EFC, despite a barren period of 22 years without a trophy, have a rich and illustrious history and seemingly an exciting future. But for their very long suffering Blues fans, a season that started with heightened expectation, there is enormous frustration based on a gaping chasm on the field that is best described as a complete LACK OF IDENTITY. Despite (maybe partly because of) 3 managers this season, most fans would struggle to grasp the style of play, any clarity around formation and tactics, any signs of leadership and in several cases fundamental questioning of player commitment-all pretty damning. 36 competitive matches in and fans would be hard pressed to name one single game where there was a truly satisfying 90 minute performance. In the Moyes era, there was a single lack of vision for the club (and no board investment) that was airbrushed by a very driven manager who used the very limited assets at his disposal very smartly – he avoided the light being shone where it should have.
So now Moshiri has brought a big, bold overarching vision that was lacking but in the here and now of it there is a complete lack of clarity around playing identity?
Modern day football always seems to need to be a project, a suggestion that there is a continuous journey and somewhere a better place. Farhad Moshiri has invested heavily, significantly and with progression on the Bramley Moore Dock, debt clearance and better commercial deals the structural stuff of running a proper football business seems both pragmatic and the stadium extraordinarily visionary. The Finch Farm set up and the continued progress of young talent seems clear and bright. So somewhat ironically (but always most importantly), it comes down to what the management team and the first team squad are aiming to achieve and the off field blueprint for success.
For now, let’s not get too embroiled in the 3 individual coaches this year – it seems the lack of identity is a common thread throughout each tenure and the fact there has been 3 tells a story of its own. It also probably isn’t helpful to draw comparison at this stage with the Top 6. Let’s start with a few obvious flaws that relate to Everton.
1. NO PACE – Pace throughout a team is a minimum PL requirement. The recent acquisition of Walcott aside, Everton’s only quick player is Lookman, a very interesting player who also has quick feet. There are contrasting views as to whether he is right for a starting place. There is near universal agreement that he has been underutilised and most importantly the only genuine option. It’s a blinding anomaly.
2. NO CLEAR PATTERN OF PLAY – The lack of confidence has often been bewildering but what are Everton about? Leicester, as an example, continue to balance solid no nonsense defence with potency based on counter attack of pace and skill. Burnley, have performed brilliantly with by comparison ‘private label’ players based on excellent fitness, outstanding team togetherness and a driven clear manager. The better teams play with high pressure on the opposition led by the forward line and supported by midfield – we are a million miles away from this either through strategy, personnel, fitness or most likely all three. Whatever the views of Martinez, you would be hard pressed to know what the style of Everton has been since, two and a half years on. Everton are not a possession based team, they are not a team set up to counter attack, and they do not have much individual flair and are bereft of creativity-in summary, NO IDENTITY.
3. NO ON FIELD LEADERSHIP – it’s not just about the captaincy but there is an overwhelming smell of lacking of leadership and failure to take responsibility. The heads go down, an alarming lack of vocal players and an even shorter list of players who seem prepared to own, demand the ball and not hide (Pickford and Rooney and the future promise of Kenny). Leadership in teams, sport and business take many guises but Everton, despite a wealth of international players, lack it in abundance.
4. NO BALANCE – the squad is hopelessly imbalanced.-key positions with little or no capability and cover. To compound it, a squad with few players in the prime – key players past their best and a band of emergent but inexperienced and vulnerable talent.
So it’s all about the on field stuff right – well YES and NO.
In business, most successful companies do well where the people on the ground are clear what the company wants to do and how they fit into it. The theory would be that Steve Walsh would identify targets that fit the style of player and the desired formation of the manager. So if that is the remit of Walsh (which is closer to a senior scout than Director of Football), why in Alan Ball’s name would you do the following?
1. Sign a swath of players with little pace.
2. Go from August ’17 to January 18 without replacing a 20+ PL goal scorer, who at his first interview made overtures he wouldn’t be around long. Compounded by Walsh’s crass insight that ‘we would still have finished 7th without Lukaku’s goals’.
3. Have no specialist back up for a long serving but increasingly injured left back.
4. Invest the vast bulk of a huge transfer budget on 3 players that all play in the same area of the park, again without any real pace.
The business words that springs to mind are negligence and lack of competence-collectively from Board, DoF and 2 Managers.
So it begs the obvious question, was there ever a BLUEPRINT for how the Manager and Director of Football would make decisions and wanted to play?
It seems highly likely under Koeman and Walsh not to be the case. Koeman with his trademark arrogance would have largely blanked Walsh. That’s gone so is there a plan and alignment under Allardyce and Walsh? It doesn’t have to be the School of Science, vaguely coherent winning football would be a huge leap forward- visible CLARITY and PROGRESS. Assuming (and it’s a very dangerous assumption) relegation is avoided, there needs to be organisational clarity off the field
-What are we trying to build on the field to support the off field vision?
-How will we build it?
-Who is responsible for what?)
2 of the managers, Walsh and the players have plainly under delivered but the general fog around Everton and its identity need to lift pretty damn quick if the clear off field vision of a Royal Blue Mersey is to be taken seriously.
In the second part of the blog, FANSCAPES and EFC fans views on where the focus should be