A Path Through the Gathering Gloom

Evertonians have been struggling to see the light amid this chaotic season but survival in the Premier League could beget the opportunity to reset and restore faith in the Moshiri project

There is an enormous amount of despondency among Blues in the wake of another massacre at the hands of a top-six side, and Arsenal in particular, on Saturday. Everton simply disintegrated again in the face of superior opposition who exploited almost non-existent defending and were 4-0 up by half time.

While there have been worse capitulations in the Toffees' 140-year history — they were 6-1 down at half time when they lost 10-4 at Tottenham in 1958, for example — it was an unprecedented turn of events in the Premier League era. Video that has surfaced on social media of dejected Evertonians filing out of the Emirates well before the half-time whistle was emblematic of this horrendous season and the depths to which the most expensive Everton team ever assembled have sunk.

It may feel like it but this is by several degrees not the worst Everton side of the Premier League era but they have turned in some of the poorest, most gutless displays most of us have ever witnessed from our club. There is talent in the squad, some of it massively over-priced, some of it under-utilised or badly coached, but most of it under-performing to a shocking degree and this latest humiliation, by a manager and team not exactly enjoying the most favourable press or support from its fans themselves, has damaged further its relationship with Blues supporters.

Evertonians have suffered through on-field crises before, of course, and come out of them; sometimes through what felt like the sheer indefatigable will of the Evertonian collective, as was the case in 1994 and 1998, and sometimes through resolute management together with a sense of duty from — or community among — the players, as was often the case under David Moyes.


Ultimately, there was disenchantment with the Scot whose protracted tenure at Goodison Park came to reflect his dour demeanour and since the brief spark that was ignited by the rich promise of Roberto Martinez's first season in charge, the arrival of financial muscle in the form of Farhad Moshiri and the potential that existed in the appointment of Ronald Koeman, there has been rising engagement from Blues fans.

Season ticket uptake has been at record levels recently, home attendances have hovered around capacity, and Everton are notably one of the best-supported teams on their travels, regardless of the venue or distance involved.

There are limits to that patience, however, and it feels like we are fast reaching a tipping point. The gathering chorus from that core support questioning the point of mustering the energy, time and money to follow this team far and wide if its hugely-compensated players and manager continue to serve up such abject fare should sound loud alarm bells in the Boardroom.

There is an increasing feeling of disillusionment and disenchantment from Evertonians with their team; in a game awash with money, an unavoidable risk of alienation of the ordinary match-going public by players earning millions of pounds a year. There's a symbiosis at play based on entertainment and effort on the field on the one hand and attendance, vocal backing and match revenue on the other that holds the whole thing together but it's neither finite nor impervious, particularly to a perceived lack of effort on the field.

To that you can also add a growing feeling of a loss of Everton's identity as a whole, an increasingly common refrain, something that was perhaps inevitable given the pace of change off the pitch over the past two years but which could have been managed or largely offset by tangible evidence of overall progress. Indeed, if it weren't for the prospect of a waterfront stadium and the potential that exists in both Moshiri's resources and his ambitions for the club, you suspect the fallout from this season might have been a good deal more damaging.

In raising the dream of a new home on the Mersey, consolidating Everton's various outstanding loans, putting the club back on a sound financial footing and investing to a historic level in team, Moshiri has built up significant currency with the bulk of the fanbase. Much like the club's see-what-sticks approach to recruitment, however, he has been spending that currency at an alarming rate.

The new major shareholder has clearly had some costly mis-steps that have undermined what should have been the most important season for Everton in 12 years but among the doom, the gloom and the frustration, things aren't so bad that there isn't a path out of the mess. To plot their way back on course, however, some big decisions are going to need to be made in the next few months.

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“It's the Players!”

“Spineless! Disgrace! Not fit to wear the shirt!” The adjectives and the invective flew on Saturday evening on social channels and fan websites from those who could work up enough anger to overcome the enveloping desperation at what they had witnessed from an Everton team at the Emirates. And no wonder; the first-half performance — the first 20 minutes in particular — were as bad, if not worse, than anything Blues have witnessed from their team in any era. There was a dereliction of basic duty on show from certain individuals that beggared belief, intensifying the temptation to put the blame, as their manager did, for this wreck of a season at the feet of the players.

There is some justification for that. Allardyce remarked after the defeat at Tottenham (another shocking Everton performance) that he hadn't fathomed this team's propensity to fall apart as they had done at times under Ronald Koeman and David Unsworth until he had seen it with his own eyes. His attempts to address it have thus far failed.

There is clearly a deep, underlying issue at Finch Farm but it's hard to pinpoint what, exactly, it is. “They've downed tools for three different managers!” has become a mantra for some supporters but 38 different players have turned out for Everton this season. On the Venn diagram of players who played in the half-dozen worst displays of the season so far, there isn't a single outfield player who featured in them all.

And, in truth, this weak-livered characteristic that seems to pervade the squad goes back to the Martinez era and, surely, they can't all have been infected with a lack of discipline and application even if certain individuals have very clearly been going through the motions all season.

More likely is a feeling of disorientation and crushed morale brought on by a multitude of factors — a massively flawed recruitment strategy that overloaded some areas of the team but neglected gaping holes in others, suspect and infuriatingly myopic tactics combined with an aloof demeanour from Koeman, and then uncertainty and instability during David Unsworth's protracted stint as caretaker boss. Allardyce's myopic and inconsistent tenure has only perpetuated what went before.

In a team game of 11 men, it can be difficult for players as individuals to perform at even a basic level if everything is breaking down in unison around them and that was very much in evidence at the Emirates where no one seemed to know their responsibilities or be able to cope as Arsenal tore them apart. As a one-off, it could be passed off and moved past but there's a worrying frequency to the Blues' collapses that speaks to a psychological fragility running through the squad.

