Why sacking the manager shouldn’t mean analysis of the club’s failings is over.
Things were only going to get worse before they go better. Everton have been, since the new age of money in the Premier League, more often than not, looking with admiring glances at the spending habits of that lot over the park, those two in Manchester, and a few clubs in London as our traditional rivals have raced through money ol’ Bill good only dream of having.
When Moshiri came in we were promised ‘everything he had’ to try and help the club. We didn’t have to believe in the slow-build project Martinez attempted to sell, mainly because of his inability to train his CBs on how to head a cross away. No, instead Moshiri gave us ‘star name’ Koeman and gave him a bag full of cash.
Ronald Koeman’s first season was good. The footy originally was poor but as the months wore on we started to get the ball down and, with Barkley working harder than ever, we pressed when we didn’t have the ball and mixed it up when we did.
But even with all that work, we only managed 7th. Because that’s what we are, the 7th best club in the Premier League.
Everton finished 8 points behind Utd, who threw the last 6 games to concentrate on the Europa League, and a whopping 14 behind 5th placed Arsenal.
Fast forward through the Koeman / Moshiri reign and the expenditure (let’s save the net spend debate for another day) cell on the club’s spreadsheet reads something north of £200m.
So why are we where we are? 18th with 2 wins in 9.
A whole range of things, of course but here is one I think is the most important (along with the obvious one of missing out on a striker).
Everton have spent the majority of the last 25 years as a team who aren’t that bothered about having the ball. Under Moyes especially, we were compact, hard-working and defensively sound. When we got the ball, we usually launched the first ball and played from the second. In the later years, we played some lovely stuff but there was very much a ‘glass ceiling’ feel to the way we played. Top 4 never seemed to be on, especially with teams coming to Goodison and letting us have the ball. They’d park the proverbial and cut the space to Fellaini et al to work in.
After a first season under Martinez, we took it too far. We loved having the ball but weren’t that bothered about doing anything with it.
Under Koeman, we mixed it up again but it was clear to see that if you stopped Lukaku, you stopped Everton.
Koeman spoke of ‘productivity’ or the lack thereof, wanting creativity in the middle and final thirds. And so a squad of number 10s he assembled. Now we have a raft of creative midfielders, dying to get on the ball but, crucially, we have no way of getting it to them in good positions, to do damage. To create. Yes a striker would help, for an abundance of reasons, but it’s not like we are creating a host of chances is it?
Ashley Williams, in a war, is a good defender. Him vs Troy Deeney is almost Hollywood stuff from a snarl perspective but, as Deeney is noticing this season with his time on the bench, strikers who are more brawn than talent are a dying breed. The game has and is continuing to move on. As a defender, defending comes first – of course – but there is much more to it for those sides in the top 7 or 8 who spend most of their games trying to break their opponents down than vice versa. Distribution is of huge importance. And this is where Everton fail and fail badly.
Ashley Williams is not good at passing a football. Full stop. His distribution is borderline amateur level. A pass of any remote difficulty is usually an opportunity he takes to surrender possession.
Jags, whilst a terrific servant and a valued member of the squad, has never been the best passer of a ball.
Michael Keane, probably our best distributor in terms of technique, looks shot of all confidence and is slowing the game down at every opportunity.
So in summary, we have no way of bringing the ball out and bypassing the two sitting midfielders. Therefore, the role of one or both of the holding midfielders is to take it off Williams et al and quickly get the ball into the little pockets the 247 number 10s are occupied in. Simple, in theory.
Holding midfield number 1 is Morgan Schneiderlin. His favourite pass being to one of our CBs. He either doesn’t see the passes anymore or he doesn’t want to risk it. It’s a shame for Morgan because I do think he’s a very good player but he seems to be struggling so badly with the fact that we as Everton fans demand responsibility. Pienaar, Arteta, Gravesen, Reid. They weren’t just good players, they’d demand the ball, they’d buy fouls, they’d bust a gut to make things happen. I hope Schneiderlin can recapture some form and stop wearing number 2 but the signs aren’t looking good.
We have Gana too, a destroyer rather than dictator, and a young Tom Davies who is inconsistent but absolutely a player for the future. The point though remains, from the back, to the front, how are we getting our creative players on the ball? I’ve never seen a problem with the theory of playing Klaassen, Rooney and Sigurdsson in the same team provided we get the ball to them quickly and accurately. What’s being served up currently is a slow, ponderous build up which is making us incredibly easy to defend against.
To use an example of defenders who can distribute, and a team excelling because of it, look no further than Tottenham. In Vertonghan and Alderweireld especially, Spurs have 2 quality defenders who can be trusted to find their creative players if the opportunity arises. Tottenham love having the ball, mainly because every single player is comfortable with it, including the defenders.
Everton don’t have that. Everton have a learning Michael Keane, an old school Ashley Williams and an ageing Phil Jagielka. In midfied, we have an out of form Schneiderlin, a young Tom Davies and a Kante-styled Gana.
So we are a team who play out from the back but don’t have the means of doing it?
Get them to play long / direct I hear you say? Like Moyes did? To who? DCL? A young, raw player with not yet enough understanding of the demands of playing CF? To Sandro? To Rooney?
The truth is obvious. The manager was failed in the transfer market. No striker, no centre backs. No way of playing direct, no way of playing short.
I am loath to criticise Steve Walsh because I don’t know what the bullet points read under his job description but as a collective he, Kenwright and Moshiri have left us with a squad that no manager could get a tune out of, a point Jamie Carragher made recently.
The only thing that can save us is January.
We are in the bottom three so Koeman had to go. Let’s hope though that the evaluation of the transfer strategy (or perhaps lack of) continues.
One thing is for sure: whoever comes in will need to be far better supported by Steve Walsh, Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright if the School of Science is ever going to return for good.