
Brian # 68.

Bournemouth have invested £270m more than us in their squad in the past three seasons.

Bournemouth: they have not really sold anyone of note and added Zabarnyi, Kerkez, Aarons, Adams, Scott, Traore, Tavernier, Ouattara, Sinisterra, Kluivert, Semenyo and Unal. Player for player they have a better squad than us.

And seriously, we do all know that Thelwell and Dyche had no room at all for spending last summer - because of the financial rules we'd already breached. Hence we only spent £1.8m on transfers (Chermiti) because the other deals were Young (free), Danjuma (loan), Beto (nothing in year one) and Harrison loan.

On a more positive note, really interesting that we currently seemed to be linked with a number of teenage attacking prospects in Ireland, Scotland etc. Encouraging.

Sam Hoare
76 Posted 08/03/2024 at 09:17:46
David@73, If I was Thelwell I think I'd be open to offers for Onana (anything above £60m) whose value may begin to dip if he has another year in a relegation battle playing for a team who don't have the ball at all. And unpopular as it is I think I'd be open to any good offers for Pickford who may hopefully be at the height of his value if he has a good Euros. Pickford this summer could maybe fetch us £30-40m but in 2 years time that value will probably have halved. He's been very solid for us this year but not significantly better than the likes of Areola, Leno, Vicario etc. I think he would be replaceable. Though given how well the defense has been performing for the most part I can imagine Dyche not being keen on it.

We have to get used to the idea of selling our best players at the right time and then trusting the recruitment team to get the right replacements.

I think/hope we might keep Branthwaite for another year and that the biggest upgrades will be needed at right back, right wing and in central midfield (especially if we sell Onana).

I don't think we would sell DCL unless he refuses to sign a new contract as his stock is pretty low (unless he has a smashing end to the season) and I would expect him, Beto and Chermiti to do better as a strike force next year with a bit more pace at right/left wing to help make space for them.

David West
77 Posted 08/03/2024 at 10:40:57
Sam. My original post on this thread said how we shouldn't be ashamed of selling big players for big money. Selling at the right time is the key. Some fans will berate the club for selling Branthwaite or Onana but in our situation it's our route to being able to invest in the sqaud (provided its allowed to be reinvested)
Branthwaite just signed a contract, so I'd hope the club and JB see that another year for us is in the best intrest of the players development and the club. I'm not convinced the club will be able to resist a big bid though.

Pickford is a funny one, because he will probably be at his peak value this summer, but is there a club willing to take him in that top 5 -6 clubs ? I'm not sure. 30-40m and I would snap their hands off and get a 15-20m replacement.

Dcl I belive may want the move now, he may be weighing up his options, seeing how the club approach the summer, he is a more attractive signing with a short contract to other clubs and I could see him at villa, Newcastle or even west ham.

Thelwells job must be pretty tough right now, not really knowing how to plan for the summer with the ownership saga & potential second point deduction. How does he know what budget he'll have, is he selling to balance the books or to reinvest? Who's directing him on what he should be planning for?

Sam Hoare
78 Posted 08/03/2024 at 12:27:12
David, yes Calvert-Lewin may well want out, he's been here a while and has even spoken out about being booed by his own fans. A shame as we probably won't get more than £20M and he'd have been worth at least twice that a few years back.

I imagine Thelwell will have 2 very different scenarios planned for with one plan for relegation and one plan for staying up. I should think he'll be basing decisions upon just continuing with Dyche and his system (therefore, a need for direct, hard working players who will buy in and stick to roles) and that, if anything, the lack of pressure and 'direction' from above might be quite helpful compared to what's gone on in the past!!

I think 777 Partners will not rock that boat much and their modus operandi seems to have been to scout younger players with good financial upside based on a data-driven approach. They seem to have bought well at Genoa in particular, which is the club they have the most control over.

Ian Pilkington
79 Posted 08/03/2024 at 12:36:57
David @77,

Great idea, sell England's No1 for £30-40M and get a replacement for half the cost and half the quality. Unbelievable.

I can only assume that for some reason you failed to observe that our second-best goalkeeper in the last 60 years saved us from relegation for two seasons running and possibly will do so again this season.

Sam @76,

I normally agree with your comments but certainly not regarding Pickford. He is happily settled here on a long contract and, as England's automatic first choice, he has no need to seek Champions League football. Selling him would be madness.

Andy Crooks
80 Posted 08/03/2024 at 12:50:05
Sam, some good posts.

I think that Godfrey has been very unlucky with illnesses and injury. I think he will be worth much more than you estimate in time.

What concerned me was Tarkowski having a go at him on Saturday. He seemed to lose confidence after it.

Also, and it hasn't got much mention, was the little spat between Doucouré and Onana. In a confident side these are good signs; not in our team right now.

David West
81 Posted 08/03/2024 at 13:36:06
Ian 79.

These are the decisions that will need to be made. If offers of £30-40M came in for Pickford, I'd say the club would have to seriously consider it. Along with bids for Onana, Calvert-Lewin and Branthwaite, these are our most saleable assets.

I like Pickford but I'm pragmatic about the sqaud as a whole, and the challenges we face financially mean that selling players at their peak value is a way to reinvest in the team to try to improve the players we have.

David West
82 Posted 08/03/2024 at 13:39:04
No point having England's best keeper if he has to face 50 shots a game because you have a poor side in front of him !
Dave Lynch
83 Posted 08/03/2024 at 13:49:04
"He is happily settled here on a long contract and, as England's automatic first choice, he has no need to seek Champions League football. Selling him would be madness."

All depends on the lad's ambitions... If we go down... or he keeps conceding goals through no fault of his own because of the shot ratio against him, then it would surely harm his England prospects.