It's why, rather than chopping and changing personnel and formations, Allardyce's focus should have been carrying out what he promised — make things simple, consistent and, eventually, familiar. Instead, his brief tenure has been notable for inconsistency, negativity and a suffocating lack of inspiration.

It feels — it remains to be seen if it's true — as though the win over Leicester and a “this can't happen again”-level performance against Arsenal has indeed made things very simple for Allardyce going forward — stick with a settled team made up only of those committed to the cause and which plays to Everton's strengths.

That means the abandonment of this attitude from the manager whereby a player's worth to this team is judged based on his transfer value and rewarding players who make a genuine contribution to the side. The clamour for Morgan Schneiderlin, a player who has been a liability almost every time he has played this season, to be dropped for good now needs to be answered. Despite his tender years, Beni Baningime has shown more passion and tenacity in his few run-outs than the Frenchman, making a mockery of both the transfer fee and six-figure wages Schneiderlin has commanded.

Despite a decent display against Leicester, Michael Keane has too often looked utterly lost at centre half and he probably needs to be benched until results, not to mention his confidence, improve as well. Mason Holgate has looked more consistent than the signing from Burnley as has Phil Jagielka when he has played, and now there is additional competition posed by Eliaquim Mangala.

In Seamus Coleman, the Blues have a natural leader, source of inspiration and attacking threat down the right who can combine effectively with Theo Walcott who already looks to be an excellent addition to the line-up.

With Idrissa Gueye as the tackle-anything-that-moves disruptor sitting in front the back four, Wayne Rooney offering the ability to spread the ball around and Tom Davies providing energy and directness, Everton have the makings of an effective central midfield unit.

And in complete contrast to Allardyce's assertion that Gylfi Sigurdsson and Rooney can't play in the same side, Everton's record shows that they have won two thirds of the games in which the pair have started and none when they don't. The Icelandic international is demonstrably better in a central role so play him there.

Finally, like Sandro Ramirez, Cenk Tosun clearly isn't suited to the lone striker role but with Walcott's versatility and attacking abilities, he need not be deployed as one. Both new signings could dovetail quite effectively if Everton could keep the ball on the deck and attack with pace rather than slinging it forward from the back in the vain hope of winning the second ball.

In the short term, then, the immediate priority of staying in the Premier League should take care of itself unless things really do implode again at Goodison. Everton likely only need three more wins to guarantee safety and a favourable run of fixtures between now and the next meeting with a top-six side means that they should be close to achieving it by the end of March.

In the medium term, however, some more deep-seated issues need to be urgently addressed, starting with the man charged with taking this team forward next season and the apparently flawed recruitment setup at Finch Farm.

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“It's the Manager!”

2017-18 may already be a write-off and the whole club may feel like it has fallen irretrievably far behind its former peers who now form a seemingly impregnable bloc in the top six but things aren't necessarily as bad as they seem. There is enough of a foundation in place on which things can be stabilised and rebuilt if, for the long-term health of the “project”, some cold, calculated decisions are made in the coming weeks.

Some of those involve select members of the squad but the twin 800lb gorillas in the room are issues surrounding the manager and the rather nebulous role of director of football at Everton.

While plenty of criticism has been aimed at the players this season, the buck inevitably and invariably stops with the manager, particularly a self-admitted man-manager and analyst of players' strengths like Allardyce. Were he to complete Everton's revival and achieve a seventh-place finish this season, he would certainly have grounds for requesting an extension to the 18-month contract he signed in November. By the same token, he must take the lion's share of the blame for the jumbled inconsistent mess over which he currently presides and doesn't seem able to fix.

Having witnessed the dramatic fall-off of results and performances from the Blues that began after the home win over Swansea and which has accelerated under Allardyce since the turn of the year, it's hard not to surmise that there is something fundamentally lacking between the players and the manager… be it a connection, understanding, respect or all of the above.

If you needed to point to a particular facet of Allardyce's tenure thus far that encapsulates the misfit manager's unsuitability to the Everton project beyond May — let alone 18 months — the situation surrounding Ademola Lookman provides it. The talented forward has become the poster child for supporter frustration with Allardyce's management of late and the timing of his debut goal for Red Bull Leipzig was ideal for reporters to quiz him on whether the 20-year-old could have made a difference in Everton's 5-1 humbling by Arsenal.

“I've got Yannick Bolasie who cost thirty million quid and Theo Walcott who cost twenty million quid and both have a lot more experience than Lookman, so no,” Allardyce retorted.

“If you'd put him out there, he wouldn't have done any better because the whole team played crap.”

He is right, of course. Everton were crap and Lookman probably wouldn't have made much difference to the result; in the context of the latest miserable Blues performance, Lookman's loan to the Bundesliga and the arguments over its merits were largely immaterial.

But what Leipzig's faith in their new signing crystallised was the very argument that many Evertonians have been making since Christmas about Lookman and other young players like Nikola Vlasic: namely, that they should have been used as impact substitutes to influence close games (like when you're away from home and it's goalless — Boxing Day at West Brom, anyone? — and you need someone to come off the bench and score a winner), not starting matches on a regular basis.

The manager's comments are illustrative of a blinkered attitude that favours price tag, age or supposed reputation over ability, enthusiasm or potential impact, an attitude that was exposed as fallacy by the contributions off the bench of Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin against Arsenal at the weekend and stunningly lackadaisical showing from Schneiderlin.

The Everton job was, of course, Allardyce's chance to shed his image as a one-dimensional manager only able to fulfil the single brief of keeping teams in the Premier League. But his tenure to date hasn't revealed much appetite — or, perhaps, more accurately, any ability — to demonstrate that he is deserving of a plum job at one of the biggest clubs in England.

