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A chance to start again?

By Kieran Fitzgerald :  16/08/2009 :  Comments (7) :

The first game of a new season and a truly dreadful performance has knocked all the stuffing out of me.

Despite all that had gone on over the summer, and I had worried as much as anyone else over the lack of improvement to the squad, I was still looking forward to the first game of the season with the usual sense of optimism. We'd kept our squad from last year together and the squad listed for the game, at home and against an Arsenal team whom I felt we could easily nick a point off, was as strong as you could have hoped for given our long-term injury list. Well, everyone knows by now how the game went, result-wise and performance-wise.

What has hurt the most for me is that, by the top four's standard, we allowed what is an average Arsenal team make us look very very ordinary. Yes, they are still a very talented team but we saw an Everton team play yesterday that seemed to lack motivation, talent, pride in the jersey. Heads dropped all too easily and there were no leaders on the pitch.

We never ever said that the Everton team of recent seasons was a Brazilian team in its pomp. But the idea that it was greater than the sum of its parts always carried it that much further. There was always some talent, and the general consensus was that the squad was improving season by season, but there was always team spirit and motivation and heart to carry it that bit further than it should have gone.

For me as a fan, I feed into this idea and it somehow allowed me to turn somewhat of a blind eye to the squad's failings. In terms of results, it allowed us to consistently finish in the top six, despite other teams having more cash and on paper much more talented squads and I think this also allowed me to ignore some of the squad's failings.

Now I know that to some degree you can write off yesterday's game as a one-off. We cannot or should not be that bad for the whole of the season. A good game on Thursday night, and using the next four to five days beforehand to set things right will go a long way towards getting the squad, and it's mojo, back on track.

The possibility and the potential is still there to outshine all those teams around us who have more cash and more talent. But right now I'm just finding it a lot harder to believe in it happening. There is no chance of me despairing and fearing the worst but I certainly feel that, unless some brave decisions are made this week, then we may well end up mid-table and drifting come the season's end.

I was honestly delighted this summer to see that we did not sell players to raise funds. Yes, you can argue about the merits of Hibbert and Osman being deadwood and getting rid of them would raise money for better. The argument certainly has merit. Yes, you can say that a top-five finish, a cup run all the way to the final, plus a decent kit sponsorship deal, gave the club more money and negated some of the need to sell players.

Prior to yesterday's fiasco I fully believed in not selling any of the players and felt that as there was always money to spend on players at some stage over the summer, we would add to the squad from last season and be much better placed to push on this season. I felt that not having to sell players from what had been a very close-knit squad was a huge leap forward for the club and that, with a couple of extra players, plus those long term injuries coming back, then something big could happen this season.

However, with some of the shine gone from the squad after yesterday's display, I think that the supposed cause of it may well be the practical solution to a number of problems. If the whole Lescott saga has unsettled the squad anywhere near as much as it has been accused of, Lescott himself included, then I say sell him now.

Moyes refusing to sell Lescott over the summer was commendable for several reasons: our close knit squad, high team spirit, not having to sell by necessity, and (as time went on) City's arrogance as well. But, if things really are this unsettled, then the only practical solution to making sure you stop the rot setting in for the season is to sell him now. We can keep him, and risk losing long-term that spirit and motivation that kept us punching above our weight. We also risk some of our better players losing enough heart to want out.

The easy decision may be to keep him, and hope to ride things out. The brave decision is to sell him and then work even harder with the squad to prove that we are not a selling club, that we do value our better players but that no-one is worth the disruption being caused at the moment.

I also think that there is a lot to be said for taking the transfer money, adding the Sky money to it and just going for it. Selling Lescott on the grounds of the effect his staying would have on morale is a benefit in itself. The knock-on effect is a multiple one.

Firstly, we can continue to keep banging our head against that financial glass ceiling while Spurs and City and Villa keep at it until eventually one or all of them get it right and they pass us out. Some talent, plus great squad spirit, is fine. Having greater talent, plus the same level of spirit, is better.

Or, by using the Lescott money, plus the Sky money, will do in a couple of weeks what it may take the club several seasons to do in terms of squad improvement. We at the very least keep pace with our competitors while at the same time continue to progress.

Secondly, can you imagine the positive effect the injection of a number of new decent players will have on the squad? Yes, there will be more competition for places, but training and playing with a number of new and better players will lift morale and should encourage our better players to stay. After all, what better way for a club to show its ambition to its players than by always looking to improve?

Thirdly, by bringing in some quality senior players, we give our youth policy the time and space it needs to blossom. We are not going to have a huge influx of cash every summer to spend on senior players. It's the whole reason why Moyes has paid so much attention to young players. But without quality senior players in place, to guide them, and give them time to bed in and grow into decent squad and first team players, this policy is shaky at best.

Fourthly, it may provide fresh impetus for Moyes. At this stage, the man must be sick to the back teeth of living off scraps and having to work with pennies. Spending a large chunk of cash, on several players at once, for Moyes, would be a huge departure from what has been close on an eight-year policy for him.

Yes, considering how he has had to count every penny, I think it would be a very brave decision for him. Having a large number of quality senior pros at his disposal could work wonders for him as a manager. Who knows, it may give him the confidence to be bolder with his tactics and formations.