Also, who wouldn't want to play in the Champions League as a pro footballer? Surely the ambition of every footballer is to play at the highest level and have a chance of winning trophies.

Sam Hoare
84 Posted 08/03/2024 at 14:13:39
Ian@79, I certainly would not be pushing to sell Pickford. He's settled and playing well as part of an effective defense. I also enjoy having at least one Everton player to cheer on for England.

However from a more pragmatic and cold-hearted point of view I don't think any player can or should be seen as unsellable. Especially in our financial position. Pickford's value will only decline over next few years and whilst it is always hard for fans to imagine replacing their favourite players, there are usually good options out there.

Spurs for example held onto Lloris for too long. He started making mistakes and left on a free transfer. Meanwhile they bought Vicario, who many had not heard of, for only £15m and he has been one of their best players.

Like I said, I'm far from desperate to see Pickford leave but every player is replaceable. Brighton have outstipped us by selling their best players for good money at the right time and then recruiting well. This has to be the model we follow. The bigger question is whether any other club would pay what Pickford is worth to us. Probably not, which tells it own story.

Sam Hoare
85 Posted 08/03/2024 at 14:20:23
Andy@80, i'm afraid i've been down on Godfrey for a while. He puts the effort in and has (or certainly had) some tremendous physical attributes but he also lacks some defending basics that are hard to coach.

His awareness and decision making just are not top level in my eyes.

2 examples of this are the equalisers we have conceded over the last two games. Both came from his man who had got free of him because he was ball watching. Sometimes the ball goes over your head as a defender but the least you can do is get a shove on the man behind you. For both goals he had almost totally lost Dunk and Zouma who headed in goals far too easily that really hurt us. With better basic defending from him we may well have 5 more points right now and we'd all be sleeping better!

If someone offered me £20m for him now I'd bite their hands off.

Mark Murphy
86 Posted 08/03/2024 at 15:15:17
Sam, I got derided at half time at Brighton for saying I wasn't happy with Godfrey in that first half.

I was watching him as I've long hoped he'd return to his pre-injury form and think he's a good player. There were two instances, however, that pissed me off.

Firstly, he let a ball go into touch for a throw when he could've kept it, and the attack, live. The fact that the ref then gave it to Brighton made it worse.

Secondly, after taking several throw-ins, all of them backwards, he turned his back on Jack Harrison who was looking to take a quick throw-in level with Brighton’s box. Harrison was furious but Godfrey just shrugged. Lo and behold, when he took the throw, it went backwards.

The lad who disagreed with me thinks Godfrey should be first choice right back. I can't decide if he's a centre-back or not but the best I'd give him on this seasons showing is back up left back or left in a back three with Tarkowski and Branthwaite.

Sam Hoare
87 Posted 08/03/2024 at 15:34:14
Mark @86,

I didn't even go into how little he adds to the team with the ball. If he was a top notch defender then I think I could just about forgive that, though it really unbalances us. But he's also making mistakes (as he has always done) defensively.

He puts in some robust tackles sometimes and has a burst of speed that can be useful for making recoveries but there are some basic issues that i'm not sure are likely to go away. Hope he proves me wrong though.

Mark Murphy
88 Posted 08/03/2024 at 15:58:32
I'm no longer sure where he should play?

When we bought him from Norwich, I was delighted, especially that he was fast.

But what is he? I no longer think he's a centre back and he's certainly no right back.

Sweeper? (Do sweepers still exist?) midfield anchor? Or just a perpetual utility defender?

He's not the player who I thought would become an England regular, that's for sure!

David West
89 Posted 08/03/2024 at 17:27:13
Godfrey, Holgate, Keane and Gomes are surely coming g to the end of their time with us. Add to that Coleman, young, Danjuma & Harrison (if he's not kept).

That's eight players who will need to be replaced. It may not all happen at once but surely these are where we need improvements?

It's a big job and I'd won't be surprised to see a couple of the more saleable players go too, to fund improvements.

Martin Farrington
90 Posted 17/03/2024 at 18:04:30
Good piece. Followed with mostly exceptional observations adding to the quality of the thread. A few points:

1) Since the inception of the Premier League, Everton have struggled consistently, with the exception of the occasional "successful blip", eg, a top 6 finish. Why?

Abject failure from the top of the club, including pre-Kenwright years. Highlighted by poor recruiting of staff at all levels including managers, scouts, coaches and financial positions. The latter where a complete lack of vision has left the club with no significant income outside of match receipts.

2) Appalling player transfer system, replacing players for less talented, less skilful ones.
A persistent insistence on having one striker only, supported by non-scoring teammates. Midfielders lacking passing, presence, pace and goalscoring ability.

In fact, a general lack of pace seems to be a prerequisite. Central Defence consisting of older seasoned veterans mainly in the twilight of their careers. Goalkeepers is where we have been reasonable at recruiting. Overall, we are abject at spotting talent at senior and youth level.

Yes we have had Stones and Rooney. Now Branthwaite. But if you are a club that suck at buying talent, you should be exceptional at nurturing it.
As stated by many, we have chosen to go for attrition rather than ambition.

Remember we got rid of Haaland (twice) despite him being exceptional, instead choosing the "club's agent" recommendation, Ramirez.

3) Bill Kenwright.

4) No one is going to pay £30M for Pickford. Those who could, have keepers they have paid stupid money for.

5) Thelwell. Is looking for more midfielders when (despite the fact that we do need them) a pressing urgency is goalscorers… loads of them. Dozens.

6) A root and branch reform of our academy and coaches.

7) Stop buying crap based on videos sent from Agents. Get off your arse and go and scout!!!

8) Dyche has done wonders with the bunch of duffers he has. No one else could or did.

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