While perhaps also indicative of the financial pain that he has endured paying vast sums to settle first Martinez's and then Koeman's contracts, the relatively short-term nature of the terms offered to Allardyce suggests that Moshiri hired him with the expectation that it wouldn't be an arrangement for the long haul. Rather, it would buy him time until the end of the season to line up someone younger, more dynamic and better suited overall to the club and the role.

After the failure of the Koeman project, one that only felt like it had a three-year time horizon if he were successful, there is something highly appealing about the notion of bringing in a long-term hire again. One willing to build a team centred around an ethos and a set style of play rather than the anonymous inconsistency that has dogged the Blues for the past couple of years.

If that is indeed the strategy and the major shareholder has been holding out for a young Portuguese candidate to take the reins, then opportunity could knock as soon as the Blues reach 40 points.

Moshiri's favoured candidate, of course, Marco Silva, is already freely available and if the plan was only to keep Allardyce on until May and if the former Watford boss remains at the top of the shortlist, perhaps only professional courtesy or a desire to reach guaranteed safety from the drop first has kept the Everton Board from pulling the proverbial trigger.

Selecting Silva always carried a significant element of risk, even before the nose-dive in the Hornets' form that precipitated his departure from Vicarage Road, but if there is anything to reported rumours this week, it won't stop Chelsea from looking his way if they decide to fire Antonio Conte. What the 40-year-old does offer, though, is the chance to bed in a young manager who can kickstart a new five-year plan. Attentive to detail, tactically savvy and ambitious, Silva would be an appointment more reminiscent of Moyes or Martinez, at least in terms of taking ownership of a team and its identity.

His compatriot Paulo Fonseca is a manager of a similar mold. Just four years Silva's senior, Fonseca has been carving out a burgeoning reputation of his own with Shakhtar Donetsk, having successfully guided them to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Shakhtar's hierarchy very firmly closed the door on any attempt by Everton to prise him away a few months ago, preferring that he at least see out his contract which is up for renewal this year. But with the season in Ukraine coming to a close next month, by which time the Miners could already be out of Europe, Moshiri's window of opportunity could soon open.

Whatever happens, whether Allardyce sees out his contract or a new man is brought in this summer, there is plenty to work with at Everton despite the crises the club has lurched to and from this season on the pitch. While it will need some sorting out, there is the makings of a very good side among the new signings and established, reliable pros.

Meanwhile, a fertile academy has furnished the current squad with four players capable of playing week in, week out in the first team and making a positive contribution. Cherry-picked youth from elsewhere like Calvert-Lewin and Lookman also have bright futures at the club.

In order to bridge the gap back to the top six, however, the club needs to make targeted signings of real quality to take the Blues to the next level and there the onus rests on a recruitment arm that does not, at present, look equipped to handle the task.

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“And What Do You Do?”

It's easy to forget sometimes given all that's gone on at Everton recently that Farhad Moshiri has only been at the club for two years. In some respects, in his desire to effect a revolution at Goodison Park, he has tried to run before he could walk and nowhere has that been more evident than in player recruitment.

Unprecedented sums of money have been spent on new players since he came on board, with over £200m splashed out in the last year or so alone but seemingly without an overarching plan. £20m to £30m apiece has been splashed out on a number of players — Sigurdsson was, of course, acquired for a good deal more — overloading some areas of the squad while completely neglecting others.

It's proof positive that you can't just throw gobs of money at a team and expect it to gel but the scattergun approach speaks to the lack of an overarching strategy and has led to confusion over where the division of responsibility over scouting and choosing players lies.

That, too, might not be all that surprising given that Steve Walsh has only been in what is an inaugural Everton Director of Football role for 18 months. But with the high-profile position comes high-level scrutiny and as glaring holes in the squad have gone unfilled and certain signings have fallen flat, more and more supporters and pundits have been questioning just what it is that the former Leicester scout does.

As such, if you shine a harsh light on the recruitment side of the club under Moshiri, the Steve Walsh experiment has largely failed to date… but that's not to say it can't work if a clearer mandate for him can be established and he can be partnered with the right managerial appointment. (Indeed, drafting in a man who has worked under a similar framework could lay the groundwork for a more fruitful relationship between head coach and sporting director.)

From what can be gleaned from Walsh's own explanation and that of Allardyce, there is a shared role in identifying, selecting and then recommending players for purchase but what has been missing is the sense that the director of football is clearly that — a director, responsible for shaping transfer policy, taking ownership for the quality of the squad and ensuring that the squad is fit to wage campaigns on multiple fronts by the time the summer transfer window closes.

That patently wasn't the case last August; indeed, where there should have been prudence and oversight there was overt negligence. A 25-goal striker was allowed to leave without a viable and reliable replacement lined up and no cover was brought in either for the left side of central defence or left back. The results of those failings were predictable and damaging.

The strength of Koeman's own will and convictions may have been factors behind the acquisition of certain players but ensuring that vital positions were filled must surely have been within Walsh's remit.

They may have contributed to a lost season but in terms of Everton's future, they are not unsolvable issues and they present opportunities for introspection within the club and improvement going forward. Whether that is with Walsh in the same role or with a more experienced sporting director in place remains to be seen.

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It seems inconceivable based on the chaos that has underpinned this season but Everton go into the final 12 games of the season sitting just five points off seventh place. A relatively softer patch in the fixture calendar offers up the chance to close that gap if Allardyce can steady the ship again and put together a run of results. Finishing 2017-18 in the same position as last season, a campaign in which the Blues looked considerably stronger after New Year than they have this time around, would be some achievement.

Much of that is owed to the paucity of quality in the Premier League outside the top six and it shouldn't be allowed to mask the problems that brought the “R” word back into the Evertonian lexicon this season in the first place. There is also the danger that the team could continue to struggle but with just nine or 10 points needed to dispel fears of relegation, there should be enough points banked already to preserve Everton's Premier League status.