Now I know that this post has probably come across as a bit of a rehash of a number of recent debates and articles. My main reason for it was to try and post on the summer as a whole, yesterday's game, and how they may impact on the season without indulging in self-pity and allowing myself to lash out at the club as a whole.

I do honestly think that the club, and especially David Moyes, has some hard work and hard decisions ahead of them. This morning, after yesterday's game, I don't envy them.

Reader Comments

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Peter Rogers
1   Posted 16/08/2009 at 15:18:01

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A very good well thought out article, just a little on the soft side for me after yesterday. The whole team was a fucking shambles and should feel ashamed picking up their wages. My feelings are get rid of Lescott and Kenwright should sell to any fucker willing to invest in the club because he can't or won't. I have never felt so fucked off being a Evertonian as I do right now, the rest of the season is filling me with dread.
Matt Traynor
2   Posted 16/08/2009 at 16:11:05

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Good article Kieran. My only disagreement is that I think it would be the easy decision to sell Lescott, and a far more difficult (and possibly risky) decision to keep him.

If the finances are that bad, I doubt Moyes could do much with what he would be given, and in the time available anyway.
Vinny Garstrokes
3   Posted 16/08/2009 at 18:05:41

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Kieran, like you I believe team spirit to be the thing that must be prevalent within the team. Last season the to-ing ad fro-ing between DM and the club over his new contract was very unsettling and it was notable that as soon as he signed, the performances on the pitch dramatically improved.

Interestingly enough, the things that had to be ironed out in the contract negotiations are now being put to the test, i.e. DM making all the footballing decisions and ensuring nothing would change if a takeover occured. I applaud DM for his stance over the Lescott situation.

Man City are acting like the Veruka Salts of the premier league stamping and screaming for everything they want coz they’ve got a rich dad, but he has got to now sell him to restore the team spirit that is so desperately lacking.

It was a risible display yesterday, but I do believe that BK will do all he can to give DM what he can. Every possible investor is saying ’I’m Out’ as they can see what an unattractive invesment we are right now but Peter Johnson and Mike Walker it ain’t!!

Stew Marsland
4   Posted 16/08/2009 at 19:08:10

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Among all the comments following that disaster yesterday, maybe people are finally starting to turn on Bulldshit Billy. Why are we the only team that has not bought a player since the end of last season? Where has the prize money from last and indeed previous seasons gone? Could it possibly be ring-fenced for Kirkby?

My friends we are being lied to by this charlatan and we must get him out somehow — but how? — that is the question. Did anybody else notice that, when he was pictured on the big screen yesterday, he was faded out at the ground just as booing and hissing was starting? As if the person controlling the screen had instructions to cut as soon as he appeared. That is the first time I have heard that during his tenure.

If we really are skint then it clearly has to do with bad management at the top... and if we are not skint then why have we not bought anyone? As for the Arsenal match, the thing that struck me straight away was how much fitter and faster they seemed to be. We were slow out of the blocks and got slower. From where we were (Gwladys Street), it seemed that we thought 2 and 3 were offside and stopped. But it also seemed clear that the players' mindset was not right and they seemed out of sorts with communication, motivation to say the least.

We are not a bad investment — we are just not for sale, and because of that there is no money, because of that there is no ambition. This transfers to the players, Lescott typically and soon others will think the same. By the end of this season we will be mid-table and at season's end, this team will break apart.

Yes, last term was the best it gets, as much as I hate to say it, I will never see my team win anything again in my lifetime, I suspect. I hope I am wrong obviously.

Mike Oates
5   Posted 16/08/2009 at 20:10:57

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You cannot sell Lescott and then just buy 2-3 quality players . Our basic problem at the club as regards finances are 2 fold.

Namely we aint got the capital to buy quality players (selling Lescott would help here) BUT our salary structure doesnt attract quality players. Roughly speaking we are about 12-13th in the league in salary levels and the "quality players" wont move from their £50-60k/wk to our £40k/wk.

If Lescott goes then Arteta,Cahill,Yakubu,Rodwell, Pinnear will follow over this season.
Ricardo Humphries
6   Posted 17/08/2009 at 04:05:43

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Guys, I just couldn't watch the last 30 minutes of Satuday's game.

Time to re-jig the squad. Here are a few points that I feel could help the squad.

-Sell Lescott, his heart isn't with the team anymore (and three goals looks like they were his fault); this means we'll get about £22M for him

-Buy Van de Vaart from Real for £6M, make him a offer he can't refuse! (about a £65k per week salary should be enough)

-Bring in Senderos for about £2.5m (a £35k wage should be enough)

-Buy another left winger (maybe Buckley for under £1m, this will allow DM to play Van de Vaart and Pienaar in the centre. (old Ajax click that will definitely work)

This means be paid less that £10m to improve the squad, and it'll be perfectly balanced.

Not sure if Fellaini had a bad day at the office, but the guy looked totally crap. Time to give Pienaar a central attacking role (play him in his natural position).

Simon Williams
7   Posted 17/08/2009 at 19:29:39

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I actually thought Fellaini did okay yesterday. I know he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory for the goals we conceded, but he got stuck into tackles in midfield, disposessed Arsenal players more than once and had the only real attempts on goal before we scored. Given he was supposedly suffering from a virus a few weeks back etc I was pretty encouraged. Thought he was a lot more noticeable then Cahill for example.

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