Solving the question of who gets to take this team forward starting in the summer - to these eyes, it has to be under a new manager - while also finding clarity in around recruitment will then be paramount in terms of Everton's medium-term future while the plans for Bramley-Moore Dock and a potentially momentous move in the club's history rumble on in the background.

Getting back within touching distance of the new big 6 clubs might seem like a Herculean task from where we currently sit but change and disruption are never too far away in the Premier League. The widening gap in earning power may make those clubs more impervious to chaos but Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have all had their problems in recent years and could do so again (arrivederci, Mr Conte?)

And while it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime fairytale that will never be repeated, Leicester City at least showed two years ago what is possible when everything — preparation, cohesion, spirit, confidence and talent — comes together in sublime fashion.

Retaining the faith that we can bridge the chasm again and position ourselves to take advantage of opportunity when it arrives has to be Everton's focus now. Get our house in order, learn from our recent mistakes and at least start striving towards the ideal of the club's famous old motto again.

Reader Responses

Selected thoughts from readers

Jeff Spiers
Posted 08/02/2018 at 07:47:32
Lyndon. A piece of flawless journalism! Can it be sent to the powers that be at Goodison?
Winston Williamson
Posted 08/02/2018 at 10:21:46
Superb analysis. Pretty much summed up everything in the one article. We need to focus, a plan and the people to execute it:

1. Remove Allardyce, Walsh and the other cling-on's in the coaching department.

2. Hire a manager who is young, hungry and who does not think he has nothing to learn.

3. Ask the new manager if he'd like to work under a DoF structure. If not, don't hire a new one!

4. Make key acquisitions to the squad, whilst letting under-performing, non-committed players leave (if other clubs are stupid enough to want them and pay their stupidly high wages - i'm thinking here of Williams, Morgan, Martina)

It's probably a hope too far for EFC to clear out the tripe in the Boardroom!

Clive Mitchell
Posted 08/02/2018 at 10:52:32
Brilliantly written Lyndon, and I applaud your strenuous efforts to find positives for the period ahead. I agree your analysis - I'd only add that, both in terms of attitude and actually delivering on the pitch, Oumar Niasse deserves to be a part of the immediate future; and, to date, it's not clear that either Vlasic or Tosun will deliver at this level.

Like you, I can't believe things will go well if Allardyce starts next season. In particular, I don't see how the huge promise in Davies, Calvert-Lewin, Baningime will be nurtured under him; and we won't bite the bullet under him and get rid of Schneiderlin and at least two of our centre backs. Over a lifetime, I have seen worse performances for the blues than those delivered by Schneiderlin this season, but what separates him from the rest is the chasm between his basic level of ability and what he's actually produced for us on the pitch.

When you contrast our performances with those of Burnley, it truly is scandalous. The club needs to signal very loudly and very clearly that sub-Burnley levels of effort and professionalism won't be tolerated. That points to a mass clearout of players at the end of the season.
Jay Woods

Posted 08/02/2018 at 11:00:46
For an at-a-glance synopsis of Schneiderlin, recall the photos of him heading out to a party with some Man United players... Straight after we lost 4-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season. Accordingly, nobody should find his in-game apathy at Arsenal at the weekend past in the least surprising.

As for squad assembly, most of our purchases have appeared opportunistic rather than necessity-driven. That's how we came to have the most unbalanced team in living memory.

But overall, a football team is a bit like what mathematicians call a "complex system". Its outputs are the result of disparate inputs, meaning that you can get the same effect coming from wholly different causes. It does makes it difficult to superlatively identify immediate causes, which leaves you seeking to tweak higher causes to find the remedy.

In plainer terms, the rot starts at the highest levels of the club: the ownership, then the managerial and playing side of the matrix. The most effective cure, therefore, addresses the strategic stewardship of those who fund and run the club. Next in line is the coaching staff and then the players themselves.

Sam makes a valid point about players falling to bits... but he overlooks the fact that he picked these weak characters and, in the case of the Arsenal game, sent out a clear psychological primer with his weakened team selection which screamed surrender.

I can't see us emerge as a force again while BK or his mob have any influence at the club. That said, we need better coaching staff too (and yes, I know I called for Allardyce back when we were in a nosedive). And we need better players. And permeating it all, we need a no-weakness ethos at the club and a whole lot less of this community, cuddly consolation guff.

Dale Rose
Posted 08/02/2018 at 12:45:35
Excellent article. You have said it all, as others have said I hope the board read it.
Ian Hollingworth
Posted 08/02/2018 at 13:01:49
Can't see much changing with the current leadership. How many years and failed attempts has there been at getting our house in order?

Paul Newton
Posted 08/02/2018 at 13:12:15
An excellent article Lyndon, and one that should be required reading for all at EFC.
Kevin Prytherch
10 Posted 08/02/2018 at 15:31:08
We have some of the brightest young talent in the league and it would be a crime if it isn’t allowed to develop.

Kenny, Holgate, Davies, Baningime, Lookman, Vlasic, Dowell, Calvert-Lewin...

We’ve even got players to challenge them in 2/3 years coming through in Gibson, Bowler, Feeney, Gordon and Hornby.

There’s 8 players there (9 counting Pickford) who, if we play it right, could form the backbone of the squad for the next 10 years.

Or we could play Schneiderlin because he cost £25 million quid.

John M. Boon
11 Posted 08/02/2018 at 16:21:31
Really good article that covers all of the major problems that beset Everton at the present time. Watching The Blues has zapped my energy to even write anything but a brief response.However you also give some glimmers of hope.

As a long time supporter we must always try to look for some rays of light during tough times. Whatever happens I will only support Everton and it will be for ever. It is "In My Heart and in My Soul".

I just wish our resident Buffoon would try to refrain from saying ANYTHING I am just not interested in what he has to say

Peter Fearon
14 Posted 08/02/2018 at 19:49:49
Hard to disagree with any of this, only to say that no matter what the question about Everton, Sam Allardyce can never be the answer. We know who he is and what he does. We know how his teams play and what they have to do to survive. I cannot imagine there is one Evertonian alive who wants the Allardyce Brand of football to be the default option at Goodison.

It may wrestle a few points away from the Leicesters and the West Broms and the Crystal Palaces of this world but it is not entertaining, it is not attractive and as Arsenal showed last Saturday a pure footballing side will take teams that opt for that style of play to the cleaners and hang them out to dry. I am amazes that Moshiri, who was so closely associated with the high standards set by Arsenal would stomach a Sam Allardyce for a moment.
Tony Heron
15 Posted 08/02/2018 at 20:08:36
Excellent piece Lyndon. As other's have said it should be read by the Everton hierarchy, so can I suggest you send it to them?
Jamie Evans
16 Posted 08/02/2018 at 20:20:55
Absolutely perfect. Thank you Lyndon.

Hand on heart I think I would prefer Fonseca to Silva but lets he honest, either would be a massive, massive improvement on our current manager.

Brian Harrison
17 Posted 08/02/2018 at 20:37:10

As always a well thought out and reasoned article, you have highlighted all the faults that most fans concur with. I unfortunately don't share your optimism I see nothing that makes me think things will get better anytime soon. I think its apparent that the majority of fans want Allardyce gone at the end of the reason irrespective of where we finish. So again we will be looking for a new manager so I suspect the revolving door at Goodison will continue with as many players leaving as come in. How this is a recipe for consistent performances I don't know the other worry is can this board appoint the right man to take over.

John Raftery
18 Posted 08/02/2018 at 21:38:37
Thanks Lyndon for a very accurate and timely analysis of the current state of our club. As Moshiri said last month we were in a mess when he appointed Sam. A few weeks further on we remain in a mess but there is perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel with the signing of Walcott and the return of Seamus. There may also be greater clarity within the club as to which players signed in 2017 can be regarded as realistic long term prospects for the first team squad and which should be made available for transfer.

Whoever is in charge of the first team next season, the position of Director of Football needs to be reviewed and ideally made transparent for everybody connected with the club. Whatever the job title the functions remain. They include strategic oversight of a vast network of more than two hundred scouts and the long term development of the coaching staff at every level of the club. The job should go well beyond the important but essentially short term issues of plugging gaps in the first team squad. Indeed if a DOF is doing his job properly, sensible forward planning should prevent any gaps arising.

Another part of the DOF role presumably is to provide assurance to the Board that proposed transfers make both footballing and financial business sense. It would be interesting to know what process is followed to provide the Board with such assurance and whether there is anyone at Board level providing scrutiny and challenge. Or is it really just a case of Moshiri saying 'yes'?

Andy Finigan
19 Posted 08/02/2018 at 22:08:56
Lyndon, you could be a writer with any news paper. What you say makes so much sense to all Evertonians. Let's hope that small light at the end of a long tunnel starts to glow continually brighter.

So glad you are with this unique web site, Lyndon.
Paul Birmingham
20 Posted 08/02/2018 at 22:22:25
Great article Lyndon, and well researched. The club and only the club can decide, show and make to the supporters, what it wants to achieve and if it’s really serious.

Basically the last 30 years has been tripe, excluding the historical facts of Heysel, governments and we won the FAC in 1995, for what ever reasons we’ve been consistently poor, and I hate to say now, the nap to, be the coupon poop, when, you think we will win, across this period.

Our history is getting further away. New history needs to be made, and very soon

The glass, now thimble of hope is increasingly squeezed. Is this current demise and levels of incompetence from the board to the pitch, the base to rise from hell to happier times? Seriously soon something must happen, and hopefully EFC, kicks on.

Forget about the RS, now is the time for this clubs board to decide and cleanly decide the foot print for the future. New stadium, re brand, re launch Everton, but with a crap team, etc...

None of us know, Farhad, must have his dream. Hopefully that includes the resurgence of our beloved club.

The sinews are stretched and it’s to the point of heart and soul. If the lazy, strolling, can’t be arsed, don’t sprint, show no heart and soul players still prevail, this Saturday, GP, and the adoring loyal souls won’t be happy.

Win, and then three more wins, and this poxy season can be passed.

Jerome Shields
21 Posted 08/02/2018 at 22:47:38
Through my comments on various articles on ToffeeWeb it has been obvious to myself and other supporters that the path you have suggested was the path that Everton weren't on and needed to be on. Your analysis of the various contributing factors highlights the areas where the problems arise. As you say it is a long term project and the current Manager is not the man for the job.

Finding such a Manager will be difficult firstly because the task is enormous and such a Manager can have his pick of easier jobs. Secondly is the problem of getting the right players to sign and risk their career at Everton. This has been a factor in ending up with what we have. Thirdly is the ability of the Board not to fall prey to Mercenary Managers and Mercenary Professional Footballer(and their agents) who are only interested in extending their careers and continuing the wages they are accustomed to and performing to get a contract extension. There is also a case for the fact that they perform to extend a regime that is favourable to them, abandon it for the next regime when time is up. In the Premier league era there is proliferation of these types.

Everton is seen as a soft touch. Eamon Dunphy when at the end of his career in Division 4 described these cheats. Today they play in the Premier League, avoiding darking the doors of lower Divisions, where today they would not survive.

To achieve this Path the solution has to come from within Everton:

1. The current Mercenary Manager has to go as soon as possible to preventing him from continuing turning Everton into a favourable environment for mercenary types.

2. Unsworth ( a honest man) has to be appointed as Caretaker with the full backing of the Board, to the end of the season and a assessement of the squad begin. This includes recent acquisitions during Moshiri regime who have not been included in a assessement up to now.

3. The Youth development policy dismantling has to stop. On loan players have to feel that they are part of the Everton set up and the club will do their best for their careers,as part of the Youth development policy.

4. In the Summer Unsworth should be given a one year contract, with a option of two further years to be discussed at the end of the season.

5. The Director of Football role should be assessed with a clear plan worked out in line with The Path and a decision made Whether the current encumbrant has the suitablity to buy into the Path . His canvassing for Allardyce appointment is a problem.

6. The average age of the squad should be reduced, with older players rigorously assess and offers of one year contract extensions ended.

7. The Fans should be made aware of the plan and objectives so that they can buy into the plan and end the fairytale expectations of top 4 club,Big six club and Media promotion of a sleeping giant,Everton are simply on a building job for the next. 5years. All the fans want is honesty. Also end players being toted out on evertonfc. com to tell us all is sunshine and they can't wait to play for the Manager and we will get better. End the puppet shows.

8. The Fans have to be trusted to be patient. They will be patient if they can see away forward.

9. End Pundit contracts for contracted players.

10. I was talking to a Aston Villa fan . He is happier in the Championship and feels the club is more honest and building. Enjoys the end to end football. Better to be in the Championship. Honest and building.

Tom Dodds
22 Posted 08/02/2018 at 23:10:38
Flawless assertion Lyndon,and with a good (investigative) journalistic narrative. Your piece encapsulated the hundreds of head banging hours of individual mail from so many contributors on this site trying and in the main succeeding in smaller increments adding up to a whole that takes the form of a giant arrow pointing to exactly where we now are in this 'Cannonball run ' of the EPL.

I think personally Moshiri knows it's shit or bust. There is no way he can turn back now, his financial hounds have been released,he knows he has to finish the job or leave the club without his kecks.

He also needs to get himself about, and hang out and make friends with people who are aclimatised with this league,mix gather opinions and glean some insight into where best to go next,and most of all get the best advice he can in choosing managers.

How could he, Moshiri, lose by interacting with a switched-on core of fans with their hearts minds and tactical nouse in the right place??

We just know he would at least pick up and bounce round ideas from sites such as this .SURELY ?

Jim Wilson
24 Posted 08/02/2018 at 23:21:05
Changes, changes and more changes to the team is the route cause of all our problems. It takes time for teams to gel, players need to build up understanding with each other. There is no cohesion in the team and very little spirit.

The players have no idea what they are supposed to be doing when one week there's 4 at the back, 4 in midfield and the following week there's 5 at the back and three in midfield and filled by different personnel.

Koeman and now Allardyce are so thick they don't know what the first fundamental rule of football is a settled team breeds success.
We are managed by a fool.
John Davies
25 Posted 08/02/2018 at 23:51:24
Brilliantly constructed piece - and all of it spot on.
Karl Masters
26 Posted 09/02/2018 at 01:09:10
Your thoughts on team selection concur exactly with my own Lyndon.

The Club has sucked a lot of interest out of me. I can’t remember paying less attention to events at Goodison since I was about 7 years old. So, I haven’t bothered watching many of our games this season even in highlight (sic) form and have only attended once, the West Ham game, all season.

But, perhaps my disillusionment has meant I can see things a bit more clearly than fans who have witnessed every confusing, tortuous minute of this season:

There is an overriding lack of confidence in this team. They are mentally weak. We start every game slowly, like total pussies and the good teams just get stuck in, go a goal up and usually we crumble. It’s so predictable. Why is this? I’d say too many changes last Summer on top of what was a pretty soft underbelly dating back to the late Martinez days ( think of Man City league cup semi, thrashings at Liverpool, Sunderland, Leicester ).

Add in players who don’t really care either like Schneiderlin, Mirallas, Williams ( his pot belly on the first day of pre-season training just said it all ) it’s no wonder Lukaku and Barkley suddenly realised they were wasting their time here.

Yes, we need a clear out, yes we need a Manager who can sort out this confidence issue. Although Sam has actually said about the confidence issue himself, his style of football won’t do much to alter it I fear. Just look how the Team clicked when we got two up against Leicester. ( We should be like the Redshite and racing out of the traps rather than lumbering around like Bears after a long winter in hibernation! ) Just look how fragile that confidence was when Leicester pulled one back. We ‘shit ourselves’ just like the match I witnessed against West Ham who missed their penalty at 2-0 remember after playing us off the pitch for the first 15 mins of the 2nd half.

Your article rightly points to the top, but pick a settled team with no more than two changes each match, start picking up a few results and the confidence may start to return.

John Daley
27 Posted 09/02/2018 at 04:00:53
No Everton manager (that I know of) has ever before been handed the reigns with such a lengthy track-record of regularly turning out turgid, losing, football, trailing troublingly behind them.

Even those who, in hindsight, proved to be absolutely terrible appointments, brought with them a flicker of promise when they first arrived, even if only because they hadn't been around long enough at that stage to demonstrate, conclusively, that their methods and tactics had a stiflingly truncated ceiling.

Mike Walker, top contender for worst Everton manager of all time, offered the prospect of replicating the cavilier playing style of his Norwich side at Goodison. Walter Smith, the experience of racking up trophies. Moyes the youth, ambition and drive to drag the club forward. Martinez, a recent FA Cup win in his pocket and a semi-prescribable belief that a switch to a possession based game might bridge the gap between best of the rest and the monied big guns. Koeman, the world 'name', with the presence, pheromones and playing reputation to attract the sort of player that would previously have been beyond reach.

All such hopes subsequently revealed to be naive nonsense, as the shortcomings of each standard-bearer eventually became apparent. Yet, the initial promise of something better was at least able to pollinate briefly among a parched fan base, before pissing off completely to leave backsides being brought back to reality with a crashing bump.

With the appointment of Big Sam, ravenous blues were even denied false hope to rally around.

Everybody knew beforehand what he would bring to the table, how he would look to go about the task, what tactics he would inevitably employ, what type of football we would be forced to endure, the 'needs must' mentality we would be expected to adopt, along with the limited furtherance likely to result from a leader whose reach has habitually extended no further than refocusing on the basics.

To my mind, that 'dead certainty' and outright denial of even a momentary chance to dream, has played a big part behind the rapid descent of "disilluisonment and disenfranchisement" amongst the fan base.

A managerial career stretching back to 1991 provides ample evidence of an intractable methodology. The accusations of anti-football that have abounded since his Bolton days a blaring alarm that, under Allardyce's purview, the beautiful game can be packed off to the bloody abbatoir, for all he's bothered.

Yet, there are some who still cling to the belief that he can belatedly move beyond the 26 year backstory that lays his character bare. That with a bit of money ('a bit' being considerably more than the £100m he blew at West Ham, back when that size wedge got you way more bang for your buck, presumably), or a squad with 'more talented' players, he might suddenly transcend the moribund and put together a team more pleasing to the eye.

That he's a peddler of poor football is a "cliche". He merely makes the most of what he has at his disposal, they claim. "Look at Mourinho", is a line I have seen trotted out more than once.

True, a top coach (as Mourinho undoubtedly has been) will always seek to play to the strengths of his players, but Allardyce demonstrably does not do this. Our squad is bereft of the sort of players required to play his particular brand of by- -the-numbers, stifling, physical, football against all but the least potent teams in the league, yet he will inevitably persist, whilst always finding a 'practical' reason to refrain from pushing on.

Mourinho has presided over defensively solid sides who can be devastating on the counter (Milan), as well as free scoring fluid teams that can turn on the style whilst still remaining tight at the back (Madrid) and half and half combos of the two (Chelsea at their best). He's shown himself to be adaptive and knows there's alternative means of ensuring a cat gets skinned other than saying "make mine a shish, mate with plenty of chilli sauce".

Allardyce, on the other hand, is a one trick pony who consistently plays the percentages. Try and keep it tight, be physically strong and put the ball into areas where you have most chance of picking up a set-piece. He plays for corners and free kicks, which is why something like 49% of all goals scored by sides under his stewardship have come directly from a set-piece. His ethos never changes, irrespective of slight alterations to the set-up to suit certain opposition, or countenancing a couple of flair players now and again. He's nothing if not predictable.

It's part of the reason why I doubt I'll ever be able to muster any real frustration with, or animosity toward, the man. He's merely doing what he has always done, no less, no more, and the only reason he's doing it here is because someone deemed that sub-par standard sufficient for Everton when they erronously stained their grots at the thought of slipping off the gravy train.

Frank Fearns
28 Posted 09/02/2018 at 07:52:24
First class article Lyndon. Totally agree with all you have written. Supporters have also said everything that needs to be stated. Evertons management structure is epitomised by the appointment of SA and this is reflected by the performances on the pitch. I feel sorry for the young lads working hard to only see some of the most abysmal standards by "senior players" - we know who they are.

I look forward to the days when you Lyndon write an article when the gloom has lifted. Will it ever happen in my day?
Mike Kehoe
29 Posted 08/02/2018 at 08:25:15
The top six are firmly established so to break into that elite will require us to be ready to take advantage when one of them has a wobble. To achieve this will require a level of managerial competence supported by boardroom acumen that has been absent for a long time: recent evidence does little to generate confidence. While there are glaring deficiencies in the squad there is also a higher degree of ability than has been the case for many years; it is attitude and character that is missing.

I don't think it is snobbery to say SA is not the man for Everton: he is a mediocrity with a reputation built on survival and pragmatism; that he was given the England job reinforces that. I personally feel mostly contempt for his criticism of the players, while also justified, as it smacks of self preservation; to distance himself from his teams dreadful performances for new employees in the summer.

A root and branch clear out would be expensive and would also be a significant risk but I would be all for it. Heads should roll at all levels for this epic incompetence and lessons be learnt.

We have been saying similar things for years - fucking hell my dad used to say things like that.
Don Alexander
31 Posted 09/02/2018 at 12:03:21
Insightful comments abound on this thread but whilst it's right to have to recognise our 30 year demise since Howie 1, and "something rotten/amiss" at the heart of our club, perpetually it seems, it also needs to be recognised that all of it comes about as a result of human leadership/ineptitude rather than poltergeists or the like.

So, who's been by far the major domo at the club, at it's heart in fact, for the past 20 of those thirty years? Maybe disposing of his presence, or influence, or interference is the key to trying to rid ourselves of what's dragging us further and further from Moshiri's panacea of a new stadium and the commensurate status?

If only such a person could be identified though, or is he hiding in plain sight Farhad?

Lev Vellene
32 Posted 09/02/2018 at 19:14:04
I wholeheartedly agree with the OP here! And I have been muttering insults at Walsh for a long time now! Still, I don't trust my instinctive urges...

Is Walsh truly to blame, or does he have 'hierarchy' leaning on him to go certain ways? If not, then get rid! If dubious, then get rid of BK and Walsh! SOMETHING is holding us back, and it's usually not anything new...

Jimmy Hogan
33 Posted 09/02/2018 at 20:44:29
Walsh is a scout, but to get him we had to give him a fancy title. So let's not blame him. He has no power. My best friend is a Leicester supporter. For every Vardy, Mahrez and Kante Walsh found, there were 10 duds, so It might take a bit of time.
Jon Withey
37 Posted 12/02/2018 at 21:06:10
It's curious that despite the increase in Premier League earnings, and transfer funds to boot - we still find ourselves in relatively the same position as most of this era.

Look at both Moyes and Allardyce and they are still managing at the same sort of level that they were 10 years ago - just at different clubs.

It's basically just costing a lot more to be in the same position within the PL - and you have to get a lot right to be in the top 6 whereas years ago it was similar, but a top 4.

Looking at it glass half-full, we had to get rid of Koeman and, as bad as Allardyce is, so far he has been putting the points on the board that we needed.

But, as the article outlines eloquently, what next ?

Jim Potter
38 Posted 12/02/2018 at 22:43:14
I always dreamed (well, since the late '80's anyway) what we might be able to achieve with some money.

Not a lot is sadly the answer.

We have grossly overpaid for some very average players. We lack heart, confidence and leadership (amongst many other things).

Allardyce is patently not the answer. If he is, then the question must be "Which manager is fat, a useless tactician, lacking in class, is totally out of tune with the fan base, chews gum like a Vegas pimp and has very dubious morals to boot?" (No offence to Vegas pimps intended).

What a wasted opportunity this has been. It makes me feel a bit nauseous. What lack of foresight and judgement by Moshiri and Kenwright to have put us in this position. "You want how much for Richard Head? £25 million?! Oo, that's £15 million more than we thought he's worth. Walshy - what do you think? £30 million it is then. Sam - where are you going with that large brown paper bag? Sam?".

What spineless, greedy, useless excuses of football players we (mostly) seem to have. (Obviously some notable exceptions).

And Steve Walsh? He must have found Vardy and Mahrez via Tarot cards or just blind luck. He definitely appears to be blind. And probably deaf "No! Not him Walshy he's crap. Oh well, he might work out)." And yes, he certainly appears to be dumb.

Carpe diem? Nope. We seized nowt (except disappointment and disillusionment - and a manure cart more to come alas.

Oh, and as always - nice one Lyndon. If only our club was run as intelligently and coherently as one of your articles. (Pity they are always about our constant doldrums). One day I hope to read one along the lines of where it all clicked for us. Fingers crossed eh? I'm sure you'd enjoy the opportunity of writing a positive one for a change!

Tony Sullivan
39 Posted 13/02/2018 at 12:44:01
Excellent summary presented without resorting to ranting negativity. A pleasure to read such a well argued piece which I fully agree with.

Thank you Lyndon.
Peter Lee
42 Posted 21/02/2018 at 06:46:00
Got to this late and have to say that the piece is, as always well written and logical.

For me the problem is this, if I might use a related example. I used to teach decision making, and although I didn't call it that with the youngsters concerned, logic.

The essence of what I taught was that good decisions are founded on good information; the more you have which is relevant the better the decision is likely to be. However, you have to be aware of bias.

Some years ago the Admiralty set up an evidence-based process for officer selection to senior roles. When it became obvious that it wasn't being employed the board members were quizzed. It turns out that they trusted their own feel for the "right sort of chap" more than the evidence.

In making judgements about what is wrong at EFC and what changes we need to move forward we also need information. Some of the most critical information is and will remain unknown. None of us know what Moshiri intends for the club. Some of the nay-sayers doubt he really intends to build a stadium for example. We have no clue what he is prepared to spend on the team and over what timescale.

Nobody knows what influence board members have on the overall direction of the club. I would suggest that a picture which paints Farhad Moshiri as having his strings pulled by Bill Kenwright is ludicrous, but not to many posters it seems.

Nobody knows what Everton's idea of a director of football actually is. It would certainly have some responsibility for player recruitment. Does it include advice on managers? Does it include team shape and tactics, both of which impact on recruitment?

In the end, who says "This is the (sort of) player we need." On the continent player purchase can be the primary function of others with a first team coach expected to make the best of what he is given. None of us knows, for example, if Klaasen was suggested to Koeman by our DoF or vice versa. Rooney's signing? I was made up but I'm a bit of a romantic. Joking.

People speculate about discontent in the camp. Is the current leak of the team from Finch Farm on a Friday part of that, for example? Given that it would appear to be long term, what, if anything is behind it? Unless you are there you don't know.

Judgement about players is all about speculation despite the deployment of statistics to justify one opinion or another. Could one player or another be an impact player in the last 20 minutes? Who knows and do you take the chance if it means changing a shape that is getting a point? Less of a risk if you are getting beat but at 0-1 if the manager thinks there's evidence for the team on the pitch getting back in?

Concerning player quality, take Keane for example. Looked solid at Burnley (not great, too tight to physical players and too easily turned IMO) but in a back four and team structure drilled to perfection, a team structure aimed at survival which has flattered to deceive this season but which has achieved the manager's aims.

Stats show Idrissa Gana Gueye as the most regular tackler in the EPL. He isn't N'golo Kante though. He is too often to be found 5 yards too far forward of our back four. Instructions? His own lack of awareness/discipline? The back four not moving out? Who knows?

I like Benni Baningime. I suspect he could turn out to be a strong central MF but there isn't enough game time so far to support that. Young players get extended game time when the team is in extremis, Steve McMahon being an example, Tom Davies last year, or when the team is running like a Rolls Royce and you could carry him if you needed to, Alan Whittle for example.

By September what we all saw was a large squad short bizarrely on capacity, no forward strength and massively unbalanced. We were short of left-sided players. We remain lacking in strength and strength of character on the pitch.

Koeman and Unsworth never acknowledged any of this. They had to work with it as does Allardyce, who has stated the problems and had a window to address them.

Criticising a style of play when we've looked crap for the best part of four years isn't a good place to start on the current manager or Unsworth. It nails Martinez and Koeman. They had the chances to build something different and failed and Koeman had loads of cash to do it as well.

As for keeping Allardyce or going for either of the Portuguese? What's the evidence? The Watford squad looks to be fighting relegation but they change the manager so quickly it's difficult to know who to blame. How does a manager with the luxury of playing in a poor Russian league, able to concentrate on the CL really rate? Neither are top notch. If they were they wouldn't come to Everton.

The evidence shows that English teams who change managers on a regular basis generally fail. The exception is Chelsea. We ain't Chelsea.

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